WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump reiterated on Friday that his campaign did not collude with the Kremlin and said the Russiagate probe was a Democratic Party-led farce aimed at justifying its defeat in the 2016 election.
“There is absolutely no collusion. I didn’t make a phone call to Russia. I have nothing to do with Russia. Everybody knows it. That was a Democrat hoax. It was an excuse for losing the election,” Donald Trump told reporters shortly before delivering a speech at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s law enforcement training and research center near Quantico, Virginia.
He was referring to accusations that his campaign coordinated with Moscow to inflict damage on his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, during their race to the White House.
Also Friday, the president harshly criticized the FBI in remarks that presumably referred to a senior agent who insulted then-candidate Trump in a series of text messages.
“It is very sad when you look at those documents. And how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful,” Trump said.
Robert Mueller, a former director of that agency and the special counsel looking into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, removed that senior agent, Peter Strzok, from the Russia probe after learning of the text messages, the Justice Department said this week in a letter to the US House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee.
“It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI. But we’re going to rebuild the FBI. It will be bigger and better than ever,” Trump said.
Strzok, who has been reassigned to the FBI’s human resources department, also was part of the team that investigated Clinton’s controversial use of a private e-mail server while she served as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
In July of last year, then-FBI Director James Comey recommended that no criminal charges be filed against Clinton for mishandling classified information.
But Comey, whom Trump fired in May, also provoked the ire of many Democrats when he announced on Oct. 28, 2016, 11 days before the election, that the FBI was reopening its investigation into her use of that private e-mail server.
That announcement by Comey – who subsequently said two days before the balloting that the FBI still did not recommend charges against Clinton – is seen by the former first lady and many of her supporters as a major factor in her surprise election defeat.