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Donald Trump backs probing Obama administration

LiveMint logoLiveMint 01-06-2017 PTI

Washington: Wading into a political feud over the latest subpoenas in the US House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe, US President Donald Trump on Thursday backed efforts to investigate actions by US security and other officials under previous president Barack Obama.

“The big story is the ‘unmasking and surveillance’ of people that took place during the Obama Administration,” Trump said in a tweet, one day after the committee’s Republican chairman subpoenaed the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency amid complaints by Democrats that they were not consulted.

On Wednesday, committee chairman Devin Nunes asked the agencies for details of any requests made by two top Obama administration aides and the former Central Intelligence Agency director to “unmask” Trump campaign advisers inadvertently picked up in top-secret foreign communications intercepts, according to congressional sources.

Another congressional source, who also requested anonymity, said Democrats were “informed and consulted” ahead of time, but committee aides said they were not told.

Nunes, in April, recused himself from leading the panel’s investigation into suspected Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election following a secret visit he paid to White House officials, but he retains subpoena power. A senior committee aide said Wednesday’s subpoenas were not part of the Russia probe.

In a separate statement on Wednesday, Republican Representative Mike Conaway and Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, who are leading the committee’s Russia probe, announced subpoenas for Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as well as their firms.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied leading efforts to interfere in last year’s US election.

Trump, a Republican, has denied any collusion between Russia and his campaign and has repeatedly questioned the US intelligence finding that Putin led an operation that included computer hacking, fake news and propaganda intended to swing the election in his favour.

The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation is just one of several congressional probes into Russia, along with one by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Also, the US Department of Justice recently appointed a special counsel.

The Guardian newspaper said on Thursday said that Nigel Farage, a Trump supporter and a leading Brexit campaigner, is a “person of interest” in the FBI probe but has not been accused of wrongdoing. Farage, a former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, said he had no Russia connections.

Separately, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was moving toward returning two Russian compounds in the United States to Moscow.

The Maryland and New York compounds were seized under the Obama administration in December as part of a larger action targeting Russian diplomats whom it said were spies. Russian officials said last month that they might retaliate. Reuters

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