wednesday, 17 may of 2017

Putin offers to release meeting record

Vladimir Putin has waded into the growing row surrounding US President Donald Trump and his links to Russia.

US media say Mr Trump passed on classified information to Russian officials last week, but Mr Putin says this is not the case.

He said he would release a record of the meeting to the US Congress if they requested it.

The news comes amid reports Mr Trump tried to influence an investigation into his team's dealings with Russia.

US media have quoted a memo by former FBI director James Comey that reportedly says Mr Trump asked him to drop an inquiry into links between his ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Moscow.

The fallout from both issues continues to consume the White House.

Issue one: The Russian meeting

Mr Trump met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at the White House last Wednesday.

The meeting came amid an ongoing FBI inquiry and congressional hearings into possible Russian influence in the 2016 US election.

It also came a day after Mr Trump dismissed Mr Comey from his post.

On Monday, the Washington Post, followed by a number of other US outlets, said Mr Trump had given the Russian officials information relating to the Islamic State group (IS) that could have endangered the source of the information.

The information was reportedly deemed so sensitive it had not been shared with key US partners, let alone Russia.

Mr Trump later defended his right to share the information, and his national security adviser HR McMaster said the president's actions were "wholly appropriate".

On Wednesday, Mr Putin joked that the meeting did not unfold as had been portrayed.

"I spoke to him [Lavrov] today," he said. "I'll be forced to issue him with a reprimand because he did not share these secrets with us."

Issue two: The Comey memo reports

While in charge at the FBI, Mr Comey was heading an investigation into possible Russian influence on the US election.

The Russia story has already claimed one victim - Mr Trump's first national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired after misleading the government over his meetings with Mr Kislyak.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Mr Comey wrote a memo following a meeting with the president on 14 February, saying that Mr Trump had asked him to close an investigation into Mr Flynn's actions.

He reportedly shared this memo with top FBI associates.

"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go," the president told Mr Comey, according to accounts of the memo. "He is a good guy."

Mr Comey did not respond to his request, according to this account, but replied: "I agree he is a good guy."

The FBI chief was later fired by Mr Trump. The official reason was over his handling of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while at the state department.

But Mr Trump said in an interview last week that "this Russian thing" was on his mind as he made the decision.

The White House denied the allegation that Mr Trump had tried to influence Mr Comey.

"The president has never asked Mr Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn," it said.

A White House official also pointed out that acting FBI director Andrew McCabe had testified last week that there had been "no effort to impede our investigation to date".

A senior Republican congressman has called on the FBI to hand over Mr Comey's records of his contacts with Mr Trump within the week.

In a letter to Mr McCabe, House Oversight Committee chair Jason Chaffetz said the reported memo, along with others made by Mr Comey from his meetings with the president, "raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede the FBI's investigation".

On Wednesday, the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, said it was crucial to let investigations run their course before rushing to judgment.

(Published by BBC - May 17, 2017)

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