Donald Trump says he ′never worked for Russia′ | News | DW | 14.01.2019
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Donald Trump says he 'never worked for Russia'

Donald Trump directly addressed reports that intelligence officials had concerns about his ties to Russia. The president said questions about his involvement with the country were "a disgrace" and reports were "a hoax."

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Trump: 'Big hoax, very bad for our country'

On Monday, US President Donald Trump claimed to have never worked with Russia, after two media reports over the weekend, from The New York Times (NYT) and The Washington Post, reignited the controversy surrounding his behavior toward Russia and his firing of former FBI chief James Comey.

"I never worked for Russia and you know that answer better than anybody," Trump told reporters at the White House. "It's a disgrace that you even ask that question. It's all a big fat hoax," the president angrily said to a reporter on the South Lawn of the White House.

The comment was in relation to an issue in the public eye ever since the 2016 election campaign. Over the weekend, NYT reported that in 2017 law enforcement officials began investigating whether Trump had been working on behalf of Russia and against US interests.

Trump said earlier that former FBI and Justice Department officials were "known scoundrels" and "dirty cops."

Read more: Opinion: Donald Trump's dangerous criticism of the intelligence services

Officials 'suspicious' of Trump

According to the NYT report, agents and senior FBI officials had held back from investigating then-candidate Trump, despite having grown suspicious of his ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

But, in 2017, the president's actions before and after he fired Comey, particularly when Trump himself tied the firing to the Russia investigation, prompted authorities to begin a counterintelligence investigation.

The inquiry was taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller just days after FBI officials had opened it, as part of his investigation into whether Russia had meddled in the 2016 election. NYT reported that it was unclear if Mueller was still exploring Trump's ties to Russia.

Read more: Robert Mueller's US-Russia probe: What you need to know

The Washington Post reported that Trump was trying to conceal information about his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin from aides and colleagues. The paper reported that this also aroused investigators' suspicions.

Trump was dismissive of the reports on Monday, as he had been in a series of messages on Twitter beforehand. "It's a lot of fake news," he said. "I have relationships with almost everybody and that's a good thing not a bad thing," Trump added.

New attorney general

On Monday, attorney general nominee William Barr said he would protect Mueller's Russia probe if confirmed to head the Justice Department.

"On my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work," Barr said in prepared remarks.

The nominee, who previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, will have to address his previous criticism of Mueller's probe.

Barr is expected to emphasize his independence, clarify to lawmakers that he did not seek the job and assert that Trump did not demand a promise of loyalty in return for the nomination.

"As attorney general, my allegiance will be to the rule of law, the constitution, and the American people," Barr pledged.

Trump has already hired and fired one attorney general, Jeff Sessions, whose resignation letter to the president began: "At your request, I am submitting my resignation."

This followed months of pressure on Sessions from Trump, including the president's telling the NYT in one interview that he would not have appointed Sessions had he known that his attorney general would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

jcg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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