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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, January 12, 2019 1:00 am

Report: FBI probed whether Trump worked for Russia

Associated Press

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EU presses US to lift Russia sanctions

The European Union is pushing Congress to support Treasury Department plans to lift sanctions on a Russian aluminum company controlled by a Vladimir Putin ally, saying the sanctions have harmed European factories.

Aluminum plants “in Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have faced increased prices and significant challenges in maintaining their daily operations” since the U.S. imposed sanctions last year on companies controlled by Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, said a Jan. 4 letter.

The EU published the letter, sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, on Friday, a day after House Democrats expressed concern about Treasury's plans to lift the sanctions on Rusal and two additional companies controlled by Deripaska.

– Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Law enforcement officials became so concerned by President Donald Trump's behavior in the days after he fired FBI Director James Comey that they began investigating whether he had been working for Russia against U.S. interests, The New York Times reported Friday.

The report cites unnamed former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry forced counterintelligence investigators to evaluate whether Trump was a potential threat to national security, and they also sought to determine whether Trump was deliberately working for Russia or had unintentionally been influenced by Moscow.

The Times reports that FBI agents and some top officials became suspicious of Trump's ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign but didn't launch an investigation at that time because they weren't sure how to approach such a sensitive and important probe, according to the sources. But Trump's behavior in the days around Comey's May 2017 firing, specifically two instances in which he seemed to tie Comey's ousting to the Russia investigation, helped trigger the counterintelligence part of the investigation, according to the Times' sources.

Robert Mueller took over the investigation when he was appointed special counsel soon after Comey's firing. The investigation is looking into Russian election interference and whether Trump's campaign coordinated with the Russians. The Times says it's unclear whether Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence angle.

Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Times that he had no knowledge of the inquiry but said that since it was opened a year and a half ago and they hadn't heard anything, apparently “they found nothing.” Trump has also repeatedly and vociferously denied collusion with the Russians.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, called the Times' report “absurd” and said Comey was fired for being “a disgraced partisan hack.”