On Wednesday, the McClatchy Washington Bureau, citing multiple unnamed sources, broke news that “the FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump.”
According to McClatchy, the involved agencies are the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, Justice Department, Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and representatives of the Director of National Intelligence.
The news is not altogether unexpected. During a hearing before a Senate panel last week, FBI director James Comey refused to answer questions about whether the bureau has investigated links between the Trump campaign and Russia. A day later, Trump himself dodged a reporter’s question about whether he or his campaign had any contact with Russia during the presidential campaign. And as far back as last September, news was circulating that federal agencies were looking into Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page’s meetings with high-ranking Russian officials.
Earlier this month, U.S. intelligence agencies released a declassified report concluding that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”
“We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report continues. “Moscow’s influence campaign following a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations — such as cyber activity — with overt effort by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.’”
During the same presser where he dodged the question about alleged Russia ties, Trump acknowledged that Russia may have meddled in the election, but described an unverified dossier that alleged his campaign had colluded with the country as a “complete and total fabrication.”
The McClatchy report indicates that the Kremlin’s effort to help Trump may have gone further than hacking and anti-Clinton propaganda.
“Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win,” McClatchy reports. “One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.”
That’s an explosive allegation. If true, it could implicate Trump officials in activities violating the Logan Act, which bars American citizens from interacting “with any foreign government” in an effort to manipulate U.S. foreign policy. But with Trump set to be sworn in on Friday, it’s unclear whether his administration will move forward with an investigation that could undermine the legitimacy of his presidency.
Trump hasn’t yet announced whether Comey will be retained as FBI director. During his confirmation hearing last week, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, dodged a question about whether he accepts the intelligence community’s conclusions regarding Russia’s alleged meddling. That prompted Senate Judiciary Democrats to write Sessions a letter asking him to pledge to not interfere with investigations into the meddling if he’s confirmed.
Asked about the intelligence report during his confirmation hearing, Trump’s pick to run the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), went further than Sessions in affirming his faith in the intelligence community’s findings.
“Everything I’ve seen suggests to me that the report has an analytical product that is sound,” Pompeo said. “My obligation as director of CIA is to tell every policy maker the facts as best the intelligence agency has developed them.”
Trump claims he has ‘nothing to do with Russia.’ His son said the opposite.Donald Trump Jr. claimed “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Donald Trump and President Obama have…thinkprogress.orgBut Trump’s pick for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, reportedly wants to eliminate the Director of National Intelligence and instead have intelligence agencies report directly to him. And as we’ve previously detailed, Flynn has close ties to Putin and his regime.
Addressing allegations of Russian meddling in his election last month, Trump said “it’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things.” Earlier this week, Trump told the Times of London he plans to propose ending U.S. sanctions imposed against Russia in 2014 following the country’s illegal annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal.