Where there is smoke there is fire. Smoke is filling the room.
Taken together there are three recent bombshell articles that have created an even more smoke-filled room full of circumstantial evidence.
1) January 11th NYT article written by Goldman, Schmidt and Fandos, “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia”,
2) The Janurary 11th Lawfare article by Benjamin Wittes “What If the Obstruction Was the Collusion? On the New York Time’s Latest Bombshell”,
3) And the January 12th Washington Post article by Greg Miller, “Trump Kept Details of Meetings with Putin from Senior Officials in Administration.”
This smoke-filled room full of circumstantial evidence is pointing to a pretty terrifying conclusion we may need to face: our president probably was and still is a Russian asset. In other words, Trump could be a double agent working for Putin. He engaged in a conspiracy with a foreign enemy, to what extent we do not yet know, to get elected and after being elected, he has appeased Putin by carrying out a “Russia first” agenda. We are being forewarned that this information bombshell will go off when the Mueller investigation report comes out. Even if this is something you already figured was probably so, I think we are being warned that it is actually so.
We need to talk about this.
I will go through these three articles and pull out the key content that leads me to this conclusion. I invite you to read these articles yourself to see what you think, and I welcome your responses. This blog, obviously, is my opinion.
In the NYT article we learn that the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling and that Trump himself had to be investigated by the FBI because there was evidence that Trump could be secretly working on behalf of Russia.
Let that sink in for a minute.
What that means is the FBI felt compelled to look at Trump as a possible double agent. Not just our president, but Putin’s asset.
When a counterintelligence investigation is opened up there are very strict rules that must be followed. The evidence must be very compelling information from a variety of reliable sources and the investigation cannot be launched without the approval of the head of the DOJ after carefully reviewing the evidence. Evidence in a counterintelligence investigation comes to our agencies from our European and other allies and includes wiretaps and signal intelligence as well as other sources of information. There was enough coming to the FBI to open up a counterintelligence investigation that did not start out with Trump’s name on the file cabinet, but came to have his name on the front of one of the case files inside the file cabinet marked counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s attack on our democracy.
Think of the FBI investigation as an umbrella that was opened to cover all things Russia related (using Benjamin Wittes’ helpful imagery). Under that umbrella they opened, the FBI set about to explore a variety of topics and people, but they all had to be related to Russia. Anything not related to Russia was sent to another office to pursue, such as the spin off Cohen case that went to SDNY. The umbrella covers criminal as well as counterintelligence aspects – the two avenues of inquiry are not separated from each other as agents work on the cases.
It’s old news that Russians helped Trump win the presidency using dirty tricks and illegal acts, such as hacking and then strategically “bombing” the DNC with releases of hacked materials. What we have been uncertain of is whether Trump was an active co-conspirator, a knowing participant, in league with the Russians. It’s as if we are in the room where a huge jigsaw puzzle has been put together and is about to be revealed, but there is still a sheet covering it. We have all been waiting for Mueller to pull off the sheet and give us that big reveal. What did the president know and when did he know it?
From that broad FBI investigation there have been numerous indictments from Mueller’s Grand Jury. First there were indictments of Russians who worked in the troll farm in St. Petersburg, engaged in the social media attack on our election. Next, we got the indictments of Russian GRU agents connected to the cyber attack and hacking of the Democrats’ email and the strategic release of damaging information to help Trump win the election. The next logical step will be indictments of any Americans who acted in coordination, or as part of this conspiracy to defraud America, along with the Russians. We are getting snippets of information of what’s to come- Roger Stone, Trump Jr., and Jerome Corsi are the names of some of the Americans we can assume are going to be indicted next unless they are permitted to assist Mueller (flip).
Even as the Mueller investigation has been working behind closed doors without any leaks, we have, nonetheless, been getting word through other sources about the two prongs of the investigation related to Trump: possible collusion (conspiracy with the Russians) and obstruction justice. They have seemed to be like two trains running on separate tracks. How are they related?
Yes, Trump fired Comey. But can’t a president do that? Some commentators have been scratching their heads trying to figure out whether it is an innocent and perfectly ok thing for this president to use his power as a president to fire Comey and hire someone he liked better. What, they wonder, is the underlying crime Trump could be obstructing here?
Now we are getting the answer. In short, Trump engaged in acts that forced the FBI to think of him as a possible asset for the Kremlin. First, that act of firing Comey, coupled with Trump’s letter to Comey in which Trump insisted on thanking Comey for exonerating him in the Russiaprobe. Trump personally insisted on and re-inserted that language in the final letter he sent to Comey expelling him from office. That smelled very bad.
And then there was Trump’s public “confession” to Lester Holt on NBC, “It was about the whole Russia thing.” That stank.
Then there was Trump’s laughing admission to the visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office that firing Comey was a great relief because the pressure on him about Russiagate was off of him now. Ok, that really smelled terrible too. What was Trump up to?
