News World Donald Trump forced to deny reports he worked for Russia, concealed Putin talks
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Donald Trump forced to deny reports he worked for Russia, concealed Putin talks

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Russia
The US President has been besieged by damning reports over the weekend. Photo: AP
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US President Donald Trump has been forced to deny he was working  for Russia and took extraordinary steps to conceal his discussions with President Vladimir Putin.

Reports by The Washington Post over the weekend raised questions about Mr Trump’s private meetings with the Russian President and revealed an FBI investigation into his behaviour after he fired FBI Director James Comey.

The New York Times cited unnamed former law enforcement officials as saying they began investigating the possibility Mr Trump was currently, or ever had, worked for Russia after he fired Mr Comey.

Mr Comey was leading an investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election at the time of his dismissal.

The Washington Post on Sunday night reported that Mr Trump took steps to conceal details about his conversations with the Russian President.

The paper reported that Mr Trump took notes from his interpreter and instructed the person not to discuss the details of his conversation with others.

Mr Trump responded to the stories late Sunday during a telephone interview broadcast on Fox News by saying the accusations were “insulting”.

“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” he said.

When asked about The Washington Post claims, Mr Trump said he and Mr Putin had “a great conversation”.

“I’m not keeping anything under wraps, I couldn’t care less. I mean, it’s so ridiculous. These people make it up,” he said.

Mr Trump compared his conversations with Mr Putin to what “every president does – you sit with the president of various countries”.

The President never answered directly whether he had worked for Russia, but went on to assert that no president had taken a harder stance against Moscow than he had.

“If you ask the folks in Russia, I’ve been tougher on Russia than anybody else, any other … probably any other president, period, but certainly the last three or four presidents.”

Mr Trump’s claim was disputed by Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Senator Warner said almost all the sanctions on Russia arose not in the White House but in Congress, due to concerns by members of both parties about Moscow’s actions.

He accused the White House of being very slow to put in place the penalties.

The Republican head of the US Senate judiciary committee, Senator Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, suggested the FBI may have exceeded its authority if reports of the investigation were true.

“I am going to ask the FBI director; ‘was there a counterintelligence investigation opened up regarding the president as being a potential agent of the Russians?'” Senator Graham said.

“If this really did happen, congress needs to know about it,” he added. 

US intelligence agencies have said Moscow tried to tip the election to Mr Trump.

Russia has denied interfering, and Mr Trump has said repeatedly there was no collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

The Times reported the counterintelligence probe was sparked in part by growing alarm about Mr Trump’s behaviour, including comments he made suggesting he fired Comey over the Russia investigation, which is now being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Democratic lawmakers on Monday morning expressed concern about the Washington Post report on the President’s alleged efforts to conceal details about his conversations with Putin.

The paper reported that Mr Trump took notes from his interpreter and instructed the person not to discuss the details of his conversation with others.

“When he takes the interpreter’s notes and wants to destroy them so no one can see what was said … it raises serious questions about the relationship between this president and Putin,” the Senate’s second most-powerful Democrat, Dick Durbin, said.

In his appearance on Fox News, Mr Trump denied he was keeping anything under wraps on his meetings with Mr Putin.

Senator Chris Coons, a Democratic member of the judiciary committee, said he plans to press Mr Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, for a pledge to let Mueller complete his work.

-with AAP