Lazy Caturday Reads: Putin’s Puppet

The blue cat by Natasha Milashevich

Good Afternoon!!

I assume everyone has heard about the blockbuster story in The New York Times last night about an FBI investigation into whether Trump was working with Russia and against the U.S.: F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.

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.

The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

Two well-known instances of Trump’s public behavior helped trigger the counterintelligence investigation of Trump: a draft of a letter explaining the firing James Comey and Trump’s interview with NBC’s Lester Holt in which he tied the firing of Comey to the Russia investigation. The investigations were passed on to Robert Mueller after he was appointed Special Counsel.

The criminal and counterintelligence elements were coupled together into one investigation, former law enforcement officials said in interviews in recent weeks, because if Mr. Trump had ousted the head of the F.B.I. to impede or even end the Russia investigation, that was both a possible crime and a national security concern. The F.B.I.’s counterintelligence division handles national security matters.

If the president had fired Mr. Comey to stop the Russia investigation, the action would have been a national security issue because it naturally would have hurt the bureau’s effort to learn how Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017. He privately testified in October before House investigators who were examining the F.B.I.’s handling of the full Russia inquiry.

“Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security,” Mr. Baker said in his testimony, portions of which were read to The New York Times. Mr. Baker did not explicitly acknowledge the existence of the investigation of Mr. Trump to congressional investigators.

One more event reinforced the decision to investigate Trump himself.

F.B.I. officials viewed their decision to move quickly as validated when a comment the president made to visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office shortly after he fired Mr. Comey was revealed days later.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

 

This should be mind-blowing; but after all we’ve learned over the past three years it’s really not that big of a surprise. After all, Hillary warned us back in 2016.

After the NYT story broke last night, Sarah Sanders released an idiotic statement that contained no denial of the substance.

Trump also tweeted and failed to deny anything substantive in the story.

Susan Glasser reupped her May 2017 Politico story about Trump’s meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office: Russia’s Oval Office Victory Dance. The cozy meeting between President Trump and Russia’s foreign minister came at Vladimir Putin’s insistence.

When President Donald Trump hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office on Wednesday just hours after firing the FBI director who was overseeing an investigation into whether Trump’s team colluded with the Russians, he was breaking with recent precedent at the specific request of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Grey haired woman with cat, Teresa Tanner

The chummy White House visit—photos of the president yukking it up with Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak were released by the Russian Foreign Ministry since no U.S. press was allowed to cover the visit—had been one of Putin’s asks in his recent phone call with Trump, and indeed the White House acknowledged this to me later Wednesday. “He chose to receive him because Putin asked him to,” a White House spokesman said of Trump’s Lavrov meeting. “Putin did specifically ask on the call when they last talked.”

The meeting was Lavrov’s first in the White House since 2013—and came after several years of the Obama administration’s flat-out refusal to grant him an Oval Office audience, two former senior White House officials told me. “The Russians were begging us for years to do that,” one of the former officials said. “They were constantly pushing for it and we were constantly saying no.”

The images of Trump putting his arm genially on Lavrov’s back—and a later White House official readout of the meeting that said Trump “emphasized his desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia”—couldn’t have come at a more fraught political moment for Trump, amid a barrage of bipartisan criticism of his firing of FBI Director James Comey. On Wednesday morning before meeting with Trump, Lavrov even cracked a joke about his hosts’ political predicament, laughingly claiming not to have heard of the Comey firing while standing alongside Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

In other words, Lavrov was right where he has always wanted to be Wednesday: mocking the United States while being welcomed in the Oval Office by the president himself.

How many conversations has Trump had with Putin on his unsecured cell phone? My guess is the NSA and Robert Mueller know the answer and they also know what the two pals discussed.

Late last night The Hoarse Whisperer posted a long Twitter thread, at the end of which he noted that on his way out Obama issued an executive order to make information sharing between the NSA and the FBI easier.

Read the whole thread on Twitter.

From the January 2017 New York Times Story by Charlie Savage:

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.

The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch signed the new rules, permitting the N.S.A. to disseminate “raw signals intelligence information,” on Jan. 3, after the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., signed them on Dec. 15, according to a 23-page, largely declassified copy of the procedures.

Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information.

Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions.

Obama must have suspected that FBI investigators would need to access the NSA data.

More stories to check out:

Lawfare: What if the Obstruction Was the Collusion? On the New York Times’s Latest Bombshell.

