BREAKING: Trump Himself Subject in Active Espionage Investigation, DOJ Documents Suggest
The Most Contentious Line in Trump’s FBI Letter Is Dead Wrong
Documents from the Department of Justice, obtained by journalists, reveal the sitting president is, indeed, under FBI scrutiny.
My reaction to news of James Comey’s termination was all of America’s reaction, writ small: disbelief. The president, as tawdry a showman as there’s ever been, had just done the opposite of what we’ve come to expect from him. Instead of distracting the media away from the Russia scandal, through a tweet or a TV appearance or an incoherent magazine interview, he did the one thing sure to attract the gaze of literally everybody with a stake in this thing.
It is the second paragraph of Trump’s final letter to the incorruptible James Comey that draws particular concern across the rows: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.” This fateful line has the power to change everything.
“My staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia”, wrote Freedom Caucus member Justin Amash. “The second paragraph of this letter is bizarre.”
The central question: if Comey’s firing had nothing to do with the ongoing Russia investigation (and everything to do with actions Trump and Sessions previously praised him for), why bring it up at all? The president’s surrogates had expertly downplayed his alleged personal involvement, why shift the narrative back onto himself? Was it a not-so-transparent attempt at pre-empting the talking points?
Whatever it was, it wasn’t true. According to documents obtained by Ryan Shapiro and Jason Leopold, an MIT PhD candidate and investigative journalist, respectively, the FBI is actively investigating Trump himself. At issue were his comment on the campaign trail, encouraging the perpetrators of the DNC hack to steal more internal documents.
The Sparrow Project, which bills itself as a “nonprofit grassroots public interest newswire”, tells the story:
On August 18, 2016, Shapiro and Leopold submitted a FOIA request to the FBI seeking “disclosure of any and all records, including investigative records, mentioning or referring to Donald J. Trump’s statement on 27 July, 2016 [regarding Secretary Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails], ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,’ and ‘I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.’”
The two journalists sued, and the FBI eventually agreed to look for the records. Eventually, a Justice Department attorney dropped the bombshell. Sparrow Project again:
In a court filing in this case on April 6, 2017, a Justice Department attorney representing the FBI informed the Court that there is an “active, ongoing investigation” pertaining to this matter and claimed that disclosing the “records that are responsive to the Russia Request” could reasonably be expected to interfere with “enforcement proceedings.” (As noted elsewhere in the DOJ/FBI’s new filing, the term “Russia Request” refers explicitly to Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA request quoted above.) The DOJ/FBI’s new court filing acknowledges the existence of records responsive to Shapiro and Leopold’s “Russia Request”, and claimed that all, or virtually all, of these documents cannot be released because of the potential to interfere with active law enforcement proceedings.
Because Shapiro and Leopold’s FOIA request was so specific – inquiring about one particular instance involving then-candidate Trump – the Justice Department attorney’s insistence that releasing the information would interfere with an “active, ongoing investigation” means the FBI is, indeed, looking at Trump specifically. Whether or not the investigation will result in evidence of wrongdoing on Trump’s part is unknown.
What is known? Trump either lied in his letter, or was lied to—and that’s enough to make Republicans everywhere scratch their chins.
(Photo by Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images)
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Timothy Bertrand is an author and journalist from Houston, Texas. He is the Associate Editor at Reverb Press and splits his time between covering breaking news and penning thoughtful literary essays.