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FBI Investigated After Trump Fired Comey with Thought He Was Working for Russia
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12 Jan 2019 01:34 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: James Comey (Image source: Public domain)

 

 

There were many people who were concerned after Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was one of them. He appointed Robert Mueller, Comey's predecessor, as special counsel eight days after.  

The FBI questioned this move as well. It's been reported that after Comey was fired, law enforcement officials opened up an investigation of whether Trump was secretly working for Russia.

 

In truth, it's hard to tell exactly where Rosenstein stood. On May 8 Trump instructed him and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to come up with a case against Comey. The next day Rosenstein gave a memo with his reasoning to Sessions who recommended Trump fire Comey. That very day Trump fired him. 

Rosenstein told the Senate on May 17 he knew Comey was being fired before he wrote the memo. That same day he appointed Mueller as special counsel but cited public interest as the reasoning, not because crimes were committed.

 

Somewhere within that same timeframe, the FBI had concerns, concerns that Rosenstein did not or at least was not willing to admit to. They were so concerned after Comey was fired, they began investigating if he was knowingly working on behalf of Russia or was unknowingly under the influence of Moscow, according to former law enforcement officials and others who are familiar with that investigation. 

That investigation that was opened up was looking for criminal actions as well. They were looking to see if it was an obstruction of justice when Comey was fired, one of the very things Mueller is investigating as well.

 

This wasn't the first concerns the FBI had along those lines. They were also concerned during the 2016 campaign but didn't open an investigation in that regard as they weren't really sure how to proceed with that. 

But it was Trump's own actions both before and after he fired Comey that helped push along the counterintelligence idea that he was working for Russia. Two of those instances were when Trump intimated that he fired the FBI director because of the Russia investigation.

 

Once Mueller was appointed, he took over that investigation that the FBI had started. He was looking into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and whether there was collusion with the Trump campaign.  

It's unknown whether the counterintelligence aspect of the investigation is still ongoing. But the criminal aspect was thrown together with the counterintelligence aspect because if the president had fired the FBI director to interfere with or end the Russia investigation, then his actions are both a possible crime and national security concern.

 

James A. Baker, former FBI general counsel until late 2017, privately testified before House investigators who were looking into the FBI's handling of the Russia investigation. 

"Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security," he said in his testimony, while not explicitly admitting to the investigation of Trump.

 

Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, while admitting he has no insight into the investigation, stated on Friday, "The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing." 

While Trump has spoken often about the Russia collusion aspect of the investigation, he has said very little about the obstruction of justice aspect.

 

The FBI started looking into Trump after a campaign news conference in July 2016 where he called out to Russia and asked them to hack the emails of the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Additionally, he refused to be critical of Russia while campaigning and had nothing but good things to say about Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

It was also noticed that the Republican Party changed its convention platform on Ukraine in a way that seemed beneficial to Moscow, and some of the president's associates were already under investigation because of their Russia ties.

 

The Steele dossier can't be discounted either. Former British spy Christopher Steele, who had worked as an FBI informant, compiled a dossier that showed Russian officials trying to influence Trump with blackmail and bribery.  

After Trump was inaugurated, he demanded loyalty from Comey and then asked him to end the investigation into Michael Flynn, his national security adviser. This had FBI officials wondering if he was trying to obstruct that case, but they decided they needed more evidence.

 

They got their evidence after Comey was fired. In a letter Trump never sent to Comey, he thanked him for telling him he was not a subject of the FBI's Russia investigation. Rosenstein wrote a new draft and told him instead of including the Russia investigation, he could just cite the way Comey handled the Clinton email investigation, but Trump still wanted the Russia investigation mentioned. 

Trump ended up adding the reference to the Russia investigation himself and thanked him three times for telling him he wasn't under investigation.

 

And that was just the first instance that convinced the FBI officials. The other was when he appeared in an interview after Comey was fired and intimated it was because of the Russia investigation. 

"I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it," he said just two days after he'd fired the head of the FBI. "And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should've won."

 

The FBI knew they were justified in their investigation after a comment Trump made to visiting Russian officials shortly after Comey was fired. 

"I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, real nut job," he said. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."

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