Comey to testify before Senate committee on Russian Federation probe

Mr. Trump was hosting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak.

Former FBI director James Comey has agreed to testify in open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the bureau's investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 United States presidential election, intensifying President Donald Trump's political troubles. And while Comey's firing and the week's other bombshell story-that Trump had reportedly spilled classified information to senior Russian officials-seemed like somewhat distinct scandals, it turns out they may well be related.

Separately, The Washington Post reported Friday that the FBI investigation into possible coordination between Russian Federation and the Trump presidential campaign was moving closer to the White House. Trump aides said he never tried to squelch the Flynn investigation nor made inappropriate disclosures to the Russians.

Also on Friday, Comey agreed to testify before the Senate intelligence committee after Memorial Day.

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Flynn discussed USA sanctions against Russian Federation with Russia's ambassador to the United States during the month before President Donald Trump took office, and he withheld that fact from even Vice President Mike Pence.

The White House has disputed Comey's account of his February conversation with Trump concerning Flynn but has not offered specifics.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, "as the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity".

As the Post highlighted, only three current senior administration officials have had publicly known contacts with the Russians: Attorney general _Jeff Sessions, _Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

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The Russian government is accused by U.S. intelligence of trying to tilt the 2016 election in Trump's favor. Initially, the administration had claimed that the president had terminated Comey's employment based exclusively upon a recommendation from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

"By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russian Federation", said Spicer in a statement to the Times regarding its story.

There was a palpable sense among the senators who filed out of the briefing room that the centre of gravity in the investigation was shifting from Capitol Hill to Mr Mueller, who will spend weeks assembling a staff and a list of witnesses to interview. That prompted then Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to warn the White House's top lawyer he might be susceptible to blackmail.

Rosenstein declined to discuss the timing of the memo and who had asked him to write it, saying the memo and its role in Comey's firing were likely to be part of the investigation, which will now be led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, whom Rosenstein appointed special counsel on Wednesday.

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