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.