After President Donald Trump controversially fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, senior FBI officials considered the possibility that Trump was acting at the direction of the Russian government, transcripts obtained by CNN revealed over the weekend.
According to CNN, a half-dozen top FBI officials gathered in the aftermath of Comey's firing and "debated a range of possibilities" in "trying to understand why [Trump] was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia." The transcripts detail closed-door congressional testimony of two FBI officials last year.
What are the details?
James Baker, who at the time served as the FBI's general counsel, told congressional investigators the FBI "theoretically" considered if Trump, in regard to Russia, was "acting at the behest of and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will."
"That was one extreme. The other extreme is that the President is completely innocent, and we discussed that too. There's a range of things this could possibly be. We need to investigate, because we don't know whether, you know, the worst-case scenario is possibly true or the President is totally innocent and we need to get this thing over with — and so he can move forward with his agenda," Baker said at the time, according to CNN.
"I'm speaking theoretically. If the president of the United States fired Jim Comey at the behest of the Russian government, that would be unlawful and unconstitutional," Baker explained.
The group of FBI officials discussing what to do following Comey's firing may have included disgraced agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who were later revealed to be staunchly against Trump, leading to Strzok's removal from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Also, Baker told Congress that questions surrounding Trump's potential collusion with Russia, and whether he was acting at Russia's behest, drove the bureau's decision to open an obstruction of justice probe against him.
"Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security," Baker said.
CNN's report following a bombshell New York Times story on Friday, which reported the FBI had been investigating whether Trump was working for Russia before Mueller was appointed as special counsel.
What did Trump say?
Speaking to the media outside the White House Monday, Trump lambasted the media as a "disgrace" for even asking whether he ever worked for Russia.
"I never worked for Russia," Trump said. "It's a whole big fat hoax."
NEW: "I never worked for Russia," Pres. Trump says on White House lawn. "It's a whole big fat hoax." https://t.co/NkJuIoh4fP pic.twitter.com/1YZJb5oAPY
— ABC News (@ABC) January 14, 2019