Press Corps Goes Crazy For Russia Today

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Harry Reid may be a loose cannon, but never say he can’t spur people to action. In 2012 he blandly declared that a friend of his told him that Mitt Romney had paid no income tax for ten years. Reid’s friend may or may not have been imaginary, but a few weeks later Romney released his 2011 tax return along with topline information for the previous two decades.

Yesterday Reid followed up this triumph by writing a letter to FBI director James Comey accusing him of withholding “explosive” information about close ties between Donald Trump and the Russian government. Is this true? Who knows? But Reid sure has sparked a firestorm of activity:

  • CNBC reports that Comey opposed having the FBI’s name on a report accusing Russia of interfering with US elections. “He believed it to be true, but was against putting it out before the election,” said CNBC’s source. That’s odd in light of the fact that Comey released much more damaging information about Hillary Clinton a mere 11 days before the election.
     
  • Our own David Corn reports that a “former senior intelligence officer for a Western country” says that he informed the FBI in July that the Russian regime has been cultivating Donald Trump for five years. “Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance,” the former spy said in a memo. He claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him”:
     

    The former intelligence officer says the response from the FBI was “shock and horror.” The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates. Yet in August, they say, the FBI asked him for all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos—some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. “It’s quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on,” he says.

  • NBC News reports that the FBI is conducting a preliminary inquiry into the “foreign business connections” of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager.
     
  • Frank Foer reports on the very peculiar transmissions between a Trump computer and a computer owned by Alfa Bank—a Russian bank run by oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin. The transmissions began early this year, peaked in early August, and then abruptly ceased a few weeks ago when a New York Times reporter began inquiring about them.

So that’s the Russia news of the day. Is it newsworthy, or just a bunch of ungrounded speculation? Nobody knows! And we probably won’t find out before Election Day. It’s all going to hang like a dark cloud over the final week of the campaign, ominous but ultimately unknowable. Exciting, isn’t it?

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THIS IS BIG FOR US.

And we won't beat around the bush: Our fundraising drive to finish our current budget on June 30 and start our new fiscal year on July 1 is lagging behind where we need it to be.

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If you're new to Mother Jones or aren't yet sold on supporting our nonprofit reporting, please take a moment to read Monika Bauerlein's post about our priorities after these chaotic several years, and why this relatively quiet moment is also an urgent one for our democracy and Mother Jones’ bottom line—and if you find it compelling, please join us.

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