Published: Fri, May 12, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Before the ax, Comey was pushing Trump-Russia probe harder

Three US officials said Wednesday that before he was sacked, FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers he had asked the Justice Department for more money for the bureau's investigation into Russia's election meddling.

The language has raised eyebrows since Comey has not publicly said that Trump is not under investigation nor has the White House been able to offer any clarity. Democrats quickly accused Trump of using Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as a pretext and called for a special prosecutor into the Russian Federation probe.

He later spoke with informal Trump adviser Roger Stone, who reportedly pushed Trump to dismiss Comey.

It was unclear whether word of the Comey request, put to deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, ever made its way to Trump.

The White House said the search for Comey's replacement was beginning immediately.

In his letter to Comey Tuesday informing him that he would be terminated, Trump thanked the former director for telling him several times that he was not under Federal Bureau of Investigation scrutiny. He wrote that he appreciated Comey informing him "on three separate occasions" that he's not under investigation.

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Many Democrats have criticised Comey's management of that investigation, but they sharply questioned the timing of his dismissal, given that Trump could have acted soon after taking office on January 20 and that he has repeatedly criticised the FBI and congressional probes into Russia's role in the election.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton's primary opponent, said Trump's sudden termination of Comey "raises serious questions about what his administration is hiding". It will also prompt parallels with Richard Nixon's decision to unceremoniously fire his attorney general, an event that plunged his presidency deeper into crisis.

The abrupt firing of Comey by US President Donald Trump on Tuesday threw into question the future of the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's possible connections to Russian Federation, and immediately raised suspicions of an underhanded effort to stymie a probe that has shadowed the administration from the outset.

During testimony to Congress, he also flatly rejected Trump's explosive claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor Barack Obama.

"I encourage the president to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation's interests".

The Senate's minority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, said Rosenstein should appoint a special prosecutor, and he also called on McConnell to hold closed and potentially classified briefings with all US senators to question the top Justice Department officials, Sessions and Rosenstein.

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