It Is False To Claim the Counterintelligence Investigation into Trump Is Unprecedented

There’s a conceit among the frothy right that the counterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump is unprecedented. At a recent hearing with FBI Director Christopher Wray, for example, Josh Hawley set up the question this way.

Hawley: Director Wray, earlier this year I sent the FBI two letter seeking additional information about news reports that the agency, the Bureau, had opened a counterintelligence investigation of the President following the exercise of the President’s constitutional prerogatives to direct foreign policy and otherwise oversee the Executive Branch. I did not receive a response to those letters beyond a form letter acknowledging receipt. And since I have you here and have you under oath, let me just ask you what I want to know. To your knowledge has the FBI ever launched a counterintelligence investigation into another President in American history?

Wray: I don’t know the answer to that question.

Hawley: And so it would be “no” then, since it’s “to your knowledge”? It’s fair to say you’re not aware of one, personally, is all I’m asking?

Wray: It’s fair to say I’m not aware of one.

Hawley: Is it safe to say then, to the best of your knowledge, that such a move would be and is unprecedented?

Wray: Um, well again, we’ve been around for 111 years, so I don’t really know what is precedented or not precedented in that regard.

The question, as framed, is totally bullshit, and Democratic members of Congress should stop letting their colleagues frame what happened to Donald Trump in such a way.

The proper question is, is there precedent that a counterintelligence investigation was opened into a major party candidate (distinguishing from Eugene Debs, into whom I’m sure there was a standing counterintelligence investigation through his presidential runs).

And the answer to that is simple. The precedent is Hillary Clinton.

In 2016, there was a counterintelligence investigation touching on both the Democratic and Republican candidates for President. The one into the Democrat was public. FBI managed it in ways, twice, that had an impact on the race. In addition to that CI investigation, there was also an investigation — predicated in part on oppo research from the Republican party — that involved the candidate’s interactions with foreign leaders. The latter investigation, into the Clinton Foundation, leaked. It leaked so egregiously that the Deputy Director of the FBI was fired for the leak.

The counterintelligence investigation into the Republican candidate was not public. Unlike the investigation into the Democrat, the one into the Republican was also not, at first, predicated against the candidate himself (to be honest, the Clinton email investigation would have been differently, and probably better, handled if Hillary weren’t the only possible target). It did not come to be opened against the guy who was still a candidate when the investigation was opened until he obstructed the investigation by firing the people conducting it.

The proper question for Josh Hawley to ask is, “Is there precedent for a criminal investigation against a sitting president for obstructing the investigation into what his campaign did to get elected?” The answer is easy. Yes. That is what happened with Nixon, and appropriately so.

The thing is, I can guarantee you Republicans would support an investigation into Hillary for obstructing the counterintelligence investigation into her behavior. The reason I can guarantee it is Republicans to this day — from the President on down — think there should be an ongoing investigation into whether Democrats gamed the investigation into Hillary. If Hillary had won, Senate Republicans would have demanded a special prosecutor into Hillary’s server, to say nothing of whether her interactions with foreign leaders were influenced by the Clinton Foundation.

Virtually all the conspiracy theories about the investigation into Trump, from the claims of a coup on down, are premised on granting him, as candidate, the privileges he would get when he became President. Those theories ignore the fact that in 2016, the FBI conducted CI investigations into both candidates. And there’s no question which it treated worse in doing so.

70 replies
            • rip says:

              Would be swell if dismissed comment threads could be collapsed – only viewed for prurient interests. I have a sneaky suspicion that there will be a lot more in the next few months.
              Thanks to EW, rayne, bmaz for marking the comments that are less-than-zero (waiting for mine to be so….)

      • MissingGeorgeCarlin says:

        Except for 2 basic facts:
        1) FBI went public 11 days before the election re: HRC’s emails which constituted an ‘October Surprise’, hurt her campaign and led to nothing.

        2) FBI never mentioned the investigation into the traitorous behavior of Don the Con. A single 3 min phone call to a reporter re: CI investigation could have killed that 78K vote margin that gave him the Presidency.

        And the investigation into his team and put people in prison and resulted in over a dozen other investigations.

