Saturday 23 November 2019

FBI Director says he has not 'detected any whiff of interference' into the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling

Donald Trump Jr arrived on Capitol Hill on Thursday (AP)
Donald Trump Jr arrived on Capitol Hill on Thursday (AP) Newsdesk Newsdesk

FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Thursday he has not "detected any whiff of interference" into the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking publicly for the first time since being confirmed as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wray also told an audience at the Intelligence and National Security Summit that he has confidence in Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating whether President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia during the election.

U.S. President Donald Trump's eldest son told Senate investigators on Thursday that he had set up a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer because she might have had damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the New York Times reported.

Donald Trump Jr., in a prepared statement to Senate Judiciary Committee investigators in a meeting behind closed doors, said it was important to learn about Clinton's "fitness" to be president, the paper said.

"But nothing came of the Trump Tower meeting, he said, and he was adamant that he never colluded with the Russian government’s campaign to disrupt last year’s presidential election," the Times said.

The younger Trump has released emails that showed he welcomed the prospect of receiving damaging information in the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others in Trump Tower.

Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were also at the meeting.

Russia has loomed large over the start of the Trump presidency. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia worked to tilt the 2016 presidential election in Trump's favor. Several congressional committees and a special counsel are also looking into the matter.

Moscow denies any meddling. Trump denies any collusion by his campaign, while regularly denouncing the investigations as political witch hunts.

Trump Jr. was questioned by Judiciary Committee staff on Capitol Hill on Thursday for more than three hours and was still in the conference room by early afternoon.

A handful of mostly Democratic senators attended the meeting but said questioning was limited to staff. The session was not classified and Trump Jr. was not under oath.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal described the atmosphere in the room as "cordial" and he said the testimony made it clear there was more to discover.

"There certainly are a lot of areas that are opening for future witnesses, and questioning," he told reporters.

Blumenthal also said he expected Trump Jr. would testify under oath later at a public hearing.

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