Following president Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey, a group of senior FBI officials considered the possibility that the dismissal was executed “at the behest of” the Russian government, according to Congressional testimony obtained by CNN.
Then-FBI general counsel James Baker testified last year that he and other officials considered whether Trump was “acting at the behest of [Russia] and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will,” when he fired Comey in May, 2017.
“That was one extreme. The other extreme is that the President is completely innocent, and we discussed that too,” Baker told House investigators. “There’s a range of things this could possibly be. We need to investigate, because we don’t know whether, you know, the worst-case scenario is possibly true or the President is totally innocent and we need to get this thing over with — and so he can move forward with his agenda.”
The transcript appears to confirm a Friday New York Times report that detailed FBI officials’ concern over whether Comey’s firing was executed at the Kremlin’s behest. According to the report, those concerns led to the opening of a counterintelligence investigation, as well as a criminal probe focused on the question of whether Comey’s firing amounted to obstruction of justice.
In his testimony, Baker said he and other FBI officials discussed whether Trump was acting on the Kremlin’s direction “as a theoretical possibility” and never established it as fact.
“I’m speaking theoretically. If the President of the United States fired Jim Comey at the behest of the Russian government, that would be unlawful and unconstitutional,” Baker said.
“Is that what happened here?” asked Representative John Ratcliffe (R., Texas).
“I don’t know,” Baker answered, before the FBI lawyer preemptively shut down that line of inquiry.
Trump lashed out against the FBI on Twitter Friday over the circumstances surrounding the opening of the counterintelligence probe that began after he fired Comey.
Wow, just learned in the Failing New York Times that the corrupt former leaders of the FBI, almost all fired or forced to leave the agency for some very bad reasons, opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof, after I fired Lyin’ James Comey, a total sleaze!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2019