Trump Lashes Out at FBI After Times Report on Russian Probe

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump lashed out on Saturday following a New York Times report that the FBI had opened a probe in 2017 to determine if the president had been working, knowingly or unknowingly, on behalf of Russia and against American interests.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, termed it “unprecedented” that the FBI felt compelled to look into a sitting president’s “possible cooptation by a hostile foreign government.”

In a series of early-morning tweets, Trump said that the agency had opened a probe “for no reason and with no proof, after I fired Lyin’ James Comey, a total sleaze.” He termed former leaders of the agency “corrupt.”

Trump went on to describe the Federal Bureau of Investigation as having been “in complete turmoil” under former Director Comey, whom he called a “Crooked Cop.”

Tweeting in response, Comey quoted former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.”

The president on Saturday also slammed familiar targets including Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Democrat Hillary Clinton. He asserted that he’d been tougher on Russia than former U.S. presidents.

In an interview with Fox News on Saturday night, Trump said the Times report was the “most insulting article I’ve ever read.” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders in an emailed statement late Friday termed the New York Times story “absurd.”

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, in an interview that will air Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said the notion that Trump is a national security threat is “absolutely ludicrous.”

“The idea that’s contained in the New York Times story that President Trump was a threat to American national security is -- is silly on its face and not worthy of a response,” Pompeo said in a transcript provided by the network.

Trump Lashes Out at FBI After Times Report on Russian Probe

Nadler, a New York Democrat, said in a statement that “there is no reason to doubt the seriousness or professionalism of the FBI, as the President did in reaction to this story.”

“In the coming weeks, the Judiciary Committee will take steps to better understand both the president’s actions and the FBI’s response to that behavior,” Nadler said.

Shutdown Distraction

Greg Valliere, chief global strategist for Horizon Investments, said “the mere hint -- if true -- that the FBI had suspicions about Trump being a Russian agent is mind-boggling.”

“You have to think that Trump is eager to keep the government shutdown in the limelight, because he knows the imminent Mueller report will be explosive,” Valliere said in a telephone interview.

The federal government is now into the fourth week of a partial shutdown with no clear end in sight over Trump’s demand for funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has suggested over the past week that he may declare a national emergency and redirect other funds to begun building the wall, but on Friday said he wasn’t rushing to use that option.

The New York Times reported late Friday that in the days after Trump fired Comey as FBI director in May 2017, the U.S. began investigating whether the president had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests. The paper cited law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation whom it didn’t identify.

U.S. counterintelligence investigators attempted to assess whether Trump’s actions constituted a possible threat to national security, and agents also tried to determine whether Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unknowingly come under Moscow’s influence, the Times reported.

Trump returned to Twitter with a fifth tweet, describing various former FBI officials as “just some of the losers that tried to do a number on your President.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.