These acts by Trump compelled the FBI to open a file on the president himself under the larger counterintelligence umbrella that had already been opened. The FBI had to ask and try to answer the question: “could this president be part of this Russian conspiracy to attack our nation? Is he the Manchurian president? a double agent, if you will, serving the interests of Putin and the Russians?”
We do not yet have Mueller’s answer. What we just learned is that that counterintelligence investigation into Trump became part of the Mueller investigation. Commentators on cable news who are acting like this inquiry into Trump as Putin’s asset is past tense are not facing the challenging reality that we do not know if the threat is ongoing.
The most important line in the NYT article is this: “No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.” A good reporter must keep his sources and that means he can only reveal what he is allowed to reveal. The clue I read here is the word “publicly”. It tells me more is known outside the curtain of public knowledge. That is a tell, in my opinion. What it tells us is that more is known privately.
What does the Wittes article add to our knowledge? Wittes asks if the obstruction was the collusion. What does that mean? Wittes is telling us that the question bothering a number of legal thinkers has been: “what is the predicate for an investigation of Trump’s possible obstruction of justice?” or more simply, “what law did he break so that the FBI has the right to investigate him for obstructing justice”? That conundrum goes away once you realize that Trump was being investigated under the Russiagate umbrella of counterintelligence. That counterintelligence investigation was the predicate. “The theory was not just that the president may have violated the criminal law but also that he acted in a fashion that may constitute a threat to national security… the FBI doesn’t need a possible criminal violation to open a national security investigation.”
With this construct we now understand that Trump’s many efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation should be thought of as part and parcel of the collusion. In plain English- Trump’s many efforts to shut down or suppress the investigation may have been supportive of the Russian attack on our democracy posing a national security threat. What is that threat? Very simply, suppression of evidence hampers our investigators’ abilities to get to the truth about the assault on our country by a foreign adversary. That makes Trump’s obstruction a national security threat to our country.
And finally, what do we learn from the article in the Washington Post? We learn that there is compelling evidence that Trump has been Putin’s secret agent. He has been meeting with Putin and keeping the conversations totally secret. “On at least one occasion, President Trump took possession of his interpreter’s notes after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.” “There is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with Putin over the past two years.”
There have been five such meetings between Trump and Putin. Trump has kept our administration in the dark about what was said between the two of them in these meetings. That is disturbing, to say the least. But perhaps equally disturbing is that Trump has been almost unilaterally carrying out a consistent “Russia first” approach to governance. It looks like Trump has in fact been “taking direction” from the biggest big cheese of Russian officials, namely, Putin himself.
Here is a partial list of Trump’s “Russia first” greatest hits policies:
1) Trying to lift sanctions on Russia from the git go of his administration and recently having Secretary Mnuchin unilaterally act to lift key sanctions specifically to benefit Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch Paul Manafort was in bed with.
2) His nutty comments about Montenegro and Afghanistan which were obscure talking points put out by Putin and not part of Republican policy or Fox News or anything else known to be sources of conservative thought in our country. But these positions help Putin.
3) Withdrawing from Syria and leaving it to the Russians to control.
4) Dissing our European allies and Canada.
5) Dissing NATO (Putin dreams of dismantling it).
5) Many positive comments about Putin and never dissing Putin ever.
6) Withdrawing from the TTP partnership.
7) Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord.
8) Starting a trade war with China.
9) Weakening our democracy by declaring war on our DOJ and FBI as well as assaulting the press.
I could go on. It is evident that these and other policies enacted by Trump have been very helpful to Putin and most if not all are antithetical to prior policies espoused by the Republican Party. Trump clearly has more than mere admiration for Putin. He is using his power as president to enact pro-Russia policies that are in many instances anti-American in terms of how they affect our national interests. And even if his dream of a Trump Tower Moscow might be one reason for being Putin’s slut, there seems to be much more going on here than meets the eye.
For many of us, it has not taken two years to figure out what I write about here. We already knew Trump was Putin’s secret agent. The difference is that we now understand better how the evidence we have been seeing and hearing fits together in the big jigsaw puzzle. We can make sense of the reason Paul Manafort shared polling data with the Russians since that could help the Russians target the right states and people to aim their social media campaign warfare. We understand why Trump snatched the notes away from the translator after the meeting with Putin in Helsinki and warned her not to tell anyone what was said in the meeting.
The final question I have is why are we learning this information that a counterintelligence investigation was opened up with a focus on Trump? Why are we learning this right now?
The answer that makes sense to me is that this information is being leaked to us, perhaps by way of the House Intelligence committee, so that we are not too shocked when the sheet gets pulled off the masterpiece jigsaw puzzle that Mueller has been working on and we learn that Trump not only was but still is a double agent working for the Russians.