After a blockbuster report in the New York Times asserted that FBI agents opened a counter intelligence investigation to determine if Donald Trump has been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, the administration failed to forthrightly deny that the President is a mole.
A subsequent Washington Post report claims Trump has concealed details of his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin from top officials in his administration, and even took measures to destroy evidence about his private conversations with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.
In a series of posts on Twitter and a Fox News interview in which Jeanne Pirro asked him directly if he was working for Russia, Trump ranted at length without actually denying the allegation.
Trump dodged Pirro’s softball question on whether he has worked for Russia. “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” he said. “I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written, and if you read the article you’ll see that they found absolutely nothing.”
“Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence,” said the Times report. “No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.”
The story says the bureau held off on launching an investigation through a series of matters that caused concern among agents:
• In months leading up to the 2016 election, the FBI was investigating four of Trump associates over their links to Russia.
• During a July 2016 news conference, Trump openly invited Russia to hack into the emails of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
• Trump praised Putin and tried to soften economic sanctions imposed in retalliation for human rights crimes, cyberattacks and interference in the American election process.
• The Republican Party changed its platform on the Ukraine crisis in a way that would benefit Russia.
• Former British spy Christopher Steele compiled memos that suggest Russian officials tried to obtain influence over Trump using blackmail or bribes.
Even after a multi-agency report concluded that Putin sought to disrupt the Western alliance and undermine confidence in democracy, with the specific aim of influencing the American election, agents declined to target Trump.
Then, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, telling NBC’s Lester Holt that his action was intended to obstruct the Russia inquiry and informing two high ranking Russian officials that he did so to relieve himself of “pressure because of Russia.”
“I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it,” Trurmp said. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”
“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told two Russian officials in the Oval Office, according to a summary of the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
The counter intelligence probe is the third federal investigation that is now known to be under way.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and whether the president obstructed the investigation.
Trump is a central figure in a separate case in New York, where his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, implicated him in a crime by saying Trump directed him during the campaign to make illegal hush-money payments to two women who might have revealed sex scandals.
At least 16 Trump associates had Russia-related contacts during the 2016 presidential campaign and transition period, and several of them have been convicted after they lied about the communication.
Those Trump associates are: former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, her husband Jared Kushner, Kushner’s personal assistant Avi Berkowitz, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, JD Gordon, Roger Stone, Michael Caputo, Erik Prince, attorney Michael Cohen, and Felix Sater.
Republican lawmakers sought to temper the impact of the latest bombshell reports involving President Trump and Russia after both the New York Times and the Washington Post reported new details involving allegations of Trump’s close ties with Moscow, while their Democratic colleagues renewed calls to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“This man who is a former KGB agent, never been a friend of the United States, invaded our allies, threatens us around the world and tries his damnedest to undermine our elections. Why is this President Trump’s best buddy? I don’t get it,” said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) of Putin. “And when he take the interpreter’s notes and wants to destroy them so no one can see what was said, it raises serious questions about the relationship between this president and Putin.”
“There is an incredible divide between Washington and the rest of the country when it comes to Bob Mueller and the Russia investigation,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “The mainstream media, Washington, is obsessed with it,” he continued. “And when you get outside the Beltway, I don’t find anybody concerned with this at all.”
Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein, discussing the report by the Washington Post that says Trump tried to hide his conversations with Putin from senior officials in his own administration, asserted that Trump helped Putin destabilize the US.
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