No collusion with Russians claims Donald Trump as FBI row rumbles on

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US President Donald Trump

Donald Trump has insisted there was “no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians” amid the continuing dispute over his firing of the FBI director. The president was speaking in an interview with NBC News, days after he sacked James Comey amid a bureau investigation into Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign’s possible ties to election meddling by Moscow.

Mr Trump said: “The Russians did not affect the vote. And everybody seems to think that. “If Russia or anybody else is trying to interfere with our elections I think it’s a horrible thing, and I want to get to the bottom of it and I want to make sure it will never ever happen.”

He was speaking after the FBI’s acting director, Andrew McCabe, undermined White House explanations for the removal of Mr Comey and contradicted the administration’s characterisations of the investigation into potential co-ordination between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the election.

Mr McCabe, giving evidence to Congress in place of his fired boss, told legislators that the counter-intelligence investigation dismissed by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders as “one of the smallest things” on the FBI’s plate was actually “highly significant”. Although the White House has claimed Mr Comey had lost the backing of rank-and-file agents, Mr McCabe flatly said: “That is not accurate.”

Mr McCabe said: “I can tell you that the majority, the vast majority of FBI employees, enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey,” and he called it the “greatest privilege and honour in my professional life to work with him”.

He said Mr Comey told him three times – at a dinner and in two phone calls – that he was not.
“I said, ‘If it’s possible, would you let me know am I under investigation?’ He said you are not under investigation,” Mr Trump told NBC. Mr McCabe said he would refrain from discussing the Russia investigation with the White House, pledged to report to the committee any efforts to interfere in it, and said the dismissal of the director would do nothing to impede the probe. “You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing,” he said.

Mr Comey, he added, “enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day”.
Ms Sanders insisted she had heard from “countless” members of the FBI who welcomed the president’s decision. Mr McCabe’s evidence undercut a White House narrative that has evolved in the two days since Mr Comey was ousted.

The White House initially said Mr Trump made the call at the recommendation of the two senior officials at the Justice Department, but in the NBC News interview on Thursday, the president said he would have fired Mr Comey even without the recommendation, deriding him as a “showboat” and “grandstander”. Mr Trump also said he had asked Mr Comey point-blank if he was under investigation, showing no concern about the prospect of interfering in an active FBI probe.

He said Mr Comey told him three times – at a dinner and in two phone calls – that he was not. “I said, ‘If it’s possible, would you let me know am I under investigation?’ He said you are not under investigation,” Mr Trump told NBC.

Mr McCabe said he would refrain from discussing the Russia investigation with the White House, pledged to report to the committee any efforts to interfere in it, and said the dismissal of the director would do nothing to impede the probe. “You cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing,” he said.

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