Jared Kushner subject of FBI Russia investigation: reports

Donald Trump’s son-in-law is reportedly being investigated for meetings with the Russian ambassador and a sanctioned bank. He failed to disclose the meetings when applying for White House security clearance.

Washington Jared Kushner (Getty Images/AFP/N. Kamm)

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US news outlets reported Thursday.

Meetings between Kushner and Russian officials in December have come under scrutiny as part of an investigation into potential Russian meddling in the US election, newspaper “The Washington Post”and broadcaster NBC reported.

Kushner, a key White House adviser who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, reportedly met late last year with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian banker Sergey Gorkov.

“The Washington Post” cited anonymous “people familiar with the investigation,” who said the FBI investigation did not mean Kushner was suspected of a crime.

Gorkov, is chairman of VneshEconomBank, a state bank under US sanctions since July 2014.

Kushner intially failed to declare the meetings in forms required to obtain security clearance to serve in the White House. His lawyer later said it was a mistake, telling the FBI that he would amend the forms.

“Mr Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” Jamie Gorelick, one of his attorneys, said in a statement.

“He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

Kushner is the only current White House official known to be considered a key figure in the FBI probe, which is targeting other members of Trump’s campaign team.

Joe Lieberman out of leadership run

Joe Lieberman, a former US Senator and vice presidential candidate, withdrew from consideration as the next director of the FBI on Thursday due to a potential conflict of interest.

Lieberman currently works at a New York City law firm led by Marc Kasowitz, whom Trump hired to represent him against collusion investigations by the Justice Department and Congress, which are being conducted concurrently with that of the FBI. The law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, has represented Trump on many occasions over previous years.

Former US Sen. Joseph Lieberman departs the White House after meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump (Getty Images/W. McNamee)Joe Lieberman, a favorite to head the FBI, has removed himself from the running

“With your selection of Marc Kasowitz to represent you in the various investigations that have begun, I do believe it would be best to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest,” Lieberman wrote in a letter to Trump on Wednesday, which was made public on Thursday.

Lieberman was considered a top candidate to become FBI director. Trump said last Thursday that he was “very close” to selecting a new director. The White House did not release an immediate comment on Lieberman’s withdrawal.

Trump fired previous FBI director James Comey on May 9. In his role, Comey led the FBI’s campaign collusion probe. Trump and Russia have both denied the accusations.

Lieberman served as a Senator from Connecticut from 1989 until he retired in 2013. He was the Democratic vice presidential candidate during the 2000 US presidential election, but later left the Democratic party to serve as an independent.

aw, kbd/kl (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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Trump: ‘no collusion’ with Russia

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Does it matter? No evidence of Trump ‘collusion’ with Russia as media shift focus

Howard Kurtz

The headline in the Washington Examiner was rather eye-catching:

“At This Rate, It Won’t Matter If Trump Colluded with Russia.”

Huh! Won’t matter? Hasn’t that been the subject of a huge swath of media coverage for many months now?

Turns out the piece contained astute observations by Byron York, a Fox News contributor, on how the focus of all the journalistic digging and investigative machinery has shifted.

I’ve long cautioned that, though we don’t know for sure, there may be no there there when it comes to these murky allegations about Donald Trump having “colluded” with Russia. That doesn’t mean that, say, Michael Flynn, who just invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying on the Hill, doesn’t have problems related to past payments from the Russians.

But Trump himself? Not so far.

As York puts it: “The problem, for the confederation of Democrats, pundits, Obama holdovers, and NeverTrumpers who hoped to see that result, has been that so far, after a lot of investigating, no evidence has emerged that collusion actually occurred.”

If you stop and think about it, the flood of leaks to the press over the last 10 days have mainly involved allegations and suggestions of the president trying to derail the investigation. That’s pretty much been the narrative since he fired Jim Comey.

As York writes, “More and more, day after day, Trump’s adversaries believe that, when it comes to bringing down the president, it might not matter if collusion occurred or not. A cover-up would be enough to do the job.”

This sounds rather counterintuitive. Doesn’t there have to be an underlying crime?

In legal terms, no. Lots of people are prosecuted for obstruction of  justice, or lying to investigators, regardless of whether they committed any other crime.

But politically, the failure to document any “collusion” with Russia—that wonderfully ambiguous word—would enable Trump to say that his detractors had come up empty.

The latest Washington Post scoop is in the coverup vein. The story says the president “asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.” Trump spoke to Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, and Michael Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, according to the piece, and they refused to comply.

“Pushing back” may not look good, but also wouldn’t necessarily be illegal.

Critics say Trump would not be applying such pressure if he had nothing to hide—but that is an assumption, and not based on evidence.

At a House hearing yesterday, former CIA director John Brennan said he was concerned about “contacts and interactions” between the Trump associates and Russia and questioned whether they cooperated wittingly or unwittingly, but he would not elaborate in open session.

No one knows what the special counsel investigation by Robert Mueller will turn up. But we seem to be moving away from the heart of the matter: the notion that Trump was somehow in Putin’s pocket.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of “MediaBuzz” (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz. 

Trump’s woes at home mount as he travels abroad

As President Donald Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia for his first foreign tour, US media reports have kept the focus on his White House and relations to Russia. Senators say fired FBI head Comey will testify in Congress.

Donald Trump, Melania Trump (picture alliance/AP Photo/E.Vucci)

The New York Times has reported that President Trump told Russian officials that his firing of former FBI Director James Comey had eased “great pressure” Trump faced.

The newspaper cited a document detailing the White House meeting Trump held with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador to Washington in the Oval Office the day after he fired Comey.

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said on May 10, according to the paper. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

The New York Times cited an unnamed US official as its source for receiving the comments, which had been taken down in notes summarizing the meeting.

Other news reports have alleged Trump had previously asked Comey to stop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. On Thursday, the Justice Department said a special counsel had been appointed to look into allegations of Russian interference in last year’s election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.

USA Richard Burr Senator (Getty Images/G. Demczuk)Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr

Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate intelligence committee, although a date has not yet been set, according to the committee’s chairman, Senator Richard Burr.

Burr said on Friday the former FBI director would testify in an open setting before the committee which wanted to know from Comey about his role in the assessment Russia interfered in last year’s election and his response to questions that have arisen since his dismissal.

White House response

In response to the latest reports on Friday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer again rejected the allegations and said, “A thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity.”

Spicer said of the former FBI director: “by grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”

USA Donald Trump und James Comey (Getty Images/A. Harrer)President Trump with former FBI Director James Comey in January

A person of interest

In a separate news report on Friday, the Washington Post claimed that a senior White House adviser was a person of significant interest in the investigation into possible ties between Trump’s election campaign and Russia.

The Post said the source of its information would not further identify the official, who was described as being a person close to Trump. The report claimed the investigation appeared to be entering a more open and active phase, with investigators conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas.

The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials.

Capitol reaction

House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in response to the reports “every day the president gives us more reason to believe that he does not respect the office that he holds.” She expressed optimism ahead of 2018 midterm elections, which could return Democrats back to control of the House.

Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said the panel should request White House documents related to the May 10 meeting and subpoena them if necessary. Cummings called Trump’s reported comment “astonishing and extremely troubling.”

Trump himself left Washington on Friday for his first international trip, beginning in Saudi Arabia. Air Force One took off with the president, first lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as senior advisers and journalists. The group will then travel to Israel, the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily.

jm/gsw (Reuters, AP)

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Trump’s agenda at risk after series of controversies

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Tuesday that despite all the controversies surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency, the House still has to “pass meaningful legislation and get it to the president’s desk.”

Chaffetz, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, told NBC News that the government is “always full of crisis.”

Trump set forth an ambitious agenda from taking on the country’s health-care system and tax code, but his administration has been ensnared in a series of controversies.

“I am worried, concerned, that continual political drama will drain the energy away from real accomplishments,” Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said that it is “appropriate” for the House Oversight Committee to request the memo that was reportedly written by James Comey, the ousted FBI chief, and claimed that President Trump once asked him to end the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The White House sharply disputed the report, as Democrats seized on it as potential proof of “obstruction” of justice.

According to The New York Times the memo quoted Trump as saying he hoped Comey could “let this go” with regard to Flynn.

The Times said Comey wrote the memo shortly after an Oval Office meeting on Feb. 14, the day after Flynn resigned from the Trump administration. The paper acknowledged it had not seen a copy of the memo, but said a Comey associate read parts of it to a reporter over the phone.

The Senate has no legislation on its agenda this week — business is instead limited to three low-profile nominations. The House — fresh off an 11-day recess — is devoting the week to mostly symbolic, feel-good legislation designed to show support for law enforcement. Another 11-day recess, for Memorial Day this time, is just around the corner.

