There was no Russia investigation. Let’s say it again for those in the back. There was no Russia investigation.
It sounds like the oddest thing to say. Didn’t we spend the better part of three years covering the Russia investigation every day? The part where the Trump campaign most certainly absolutely did collude with Russia to “win” the election, as confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent Russia report, and, if you could get through it, the Mueller Report? And the part where Donald Trump obstructed that investigation at every turn? Did we … imagine all that?
No, we did not. Let us explain.
The news, broken by New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt in his new book Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President, is that former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein secretly manipulated the parameters of the Russia investigation during the handoff between the regular FBI investigation and the beginning of newly appointed special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. Specifically, Rosenstein got rid of the counterintelligence portion of the investigation, the part that was supposed to actually figure out whether or not Donald Trump is a fucking Russian intelligence asset or agent, witting or unwitting.
Schmidt explains in the Times, in a piece adapted from his book:
The Justice Department secretly took steps in 2017 to narrow the investigation into Russian election interference and any links to the Trump campaign, according to former law enforcement officials, keeping investigators from completing an examination of President Trump’s decades-long personal and business ties to Russia.
The special counsel who finished the investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, secured three dozen indictments and convictions of some top Trump advisers, and he produced a report that outlined Russia’s wide-ranging operations to help get Mr. Trump elected and the president’s efforts to impede the inquiry.
But law enforcement officials never fully investigated Mr. Trump’s own relationship with Russia, even though some career F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators thought his ties posed such a national security threat that they took the extraordinary step of opening an inquiry into them. Within days, the former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein curtailed the investigation without telling the bureau, all but ensuring it would go nowhere.
In other words, Rosenstein did the cover-up for Donald Trump LOOOOOOONG before Bill Barr was doing cover-ups for Trump.
Michael Schmidt broke the news in January of 2019 that the FBI had indeed opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump and Russia in spring of 2017. It was ordered by then-deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, just after Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey in an attempt to end the Russia investigation. They were worried Trump was literally a threat to national security. The FBI was really spooked when Trump admitted on TV that he had fired Comey in order to kill that investigation. They started to think, hey wait — is this Trump obstruction of justice investigation related to the investigation into the Russian attack on the election and whether the Trump campaign and the Russians colluded? Is there something much bigger going on here? Thus, a counterintelligence investigation.
They legitimately were scared the sitting president of the United States was an actual Russian asset. We still are.
We have long wondered where the hell that investigation went. Why didn’t it seem like anybody was looking at Trump’s financial ties to Russia? Who was working on getting to the bottom of questions about why Trump deferred to Vladimir Putin in every situation, at every opportunity? Why does Trump push Kremlin-based foreign policy even on matters he sure as hell doesn’t know a goddamn thing about? Why does he take Russia’s side on Ukraine? Why does he trust Putin over America’s intelligence agencies? Why does he leak code-word-level classified intel to the Russians in the Oval Office? Why is he so hellbent on destroying western alliances like NATO, which serves no one more than Putin? Why is he so submissive to Putin?
Oh well, don’t know, because there was no Russia investigation.
Blame Rod Rosenstein, and certainly not Mueller. Rosenstein took the FBI investigation from Andy McCabe and appointed the special counsel. McCabe was extremely happy about this. Trump was attacking him on the regular, he had just fired James Comey, and McCabe was scared Trump would fire him, and then the entire investigation would go POOF! He thought Rod Rosenstein had done a good thing.
Instead, without telling anyone, Rosenstein chose that moment to memoryhole the part of the investigation meant to find out if Donald Trump is literally a Russian agent, and if so, how and why. (You know, the most important part. And yes, that would include following Trump’s money up Russia’s ass, as following the money is Counterintelligence 101.) Mueller was operating under the impression the FBI was handling that side, and the FBI thought Mueller was doing it, and NOBODY WAS FUCKING DOING IT. Schmidt reports, “Mr. McCabe said in an interview that had he known Mr. Mueller would not continue the inquiry, he would have had the F.B.I. perform it.”
“We opened this case in May 2017 because we had information that indicated a national security threat might exist, specifically a counterintelligence threat involving the president and Russia,” Mr. McCabe said. “I expected that issue and issues related to it would be fully examined by the special counsel team. If a decision was made not to investigate those issues, I am surprised and disappointed. I was not aware of that.”
There was no Russia investigation. At least not the way we thought.
“It was first and foremost a counterintelligence case,” Mr. McCabe said. “Could the president actually be the point of coordination between the campaign and the Russian government? Could the president actually be maintaining some sort of inappropriate relationship with our most significant adversary in the world?”
Mueller told Congress he passed counterintelligence findings to the FBI, because he thought they were doing something with them. There were FBI agents embedded in his investigation, taking that information and transferring it to the FBI for that specific purpose. Mueller’s remit from Rosenstein was to find crimes, and nothing more. And he found quite a few! Schmidt reports that Rosenstein instructed Mueller that if he felt like he needed to broaden his inquiry, he could always come and ask, but again, he thought the FBI was actually handling that side. Mueller was still under that impression when he testified to Congress in July of 2019, after releasing his report, which had no classified information in it.
And this entire time, we’ve just been wondering where those counterintelligence findings are, and what the status is of that investigation. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff has been demanding information from Bill Barr about it for ages. We guess it just wasn’t there, because there was no Russia investigation.
Schmidt has Rosenstein’s side of the story, such as it is, if you want to hear why he’s such an idiot, assuming you’re in the mood to believe him:
Mr. Rosenstein concluded the F.B.I. lacked sufficient reason to conduct an investigation into the president’s links to a foreign adversary. Mr. Rosenstein determined that the investigators were acting too hastily in response to the firing days earlier of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, and he suspected that the acting bureau director who approved the opening of the inquiry, Andrew G. McCabe, had conflicts of interest.
“Lacked sufficient reason”? Well golly goddammit, Rod, maybe if you’d read Wonkette you’d know more about what the fuck went on between July 2016, when the Russian election attack went public, and May 2017, when Trump fired Comey to end the Russia investigation. Mission accomplished, we guess!
As for the rest of it, fuck off.
Schmidt appeared on Maddow last night, and they both talked a lot about WTF about who what why now, and how we still literally have no idea, two months before an election where Russia is currently attacking to help re-install Trump as president, just how much of a Russian asset Trump is.
Michael Schmidt’s book comes out today. Maybe you’d like to buy a copy.
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