Two blockbuster news reports have added ominous new dimensions to the already disturbing issue of President Donald Trump’s interactions with Russia’s government. The New York Times reported Friday that early in Trump’s presidency, the FBI was concerned enough about his aggressive attacks on the Russia probe that it launched an investigation into whether he was working against America’s interests on behalf of Moscow.
And The Washington Post reported Sunday that after meeting privately with President Vladimir Putin in 2017, Trump confiscated his translator’s notes and ordered the content of the conversation withheld from even members of his own administration.
Neither revelation is proof that Trump has betrayed America’s interests due to personal business with, or blackmail by, Putin’s government — but the possibility can no longer be dismissed. Congress must be relentless in getting to the truth of the matter.
The Times reported that, days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, the FBI opened an investigation into whether Trump had been working on Russia’s behalf against American interests.
Trump and his loyalists dismiss that investigation as a “deep state” plot against the president. But to Americans of all political stripes, it should be clear that a failure by the FBI to conduct such an investigation would have been an egregious dereliction of duty given the serious concerns officials had.
After all, Trump admitted in a televised interview that he fired Comey, the man overseeing the Russia investigation, in part because of that investigation. That the FBI responded by trying to determine whether Trump had something to hide is welcome confirmation that it was doing its job, despite the president’s blatant attempts to prevent that.
The Washington Post charted what it called the “extraordinary lengths” Trump has gone to in preventing his own top officials from learning details of his private conversations with Putin. It recounted a 2017 meeting of the two leaders in Hamburg, after which Trump reportedly confiscated his translator’s notes and instructed the person not to disclose the contents of the conversation even to other administration officials.
Against that backdrop, consider Trump’s other actions as president: lifting sanctions against Russian business interests with ties to Putin; announcing a U.S. withdrawal from Syria, to the delight of Putin and to the dismay of America’s allies; saying he believes Putin’s denial of U.S. election tampering over the unambiguous conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Also consider that Trump consistently refuses to criticize Putin despite the Russian leader’s egregious record of military incursions and human rights abuses. It’s an immunity that Putin alone seems to enjoy.
These are serious national security concerns, not simply more of the same scandals that have come to define Trump’s administration. America must, once and for all, get to the bottom of its president’s murky relationship with the nation’s most formidable geopolitical foe.