Vox / YouTube Trump and Putin A surreal moment...
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Move over Tea Pot Dome scandal and move over Watergate, there’s a newer, bigger, more dangerous political scandal coming to light—the FBI initiated an investigation into whether Donald Trump, President of the United States, is working on behalf of the Russian government, against American interests. Repeat: the FBI opened a counterintelligence operation because they had reason to believe the president was not acting in the interested of the United States. If true, it amounts to nothing short of treason. To gauge just how big this scandal truly is, let’s look at reactions from legal experts, former U.S. Intelligence officers and journalists.

First up, Frank Figliuzzi, former Assistant Director for Counterintelligence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He’s somebody who understands precisely what it would take for the FBI to take the drastic step of opening a criminal investigation into the sitting President of the United States. Figliuzzi says the FBI would never open such an investigation based purely on Trump’s behavior, that they would have other hard evidence, such as damning audio intercepts.

“The FBI is privy to all kinds of intel … if you’re going to open a case on the POTUS, you’re going to have more than just unstable behavior … you’re going to have something that gives you at least a reasonable suspicion if not specific and articulable facts.”

Take a listen to Figliuzzi, who made clear that in his 25 years with the FBI, specifically working on counterintelligence, there is much more to this story than the public knows now. From MSNBC:

Evan McMullin, former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer, had this to say. 

Former FBI Director James Comey, who’s dismissal was part of the reason for the investigation, had something a little more subtle to say.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti made an urgent plea to Republicans to act accordingly. This is bigger than holding power. This is about the fabric of the nation.

Legal expert Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare has pulled together several critical pieces, revealing new information about Congressional testimony related to these cases and revisiting older testimony from Comey and others. In short, Wittes now believes that the Department of Justice’s investigation into whether Donald Trump obstructed justice isn’t so much a stand alone case, but rather an offshoot of the existing investigation into collusion. That Trump’s actions in 2017 were not simply obstruction, but rather part of the collusion itself. This is a brief summary of Wittes’ conclusion, but do yourself a favor and read the extensive post itself.

Would not a sequence of overt interferences in the investigation by Trump himself, culminating in the decapitation of the investigation’s leadership and boasted about both on national television and—later—in an Oval Office meeting to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and flagged in a draft letter to Comey as specifically connected to the Russia probe, raise all kinds of red flags within the parameters of the existing investigation the FBI was already conducting? This was, after all, one heck of “link” between an “individual[] associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government”!

The reporting Schmidt shared with me about Baker’s testimony suggests rather strongly that the FBI did not think of the Comey firing simply as a possible obstruction of justice. Officials thought of it, rather, in the context of the underlying counterintelligence purpose of the Russia investigation. At one point, Baker was asked whether firing Director Comey added to the threat to national security the FBI was confronting.

“Yes,” Baker responds.

In short, the FBI was doing their job, investigating Russian operations against the United States of America, something they have been tasked with for decades, and during the course of that investigation, people connected to Donald Trump began appearing on the radar. And then Donald Trump’s own actions and words bolstered the case and the urgency of the agency to get to the bottom of it, for the sake of our national security.

This isn’t a big political scandal, it may turn out to be the biggest political scandal in the history of this country—a fact made clear by Natasha Bertrand, national security expert and politics writer for The Atlantic.

There were will rough seas ahead as more information comes to light. Buckle up, one of the darkest chapters in American history could be just getting started.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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