The 5-Minute Fix: Trump just keeps digging

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The 5-Minute Fix
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There is so much to talk about, I’m going to attempt to sum up this dizzying week-ish in four bullet points (don’t worry, we’ll go into more context in a minute):

  • A senior White House official close to President Trump is under investigation by the FBI in relation to Russia meddling in the U.S. presidential election and whether Trump associates helped.
  • Trump told Russian officials that firing former FBI director James Comey relieved “great pressure” on him.
  • Notes surfaced from Comey saying Trump asked him to lay off a probe.
  • The Justice Department has appointed a special counsel with wide latitude to investigate all of this.

And now, for my next trick, I’m going to sum up literally everything that’s happened in one sentence: The Russian investigation just got a whole lot more real for Trump, and some of it is his own fault. Now, let’s dig in. It’s hard for the president to credibly say this is a “witch hunt” Trump’s own administration has seriously escalated its investigations into Russian meddling and any possible Trump ties. To wit: No longer is the FBI just looking into Russian meddling in general. No longer is the FBI just looking into people tangentially related to the Trump campaign — the Carter Pages and Michael Flynns of the world. (Although Flynn was Trump’s adviser on all things national security for a month.) Now, FBI investigators are looking at someone inside the White House: a “senior White House adviser” who is “close to the president.” And whatever the FBI is looking into could be a lot more public soon: Its probe could break out in the open with a grand jury and subpoenas. Trump speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak during their meeting in the White House May 10. (EPA/RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY HANDOUT) Meanwhile, former FBI director Robert Mueller will work largely behind the scenes as a special counsel. He’ll have wide latitude to investigate whatever he wants under the umbrella of Trump associates and Russia and, if he finds it warranted, press charges. Side note: What’s a special counsel? Documents from the Ken Starr investigation, special counsel investigating the Clintons’ real estate holdings, in 1998. (Washington Post Literally everything you need to know about special counsels — like why it’s different than a special prosecutor — is here. And we’ve got an in-depth rundown of the last 10 times in U.S. history the government had a special prosecutor/counsel, going back to the Whiskey Ring Scandal of 1875. (Spoiler alert: They don’t always produce results.) Back to Trump. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) This week’s news marks big shifts in the Russia investigations, and they’re all in one direction: More, not less, serious and more, not less, connected to the president. “Trump’s ongoing claim that this is a witch hunt just isn’t borne out by what we know of the investigation,” writes The Fix’s Aaron Blake. If this is a “witch hunt,” Trump is leaving a lot of evidence Here are things the president has actually said that have come to light these past two weeks:

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Each one of those statements raises questions of whether the president tried to obstruct the FBI’s probe into Russia meddling and his associates. Taken together, Trump is practically begging to be charged with this crime, writes Blake. It also means Trump’s media firewall is collapsing under his own weight, says The Fix’s Callum Borchers:

“Though he complained this week that ‘no politician in history … has been treated worse or more unfairly,’ the reality is that Trump has been somewhat insulated by journalists’ inability to show that the FBI investigation touches him or anyone on his White House staff directly.”

Not anymore. Americans don’t think this is a witch hunt   73 percent: That’s the percentage of Americans who think the FBI investigation should continue, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday 50 percent: The percentage of Republicans who say this should continue 7 in 10: The number of Americans who are concerned about Trump’s relationship with Russia, according an April Quinnipiac Poll We’re at the point of the Russia investigation where we know that what we don’t know is greater than what we know There are way more questions than answers at this point. Most pressing:

  • Was there any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to influence the U.S. election? And if so, how high did it go?
  • Why did Trump fire Comey in the middle of the FBI’s investigation into Russia?
  • Did Trump try to stop any of the FBI investigations into Russia? And is that obstruction of justice?
  • Who will Trump nominate as the FBI’s new director, and will the Senate approve?
  • How will Congress’s own investigations into Russia meddling change?
  • Can the Justice Department — specifically Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Mueller and could fire him at will — be trusted? Why did Rosenstein write a quick memo criticizing Comey when he knew Trump was going to fire Comey?
  • Will Trump continue to say this is a “witch hunt”?

Definitive answers to some of these questions won’t come for months, maybe even years — if at all. But then again, we didn’t start this week thinking we’d learn a president had been spilling secrets to the Russians, that the Justice Department would appoint a special counsel and that a ramped-up FBI probe would target the inner-workings of the White House. It’s 2017 and anything can happen. Stay tuned. Yes, this really is Hillary Clinton practicing avoiding a Trump hug

 
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Still want more politics in your life? Read these awesome pieces:

President Trump is practically begging to be accused of obstruction of justice
The evidence just keeps building, thanks to Trump himself.
 
Sean Spicer’s spin-tastic definition of ‘pressure’
Trump reportedly admitted that he “faced great pressure because of Russia.” Spicer says that doesn’t mean what you think it means.
 
Video shows Hillary Clinton practicing avoiding Trump’s hugs
You can compare it to James Comey’s non-hug with Trump in the Oval Office.
 
Republicans’ nightmare is starting to come true
The FBI investigating a senior White House official? This is not what Paul Ryan meant went he wished for a Republican president.
 
 
Trump’s media firewall is collapsing as the Russia probe gets closer
Trump has been insulated by journalists’ inability to show that the FBI investigation touches him or his White House staff directly. Not anymore.
 
The Russia investigation just got a whole lot more real for President Trump
And closer to him, too — according to a new Washington Post report.
 
Do leaks to the media really put lives at risk?
Or is the real threat to the image of the White House?
 
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