According to reports last weekend, the FBI first began to suspect Trump was working for Russia when he fired FBI Director James Comey in May of 2017. “Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security,” The New York Times reported. “Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”
Let’s stop right there and have a look at the operative words in the Times report, “working for Russia.” People who have been following the Trump-Russia story, now more than two years old, have considered a lot of possibilities with Trump and Russia, but it seems from the reaction the Times story produced, whether Trump was actually “working for Russia” hasn’t been one of them for many. The subject of this particular corner of the FBI investigation raises a couple of interesting questions. What did the “work” Trump may have been doing for Russia consist of? Why would an independently wealthy businessman like Trump “work” for a country which has opposed us around the world for so long?
From Trump’s reaction to the Times report over the weekend, he appeared to have been unaware that the FBI was exploring the question of whether he worked for Russia. But if you look back at what we might call Trump’s “Russia denials,” especially those he made during the campaign — which were often spontaneous and unprompted by allegations by Democrats or questions from the press — it seems that at least working with Russia was constantly on his mind.
As early as July 26, 2016, during his campaign for president, Trump woke up and tweeted, “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.” He wasn’t even the Republican nominee yet.
In the third debate on October 20, when Trump said Putin had “no respect” for her or President Obama, Clinton shot back, “Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.” Trump seemed threatened by the charge. “No puppet. No puppet,” he cried defensively. “You’re the puppet! No, you’re the puppet!”