Separately, a small group of Senate Republicans is meeting in hopes of finding a way forward on keeping Trump’s promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But that effort appears likely to take several weeks — with no guarantee of success.

“It’s hard to make things happen here, right? It’s really hard. I mean you’ve got all kinds of forces working against you,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. “And so unless everybody’s aligned, everybody, throughout the White House and the Cabinet, it’s almost impossible. I think they’re all very aware of that and hopefully they’re going to move to address that.”

In the meantime, must-do legislation on the military, children’s health and a full slate of spending bills are all slipping behind schedule. Trump’s promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is dead in the water after being rejected during negotiations on a catchall spending bill — the only major bipartisan legislation to advance this year — and his promised $1 trillion infrastructure bill is still on the drawing board.

Trump’s tax plan is simply a set of talking points and for procedural reasons is on hold until health care is completed.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an administration that was so lacking is substantive proposals this late in the beginning of their term,” said No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland. “The tax bill is a one-page minimal suggestion of what might be considered. There is no jobs bill. There is no infrastructure bill.”

Work on a congressional budget measure — which is the linchpin to follow-up legislation to cut tax rates — is months behind schedule. The House and Senate Appropriations panels, typically a swarm of activity at this time of the year, seem stumped as they await marching orders.

Trump’s budget finally arrives next week, promising a balanced federal ledger within 10 years. But the Trump budget could complicate matters more, in large part because it calls for domestic cuts that lawmakers have no interest in. Trump doesn’t appear very interested in the budget — its release has been scheduled for when he’s out of the country — and its promise of balance rests on rosy assumptions of economic growth and a sweeping round of unrealistic cuts to programs like Medicaid.

The GOP-controlled Congress has had just a handful of legislative successes since it convened in January. The most significant bill, so far, was a long-delayed House health care measure that squeaked through earlier this month. The House bill polls poorly with voters, however, and faces a wholesale rewrite in the Senate.

So far, just a single piece of major legislation has advanced that required the votes of Democrats — a catchall $1.1 trillion spending bill opposed by more than 100 House Republicans. Beyond that, many of the bills Trump has signed into law were fast-track measures to rescind regulations issued by former President Barack Obama last year. The clock ran out on further repeals and this week, the biggest Senate vote is on confirming Iowa GOP Gov. Terry Branstad as ambassador to China.

“Well, we have nominations and we’ve repealed billions of dollars of regulations,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. “Hopefully we’ll see some other action come to the floor.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

Photo

James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this month.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.

Continue reading the main story

Such documents, Mr. Chaffetz wrote, would “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede” the F.B.I.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Video

A Times Exclusive: Trump, Comey and the Russia Investigation

Michael S. Schmidt, a New York Times reporter, explains new revelations from a memo written by James B. Comey, the fired F.B.I. director. The memo showed that President Trump may have tried to halt the agency’s investigation into Michael T. Flynn.

By A.J. CHAVAR on Publish DateMay 16, 2017. . Watch in Times Video »

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

What Is Obstruction of Justice? An Often-Murky Crime, Explained

A look at what qualifies as obstructing justice, and whether the accusations against President Trump could fit in that definition.

Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.

Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, replying only: “I agree he is a good guy.”

Continue reading the main story

In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.

“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

GRAPHIC

The Events That Led to Comey’s Firing, and How the White House’s Story Changed

New disclosures on Tuesday allege that in February, President Trump asked James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, to shut down an investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

OPEN GRAPHIC

Mr. Chaffetz’s letter, sent to the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, set a May 24 deadline for the internal documents to be delivered to the House committee. The congressman, a Republican, was criticized in recent months for showing little of the appetite he demonstrated in pursuing Hillary Clinton to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump’s associates.

But since announcing in April that he will not seek re-election in 2018, Mr. Chaffetz has shown more interest in the Russia investigation, and held out the potential for a subpoena on Tuesday, a notably aggressive move as most Republicans have tried to stay out of the fray.

Document: Representative Jason Chaffetz’s Letter to the F.B.I.

In testimony to the Senate last week, Mr. McCabe said, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.” Mr. McCabe was referring to the broad investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The investigation into Mr. Flynn is separate.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment.

Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.

THE DAY’S TOP POLITICAL NEWS

Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey last week. Trump administration officials have provided multiple, conflicting accounts of the reasoning behind Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Mr. Trump said in a television interview that one of the reasons was because he believed “this Russia thing” was a “made-up story.”

