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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Trump steps up attacks on Russia investigation

US president rejects reports that sacked FBI deputy director kept notes of their meetings

US President Donald Trump issued a series of tweets attacking the inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, after FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe was fired on March 16, 2018. Evan Vucci / AP Photo
US President Donald Trump issued a series of tweets attacking the inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, after FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe was fired on March 16, 2018. Evan Vucci / AP Photo

Donald Trump stepped up pressure on Robert Mueller's Russia investigation on Sunday, claiming it was politically biased and attacked the integrity of former FBI chiefs, dismissing their notes from meetings as “fake memos”.

His unrestrained tweets offered a fresh twist to the controversy following the dismissal of Andrew McCabe as deputy director of the FBI late on Friday. It suggests a more adversarial stance amid revelations that the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election has subpoenaed Trump Organisation financial records

The president’s outburst followed reports that Mr McCabe kept detailed notes of all his interactions with him and that they have been passed to the special counsel, Mr Mueller, leading the Russia investigation.

Mr Trump took to Twitter to say he had not spent much time with Mr McCabe.

“I don’t believe he made memos except to help his own agenda, probably at a later date. Same with lying James Comey,” he wrote, referring to the FBI director he sacked last year. “Can we call them Fake Memos?”

The probe into Russian meddling in the US election has cast a long shadow over the White House. The investigation, led by Mr Mueller, has broadened to include accusations that Mr Trump obstructed justice by firing senior FBI figures and that members of his campaign team colluded with Moscow.

The past 48 hours have brought a string of White House attacks. One of the president’s lawyers called on the Justice Department to end the investigation and Mr Trump added his own angry broadside.

The president has generally avoided naming Mr Mueller for fear of antagonising the man heading the investigation. That changed on Saturday night when he once again dismissed the probe as a “witch hunt”.

“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” he wrote.

He did it again on Sunday morning.

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added...does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION,” he wrote, mischaracterising the make-up of the investigation team. Mr Mueller himself is known to be a Republican.

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The contents of Mr McCabe’s memos are not known. However, they may provide insight into whether Mr Trump tried to put pressure on the FBI.

A 21-year veteran of the bureau, Mr McCabe stepped down from the role of deputy director in January, ahead of his expected retirement on Sunday, his 50th birthday. He had found himself at the centre of a partisan political storm over the handling of the Russian investigation and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email service while secretary of state under Barack Obama.

An upcoming inspector general's report is expected to conclude that Mr McCabe had authorised the release of information to the media and was not forthcoming with the watchdog office as it examined the bureau’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

He was dismissed by Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, on Friday, just two days before he would have qualified for a full pension package.

Mr Trump said the move represented “a great day for Democracy" as supporters and opponents of the president went to war across social media.

John Brennan, the former CIA director and an increasingly an outspoken Trump critic, wrote on Twitter: “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America... America will triumph over you.”

The president’s Sunday tweetstorm came hours after his personal lawyer demanded an end to the Mueller investigation.

John Dowd told the Daily Beast: “I pray that acting attorney general [Rod] Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI office of professional responsibility and attorney general Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt dossier.”

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