Two new reports on the Trump-Russia thing today.
This morning, the AP revealed that Paul Manafort, Trump’s first campaign manager, failed to disclose that he had worked for a Russian oligarch. The purpose of his job, according to the AP, was to advance the interest of Vladimir Putin:
Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.
Manafort, you may remember, was forced out of the Trump team when it was revealed that he had taken Russian money to lobby on behalf of pro-Russia factions in the Ukraine. This was one of the first revelations that made people question Trump’s ties to Russia. The revelation that his campaigning on behalf of Putin goes back even further is disturbing. If there’s any fire to all this smoke on Russia, Manafort will be where you’ll find it.
Tonight, however, the news got even worse:
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.
This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.
The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.
Now, caveat time. All the sources that CNN sites are anonymous. Moreover, even if they are telling the truth, all this means is that the FBI is investigating these claims, not that they’ve found anything. At the moment, this is simply more smoke.
There have been allegations that the intelligence community has become politicized over this. Even though the loudest accuser is Roger Stone, who admitted to being in communication with the Wikileaks hackers, I’m not inclined to dismiss this line of criticism. It’s certainly possible that’s what we’re seeing.
Which is why we need to end the rumor mongering and put together a independent commission to look into this. To look into all of it. The current investigation — through the House Intelligence Committee — is only muddying the waters further. If Trump people cooperated with Russia to win the election, that’s a very serious scandal. And if the intelligence community is exaggerating this to undermine Trump, that’s a very serious scandal. Time to bring this all out in the open.