The Feb. 14 meeting took place just a day after Mr. Flynn was forced out of his job after it was revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of phone conversations he had had with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Despite the conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey, the investigation of Mr. Flynn has proceeded. In Virginia, a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas in recent weeks for records related to Mr. Flynn. Part of the Flynn investigation is centered on his financial links to Russia and Turkey.

Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.

Five Contradictions in the White House’s Story About Comey’s Firing

The Trump administration has offered conflicting answers about how and why the F.B.I. director, James Comey, was fired.

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

Mr. Trump then turned the discussion to Mr. Flynn.

After writing up a memo that outlined the meeting, Mr. Comey shared it with senior F.B.I. officials. Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.

Mr. Comey was known among his closest advisers to document conversations that he believed would later be called into question, according to two former confidants, who said Mr. Comey was uncomfortable at times with his relationship with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Comey’s recollection has been bolstered in the past by F.B.I. notes. In 2007, he told Congress about a now-famous showdown with senior White House officials over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The White House disputed Mr. Comey’s account, but the F.B.I. director at the time, Robert S. Mueller III, kept notes that backed up Mr. Comey’s story.

The White House has repeatedly crossed lines that other administrations have been reluctant to cross when discussing politically charged criminal investigations. Mr. Trump has disparaged the continuing F.B.I. investigation as a hoax and called for an inquiry into his political rivals. His representatives have taken the unusual step of declaring no need for a special prosecutor to investigate the president’s associates.

The Oval Office meeting occurred a little over two weeks after Mr. Trump summoned Mr. Comey to the White House for a lengthy, one-on-one dinner at the residence. At that dinner, on Jan. 27, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey at least two times for a pledge of loyalty — which Mr. Comey declined, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Mr. Trump said that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

5395COMMENTS

After the meeting, Mr. Comey’s associates did not believe there was any way to corroborate Mr. Trump’s statements. But Mr. Trump’s suggestion last week that he was keeping tapes has made them wonder whether there are tapes that back up Mr. Comey’s account.

The Jan. 27 dinner came a day after White House officials learned that Mr. Flynn had been interviewed by F.B.I. agents about his phone calls with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. On Jan. 26, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, told the White House counsel about the interview, and said Mr. Flynn could be subject to blackmail by the Russians because they knew he had lied about the content of the calls.

Former Intelligence Director Clapper says Trump ‘assaulting’ US institutions (VIDEO)

Former Intelligence Director Clapper says Trump ‘assaulting’ US institutions (VIDEO)
Former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says the checks and balances in the US system are “eroding” because institutions are facing an internal assault from President Donald Trump.

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Clapper said that Trump’s sacking of FBI director James Comey has caused turmoil in intelligence circles.

“The developments of the past week are very bothersome, very disturbing to me,” Clapper said, before repeating claims that Russia interfered in last year’s US presidential election – something he has admitted there is no evidence of.

READ MORE: US ex-intel chief Clapper believes Russia-Trump claims, despite ‘no evidence to his knowledge’

“I think in many ways our institutions are under assault both externally, and that’s the big news here; Russian interference in our election system. And, as well, I think our institutions are under assault internally,” Clapper explained, prompting host Jake Tapper to ask “internally from the President?”

“Exactly,” Clapper responded, saying “the Founding Fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances and I feel as though that’s under assault and is eroding.”

Clapper handed in his resignation as National Intelligence Director shortly after Trump’s election victory in November. He officially left office on the day the new president moved into the White House.

His reign as intelligence chief was marred by fallout from inaccurate statements he made to Congress about the NSA’s data collection on American citizens. In March of 2013, he claimed that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect the data of Americans. A few months later, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing the agency’s exhaustive domestic data collection programs.

READ MORE: ‘Work for WikiLeaks’: Assange offers Comey job as Snowden condemns White House

The Obama-appointed former intelligence chief said Sunday that Comey’s firing has had a palpably negative impact on the morale of the intelligence community. “People are very upset about the way he was treated,” he claimed.

Clapper added that he had exchanged emails with the former FBI director, but declined to divulge what they discussed.

On Fmr. DNI Clapper says he “would hope” that US Intel Community would be aware of WH tapes

Clapper also addressed the issue of secret White House taping devices, a prospect Trump raised in the aftermath of Comey’s firing.

