Jan 12, 2019

NYT: FBI probed whether Trump was secretly working for Russia in 2017

Trump with Vladimir Putin in Paris. Photo: Guido Bergmann/Bundesregierung via Getty Images

After President Trump fired former FBI director James Comey in May 2017, the FBI opened an investigation into whether Trump was secretly "working on behalf of Russia against American interests," the New York Times reports.

Details: Intelligence officials had their concerns about Trump's ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, but held off on opening an investigation because of the sensitive and potentially explosive implications that it came with. It was only after Trump twice tied the firing of Comey to his desire to put an end to the Russia investigation that officials decided to launch an inquiry into "whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security," per the Times.

  • The first red flag that alerted officials to the possibility that an investigation was necessary was an early draft of Comey's firing letter, in which Trump thanked Comey for telling him he was not a target of the Russia probe. The second was when Trump told NBC's Lester Holt in an interview that he had fired Comey because of the Russia investigation.
  • FBI officials reportedly felt validated when it was later revealed that Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office, "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off,” just days after the Comey firing.
  • The investigation had both a counterintelligence and criminal aspect to it — with the criminal question being whether he had obstructed justice by firing Comey, per the Times. The probe has since been handed off to special counsel Robert Mueller.
  • The aggressive move to investigate Trump reportedly set off "a vigorous debate" within the Justice Department over whether FBI agents overreacted by opening the counterintelligence probe.

Statement from White House:

“This is absurd. James Comey was fired because he’s a disgraced partisan hack, and his Deputy Andrew McCabe, who was in charge at the time, is a known liar fired by the FBI. Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia.”
— Press Secretary Sarah Sanders

Go deeper: Timeline — Every big move in the Mueller investigation

Go deeper

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Protesters gather at Hennepin County Government Plaza on Thursday in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Protests in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died shortly after a police encounter in Minneapolis, are ongoing as the nation waits to see if the officers involved will be charged with murder.

The state of play: Minnesota's governor on Thursday activated the state's national guard following violent outbreaks throughout the week.

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World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand has a single novel coronavirus case after reporting a week of no new infections, the Ministry of Health confirmed on Friday local time.

By the numbers: Nearly 6 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and over 2.3 million have recovered from the virus. Over 357,000 people have died globally. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world with over 1.6 million.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 5,803,416 — Total deaths: 359,791 — Total recoveries — 2,413,576Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 1,720,613 — Total deaths: 101,573 — Total recoveries: 399,991 — Total tested: 15,646,041Map.
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  5. World: Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S.
  6. 2020: The RNC has issued their proposed safety guidelines for its planned convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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  8. 🏃‍♀️Sports: Boston Marathon canceled after initial postponement, asks runners to go virtual.
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  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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