Report that FBI investigated Trump as Russian agent sparks panic for the president

“I have been FAR tougher on Russia than Obama, Bush or Clinton. Maybe tougher than any other President,” he claimed on Saturday.

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A panicked Trump is desperate for us to believe he’s “touch” on Russia following a bombshell New York Times report on Friday that the FBI opened an enquiry – in 2017, after the president fired the bureau’s director James Comey – into whether he was a Russian agent.

“The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence,” the Times report says. It adds that the investigation “also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice”.

This appears to have sent the president into a manic spiral. On Saturday he went on a five-tweet tear, saying 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!”

“My firing of James Comey was a great day for America. He was a Crooked Cop......” he continued, literally using that many full stops, “.....who is being totally protected by his best friend, Bob Mueller, & the 13 Angry Democrats - leaking machines who have NO interest in going after the Real Collusion (and much more) by Crooked Hillary Clinton, her Campaign, and the Democratic National Committee. Just Watch!”

“I have been FAR tougher on Russia than Obama, Bush or Clinton. Maybe tougher than any other President. At the same time, & as I have often said, getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he concluded.

His mania continued into the week: on Monday afternoon Trump told reporters on his way to Air Force One that he “never worked for Russia” and that to even ask him such a question was “a disgrace”, adding that the whole thing was “a hoax”.

But the president has lost all credibility: why would anyone believe anything he has to say at this point? The fact that the FBI was investigating him for possibly being a Russian agent is another sign that the trap may be closing around him. We already know about the links between the Kremlin and people high up in his campaign, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort; and we also know that the Russians interfered in the election process to help Trump win.

In what might be more bad news for Trump, his nominee to replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney-General, William Barr, has said in his planned opening remarks for his confirmation hearing Tuesday afternoon – published on Monday – that he will protect the Mueller enquiry into the president, a promise similar to the recusal that led him to fire Sessions in the first place. It is easy to see why all this might send the president into this spiral.

On top of the ongoing soul-searching about where all this could be leading, the president’s erratic behaviour leads to another troubling question, as it always does whie Trump has his fingers on the nuclear trigger: where will all this nervous energy get channeled?

Nicky Woolf was the launch editor for New Statesman America and has formerly written for the Guardian and the New Statesman. He tweets @NickyWoolf.

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