On Friday evening, the New York Times reported that the FBI investigation of Donald Trump’s Russia connections was actually two investigations in one. Yes, there are concerns about connections between Trump’s campaign officials and Russian operatives. But that’s not the big deal. That wasn’t really the thing that had the FBI sweating and drove Rod Rosenstein to trigger the special counsel law. The other investigation, the bigger investigation, is a concern that Donald Trump is an agent of Russia working for Vladimir Putin against the interests of the United States. When Robert Mueller took charge, he didn’t just inherit the look into whether Paul Manafort, or Michael Flynn, or even Donald Trump Jr was playing election footsie with the Kremlin. What Mueller took over was the investigation of Donald Trump, Chekist.
While the proximate trigger for this Siberian candidate concern was Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, that really wasn’t what caused jaws to clench down at Quantico. What drove the nail in the “hey, is he working for us, or them?” coffin was Trump’s own bragging, on nationwide TV, about how he fired Comey to end the Russia investigation. That claim brought FBI counterintelligence agents running — though not without reluctance. Because … how do you investigate the guy who is running the United States, and who is your however-many-times-removed boss, to see whether or not he’s out to wreck the place?
Other officials who found out about this counterintelligence operation worried that FBI officials were “overreacting” to Trump’s actions and statements. But, as the Times story notes, the critics raising the overreaction flag “were not privy to all of the evidence.” Trump’s public statements may have pushed the FBI over the edge, but those public statements were far from everything that pushed the FBI to the edge. The article contains this not all that encouraging coda …
No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials. An F.B.I. spokeswoman and a spokesman for the special counsel’s office both declined to comment.
But even considering the extremely low bar of “He hasn’t publicly declared himself a disciple of Putin” it’s not at all obvious that Trump has cleared that hurdle.
Donald Trump had his very far from convincing reply on this story via his usual communication route.
Wow, just learned in the Failing New York Times that the corrupt former leaders of the FBI, almost all fired or forced to leave the agency for some very bad reasons, opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof, after I fired Lyin’ James Comey, a total sleaze!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2019
Which makes it sound as if Trump didn’t read the Times story — though he almost certainly did. And it’s not as if Trump’s statements about Comey are the only reason to suspect he’s still committed to the Moscow Project.
Last week, the most Trump-friendly location outside of Sean Hannity’s rumpus room, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, had this to say about Trump’s descriptions of how Russia was “right” to invade Afghanistan.
This mockery is a slander against every ally that has supported the U.S. effort in Afghanistan with troops who fought and often died. …
As reprehensible was Mr. Trump’s utterly false narrative of the Soviet Union’s involvement there in the 1980s. He said: “The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.”
Right to be there? We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President.
Again … that’s the Wall Street Journal, the print division of Trump Supporters, Inc, saying that.
But that’s far from the only such incident. It’s now clear that Paul Manafort was in Europe not only handing a Russian operative internal polling data (which was, for some reason, apparently of high value to the Russian government) but negotiating over the future of Ukraine. It’s not certain if this event happened days before the Trump campaign insisted on changes to the Republican platform to weaken the position against Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, or just after. But either way, it seems impossible there was not a link. And Manafort wasn’t the only one. Both the Michaels, Cohen and Flynn, were busy making deals about Ukraine. So was Trump’s own man in Moscow, Felix Sater.
And if excusing Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, capture of Crimea, and continuing war in Ukraine isn’t enough. There’s always Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from Syria, where he’s abandoning US allied Kurds and giving Putin and the puppet regime of Bashar Assad exactly what they want — free rein to bomb, gas, and pulverize what little resistance remains in the tattered corners of the country.
And even that is not all. There’s Trump’s take on Belarus, a tiny nation that seems high on Putin’s list of “what’s for breakfast.” According to the AP, Trump officials have been looking for any evidence that can be played up to make it look as if Poland is thinking of invading Belarus. The “Polish threat” is the official Russian line about why they may just need to invade the place first. To save it. From Poland. Except the “Polish incursions” are entirely fake.
And that’s still not all. Because it doesn’t cover the many times that Trump has deliberately set out to weaken US alliances around the world, including his ongoing efforts to make it clear to NATO countries that, push come to shove, the US may not want to be in the wrestling match. Trump has done more to dissolve US alliances in two years than anyone has done in the last seventy. That’s nothing but good new for Vladimir Putin.
Really, the investigation shouldn’t be why anyone believes that Donald Trump is a secret pawn of Russia. It should just be why anyone believes it’s a secret.