Donald Trump launches fresh attack on FBI over 'national security leakers'

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Friday 24 February 2017 13:37
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Mr Trump has previously praised the FBI
Mr Trump has previously praised the FBI

Donald Trump has launched a fresh attack on the FBI, claiming it has been giving classified information to media that could have a "devastating effect" on the US.

His comments - delivered on Twitter - came just hours after reports emerged that the White House had asked the agency to publicly deny there were links between the President's administration and Vladimir Putin's regime in Russia.

The former reality show host said on Twitter: "The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security 'leakers' that have permeated our government for a long time. They can't even find the leakers within the FBI itself.

"Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on US. FIND NOW."

Mr Trump has previously attacked the intelligence services over a slew of leaks that have appeared in the media, claiming links between the New York tycoon and members of his team, and Russia. No hard evidence has been provided of any such links, and Mr Trump has continued to deny the assertions.

Yet, the issue still clearly irks him. His outburst on Friday morning came after CNN reported the FBI had rejected a recent approach from the White House to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Mr Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign

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A White House official said the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate, the channel said.

White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, officials said.

The reports of the contacts were first published by the New York Times and CNN on February 14. The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told the news channel: “We didn't try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth.”

Reports said the contact between the FBI and the White House involved a conversation between Mr Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Mr Priebus asked, that if the FBI would not make a public statement, that investigators should at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. FBI Director James Comey rejected the request for the FBI to comment on the stories, according to reports, because the alleged communications between Trump associates and Russians known to US intelligence are the subject of an ongoing investigation.

The relationship between Mr Trump and Mr Comey is not entirely straight forward. During the election campaign, the New York tycoon criticised the FBI for deciding not to pursue criminal charges against his rival Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server.

But when Mr Comey announced in the final days of the campaign that the probe had been reopened - a move that Ms Clinton herself has said cost her the election - Mr Trump’s opinion appeared to change.

He decided to keep Mr Comey on as director, even though the heads of several intelligence and investigative agencies have been replaced.

At a reception last month in Washington, Mr Trump shook hands with Mr Comey, saying: “He’s become more famous than me.”

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