Law enforcement officials became so concerned by President Trump’s behavior in the days after he fired FBI Director James B. Comey that they began investigating whether he had been working for Russia against U.S. interests, the New York Times reported.
The report Friday cited 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, the newspaper said, and they also sought to determine whether Trump was deliberately working for Russia or had unintentionally been influenced by Moscow.
The Times reported 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 probe, helped trigger the counterintelligence part of the investigation, according to the newspaper.
Trump tweeted early Saturday that the report showed that the FBI leadership “opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof” after he fired Comey.
Robert S. Mueller III took over the investigation when he was appointed special counsel soon after Comey’s firing. The overall investigation is looking into Russian election interference and whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Russians. The Times said it was unclear whether Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence angle.