In an editorial, the New York Times says: The acknowledgment by James Comey, the F.B.I. director, on Monday that the bureau is investigating possible connections between President Trump’s campaign and Russia’s efforts to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s chances is a breathtaking admission. While there has been a growing body of circumstantial evidence of such links, Mr. Comey’s public confirmation ought to mark a turning point in how inquiries into Russia’s role in the election should be handled.
The top priority now must be to ensure that the F.B.I.’s investigation, which could result in criminal prosecutions, is shielded from meddling by the Trump administration, which has shown a proclivity to lie, mislead and obfuscate with startling audacity. Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Comey said the bureau is conducting its investigation in an “open-minded, independent way” and vowed to “follow the facts wherever they lead.”
There is no reason to doubt Mr. Comey’s commitment. But it is far from certain that senior officials at the Department of Justice, who normally decide whether there is enough evidence to file criminal charges in politically sensitive cases, will be able to avoid White House interference. Before Monday’s hearing began, Mr. Trump issued a remarkable set of tweets calling the possibility of collusion with Russia “fake news” and urging Congress and the F.B.I. to drop the matter and instead focus on finding who had been leaking information to the press. [Continue reading…]
Politico reports: The mere presence of an investigation into ties between the presidential campaign of Donald Trump and the Russian government does not indicate that such connections actually exist, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday, reacting to the first public disclosure from the FBI that it is looking into the Kremlin’s interference in last year’s election. [Continue reading…]
Michael Isikoff reports: The FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, confirmed by FBI director James Comey in congressional testimony Monday, began as early as late July — just weeks after a former British spy briefed bureau agents about evidence he had collected about such ties, sources tell Yahoo News.
Christopher Steele, a former British MI-6 intelligence officer who specialized in Russian operations, had been hired as an investigator by an opposition research firm (initially retained by Trump’s Republican primary opponents and later by supporters of Hillary Clinton). According to one of the sources, it was Steele who first alerted FBI agents on July 5 to evidence he had compiled that advisers to the Trump campaign and Kremlin officials were in contact about the 2016 election.
As first reported by Yahoo News, Steele’s information was taken seriously because he had a pre-existing relationship with the FBI, having worked as a consultant for the FBI’s Eurasian organized crime section, helping to develop information about ties between suspected Russian gangsters and FIFA, the international soccer governing body.
The early contact between Steele and the bureau now appears to have set in motion a chain of events that led to Monday’s extraordinary testimony by Comey that the bureau has been actively investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin since “late July” — or more than three months before Election Day. [Continue reading…]