        The “Deep State” conspiracy theory is bunk.

    • Bjs says:

      You do not understand the seminal difference between a criminal investigation and a counterintelligence initiative do you?

    • Eureka says:

      Seconded, and this is also the least-weedy-seeming GOP con job on the table lately. Meaning the dems should be able to handle not only investigating the disparity in HRC’s treatment (as in Marcy’s prior, related Strzok post) but also clearly communicating the big picture here to the public.

      Another post to tag as “Road Map Alert” for the dems.

  1. John K says:

    “Virtually all the conspiracy theories about the investigation into Trump, from the claims of a coup on down, are premised on granting him, as candidate, the privileges he would get when he became President.”

    Thank you for that clarification. It provides significant fodder for rebuttal to those who would defend our poor, beleaguered president.

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    The question, as framed, is totally bullshit, and Democratic members of Congress should stop letting their colleagues frame what happened to Donald Trump in such a way.

    Over and over, the GOP is always about being ‘persecuted’, and everyone else is ‘unfair’.
    The Dems need to point this out, preferably in a witty, mordant fashion.

    Also, there is an FBI Profile, or what is reputed to be an FBI profile, of Donald John Trump that anyone can buy from Amazon/iBooks for about $2.99 USD. It is eerily prescient, and if Hawley had ever perused it briefly, his line of questioning would have taken a rather different path. Also, if he’d read it, he’d be cheering the FBI along, rather than seeking to smear them.

    Hawley, it seems, is too myopic to recognize a clear and present danger.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Hawley is more ambitious than myopic. Conventionally measured, he’s among the brightest of his generation. Unlike Gohmert or Gaetz, for example, he is more likely to know when he is spouting bullshit.

      What he wants is the post-Trump GOP presidency. He thinks that only Liz Cheney stands in his way.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        What a maroon.
        As if the post-Trump GOP presidency is worth as much as a 1,000 acre pond of battery acid. They already have a judiciary turning rancid, and they think holding on to the presidency is going to save them?

        Rock. Paper. Scissors.
        When they have a rock, they pound the sh!t out of it with scissors.
        When they have paper, they tear it with rocks.
        When they have scissors, they wrap those in paper.
        These maroons can’t figure out the rules of a children’s game, and they toxify everything that they touch.

        Meanwhile, I just clicked over from TPM, which has an item about the Orange County CA Dems now outnumbering the GOP. Although it is true some of the OC outmigration is moving to smaller cities in the heartland, fundamentally the GOP makes itself more toxic by the day. It’s no coincidence that Texas GOP House members are retiring: not everyone is a maroon.
        Crikey, what a mess.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Sorry – didn’t get back here for about 24 hours. I hope that you see this —
        “Trump’s Brain: An FBI Profile of Donald Trump: Predicting Trump’s Actions and Presidency”, the author uses a pen name.
        File Size: 815 KB
        Print Length: 33 pages
        Publisher: Unknown (January 19, 2017)
        Publication Date: January 19, 2017
        Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
        Language: English
        ASIN: B01N5RCDH3
        It’s voice enabled; you could listen.

        — PLEASE NOTE: This book is *not* given an FBI imprimatur (I can’t imagine they let that out in public), but it is written as a report.

        However, it does not layer on any implications of cognitive decline, although if you watch Trump, he sometimes seem to have balance issues (you see it on stairs). If you watch video of Trump going down the stairs of AF1 this week, it appears that Melania is holding onto his hand to help steady him. I’m not sure how he would have done on his own, but falls are treacherous.

        A book that is even better, and surely available through your library is:
        The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President Hardcover – October 3, 2017
        It’s available on audio.
        IMVHO, all members of Congress should be listening to it. If you have ever had to interact with a sociopath and had questions about what happened and why, this book is quite insightful and has implications beyond Trump.

