White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has denounced a New York Times report that the FBI launched an investigation into whether President Trump had been working on behalf of Russia when he fired James Comey as director of the bureau in May 2017. Sanders issued the statement on Friday night.
"This is absurd," Sanders said. "James Comey was fired because he's a disgraced partisan hack, and his Deputy Andrew McCabe, who was in charge at the time, is a known liar fired by the FBI. Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia."
The Times reported that U.S. counterintelligence investigators were concerned that the president's actions were a possible threat to national security. They also wanted to determine whether the president "was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow's influence."
The Times added,
"The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.
"Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump's ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president's activities before and after Mr. Comey's firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said."
According to the Times, special counsel Robert Mueller took over the investigation when he was appointed. The story says it is unclear whether Mueller is pursuing the counterintelligence case.