The Trump administration is continuing to unravel. At this point, it’s relatively safe to suggest that no other presidential administration has reached this magnitude of suspected corruption. The New York Times is now reporting that after President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey in early 2017, the agency was so concerned that they opened a counterintelligence investigation into the president personally meant to probe the question of whether or not he was working for the Kremlin.
Previously, it’s been understood that authorities have investigated whether Trump should be considered guilty of obstruction of justice over the move, which would be a criminal offense. There are broader implications to obstruction of justice in this case, however, that weigh on the United States’ ability to understand and appropriately respond to Russian attempts at interfering in elections.
As former FBI General Counsel James Baker told a House panel late last year — at which time he did not reveal the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into President Trump:
‘Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security.’
Trump has never proven keen on getting to the bottom of Russian interference in past elections and the threat of the same looming over the future. He has dismissed the Russia investigation as a witch hunt meant only to prop up Democrats’ egos because they lost the 2016 presidential race.
Responses from the president again dismissing the Russia investigation in light of the newly revealed counterintelligence probe targeting him personally are no doubt incoming.
Ironically enough, it’s some of that very talk that sparked the investigation in the first place. Officials became concerned after he told NBC’s Lester Holt shortly after firing Comey that he’d had in mind to have closer control of the Russia investigation when he dismissed him, and they turned their talk of investigating into reality. Shortly before that interview, Trump had tussled with top aides over his aim to explicitly cite the Russia investigation in firing Comey.
Around that very same time, Trump had top Russian officials over in the Oval Office, at which time he shared highly classified Israeli intelligence — and explicitly told them, too, that he was happy to have pressure of the Russia investigation lifted thanks to firing the “nut job” Comey.
His lawyer Rudy Giuliani told The Times that the length of time since the probe launched means “they found nothing,” although he has no apparent immediate evidence for this claim outside of conjecture. The Times notes that unlike criminal probes, fact finding counterintelligence investigations often “are carried out quietly, sometimes for years” and “often, they result in no arrests.”
The probe was absorbed into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, who has proven time and time again that the Russia probe is not a witch hunt via guilty plea after guilty plea from former Trump associates, including former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen. The lawyer — who’s been sentenced to three years in prison for crimes including lying to Congress about efforts to make a Trump Tower Moscow — will soon be publicly testifying before Congress.
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