Donald Trump, photograph by Michael Vadon.
On Friday afternoon, the New York Occasions dropped what seems to be the closest factor to a smoking gun in the tortuous saga of the “Russia investigation.” I feel it’s sensible to tread rigorously here, given our universe of reality-free spin: There’s an extended listing of issues we don’t find out about Donald Trump and his Russian connections, and to a point this explosive Occasions story only makes the listing longer. However these revelations appear to add a minimum of some substance to probably the most outlandish rumors which have floated round Trump since nicely before he was elected president.
In Might 2017, four months after Trump took workplace, the FBI reportedly launched a counterintelligence investigation of the president himself, aimed toward discovering whether the president was either a Russian agent or a Russian “asset” — within the language of the Occasions report, whether he was actively “engaged on behalf of Russia towards American interests” or “had unwittingly fallen beneath Moscow’s affect.” That is both a unprecedented flip of occasions by any commonplace and, as Occasions reporter Adam Goldman advised the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, one thing of “a ‘duh’ story.”
This is new info in a few ways. (If it’s true, that is. To date no meaningful denials have come from either the FBI or the Justice Division, but the Occasions has been had before.) It’s properly understood that the FBI started a counterintelligence investigation of Trump’s presidential campaign as early because the summer time of 2016, not lengthy after the notorious Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
It’s equally clear that after Trump fired FBI director James Comey in Might 2017, giving a number of contradictory explanations for doing so, the bureau began investigating the president for potential obstruction of justice, a probe that soon led to Deputy Lawyer Common Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of particular counsel Robert Mueller. Rosenstein remains a wierd character in this drama: He evidently did Trump’s bidding on the Comey firing, then felt used and abused and ever since has managed the investigation that has gnawed away at Trump’s presidency, partly because of occasions during which Rosenstein himself was instrumental. (It’s not facetious to marvel why he didn’t recuse himself, as former Lawyer Common Jeff Periods had earlier achieved.)
Based mostly on the visible proof, it didn’t appear that those two investigative strands overlapped in any vital approach. A minimum of not till now. There have been the puzzling and doubtful interactions between Trump campaign officers — Manafort, Kushner, Michael Flynn, Jeff Periods, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, no less than — and numerous individuals near the Russian government. There was the president’s peculiar conduct around the Comey firing, and his evident want to shut down the FBI’s investigation of these unexplained Russian…