The New York Times is out with a story tonight which is little short of astonishing on the eve of a presidential inauguration. From the Times article …
“American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.”
Just to state this clearly, that means that on the eve of Trump’s inauguration the nation’s top law enforcement and intelligence agencies are pursuing a counter-intelligence probe of contacts and payments between key members of his campaign and Russia. We have not been here before.
The story goes on to explain that the three Trump associates being scrutinized are Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page, the last of whom was Trump Europe/Russia policy advisor before being dumped after his ties to Russia received press scrutiny. The story goes on to explain that the probe is being led by the FBI with the assistance of the NSA, the CIA and the financial crimes unite of the Treasury Department.
The Times article covers slightly different territory but overlaps pretty clearly with yesterday’s article from McClatchy which focused on financial transfers which may have been used to pay hackers working on behalf of Russian intelligence in the US. The agencies reportedly involved are the same.
One point to keep in mind. After noon tomorrow, each of these agencies will work for Donald Trump. He could simply order them to stop. That might be unethical. It might be wrong. People might resign. But all of these people work for the President. Unsurprisingly, this appears to be the main reason for the leaks. From the Times: “Of the half-dozen current and former officials who confirmed the existence of the investigations, some said they were providing information because they feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts.”
The other thread of the story is that the Senate is also beginning to investigate this. Trump can’t shut that down, though ultimately the Senate has to work through the intelligence agencies to probe these matters. It gets complicated.