Ex-FBI chief declines invitation to testify on Russia probe, says US senator | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 12.05.2017
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Ex-FBI chief declines invitation to testify on Russia probe, says US senator

Amid a fiery debate in Washington, a top Democratic senator has pushed for the ex-FBI chief to testify on a probe into Russia and Donald Trump's campaign. But the US president has warned James Comey in a sobering tweet.

Former FBI Director James Comey declined an invitation Tuesday to discuss an investigation into US President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia before the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Virginia Senator Mark Warner, a leading lawmaker of the Democratic Party.

Warner, who sits as the top Democrat on the Senate committee, said the committee reached out to the seasoned law enforcement official after Trump fired Comey earlier this week.

The FBI launched an investigation into whether Moscow coordinated with Trump's presidential campaign officials to undermine last year's divisive elections after US intelligence agencies reported interference from Russian security services.

"Yes well, one of the things we did do is we invited Comey to come and testify on Tuesday. He is not going to be testifying on Tuesday, but it is our hope in the not too distant future that we can find time for him to come in and talk to our committee," Warner told American broadcaster MSNBC in a televised interview.

However, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, who serves as the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he believes Trump's decision to fire Comey was not connected to the investigation. Earlier this week, Burr confirmed in a tweet that Comey had been invited to a closed session to testify.

"To date, there has been no evidence of collusion," Burr said in a statement. However, he added that he thought Trump's tweet about Comey was "inappropriate."

'Comey better hope'

Trump on Friday appeared to threaten the former FBI director in a tweet that warned of releasing recordings of phone calls in which the president asked Comey whether he was personally under investigation.

"James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press," Trump said.

Trump told US news network NBC in a televised interview that he asked Comey on three separate occasions whether he was personally targeted in the ongoing investigation, remarks that raised allegations of presidential interference in the investigation.

On Friday, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, a leading Democrat, suggested that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appoint an independent prosecutor to pursue potential criminal charges over Trump's decision to fire Comey.

Durbin cited the NBC interview in which Trump said he had considered the investigation into Russian meddling before firing Comey as possible grounds for pursuing action for obstruction of justice.

"When I decided to (fire Comey), I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story," Trump told NBC.

ls/kl (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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