        And speaking of balance as an indicator of health, I’m not at all surprised that McConnell had a recent fall, assuming that’s accurate info. Watch:

        A few too many years of Elder Care and a lot of older relatives developed my sixth sense about balance as a precursor to cognitive issues. It’s interesting that in this particular video clip, Trump has better balance than McConnell. McConnell is 79, but I know two 79 year olds who play tennis, have terrific balance, and bright complexions. This clip suggests that McConnell has not been doing the kinds of activities that would help him maintain his balance. Dem Senators should take note, and start a robust routine of stretches, brisk walks, and balance ball each day ;-)))

        • Rayne says:

          Can’t really compare Trump to McConnell as the latter has post-polio sequelae. We also don’t know what McConnell has been doing to maintain his activities of daily living (ADLs) while dealing with post-polio.

          Trump, however, looks like he has Parkinsonism, IMO. He’s beginning to stoop, displayed motor control problems (holding a water bottle), and as you noticed, possible balance problems. Wonder how much help he’s getting with his ADLs?

          Interesting the book you’ve shared was published *just before* Inauguration Day. Marvelous timing, that.

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            Excellent points. Thanks.
            I’d forgotten about McConnell and polio. Nevertheless…. I believe it would be widely acceptable to observe that he does not appear to be sprightly. Being 79 should not preclude ‘sprightly’. Polio, OTOH, might.

            If you airbrush Melania out of Trump’s public appearances, it would be quite instructive. At this point, it looks as if she is helping with his balance, which keeps the charade alive.

            I may be more cued in to balance than others…. but people would be wise to start turning off the sound when they see him on video, and view slowly to see the small lurches. He appears to be starting to really struggle, in a myriad of ways.

            Yeah, I found the pub date on that book intriguing. Hard to know whether it’s hoax, or someone trying to launder the truth. However, the book has been prescient and kind of spooky.

            • Eureka says:

              On the balance issue: that’s the single positive I noticed about Biden lately. After the first debate he was repeatedly crouching and rising at the crowd edge (and possibly intentionally showing off his relative agility given the Trump rumors and what Trump-and-trolls did to HRC re ‘aging/sick’, etc).

              Anyway, he smoothly, easily got back up without assistance of his hands (or by bystanders). They were gentle (but not tenuous or too slow), continuous movements– didn’t start with the same plosive force as in youth, but also indicative of good physical health.

              • Ruthie says:

                On the other hand, at least in the case of my 87 yo mother, balance has little to do with cognitive decline. She’s been unable to ride a bike for more than 20 years, and falls frequently (as she herself points out, her extended belly has likely saved her many a serious injury) – but she remains quite sharp mentally.

                • Democritus says:

                  Hahaha that’s awesome. I’m big on humor, dark or not, as someone who is also clutzy (spinal and other issues), if you don’t have a sense of humor about it you’ll just be ten times more miserable.

          • J R in WV says:

            Moscow Mitch MxConnell may have had Polio as a youth, I had grade school classmates who were recovering from polio. But it wasn’t severe enough to keep him from enlisting in the Army when he was of an age for that to happen.

            In fact his mysteriously absent DD-214 and discharge at only 9 months into his hitch remain a very curious event in his life.

        • Tom says:

          “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” was republished in an expanded edition last year. I took a quick look at it in a bookstore the other day. It’s probably unfair to judge the book from a brief skim-through, but the authors seem to view all of Trump’s behavior through a mental health lens, which is understandable considering they’re psychiatrists or psychologists. One of them cited Trump’s claims that he had the largest crowd in history at his inauguration and that there were millions of illegal votes cast for Hillary in 2016 as evidence of his “delusions” and divorce from reality. I don’t agree. The simpler and more likely answer is that Trump is just a shameless and well-practiced liar. But I’m sure the contributors have other valid points to make.

          And as for keeping one’s balance, I make it a habit to stand on one leg for as long as I can every time I’m reheating something in the microwave.

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            Smart strategy about the microwave ;-))

            I need to get a new post-it up to remind myself about this: when I brush my teeth, I usually stand on my non-dominant leg. Learned that trick from a P.T. It’s truly amazing how the mind and body are connected, so keeping your balance helps keep your smarts ;-)

  3. Democritus says:

    Thank you for consistently calling the shots fairly, and not pulling your rhetorical punches. We all need to do so.

