Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has lambasted the US press for reporting that President Donald Trump may have worked for Moscow.
“I believe that for the American press it is simply a sort of a decline of journalistic standards and essentially an ungrateful undertaking,” he said.
On Monday, President Trump bluntly denied ever working for Russia.
He played down a Washington Post report he had concealed a translation of a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
According to the New York Times meanwhile, the FBI launched a hitherto unreported inquiry into the US president.
That FBI inquiry, reports the newspaper, was taken over by justice department special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mr Mueller is leading an ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 presidential election.
President Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion, describing it as “witch hunt”.
What did the Russian minister say?
At Wednesday’s news conference in Moscow, Mr Lavrov was asked to comment on the recent US media reports about Mr Trump and Russia.
“To be honest, I find it hard to comment on what is going on in the US surrounding the accusations of President Trump essentially being a Russian agent,” Mr Lavrov answered.
“I believe that for the American press it is a decline of journalistic standards, and essentially an ungrateful undertaking.
“I cannot believe journalists in the US genuinely and professionally address these issues,” the Russian minister added.
Separately, President Putin’s adviser also dismissed claims that Mr Trump had acted as an agent for Russia.
“Why comment on something stupid?” Yuri Ushakov said, responding to a question from a journalist.
“How can the US president be an agent of another country?”
What was the FBI inquiry?
According to the New York Times, the FBI’s suspicions were raised after Mr Trump fired its director, James Comey, in May 2017.
The FBI has not publically commented on the media reports.
Asked on Monday if he was working for Russia, Mr Trump said: “I never worked for Russia.”
“I think it’s a disgrace that you even ask that question because it’s a whole big fat hoax,” the US president added.
He also said his dismissal of Mr Comey was “a great service I did for our country”, while railing against FBI investigators as “known scoundrels” and “dirty cops”.
The New York Times notes in its report that no evidence has emerged publicly that Mr Trump took direction from Russian government officials.
What of the Putin meeting?
It was also reported last weekend Mr Trump had confiscated the notes of his own interpreter after a meeting with President Putin.
According to the Washington Post, the US president ordered the translator not to discuss the details of what was said.
But on Monday, Mr Trump defended his nearly hour-long discussion with Mr Putin in July 2017 on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
“It’s a lot of fake news. That was a very good meeting. It was actually a very successful meeting,” he said.
He said he and Mr Putin discussed Israel and a German-Russian pipeline, adding: “We have those meetings all the time no big deal.”
ABC News has reported that Democratic congressmen are considering issuing subpoenas to interpreters who attended Mr Trump’s meetings with Mr Putin.
Mr Trump and Mr Putin also held a summit in July 2018 in Helsinki, Finland.
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