FBI Wondered if Trump was Working for Russia

The firing of Comey raised serious concerns in the Bureau.

Via the NYT:  F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.

In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

This underscore how troubling and unusual Trump’s treatment of Comey was.

Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

The piece goes on to detail the various suspicious behaviors of Trump vis-a-vis Russia, culminating in his behavior post-firing:

The second event that troubled investigators was an NBC News interview two days after Mr. Comey’s firing in which Mr. Trump appeared to say he had dismissed Mr. Comey because of the Russia inquiry.

“I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it,” he 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.”

Really, the article notes that many of the reason that the broader public (or, at least some of it) has been concerned about Trump’s behavior regarding Russia also got the attention of the FBI, especially once he fired Comey.

F.B.I. officials viewed their decision to move quickly as validated when a comment the president made to visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office shortly after he fired Mr. Comey was revealed days later.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Really, the fact that the FBI took seriously the possibility that the President of the United States might be working on behalf of a foreign government, especially one that could be described as a rival, if not adversary, is stunning.

I fear that it will be met, however, with a “meh” by far too many people.  However, it will put even more pressure on the House Democrats to engage in serious investigation of the President.

I think we do see that there has been legitimate reasons to be concerned that Trump’s actions were in alignment with Russian interests, whether he understood that to be the case or not.  As the facts start emerging, such as the revelations of Manafort sharing polling data with Russian government-linked individuals underscores that, at a minimum, Trump was a dupe who was working in a way to bolster Russian interests whether he understood that fact or not.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    FBI Wondered if Trump was Working for Russia

    No more need to wonder: he was. And he is.

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  2. CSK says:

    By 11:15 this morning, Trump had rage-Tweeted 12 times. Is this some kind of record for him?

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    The FBI opened this investigation after Trump fired Comey. To the right this will be proof it’s the deep state out to get their hero. The real question is why so late? Why was the FBI coy about joining the finding in 2016 that Russians were meddling. Why weren’t they all over Manafort and Trump rewriting the Ukraine plank at the convention? Had this been a Democrat they’d have been on this during the primaries like…, well, like they were all over Hillary’s lack of email best practice.
    There are two obvious explanations. The first is that they were afraid of the GOPs in Congress. (I hope they’re getting afraid of Pelosi.) The other, sadly, is that deep down they really are the protofascists the left has long thought they were, as evidenced by the leaking and reported pressuring of Comey by their NY office. Why was Comey so eager to talk about Hillary while the Bureau was denying to NYT and others that they were investigating Trump.
    McConnell stopped the Intelligence Community from going public about Russian meddling. An act that was treasonous (OK vernacular, not legal). I stumbled across this today. McConnell received 2.5 million from a guy tied to the Russian oligarchs. The conduit holds dual UK and US citizenship so maybe not illegal.
    Obama refrained from prosecuting Bush and his accomplices for war crimes or the banksters for financial crimes.
    If democracy is to survive, we have to investigate, prosecute, and properly punish everyone involved in this stuff, including the damn FBI itself.

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  4. charon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It isn’t just Trump, the Russians have salted assets into key positions in Congress, the NRA, Christian Right etc.

    Mitch McConnell is a likely example: (When do you recall Turtle doing something inconsistant with being a Russian asset?)

    ..

    One of Putin’s oligarch is into McConnell to the tune of about $2.5 million dollars.
    https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/05/08/putins-proxies-helped-funnel-millions-gop-campaigns

    McConnell surely knew as a participant in high level intelligence briefings in 2016 that our electoral process was under attack by the Russians. Two weeks after the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement in October 2016 that the Russian government had directed the effort to interfere in our electoral process, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings. The PAC took another $1 million from Blavatnik’s AI-Altep Holdings on March 30, 2017, just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey publicly testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s interference in the election.

    Also, from the same article:

    In total, Blavatnik, Intrater, Shustorovich and Kukes made $10.4 million in political contributions from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017, and 99 percent of their contributions went to Republicans. With the exception of Shustorovich, the common denominator that connects the men is their association with Vekselberg. Experts who follow the activities of Russian oligarchs told ABC News that they believe the contributions from Blavatnik, Intrater and Kukes warrant intense scrutiny because they have worked closely with Vekselberg.

    Blavatnik is Mnuchin’s former business partner in the film production company Mnuchin owned.

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  5. charon says:

    Granny warned us:

    . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qIN1-z_JqQ .

    HRC during the campaign.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    I just pulled up FOX News. Their lead story is that the Miami airport is shutting down a terminal over a shortage of TSA workers. The only mention of the NYT story is all the way down at the bottom of the webpage, “Trump slams Comey, ‘corrupt’ ex-FBI leaders over NYT report on bureau probe”. They quote Trump extensively, but not the NYT story. I have no idea how to stop FOX “News” and I don’t see how we survive Fox “News”.

  7. Kathy says:

    If“?

  8. Lit3Bolt says:

    #TrumpTraitors = #GOP

    Once the Dems won the House, they knew it was going to come out. It’s all coming out now.

    The GOP sold out our national security in exchange for judges and tax cuts. This will be history, and it will be obvious.

  9. Gustopher says:

    While I think that Trump is corrupt, and the Russians helped elect him, I remain reluctant to conclude that he is deliberately working for the Russians.

    Think of the Heritage Foundation’s list of judges: they are not sworn to loyalty or taking orders, they are chosen because they are already aligned.

    Trump was very clear in the campaign “it would be great if America and Russia were friends!”, and he sucks up to strongman dictators, no matter who they are. He loves the guy in the Philippines, for instance. And, he’s kind of dumb, and easily led with flattery.

