Donald Trump launched an irate Twitter tirade after the New York Times reported that law enforcement officials had in 2017 opened an inquiry into whether he was secretly working for Russia following his ousting of James Comey as director of the FBI.
“My firing of James Comey was a great day for America. He was a crooked Cop,” the US president tweeted. “Everyone wanted him fired. Republican and Democrat alike,” he added.
According to the report, the FBI probe into Mr Trump was intended to determine whether the US president had been “knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence” and whether he had obstructed justice in firing Mr Comey, who had been investigating allegations of Russian meddling in the US election to favour the Trump campaign.
The furore over Mr Comey’s sacking led the US justice department to bring in Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, as an independent special prosecutor to continue the investigation into possible Russian collusion with Mr Trump’s campaign. The Mueller probe has led to multiple indictments of allies and aides of the US president over the past two years, casting a dark cloud over the Trump White House. It has been a frequent target of angry attacks by the president, who has described it as a witch hunt.
In an apparent response to Mr Trump, Mr Comey cited a quote from Franklin D Roosevelt, the former US president, in a tweet. “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made — FDR,” he said.
As well as criticising Mr Comey, Mr Mueller, and Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential race, Mr Trump on Saturday insisted he had been “far tougher” on Moscow than Barack Obama, George W Bush, and Bill Clinton, and “maybe tougher” than all US presidents on Russia.
“At the same time, & as I have often said, getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. I fully expect that someday we will have good relations with Russia again!” he tweeted.
The outburst highlights the extent to which allegations of Russian collusion haunt Mr Trump’s presidency as he prepares to mount his re-election bid next year.
It came in the midst of the longest US government shutdown in history, as Mr Trump is trying to force Democrats in Congress to accept the building of a wall on the southern border with Mexico, to fulfil a key campaign promise. Democrats have adamantly insisted they would not fund such a wall.
Mr Trump insisted there was “no chaos” over the White House strategy on the shutdown, despite growing concerns among some Republicans that they were losing the stand-off in the eyes of the public.