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Mr Trump told a television reporter that one of the reasons he had fired the 56-year-old was because of the ongoing probe into possible collusion with Russian Federation – something the President said was nothing more than “fake news” being generated by those angry about his election victory. Mr Trump later contradicted his own staff, saying on 11 May he had the Russian Federation issue in mind when he fired Mr Comey. “That is a very big deal”.

Trump turned 71 years old on Wednesday.

The interviews suggest that Mueller, an ex-FBI chief himself, sees the ‘he said, he said, ‘ now going on between Comey and Trump to be a bigger deal than just that, one of the Post’s sources said.

He called the leak “outrageous, inexcusable and illegal” – but he did not deny the story.

The three officials the Post says Mueller is interviewing are Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Richard Ledgett, the recently retired deputy NSA director.

Ryan noted if Trump made a decision to fire Mueller, it would be a “big problem for him politically”. That investigation is being overseen by Robert Mueller, who was appointed as a special counsel last month.

It is striking that Trump, the anti-leak crusader, didn’t instruct his team to issue a statement along these lines: We are not going to comment on anonymously sourced reports that spread rumor and innuendo. The FBI did not immediately respond.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Mr Comey had presented no evidence to prove that Moscow meddled in the USA election, adding that Washington had tried to influence Russian elections “year after year”, he said.

In May, the Post reported that the meeting with Kislyak focused on setting up a back channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow.

The widened Russian Federation probe could have far-reaching repercussions for Trump’s presidency, transforming his closest aides into witnesses and sucking yet more political oxygen out of the West Wing. “Current and former leaders in the intelligence community have repeatedly said there’s been no effort to impede the investigation in any way”, Ms McDaniel said.

A spokesman for Mueller’s team also declined to comment. In a letter, Republican Sen.

Also Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley said his panel will investigate the removal of former FBI Director James Comey and “any alleged improper partisan interference in law enforcement investigations”.

He accused Mueller of setting up a “dragnet” of obstruction so that he could investigate every aspect of Trump’s personal life and business associations. When Comey asked if he believed Trump was trying to obstruct justice, he demurred.

Legal experts warned that Comey’s testimony may provide enough evidence for an obstruction of justice case against Trump, which could be used as the basis for impeachment proceedings. Any findings by the department’s investigation would be referred to Congress, where lawmakers would determine whether to impeach the president.

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