    This tweet, *does Italian chefs kiss gesture*

    “Imagine if Hillary had fired Jim Comey (which she would have had great reason to do) if she won, how scandalous the GOP would have treated that. That would have been far more justifiable than what Trump did.”

    Boom shack a lacka BOOM. Nice :)

    We need to call out the sick funhouse mirror of double standards the corporate media has been running with for far to long.
    *cough Ms Haberman and Brett fucking cuntacular whore-biscuit Stephens*

    If that’s too much you can take the profanity out, I do like a good curse word.

  4. Desider says:

    Email investigation of a candidate came out of an (unprecedented?) Benghazi investigation of a candidate. Not sure if they investigated Clinton Foundation in Haiti or the amazing misleading Russian Uranium claim. These are different from Gore’s Buddhist Temple or Edwards’ payoffs to a mistress.

  5. dwfreeman says:

    Dead-on, as usual, Marcy.

    The only reason the FBI could have publicly come out and announce investigations of Hillary is because of the tolerant response it expected from her campaign, party and president, all of whom expected her to win and declined to rock the boat, even when Mitch McConnell threatened a stink if the Obama administration disclosed known Russian influence with Trump’s campaign.

    And even then, the FBI was hardly quick to respond to the true Trump-Russia partnership that involved some 272 contacts, resulting in 32 indictments and 7 guilty pleas for collusion in plain sight, based on Mueller’s special counsel investigation.

    As a result, Trump wins only because a CI investigation wasn’t made public against him before the election not because it was ever honest with federal authorities about any investigation of its actions with Russia before –or after the election.

    More to the point, Trump’s election survived based on the failure to measure direct Russian interference at the polls, either in direct or indirect voter influence. That the Senate Intelligence Committee, which supposedly investigated this complicity, couldn’t reach a more certain conclusion to that question only demonstrates how muddy the waters became post election with Trump safely ensconced in office with legitimacy intact.

    Go back in time, and follow the Trump campaign timeline when it pulls out the Weiner laptop accusations after baiting that Lolita honey trap case involving a Gastonia, North Carolina 15-year-old in the winter of 2016 just as the Russians are reaching out to Trump flunkies and banging out its St. Petersburg-based IRA cyber messaging operation. Then ask yourself why some young girl in rural Carolina would have a crush on a former NYC mayoral candidate and congressman who had resigned from public life because of highly publicized and controversial sexting relationships which eventually resulted in divorce from his wife Huma Abedin, a longtime personal aide to Hillary Clinton.

    And that last fact explains it all. Abedin, who filed for divorce from Weiner in August 2016, was believed to be a source of 30,000 missing emails the Republicans sought endlessly throughout the presidential race.

    Talk about original sin. The origin of the Carolina conspiracy began with a Daily Mail story on Sept. 21, 2016. The teen involved in this case was never identified publicly, nor was she ever interviewed by the press, except by the Daily Mail. Her family had longtime GOP connections in county politics and friends in Raliegh, the state capitol, Two weeks before the story broke, Trump family members actually stopped by Gaston County Republican headquarters.

    The people in the background of that story were all linked to the Trump campaign. So, how would a UK paper get a tip to break this story? And why was this story broken overseas? This wasn’t a single day tabloid tale; it involved some well-coordinated coverage.

    And, in fact, the case was almost instantaneously moved from Gastonia, a town about 25 miles outside of NC’s largest city, Charlotte, and not prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office there, but to New York, where a Trump-friendly FBI office supposedly resided. The significance of this case against Weiner, of course, was access to his computer to obtain those mysterious emails, which ultimately, the campaign ploy failed to produce. Lots of interesting questions never really asked or answered.

    • drouse says:

      Using friendly right wing rags in the UK to launch propaganda into the US market is a tactic perfected during the run up to the invasion of Iraq. Cheney in particular used it to great effect.

  6. Peterr says:

    “The proper question for Josh Hawley to ask is, . . .”

    As one of Josh Hawley’s constituents, I can assure you that expecting him to ask a proper question is expecting too much.

