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Trump lashes out at his own FBI in series of tweets

US President Donald Trump has launched a fresh Twitter attack on the credibility of his own FBI.

He was responding to disclosures that an FBI agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russian election meddling because of anti-Trump text messages.

Mr Trump, two days after his former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, again denied that he directed FBI director James Comey to stop investigating Mr Flynn.

The Republican president offered a running Twitter commentary on Sunday amid renewed focus on Mr Mueller's probe and Mr Flynn's decision to co-operate with the investigation as part of his plea agreement.

Democrats said the developments suggested growing evidence of co-ordination between Mr Trump's circle and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

California senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the panel was beginning to see "the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice" against Mr Trump.

"I think we see this in indictments ... and some of the comments that are being made. I see this in the hyperfrenetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets," Ms Feinstein said.

"And I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of director Comey, and it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That's obstruction of justice."

In a series of tweets, Mr Trump questioned the direction of the federal law enforcement agency and wrote that after Mr Comey, who Trump fired in May, the FBI's reputation is "in Tatters - worst in History!"

He vowed to "bring it back to greatness".

The president also retweeted a post saying new FBI director Chris Wray "needs to clean house".

The president seized on reports that a veteran FBI counter-intelligence agent was removed from Mr Mueller's team last summer after the discovery of an exchange of text messages that were viewed as potentially anti-Trump.

The agent, Peter Strzok, had also worked on the investigation of Democrat Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mr Mueller, said Mr Mueller removed Peter Strzok from the team "immediately upon learning of the allegations".

He would not elaborate on the nature of the accusations.

Mr Trump tweeted Sunday: "Tainted (no, very dishonest?) FBI 'agent's role in Clinton probe under review.' Led Clinton Email probe."

In a separate tweet, he wrote: "Report: 'ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE' Now it all starts to make sense!"

Mr Strzok's removal almost certainly reflected a desire to insulate the investigators from any claims of political bias or favouritism.

Mr Trump and many of his supporters have at times sought to discredit the integrity of the investigation, in part by claiming a close relationship between Mr Mueller and Mr Comey and by pointing to political contributions to Democrats made by some lawyers on the team.

Following the tweets, senator Lindsey Graham warned the president to tread cautiously. "You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril. I'd be careful if I were you, Mr President. I'd watch this," Mr Graham said.

Mr Mueller has been investigating whether Trump campaign associates co-ordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and Mr Strzok's background in counter-intelligence would have been seen as particularly valuable for a secretive FBI probe examining foreign contacts.

Mr Mueller's investigation has so far netted charges against four people, with the most recent criminal case brought Friday when Mr Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

AP

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