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Transcripts detail how FBI debated whether Trump was ‘following directions’ of Russia

In the chaotic aftermath at the FBI following Director James Comey’s firing, a half-dozen senior FBI officials huddled to set in motion the momentous move to open an investigation into President Donald Trump that included trying to understand why he was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia.


They debated a range of possibilities, according to portions of transcripts of two FBI officials’ closed-door congressional interviews obtained by CNN. On one end was the idea that Trump fired Comey at the behest of Russia. On the other was the possibility that Trump didn’t have an improper relationship with the Kremlin and was acting within the bounds of his executive authority, the transcripts show.
James Baker, then-FBI general counsel, said the FBI officials were contemplating with regard to Russia whether Trump was “acting at the behest of and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will.”

“That was one extreme. The other extreme is that the President is completely innocent, and we discussed that too,” Baker told House investigators last year. “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.”

“That was one extreme. The other extreme is that the President is completely innocent, and we discussed that too,” Baker told House investigators last year. “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.”

Following Comey’s firing, the FBI opened a probe into Trump for possible obstruction of justice, as CNN has previously reported. Part of the impetus for the investigation, the New York Times first reported Friday, was whether Trump’s actions seemed to benefit Russia.
The congressional transcripts obtained by CNN reveal new details into how the FBI launched the investigation into Trump and the discussions that were going on inside the bureau during a tumultuous and pivotal period ahead of the internal investigation and special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment.
Republicans view the officials’ comments as evidence that top officials at the FBI were planning all along to investigate Trump and that the probe wasn’t sparked by the Comey firing, according to a Republican source with knowledge of the interviews.
While the FBI launched its investigation in the days after Comey’s abrupt dismissal, the bureau had previously contemplated such a step, according to testimony from former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
Peter Strzok, the former FBI agent who was dismissed from Mueller’s team and later fired over anti-Trump text messages, texted Page in the hours after Comey’s firing and said: “We need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy is acting,” a reference to then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
Page was pressed on the meaning of the message in her interview with congressional investigators, and she confirmed that the text was related to the Russia investigation into potential collusion.
Page told lawmakers the decision to open the case was not about “who was occupying the director’s chair,” according to a source. While FBI lawyers limited her answers about the text, she said the text wasn’t suggesting that the case couldn’t be opened with Comey as director.
“It’s not that it could not have been done,” Page told lawmakers. “This case had been a topic of discussion for some time. The ‘waiting on’ was an indecision and a cautiousness on the part of the bureau with respect to what to do and whether there was sufficient predication to open.”
Portions of Page’s interview were first reported by The Epoch Times.
This weekend, Trump in a series of tweets attacked the FBI and Comey, calling him a “crooked cop.”
“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!” Trump tweeted.
In his congressional testimony, Baker said that he did not discuss with Comey the possibility that Russia had influenced his firing. But Baker met with a group of roughly a half-dozen officials, including McCabe and possibly Strzok and Page, to discuss it.

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