  7. doug says:

    Seems likely to me that a reason the Hillary CI investigation went public before the election is that she was expected to win and would have been attacked relentlessly by Trump, who expected to lose, and the Republic Senate for not disclosing it prior to the election. Trump was already setting up the “rigged election” as an explanation for his assumed loss to polish his brand. This put the Obama admin. between a rock and a hard place.

    Combining all this with the amplification and polarization of social media and we have a hell of a mess. Humpty Dumpty is going to be hard to put back together.

    • Democritus says:

      Nonstop GOP working the refs, with a helpful framing by most mainstream press hacks like half of CNN, Andy Lack, CBS Mark Knoller (aka kneeler), Brett Stephens or Haberman. Though Lack and NBC are doing something new and good by not focusing or saying the shooters name, and that’s awesome so cookies for NBC today.

      I’m just so sick of the bs, but here is Sherrod Brown correcting the frame:

      More of this, more spine and fucking courage. They don’t all need big donors, look what Warren has done.

      Side note, seeing lots of these scam cryptocurrency shit lately on trumps feeds? New strategy to detect marks? Or just scamming dumbasses?

      Example of scam twitter feed

  8. I Never Lie and am Always Right says:

    Regarding the reference above to OC turning blue, I’ve been watching that change for years, starting back when B-1 Bob was spouting off in Congress. I’m now privileged to have Katie Porter as my Rep.

    • BobCon says:

      Dornan, Lungren, Rohrabacher and Dannemeyer — a bunch of absolute trash.

      I saw that Dannemeyer died just a few weeks ago. The NY Times obit is a winner.

      (Obit quote begins) He also advanced a claim that Congress, in the guise of honoring the birthday of a prominent Hasidic rabbi, had passed a law making “the belief in Jesus Christ a crime punishable by decapitation by guillotine.”

      His son insisted in a phone interview that Mr. Dannemeyer had not been anti-Semitic; he attributed those sentiments to his father’s second wife, Dr. Lorraine Day, an orthopedic surgeon who was known as a Holocaust denier. They married in 2004.

      “He had to agree with it or there would have been hell to pay in the household” (end obit quote)

      The obit says he died of complications from dementia. The joke writes itself, but there was nothing funny about the man. He was vicious, nasty, and the quote by Henry Waxman is spot on — “He was a mean and hateful person.”

  9. Rayne says:

    LOL I’m dying of laughter here because of the troll who attempted to leave a comment here.

    Buddy, go call a friend, then Netflix and chill with them. You clearly need to relax.

      • Rayne says:

        I can’t pour décourager les autres. But imagine ALL CAPS SHOUTING sprinkled with dead giveaway key words and you have the gist of it.

        We usually attract a more discreet form of troll here, but every once in a while a good old-fashioned moonbat shows up and delivers an old school trolling just so I can laugh when I hit the TRASH button.

        Some day I should write a post for grins and giggles to allow our community members a chance to let their hair down and do their best mimicry of this kind of troll. Maybe after we have finally elected a Democratic majority in the Senate and can breathe easier.

        • AndTheSlithyToves says:

          “good old-fashioned moonbat”
          moonbat (plural moonbats)
          (informal, derogatory) A liberal (someone with a left-wing ideology).
          Synonyms: leftard (derogatory), libtard (derogatory)

          So it wasn’t a right-wing troll?

          • Rayne says:

            Argh. Really? I suppose I was supposed to use “right-wing nut job” or “RWNJ” from whatever official dictionary you are consulting instead of using a portmanteau meant to convey someone who is prone to lunacy (from Latin luna) and batty (like the early 20th C. slang phrase “have bats in one’s belfry”).

            Thanks for policing my language. Not.

            • AndTheSlithyToves says:

              Actually, no, it wasn’t meant in any way to criticize. In fact, it has been many years since I’ve seen “moonbat” used, and I lol’ed. As I was about to post a jokey comeback, I thought I had better check out the meaning of the word, which totally surprised me. Hence my post.

              • oldoilfieldhand says:

                Poetic licensing granted to Moderators.
                Moderators gonna’ moderate…
                Please, all to be less thin-skinned and prone to escalate against perceived attacks, especially when dealing with language buffs whose innocence of purpose is overlooked/misconstrued in the desire for immediate retaliation.