The Daily Beast: Ex-FBI Officials Say Spy Inquiry into President Trump Is ‘Uncharted Territory.’

Vox: How the big new New York Times scoop changes our understanding of the Trump-Russia probe.

I know there’s plenty of other news, but I can’t focus on anything but the Russian agent in the White House. But please share your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread below.


30 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads: Putin’s Puppet”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. Delphyne49 says:

    I have been riveted to MSNBC since Joy’s show – this is the only thing I want to hear about at the moment. I do take breaks so I don’t explode with the fury and despair I felt on 9 Nov 16.

    Here’s an easier way to read Hoarse Whisperer’s thread:
    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1083931796419563520.html

    It’s shocking but not surprising. 45 needs to be removed immediately as do Pence, McConnell, Graham and the rest of that cabal.

    • OG says:

      Anyone who does not vote to start paying government workers immediately deserves a much worse fate than merely being removed from office.

      • NW Luna says:

        They should be made to work without pay.

      • RonStill4Hills says:

        No, anyone who votes in support of this illegitimate Russian mole, should be removed from office. I have nothing but sympathy and empathy for the workers caught in the middle, but don’t get confused about giving in to the tantrums of President disprr baby. This WHOLE thing is attributable to ONE individual. The congress already had a sensible compromise until Donald J Fucknuts blew it up.

        The congres should send what they already passed the the Oval Office and Il Douche should sign it.

        “ANYONE” my ass.

    • dakinikat says:

      Treason, though at first practiced with caution, in time grows bold and betrays itself.

      Ipsa se fraus, etiamsi initio cautior fuerit, detegit.

      —Titus Livius, Historiarum ab urbe condita, lib xliv, cap xv (ca 20 BCE)

  3. dakinikat says:

    Frank Figliuzzi said about as much about likely FBI intercepts of communication between Trump and Russians on AM Joy today …

  4. NW Luna says:

    Unlike the Hoarse Whisperer, who appears to laud Obama for setting up everything so NSA could collect needed info on national security issues (including Trump), I think that those very same national security issues overrode any “partisan” worry about interfering with an election. Voters should have been told when the FBI was looking into Trump Russia during the campaign.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Yes. And Obama was way too cautious and too anxious to work with Republicans. Those are his fatal flaws. He should have told the American people what was happening, and also explained that Mitch McConnell wanted to hide it.

    • Sweet Sue says:

      Obama had a duty to address the American people from the Oval Office, explaining-like he was talking to a five year old-all the invidious moves Russia was making to throw the election to Trump. He owed that to the country, but No Drama Obama was more concerned about his post Presidency emoluments than he was about the demise of our Democracy.

      • NW Luna says:

        I think this will tarnish his legacy. Nice guy, did a lot of good things once in office, but from the beginning too nice and concerned that he be bipartisan. And glaring at Putin after the election was stolen accomplished nothing but a photo op. Screw bipartisanship when it comes to Russian puppets.

        • quixote says:

          ” glaring at Putin after the election was stolen accomplished nothing but a photo op”

          And he *knew* that. Both that the election was stolen (given his access to the classified info) and that he was doing nothing (given his political smarts).

          So the huge question is, “Why?” To go kitesurfing a few weeks sooner than if he had to have a lot of tedious fights with McConnell? Hell, he had the inside info on McConnell, too, together with all the other classified info. He could have swatted him down like a bug.

          I just do not get how he could sell his country out to the likes of Trump when he knew it was Agent Orange. The level of not caring, if that’s what it was, beggars my imagination. If he had some other motivation, I can’t imagine that either. He’s always seemed ordinary-politician-ruthless to me, not over the line into some kind of downright evil.

      • Joanelle says:

        This information totally negates the election and the electoral college. Donny, Pence, and the Republican Party need to step back hand over the Oval Office and recognize the real winner.

  5. NW Luna says:

    Beautiful cat pictures, BB. I especially like the top one.

  6. NW Luna says:

    • Joanelle says:

      We’re going to need that $5+ billion to rescue our country and fix what has been broken during the shut down.

  7. NW Luna says:

    The Lawfare article you referenced in your post is a really good analysis of the issue — helps to clarify what happened when and the implications of the applicable laws.

  8. NW Luna says:

    I think everyone here is also fed up with sanctimonious Comey. Speaking of legacies, his won’t look very good.

  9. dakinikat says:

  10. NW Luna says: