Trump refuses to answer whether or not he's a Russian agent — now what?
The lede in Peter Baker's story in the Sunday New York Times was one I don't think anyone ever expected to see:
So it has come to this: The president of the United States was asked over the weekend whether he is a Russian agent. And he refused to answer.
That comment specifically refers to a question posed to the president by Fox News' Jeanine Pirro in reference to the big Times story on Friday reporting that in the wake of the firing of James Comey in May 2017, and Trump's suspicious behavior surrounding that event, the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into the president himself. We don't know whether that probe is still active, but one can safely assume that it was folded into special counsel Robert Mueller's portfolio along with a number of other investigations that had been opened into Russian spying, sabotage and cyber-propaganda over the course of the presidential campaign.
Salon's Andrew O'Hehir took a deep dive into the details and political implications on Saturday, particularly noting the fact that while many of us have concluded that there was plenty of evidence Trump was compromised and this was just the last straw, the right just sees this as more evidence of a "Deep State coup." Any hopes that there will soon be a bipartisan consensus on this is as remote as ever.
But that wasn't the only Russia story that hit this weekend. The Washington Post reported that Trump's infamous private meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the past two years are even more suspicious that we were led to believe. This seems to have especially alarmed some of the people who know about such things:
Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their country https://t.co/CHkIZnocW6— David Laufman (@David Laufman)1547343546.0
The Atlantic's Natasha Bertrand pointed out that Laufman is the former chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division at the Department of Justice. He oversaw parts of the Russia investigation before leaving DOJ last year.
We knew, of course, that Trump had gone to some lengths to speak privately with Putin, but the new reporting shows that he's gone to greater lengths than we knew to hide the details, going so far as confiscating the notes from at least one of his interpreters at the 2017 G20 summit and giving instructions not to discuss the meeting with members of his administration. (Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did attend that meeting .) You'll recall that Trump was also later revealed to have had a long private conversation with Putin at the official G20 banquet.