Tonight’s New York Times news dump on two FBI investigations, for counterintelligence and criminal activity, is strangely parallel to that October 31, 2016, news dump that said the FBI was not investigating Donald Trump. Let’s look at a timeline for the material reported in the two. I’m taking dates from the articles rather than looking up the precise dates in order to get this out quickly.
|Date||October 2016 article||January 2019 article|
|July 2016||Trump calls on Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails|
|July 2016||Trump campaign softens Republican platform plank on Ukraine|
|“mid-2016”||Christopher Steele compiles memos|
|“months before 2016 election”||Timing described as “much of the summer” Investigation into “some of Trump’s aides,” but “Mr. Trump himself has not become a target”||FBI was investigating four Trump associates|
|timing unclear||Communications between Trump and Alfa Bank computers|
|October 2016||Harry Reid letter: “It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity,” Mr. Reid wrote. “The public has a right to know this information.”|
Obviously, material after October 31, 2016, could not be included in the earlier article. But it’s informative to put it into a timeline.
|January 2017||Trump asks Comey for loyalty pledge|
|January 2017||Trump asks Comey to end investigation into Michael Flynn|
|May 2017||Trump fires Comey|
|May 2017||Trump, in NBC interview, appears to say he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation|
|May 2017||Trump tells Russians in Oval Office he fired Comey – “pressure taken off because of Russia”|
|“days after firing”||Investigation begins|
It’s worthwhile reading both articles. I find it clarifying to put things in timelines, though.
Update: Benjamin Wittes has also written a post, and he tweeted a baby cannon “BOOM!”
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) January 12, 2019
Further Update: The Wittes article gives a very careful explanation of the interplay between the criminal and counterintelligence sides of the investigation. I can also read between the lines why the FBI may have said in October 2016 that the investigation was not into Donald Trump. The investigation was about Russia’s role in the election. So it could be that the reporters on the October 2016 article didn’t ask the right questions of their informants or wink-wink nudge-nudge let them get away with giving a particular impression.