Trump under fresh scrutiny over relationship with Putin

U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe R-Texas says his questions uncovered revelations that in May 2017 senior FBI leadership debated whether President Trump was directed by the Russian government to fire FBI Director James Comey

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"I will say, if you compare, objectively, President Trump's policies to Russia, compared to President Obama's policies to Russia, by any measure, President Obama was much easier, was much more gentle, on Russia", he said.

Senate Democrats will force a vote this week to overturn the Treasury Department's move to relax sanctions on companies connected to a Russian oligarch, pushing the various facets of the 2016 Russia election meddling probe back to the forefront.

President Trump was so intent on keeping his chats with Vladimir Putin secret, he once made his interpreter turn over his notes and promise to never discuss them, current and former U.S. officials told The Washington Post.

Graham, for his part, told The Hill on Sunday, "I, for one, don't trust what I read in the New York Times", but also that he plans to ask current Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray to confirm the details of the reporting.

Senior U.S. officials told the Post they never received a reliable readout of Mr. Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki. There has been a confusing and sometimes even alarming tendency on the part of President Trump to complement President Putin and to do things like his abrupt announcement of a withdrawal from Syria that led his own secretary of defense to resign, that has led many of us to question his closeness to and his affinity for President Putin.

"If you read the article, you'd see that they found absolutely nothing", he said.

FBI agents and senior officials began to suspect connections between Trump and Russian Federation during the 2016 campaign but pushed off an investigation partially because they were unsure how to execute such a massive and sensitive operation, sources told the Times. And Trump's efforts to keep meetings with Putin under wraps only exacerbate this threat.

Mr. Trump himself had said there was a connection during an interview with NBC News' Lester Holt in May 2017.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement calling the Post story "so outrageously inaccurate it doesn't even warrant a response".

Trump has repeatedly and vociferously denied collusion with the Russians. I mean, it's so ridiculous.

The reports come as Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation looms large in the background, punctuated by guilty pleas, convictions and indictments of former Trump associates.

These new reports came amidst the a partial shutdown of the federal government that entered 23rd day Sunday, and is now the longest in USA history, impacting an estimated 800,000 employees, who have either being furloughed - on leave without pay - or as working without pay.

He compared his conversations with Putin to what "every president does - you sit with the president of various countries". The justification went beyond Trump's firing of Comey, according to the sources, and included the President's conversation with Comey in the Oval Office asking him to drop the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

"Anybody could have listened to that meeting", he said. He also accused the Post of fabricating the report. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the new committee chairman, to hold investigative hearings into whether Trump has been "compromised by" Russian Federation. At the same time, & as I have often said, getting along with Russian Federation is a good thing, not a bad thing.

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