When asked if intelligence agencies would know about such devices, Clapper responded: “I can’t say, I would hope so. Certainly, from a security standpoint if nothing else. I don’t believe there was one in the administration I served in, I certainly can’t comment [on the current administration].”

The Comey affair: What happens now that Trump fired the head of the FBI?

US President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey has left Washington reeling as the White House searches for a replacement. Some critics have said Trump opened himself up to impeachment over the affair.

Bildkombo U.S. Präsident Donald Trump und FBI Direktor James Comey (Reuters/J. Lo Scalzo/G. Cameron)

US President Donald Trump’s surprising move to fire the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), James Comey, sent resounding shockwaves throughout the US capital.

Trump said the decision was based on Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe, but critics said they believe the real reason was the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election to Trump’s benefit and possible Russian ties to officials in Trump’s campaign.

Watch video00:49

Fired FBI chief Comey reacts to dismissal

The next order of business in Washington will be naming an interim FBI head while the White House searches for a permanent replacement. While the process is sure to be politically charged, Trump’s Republicans enjoy a razor-slim majority in the Senate, where the president’s candidate will require a simple majority to enter office.

Some Democrats have suggested that they would oppose Trump’s FBI chief nominee if the White House refuses to allow an independent special prosecutor to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the election.

“I would oppose confirmation of a new FBI director until there is support for a special prosecutor,” Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters on Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote on Twitter that the Democrats “demand” the appointment of a special prosecutor.

.@SenateDemsdemand the appt of a special prosecutor by a non-political appointee at the Dept. of Justice,

Democrats said they are concerned that the Russia investigation will now be conducted by a hand-picked Trump ally, which they said could compromise the probe.

Who will be the new FBI head?

Although the White House hasn’t named any potential candidate to serve as the new FBI director, US media reports have honed in on several possible picks:

Where does this leave the Russia investigation?

The investigation is still on-going and Comey’s departure does not change that. The question is who will now hold the reins.

Watch video01:41

US Democrats call for special prosecutor

As it is a part of the US Justice Department, the FBI’s investigation is currently being overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation after it was revealed that he had his own contacts with Russia’s ambassador in Washington.

There are also oversight investigations being pursued by the Senate and House intelligence committees. The committees, however, cannot bring criminal charges and are not privy to the same information as an FBI investigation. Their results can be issued in classified and public reports.

Why did Trump fire Comey?

Since dismissing Comey, Trump has stood by his rationale for the sacking, saying Comey “was not doing a good job” with the Clinton email probe. Sources speaking anonymously to US media told a very different story than the one coming from the White House.

The New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post all reported that shortly before Comey was fired, he requested additional funding and personnel for the FBI’s Russia probe.

Some 30 officials from the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI and senior Republicans, told the Washington Post that Trump was angry with Comey for paying more attention to the Russia investigation and not inspecting leaks of White House policies to journalists.

Could Trump really be impeached over this?

The short answer? Not based on what is currently known about Russia’s alleged role in manipulating the US election and not in the current US political landscape.

The long answer? Some observers have said Comey’s dismissal could potentially be seen as an abuse of office – an impeachable offense – if Trump fired Comey to stop the investigations against himself and members of his campaign and administration.

Removing the president for committing an impeachable offense is a two-step process. First at least half of the lawmakers in the House of Representatives would have to vote to impeach the president, then after hearing evidence, at least two-thirds of the Senate would have to decide to convict the president and thus remove him from office.

While a case could possibly be made for Trump’s impeachment on possible obstruction of justice charges over Comey’s firing, there isn’t enough credible evidence yet to prove it. Furthermore, Republicans in Congress do not seem interested in pursuing any investigation.

Although some Republicans have questioned the timing of Trump’s decision, there is no indication that they would turn on the president in the number required for impeachment. The Republican Party enjoys majorities in both houses of the US Congress; so there is no chance Democrats could remove the president from office without Republican support.

The day after Comey’s firing, Vice President Mike Pence said Trump “made the right decision at the right time.” Similarly, leading Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also firmly stood behind Trump’s decision.

McConnell also dismissed calls on Wednesday for a special prosecutor to be brought in on the Russia campaign, saying it “could only serve to impede the current work being done” by the FBI and the Senate intelligence committee.

Maximiliane Koschyk contributed reporting.

Watch video03:29

Has Trump crossed a red line by firing Comey? – DW’s Carsten von Nahmen

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