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F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia
law enforcement officials became so concerned by Trump's behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests
Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether Trump’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security.

Agents also sought to determine whether he was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.
The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.
Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude.
Trump's activities before and after Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry
Mueller took over the inquiry into Trump when he was appointed, days after F.B.I. officials opened it. That inquiry is part of Mueller’s broader examination of how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with them. Oopsies
It is unclear whether Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter, and some former law enforcement officials outside the investigation have questioned whether agents overstepped in opening it.

The criminal & CI elements were coupled together into one investigation, fmr LE officials said in recent wks, bc if Trump had ousted Comey to impede or end Russia investigation, that was both a possible crime & natsec concern. The FBI CI div handles national security matters.
If he fired Comey to stop the Russia investigation, it’s a natsec issue bc it naturally would have hurt FBIs effort to learn how RU interfered in election & whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017.
“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,”
No evidence has emerged *publicly* that 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.😉
Giuliani tried to play down the significance of the investigation. “The fact that it goes back a year & a half & nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing,” Giuliani, though he acknowledged that he had no insight into the inquiry.😂
The decision to investigate Trump himself was an aggressive move by F.B.I. officials who were confronting the chaotic aftermath of the firing of Comey and enduring the president’s verbal assaults on the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.”
A vigorous debate has taken shape among some former law enforcement officials outside the case over whether F.B.I. investigators overreacted in opening the counterintelligence inquiry during a tumultuous period at the doj
Other former officials noted that those *critics were not privy to all of the evidence*

and argued that
*sitting on it would have been an abdication of duty*.
FBI, two kinds of investigations
Counterintelligence (CI)

Criminal investigations are typically aimed at solving a crime and can result in arrests and convictions
CI inquiries are carried out quietly over long periods of time, often w/o arrests are generally fact-finding missions to understand what a foreign power is doing & to stop any anti-American activity, like thefts of US government secrets or covert efforts to influence policy.
Trump had caught the attention of F.B.I. counterintelligence agents when he called on Russia during a campaign news conference in July 27 2016 to hack into Hillary’s emails
Trump had refused to criticize Russia on the campaign trail, praising Putin.

And investigators had watched with alarm as the Republican Party softened its convention platform on the Ukraine crisis in a way that seemed to benefit Russia.
Other factors fueled the F.B.I.’s concerns, according to the people familiar with the inquiry. Christopher Steele had compiled memos in mid-2016 containing unsubstantiated claims that Russian officials tried to obtain influence over Trump by preparing to blackmail and bribe him.
In the months before the election, the FBI was also already investigating 4 of Trump’s associates over ties to RU. All the events disquieted FBI officials who were simultaneously watching as Ru's campaign unfolded to undermine the election by exploiting existing divisions.
In the Russian Federation and in Putin himself, you have an individual whose aim is to disrupt the Western alliance and whose aim is to make Western democracy more fractious in order to weaken our ability, America’s ability and the West’s ability to spread our democratic ideals
And when a newly inaugurated Trump sought a loyalty pledge from Comey and later asked that he end an investigation into Flynn, the requests set off discussions among F.B.I. officials about opening an inquiry into whether Trump had tried to obstruct that case.
But law enforcement officials put off the decision to open the investigation until they had learned more, according to people familiar with their thinking.
As for a CI inquiry, they concluded they’d need strong evidence to take the sensitive step of investigating a president, plus they were concerned that the existence of such an inquiry could be leaked to media, undermining the entire investigation into Russia interference.
After Comey was fired on May 9, 2017, two more of Mr. Trump’s actions prompted them to throw those reservations out the window...
The first was Trump’s letter he wanted to send to Comey about his firing, but never did, in which he mentioned the Russia investigation. In it, Trump thanked Comey for previously telling him he was not a subject of the FBIs Russia investigation.
Even after Rosenstein wrote a more restrained draft of the letter and told Trump that he did not have to mention the Russia investigation — the handling of the Clinton email inv would suffice as a fireable offense— Trump directed DAG to mention the Russia investigation anyway.🙄
He disregarded the order, irritating Trump who ultimately added a reference to the Russia investigation to the note he had delivered, thanking Comey for telling him three times that he was not under investigation.
The second event that troubled investigators was an NBC News interview two days after Mr. Comey’s firing, aka That Rusher Thing or the Lester Holt Interview
As FBI officials debated whether to open the investigation, some pushed to move quickly before Trump appointed a director who might slow down or end their investigation into Russia’s interference. Many involved in the case viewed Russia as the chief threat to US democratic values
“With respect to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans, Russia poses the most dangerous threat to that way of life,” Lisa Page told investigators for a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee investigation into Moscow’s election interference.
FBI officials viewed their decision to move quickly as validated when a comment Trump 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 FBI.”

“He was crazy, a real nut job,”

“I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
NEVERMIND the fact that he methodically and systematically sought to and pretty much succeeded in either firing, demoting, ruining or forcing out of their positions, EVERY witness to Comey’s contemporaneous memos.
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