U.S. President Donald Trump has lashed out at the FBI following revelations that one of its agents was removed from a team investigating Russia’s alleged election meddling because of anti-Trump text messages.
Trump wrote in a Twitter message on December 3 that the FBI's "reputation is in tatters - worst in History!"
Trump, who denies that his election campaign team colluded with Russia to get him elected, also issued a fresh denial that he had asked former FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating one of the president's top aides, Michael Flynn.
"I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn," he said in a separate message on Twitter. "Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!"
Trump fired Comey in May.
Reports emerged over the weekend that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading an inquiry into alleged Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, dismissed an FBI officer from the probe during the summer after the discovery of an exchange of text messages that were viewed as potentially anti-Trump.
A spokesman for Mueller, Peter Carr, said the officer was removed from the investigating team "immediately upon learning of the allegations."
Flynn Agrees To Testify
In another recent development in Mueller's investigation, Flynn on December 1 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition period between the November 2016 election and the time Trump took office in January 2017.
According to media reports, Flynn has agreed to testify that he was ordered by an unnamed senior transition-team official to establish connections with the Russian government.
Flynn faces up to five years in prison for the charge of lying to the FBI, but his sentencing could also depend on the extent of his cooperation with investigators.
Flynn resigned as national security adviser in February after serving in the post for just 24 days amid revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak.
Flynn is the fourth person to be criminally charged in connection with the investigation. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates were indicted in October on charges that included conspiracy and lying to federal agents. Former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, meanwhile, has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents and was cooperating with Mueller’s investigators.
In January, a U.S. intelligence finding claimed that the Russian government undertook a concerted effort to influence the 2016 election in favor of Trump.
Moscow denies the charge.