Trump: I never worked for Russia
WASHINGTON: Standing outside the White House on Monday, US President Donald Trump made an astonishing declaration for a president: No, he has never been an agent of Russia.
"I never worked for Russia," Mr Trump told reporters on the South Lawn. "It's a disgrace that you even ask that question. It's all a big fat hoax."
The fact that he even had to issue such a denial illustrates how far the unprecedented scandal has gone. The statement followed two bombshell reports.
One, in The New York Times, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened an investigation into whether Mr Trump was acting on Russia's behalf soon after he became president.
Another, in The Washington Post, detailed what it said were the unusual lengths taken by Mr Trump to hide the contents of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This comes on top of the investigation led by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.
Mr Trump was given an opportunity to respond to the report of the FBI investigation on Saturday when he gave an interview to Fox News channel.
But instead of a denial, he fuelled a mounting outcry in Washington by saying the question was "the most insulting thing I've ever been asked".
His response on Monday took the entire alleged Russia collusion affair head on.
"It's a lot of fake news," Mr Trump said. He called the then leaders of the FBI "known scoundrels, I guess you could say dirty cops".
The details of the latest reports are especially shocking because they are so concrete.
The Post article said during meetings with Mr Putin, Mr Trump allegedly took his interpreter's notes away and ordered the interpreter not to divulge the contents.
The Times report on the investigation said the FBI decided to act after Mr Trump fired the then director James Comey in 2017.
Transcripts of FBI testimony to Congress obtained by CNN show the then head lawyer for the FBI James Baker said it wanted to know whether Mr Trump was "acting at the behest of (the Kremlin) and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will".
"That was one extreme. The other extreme is that the President is completely innocent, and we discussed that too," Mr Baker said in the transcript, according to CNN. - AFP