    43% of America voted for him knowing that he was pro-Russia. Teasing apart the pro-Russian for genuine political reasons (there are reasonable arguments to be made for, say, letting Russia enjoy the quagmire of Syria rather than us), and the pro-Russian because of treason is going to be hard.

    I think a lot of folks are venturing into conspiracy theory territory. I also think there is a decent chance that the conspiracy theory might be right. And I worry about how much damage we are going to do to our country, rooting out this threat that may or may not be there.

    I would just point out that a reasonable name for a group investigating this in the House would be… House Unamerican Activities Committee.

    We may be entering a more dangerous time for America than the Trump Presidency has been so far.

  10. Teve says:

    I have no idea how to stop FOX “News” and I don’t see how we survive Fox “News”.

    The average age of a Fox news viewer is “paramedics are on the way.” Lots of rural states are bluing. Hope is not unwarranted.

  11. charon says:

    @Gustopher:

    Trump has been doing business – extensively – with the Russians since the 1980’s. Russia does not do business with people without cultivating them, i.e., developing leverage/kompromat on them. There is no chance Trump does not think it obligatory to keep Putin satisfied.

  12. charon says:

    @Gustopher:

    Check out the New Yorker piece referenced at the pinned tweet:

    https://twitter.com/adamdavidson

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: I agree with you. Trump doesn’t have the mens rea to be a traitor. He’s simply a greedy baby who thinks that those Russkis are handing him lots of money simply because he’s so important and so wonderful and….

    ….sure, he’ll throw them a few favours back because what are friends FOR….the fact that said favours have just blown a hole in American politics/American security/American foreign policy and made things much worse for us just totally flies over his head.

    Bah.

  14. Hal_10000 says:

    @gVOR08:

    It’s a nice conspiracy theory, but you can’t really draw a comparison between the Clinton investigation and the Trump one. The Clinton investigation was ending in 2016 while the Trump investigation was just beginning. The FBI didn’t have nearly the information we have now. That they were wire-tapping members of his campaign and acquiring the Steele dossier — two moves that are pretty much unprecedented for a presidential campaign — shows that they were taking it quite seriously.

    Likewise, despite the confidence that many on the board have that Trump is a Russian stooge, we’re not there yet. What we have right now is that his campaign manager was sharing polling data with them. This is consistent with Trump colluding with Russia. It’s also consistent with him being someone who has no idea what’s going on in his own organization and Manafort reprising his role as Putin’s campaigner to get pro-Russia elements elected. Time will tell.

    All that having been said, we could have video of Trump meeting with Putin and promising to give him Europe in exchange for cash. The MAGAs wouldn’t care. In fact, they’d insist that the tape’s existence was the real scandal.

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  15. Gustopher says:

    @charon: It’s things like your McConnell comment that worry me.

    McConnell is a gross person who puts Party above Country. He will protect his President. With a pro-Russia President, he’s going to shift to a pro-Russia stance. He doesn’t have to be working for the Russians to do that — he would do it for free.

    Meanwhile we go from we-should-look-into-this, to he’s likely an asset, and soon to of-course-he-is-working-for-the-Russians.

    If someone working for Comet Pizza was arrested with child porn, it wouldn’t validate PizzaGate, although the PizzaGaters and QAnon freaks would think it does.

    You’re making “likely” connections where there is a reasonable alternative explanation.

    McConnell is scum, and doesn’t care about his country. You’ll get no argument from me on that. But there is nothing to demonstrate that he isn’t just putting the Republican Party over America. He is likely just homegrown American scum.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher:

    While I think that Trump is corrupt, and the Russians helped elect him, I remain reluctant to conclude that he is deliberately working for the Russians.

    Deliberate or not, what’s the difference? Really, I’m with you on the fact that trump is easily manipulated thru flattery (Kim Jong-Un anyone?) but in the end does it make a difference?

    Do you spare the scorpion because it thought you were trying to kill it when you accidentally uncovered it and it stung you? Or do you just smash that fucker flat? Really folks, stop worrying about why he is selling his country out and start dealing with the fact that he is.

    We may be entering a more dangerous time for America than the Trump Presidency has been so far.

    Indeed.

  17. charon says:

    @Gustopher:

    He will protect his President. With a pro-Russia President, he’s going to shift to a pro-Russia stance. He doesn’t have to be working for the Russians to do that — he would do it for free.

    It does not matter what motivates him if the end result is the same. Meanwhile, you don’t know his motivation unless you can read his mind.

    Also, why either/or? Why not all of the above?

  18. An Interested Party says:

    In other news, the FBI wonders if it is cold in Antarctica…

  19. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly, @charon: The difference is whether we want to prosecute people for policy differences. “If we let Russia have X, they will be cooperative in the future when we need Y” is a legitimate belief to have, even if we don’t know what Y is yet.

    “If we let Russia have X, they won’t release the pee tape, and they might give me some money” is not.

    These positions all look pretty much the same from the outside, but *should* have a big difference in how we treat the people involved. If we aren’t careful, we end up with a witch hunt jumping at every accusation, and undermine American values.

    Mitch McConnell is playing into the Russians’ hands. Is he being played by the Russians? Is he working for the Russians? Or is he just a homegrown asshole? We should assume the more innocuous motivations until we have evidence to the contrary.

    We did more damage to ourselves after 9/11 than Osama bin Laden did on 9/11. We are on the precipice of a similar scenario.

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  20. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher:

    We did more damage to ourselves after 9/11 than Osama bin Laden did on 9/11.

    We certainly did. But not because our citizens were overly cynical about the motives of our political leaders, quite the opposite.

  21. DrDaveT says:

    FBI Wondered if Trump was Working for Russia

    Wondered? Past tense?

  22. Guarneri says:

    You guys are truly, truly, clowns.