Federal investigators became dread by President Donald Trump’s behavior in the immediate aftermath of his firing in 2017 of former FBI director James Comey, and unsealed a probe into whether the president had been secretly working with Russia, The New York Times reported current Friday.
Citing unnamed sources familiar with the investigation, the publication said that counterintelligence officials weighed whether Trump’s enterprises were undermining national security, and whether he was either working at the behest of Moscow, or was somehow influenced by the Kremlin. Trump has time denied that he colluded with Russia, while even Comey has stated publicly that Trump himself was not a meet of the FBI’s probe into his campaign’s ties to Moscow.
Yet allegations that Trump was somehow compromised by Russia were essential broached by the controversial Steele dossier, a raw intelligence document interspersed with lurid and largely uncorroborated accusations against the president that was made by a former British spy.
The Times reported on Friday that agents and senior FBI officials had their suspicions aroused near Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 election, but refrained from opening an investigation into him because of how delicate the undertaking would be. However, sources told the publication that on two occasions, Trump tied Comey’s dismissal to the Russia enquiry, which led to a counterintelligence track being added to the original Russia inquiry.
In theory, Comey’s axing would constitute slowing, because of the impact it would have had on the FBI’s ability to learn about Moscow’s meddling, and whether U.S. citizens were entangled with.
According to The Times report, it’s unclear if Special Counsel Robert Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence probe as he shadows a wide ranging investigation into whether campaign officials, or Candidate Trump himself, knew of Russia’s achievements to influence the election. Still, the investigation into whether the president obstructed justice by firing Comey was lumped in with the counterintelligence querying, according to former law enforcement officials who spoke with the Times.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and the recent mayor of New York City, dismissed the counterintelligence effort. “The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing be awarded pounce oned of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing,” Giuliani told The Times on Friday, but added that he had no perspicacity into that particular track of the investigation.
A spokesperson for the FBI did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The Times’ in its entirety report can be found on its website.