            • Democritus says:

              See this is why even after my brief time here I determined, one does not fuck with fucking RAYNE.

              It’s good though, I hate when people try to do that or tone police. That’s when my whore biscuits start a flying. 😏

        • BobCon says:

          Deadspin has occasional posts where they compile a bunch of hate emails. The first one or two are funny, but then it gets queasy.

          Still, it would be interesting. Maybe post them as jpgs or rot13 so the text doesn’t go in the search engines and attract more.

          • Rayne says:

            We just had another hit the trash bin — a breathless, unbroken 657 words in which the word ‘Trump’ was used most often with another obvious collection of key words sprinkled throughout.

            They’re pretty predictable, though. I think maybe a contest to see if a community member could blindly write a comment matching statistics of a select whack job’s comment might be entertaining.

              • Rayne says:

                LOL I had to put that through analysis just for giggles. That much foam and froth looks so studied, like an often repeated manifesto.

  10. CD54 says:

    Really? So the CIA would ignore a useful idiot who was doing her “idioting” out in public and on the Kremlin’s propaganda network?

    • Rugger9 says:

      Since it was about leveraging just enough votes in just the right places, combined with JS’s refusal to be transparent about anything Russia, I consider this one of the unanswered questions that needs significant attention since Stein tried to get the Berniebro vote. I think the systematic voter suppression, Russian hacking and other GOP rat fornication did more damage, but this could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

      For a parallel, look at the election that (IIRC) put Cameron into #10 (it might have been May) in a real shocker at the time. However, much of it had to do with UKIP siphoning off just enough opposition votes in the constituencies so that the Tories won with pluralities. While UKIP didn’t win any seats, they did help the Tories win the election to combine with the DUP for a government.

      In the USA, look at ME where Governor LePage (the “human bowling jacket” according to Pierce) won 3-way races with 35% or so of the vote, twice.

      • viget says:

        Also, having Stein and Bernie still very much in the conversation could have allowed for vote manipulation in close swing precincts.

        Not saying this happened, but one could imagine a malicious actor swapping Hillary votes for Stein/Bernie votes, not necessarily giving them to Trump.

        Since you don’t have very good local level polling on 3rd party candidates, it would be impossible to spot.

  11. Stephen says:

    Actually Debs is a pretty good example – like DT, a candidate from outside the political establishment whose election would be disruptive and potentially disastrous (with apologies for Debs for forcing him into such company).

    Otherwise, the closest parallel I can think of to investigating a current office-holder (as opposed to a private citizen running for office) would be Henry Wallace, one of FDR’s less luminous Vice Presidents, suspected of Soviet/Russian sympathies.

  12. mospeck says:

    apologize..depressed, drinking and waiting for acting DNI.
    Only good news is that NFL and the enthusiastic rooks start tonight, and that Josh Gordon just reapplied for reinstatement to Fat Rojjah.
    Trump is looking for a replacement who melds with him personality-wise and can be a “credible interlocutor” ..said last week that he would make his pick “shortly” ..White House is going through a more deliberative and diligent process than it did with the Ratcliffe ..White House is still working to identify credible candidates as a wide-range of names continue to be floated. ..Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is heavily involved in the search and national security adviser John Bolton has also weighed in .. voiced support for his former chief of staff, Fred Fleitz..sources told CNN that he is unlikely to get the job due to concerns about his ability to be confirmed. ..multiple sources told CNN that Pete Hoekstra remains in the mix…Coats scheduled to step down on August 15..Sue Gordon, to lead ODNI ..unlikely Gordon will be picked to serve in the interim. ..viewed by some in the administration as someone who is not going to be the type of political loyalist Trump wants

    but then there’s always Elvis,
    Waiting for the End of the World

    • Democritus says:

      *Pulls up a stool, has a soda and lets you vent before telling you to keep your head up and heading out the door*

      We need to use our democratic tools, first amendment and such, to work to get this President out if office before he endangers more lives of those who serve and civilians alike.

      As Ben Franklin said, to paraphrase, we must hang together or we shall surely hang separately.

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