Federal Bureau of Investigation opened probe about Donald Trump connection with Russian Federation

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump dance at the Freedom Ball in Washington DC

The investigation - a dual counterintelligence and criminal probe - was launched after the president fired FBI director James Comey in May 2017, the Times said, citing anonymous sources.

Tweeting in response, Comey quoted former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made".

Investigators were specifically looking into whether Trump's firing of Comey posed a national security threat as well as whether it was an obstruction of justice, considering the FBI's broader investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

According to the Times, FBI officials also opened a counterintelligence investigation around the time of Comey's firing, after officials were alarmed by comments Trump made suggesting Comey's firing was due to the original Russian Federation investigation.

As for Manafort, two pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarchs were the intended recipients of USA polling data that Manafort admitted to sharing with a Russian during the 2016 presidential race, CNN reported.

The Times said it was unclear whether Mr Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence angle.

In this image released by ABC News, former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey appears at an interview with George Stephanopoulos during an April 15, 2018 prime time '20/20′ special on the ABC Television Network. "The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing", he said. Once Trump became President, his firing of Comey added to the puzzling circumstances of his ties to Russian Federation.

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"The NY Times story is an unwitting disclosure and verification of the utter corruption of their oaths by Comey and his colleagues to undermine the free election of the President of the United States", Mr. Dowd told The Washington Times.

Cohen and Flynn have both been convicted for various crimes as part of the Russian Federation probe and have both offered evidence potentially damaging to their former boss.

Recent news reports and court filings suggest that Mueller may be nearing the end of his investigation, at which point he is supposed to turn over a confidential final report to the Justice Department.

In December, Comey told lawmakers that he and Mueller are not friends.

"People who know better, including Republican members of this body, have to have the courage to stand up and speak the truth".

In a statement Friday night, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the Times story "absurd".

"The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has always been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice. Unlike former president (Barack) Obama who let Russian Federation and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russian Federation", the White House Press Secretary said.

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