The FBI reportedly opened an investigation into whether President Donald Trump has worked for the Russian government against U.S. national security interests. The investigation sought to ascertain whether Mr. Trump was “knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”
The revelation was first reported by The New York Times.
According to The Times, the investigation was sparked by two actions the President took in May 2017.
The first was a termination letter Mr. Trump wanted to send James Comey, the FBI Director the President would fire on May 9, 2017. In his letter, President Trump mentioned the Russia investigation which the FBI had opened the previous year. Trump thanked Comey for previously mentioning that he was not personally the subject of that investigation.
Acting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote another draft of the letter at the time that did not mention the investigation. Rosenstein told Mr. Trump that mentioning the investigation was unnecessary. President Trump ordered Rosenstein to revise his letter and include the reference to the investigation.
Rosenstein ignored the directive, irritating the President. He ultimately included a reference to the investigation in a letter he wrote to Comey, which he included along with the letter from Rosenstein and another from Attorney General at the time, Jeff Sessions.
The second action was an interview Mr. Trump gave with Lester Holt of NBC News two days after Comey’s firing. The President cited the Russia investigation as the reason Comey was dismissed.
“I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. 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,” he said.
The decision to open an investigation was a source of controversy within the FBI. But some agents pushed to begin the inquiry before the President could appoint a head to the FBI that would slow walk, or even end, the investigation.
The President harshly criticized the revelation of the investigation.
“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!” he wrote on Twitter this morning.
Robert Mueller was appointed as a special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election within weeks of Comey’s firing. That investigation is looking into whether members of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia in those efforts, but Mr. Trump was not a subject of that investigation, at least not at its outset, according to testimony Comey has given to Congress.
This is the first indication that President Trump personally has been the subject of an inquiry by U.S. national security officials.
The President’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, dismissed any jeopardy for Mr. Trump. “The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing,” he told The New York Times on Friday.
It is unclear whether the investigation has concluded or what, if any findings, have come of it. Counterintelligence investigations such as these can continue for years and in many cases their findings are kept confidential and no arrests are made.
Although no timetable for Robert Mueller’s investigation has yet been given, there are wide reports that it will wrap up within the first part of this year.
Photo by The White House via Flickr