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Meanwhile, if Comey was indeed fired over the Russian investigation, James A. Baker, former FBI general counsel, believes that this would be a national security issue.

The White House on Friday night dismissed The New York Times report as "absurd". But the evidence so far shows a broad range of Trump associates had Russia-related contacts during the 2016 presidential campaign and transition period, and several lied about the communication.

The investigation was one part criminal, into possible obstruction of justice, and one part counterintelligence, looking into possible national security concerns, the Times reports.

The Times reports that FBI agents and some top officials became suspicious of Trump's ties to Russian Federation during the 2016 presidential campaign but didn't launch an investigation at that time because they weren't sure how to approach such a sensitive and important probe, according to the sources.

And we already knew that Manafort - along with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner - met with Russians including Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June 2016, a meeting that had been set up under the auspices that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton!

The grand jury empaneled by the special counsel has been extended for another six months, however, signaling that the probe may continue beyond the winter. Trump has, however, denied of having any collusion with the Russians and repeatedly criticised the Mueller investigation as a "witch hunt" and views it as a stain on the legitimacy of his presidency.

Such hints were made on two instances - one, in the early draft of Comey's firing letter in which Trump thanked Comey for saying that he was not a target of the Russian Federation probe and another when Trump told NBC that Comey was sacked due to the Russian Federation investigation.

"James Comey was sacked because he's a disgraced partisan hack", Sanders continued, "and his Deputy Andrew McCabe, who was in charge at the time, is a known liar fired by the Federal Bureau of Investigation". "Campaigns leak polling data all the time", Giuliani said, before decrying the focus on the investigation as a "joke" and "total mockery" that "only happens because 75 percent of the press hates Trump".

The draft was never sent, after Rosenstein purportedly urged Trump to drop mention of Russian Federation in the letter. He maintained Mueller's investigators should first give the report to Trump's lawyers for review.

"Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia", Sanders said.