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Russian connection: not helping Trump's credibility ()Hindu.

The Trump-Russia investigation could further erode the U.S President’s credibility

The first open hearing into the alleged links between the campaign of Donald Trump and unnamed parties associated with the Russian government kicked off this week, even as the President put out a series of social media posts that seemed to mischaracterise statements coming out of that hearing. Ground-shaking revelations have come from the grilling of FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers by the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee. The first was from Mr. Comey, who confirmed that the FBI was investigating Russia’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election, including links between specific individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Last month Mr. Trump’s nominee for National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned from his post after it emerged that he had withheld information about being in contact with Russia’s Ambassador in Washington prior to Mr. Trump’s inauguration. This month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the probe into alleged Russian meddling when it came to light that he had met the Ambassador prior to the election. Yet he continues to head the institution charged with the inquiry. Mr. Comey revealed that the FBI investigation began in July 2016, when evidence emerged that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked by Russia-related entities and emails handed over to WikiLeaks.

Even as the U.S. intelligence community scrambles to put together the pieces of the Trump-Moscow puzzle, it has, ironically, found itself in the crosshairs of exposure. Earlier this month WikiLeaks released a trove of confidential CIA documents , a series labelled “Vault 7”, which showed the Agency’s penetration of the security systems of household electronic devices that could then be used for covert surveillance. While such timed “leaks” are meant to target his political opponents, Mr. Trump’s own tweets are at odds with revelations in the House hearing. In early March, he accused former President Barack Obama of ordering wiretaps on Trump Tower — yet Mr. Comey said neither the FBI nor the Department of Justice had any information to support that allegation. Mr. Rogers dismissed the White House suggestion that Mr. Obama had asked British intelligence to spy on Mr. Trump, a claim the U.K. has denied. The last straw came when the U.S. President’s account tweeted, as the hearing proceeded, “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process,” only to have this statement debunked by Mr. Comey at the hearing, live on TV. Mr. Trump’s tendency to resort to unsubstantiated, even misleading, claims to stall a probe into alleged collaboration with a foreign power is not helping his credibility, which is already low in the eyes of so many Americans.

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