THE FBI has confirmed it is investigating if Russia plotted with Donald Trump’s team to help him win the US election.
Director James Comey took the unusual step of breaking the agency’s secrecy policy, saying it was in the public interest to reveal the probe.
It is believed to be the first time a US president has faced investigation over allegations of a conspiracy with a foreign government.
‘If the FBI conclude there was collusion, it will be one of the biggest scandals in American history and Trump could be impeached — but if not, it’ll just be a lot of smoke and no fire,’ said Dr Brian Klaas, of the London School of Economics.
‘But there’s definitely something here that deserves further attention, such as why some people close to Trump met with Russians and then tried to hide it.’
Mr Comey said the investigation began in July, long before America went to the polls in November.
Rather than direct interference, such as tampering with ballot papers, the Kremlin is suspected of trying to affect the vote’s outcome through hacking and pro-Trump propaganda.
Agents are examining whether or not the Trump campaign had links to Russia’s government and if the two combined their efforts.
Mr Comey would not give specific details but US spy chiefs have previously accused Moscow of interfering through biased pro-Trump coverage on state-funded TV news channel Russia Today (RT).
There are also disputed claims that embarrassing Clinton campaign emails, revealed by WikiLeaks, were originally obtained through Russian hacking.
Mr Comey also said yesterday he had found nothing to back up the president’s allegation that Barack Obama bugged his phone at Trump Tower with help from Britain’s GCHQ.
Mr Trump said the ‘real story’ of the Russia investigation was that details emerged before yesterday’s confirmation, tweeting: ‘Must find leaker now!’
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he was confident the FBI would find no wrongdoing.