The plot thickens
January 12, 2019

After President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, the FBI opened an investigation into whether Trump was secretly acting in Russian interests against the United States, The New York Times reported Friday evening, citing unnamed sources.

The probe was specifically prompted by Trump's repeated public linkage of the firing to the investigation into Russian election meddling, the Times story says, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller took over the FBI inquiry when he was appointed. The original probe had counterintelligence and criminal components, considering whether Trump threatened national security and whether the Comey firing obstructed justice.

A Friday statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the reported probe "absurd" and said Trump has taken a hard line toward Russia. Trump himself responded Saturday, describing the Times report as a story of his own persecution:

In subsequent tweets, he defended the Comey firing and claimed Comey and Mueller have a close relationship:

Comey has said he "admires" Mueller but they are "not friends in any social sense." Read the full New York Times report here. Bonnie Kristian

December 9, 2018

The House Judiciary and Oversight Committees on Saturday evening released a transcript of former FBI Director James Comey's lengthy testimony from the day before.

The document is minimally redacted and sees Comey expressing confidence that investigation of Russian meddling and possible collusion in the 2016 election would continue even if President Trump were to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. "You'd almost have to fire everyone in the FBI and the Justice Department to derail the relevant investigations," Comey said.

He also addressed his personal relationship with Mueller — Trump has claimed the two men are friends — saying they are not close "in any social sense." "I admire the heck out of the man," Comey explained, "but I don't know his phone number; I've never been to his house; I don't know his children's names."

And Comey reported the FBI's initial investigation into possible Russian interference focused on four Americans, none of them Trump himself.

"Late July of 2016, the FBI did, in fact, open a counterintelligence investigation into, is it fair to say the Trump campaign or Donald Trump himself?" asked Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). "It's not fair to say either of those things, in my recollection," Comey replied. "We opened investigations on four Americans to see if there was any connection between those four Americans and the Russian interference effort. And those four Americans did not include the candidate." Bonnie Kristian

November 14, 2018

Remember that anonymous op-ed in The New York Times that sent shock waves through Washington in September? Its author was never publicly identified, but Omarosa Manigault Newman claims the Trump administration solved the mystery behind closed doors.

Manigault Newman, a former White House communications aide, told MSNBC Wednesday that she has heard "from my sources" that the Trump administration identified the op-ed writer and has "quietly removed them from the administration." She also said, citing "rumors," that the White House has been relatively quiet about the whole situation because of "how high-level that person is supposed to have been."

The anonymous Times op-ed came from a senior Trump administration official, who claimed there was a "quiet resistance" among officials in the administration who are "working diligently from within to frustrate parts of [Trump's] agenda and his worst inclinations." After its publication, the White House reportedly began a frantic internal search to find out who wrote it, with the president at one point narrowing his list of suspects down to 12. But after a while, the op-ed buzz faded, and there was never any additional reporting about its author.

Manigault Newman had previously floated the idea that Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, could have written the op-ed, although considering Ayers is still working in the White House and is, in fact, reportedly the leading candidate to replace Chief of Staff John Kelly, her latest update contradicts that theory. However, she maintains that the op-ed's language is similar to "something that would come out of Pence's shop." Watch her comments below. Brendan Morrow

November 10, 2018

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who in this new capacity will oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russian election meddling investigation, interviewed last summer to be a "legal attack dog against the special counsel" for President Trump, The New York Times reported Friday.

Whitaker met with White House counsel Don McGahn in July 2017, and while he did not end up in a role on the president's legal team, the Times' sources close to Trump say Whitaker is expected to rein in Mueller's probe in his new position.

As Whitaker's selection came under scrutiny, Trump on Friday claimed not to know him, though he said the opposite on Fox & Friends just last month. And Whitaker himself reportedly told Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), with whom he shares a home state, that he hasn't "the slightest idea" how long he'll remain in charge of the Department of Justice.

Read the full report, which includes a dive into Whitaker's personal and professional history, at The New York Times. Bonnie Kristian

September 1, 2018

A lobbyist named W. Samuel Patten on Friday pleaded guilty to working as an unregistered foreign agent and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators including Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Patten admitted to lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee and spending $50,000 on four tickets to President Trump's inauguration on behalf of a Ukrainian oligarch though he knew the inaugural committee cannot accept funds from foreign nationals.

Patten is linked to Konstantin Kilimnik, an aide to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort who is reportedly tied to Russian intelligence and has been indicted by the Mueller probe.

President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, dismissed Patten's plea as inconsequential to his client. "It turned about to be this irrelevant indictment, where I think Mueller has turned out to be a private prosecutor," he said. "What does this have to do with President Trump? Not a single thing. It has nothing to do with collusion, some guy who donated to the inauguration? My goodness, they had 500,000 people donate to the inauguration — every time they get a speeding ticket is Mueller going to do it?"

Also Friday, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, asked for a lenient sentence in a court filing that described Trump approving of a potential meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the spring of 2016. Bonnie Kristian

August 24, 2018

Allen Weisselberg, the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, has been granted immunity to speak with federal prosecutors, sources told The Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Weisselberg was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in the investigation into Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer who earlier this week pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and tax fraud. The Journal reports that Weisselberg's cooperation increases pressure on Trump, who gave Weisselberg control of his company's financial assets upon his election. The CFO has worked for the Trump family since the 1970s, reports Bloomberg, and has handled bills, the organization's purchases, and Trump's investments.

Weisselberg reportedly helped Cohen facilitate hush payments to two women who say they had affairs with Trump. In a recording Cohen made of his conversation with Trump about the payments, Cohen says he spoke to Weisselberg about how to arrange the deal. The New York Times reported Thursday that the Manhattan district attorney's office is considering criminal charges against the Trump Organization, related to the payment's improper documentation as an effort to aid the Trump campaign. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Summer Meza

August 4, 2018

Alleged Russian agent Mariia Butina, a gun rights activist who has been charged with conspiracy and illegally acting as an agent of the Kremlin, contacted a former Trump campaign aide named J.D. Gordon shortly before the 2016 election, The Washington Post reported Friday evening.

Gordon left his campaign role of director of national security for a position in Trump's transition team in August 2016. In the following two months, the Post story says, he exchanged emails with Butina, inviting her to events including his birthday party.

Butina's attorney and Gordon both told the Post the relationship was not significant. "From everything I've read since her arrest last month, it seems the [Mariia] Butina saga is basically a sensationalized click bait story meant to smear a steady stream of Republicans and NRA members she reportedly encountered over the past few years," he said in a statement to The Washington Times. "I wonder which prominent Republican political figures she hasn't come across?" Bonnie Kristian

May 19, 2018

President Trump alleged on Twitter Thursday that the FBI "spied" on his campaign with an "embedded informant," citing a National Review story. "If so, this is bigger than Watergate!" he wrote.

In reports published Friday night, The Washington Post and The New York Times partially confirmed his account. Both papers reported an unnamed American academic who is now based in the U.K. met with Trump campaign advisers including Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, as well as campaign co-chair Sam Clovis, in 2016.

Described by the Post as a "longtime U.S. intelligence source," the academic was working as a source for the FBI's then-nascent investigation into Russian election meddling. The Times reports there is no evidence "the informant acted improperly" or that the inquiry was "politically motivated," as Trump claims.

The informant's name has been withheld over security concerns for himself and other ongoing investigations. However, speculation as to his identity is already underway, mostly based on the detail that the academic's meetings were framed as foreign policy discussions. Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads