The New York Times is reporting that in the early days of the Trump administration the FBI opened up an investigation into whether Donald Trump was working as a Russian asset against American interests. The trigger for the FBI was when Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey. NYT writes:
In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.
The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.
Just wow. We have all imagined this might be the case, but the FBI actually opened an investigation into it. The FBI was then running two different investigations that got folded into Robert Mueller's purview: a counterintelligence investigation and a criminal investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice. In essence, Trump’s potential obstruction of justice then became a national security concern since the FBI wondered if Trump was under Russian influence.
The Times reports that it isn't clear whether Mueller is still working the counterintelligence aspect of the probe. The FBI had reportedly grown suspicious of Trump during the 2016 campaign but had hesitated to open such a probe "because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude."
Indeed. Seems like that got even more sticky with a sitting president.
But the FBI was pushed over the edge by Comey’s firing and two other occurrences: Trump telling NBC’s Lester Holt that the Russia probe was the reason he fired Comey; and Trump’s absolute insistence the Rod Rosenstein include a reference to Russia in the memo Rosenstein drafted about the rationale for Comey’s dismissal. Rosenstein ignored Trump anyway, but Trump ultimately included a personal note to Comey thanking him for confirming that Trump wasn’t the subject of the FBI’s Russia investigation.
And this is precious.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, sought to play down the significance of the investigation. “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,” Mr. Giuliani said on Friday, though he acknowledged that he had no insight into the inquiry.
Good god, the FBI was investigating whether a sitting U.S. president was effectively a Russian spy.