In late October 2016, about a week before Election Day, Kellyanne Conway thought she'd come up with a line that would help Donald Trump's candidacy. Targeting Hillary Clinton, Conway told Fox News, "If you're under your second FBI investigation in the same year, then you do have a ... corruption and an ethics problem."
In hindsight, that might not have been the ideal standard for Conway to have set.
Throughout much of his presidency, Trump has repeatedly responded to the Russia scandal with the same four-word phrase: "I'm not under investigation." We've known for quite a while that the assertion was wrong: Trump is the subject of an ongoing counter-espionage probe, which has explored, among other things, whether the president obstructed justice.
What we didn't know until Friday night, however, was that the FBI had another line of inquiry that pre-dated Special Counsel Robert Mueller's efforts.
In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president's behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.
The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president's own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow's influence.
According to the Times' reporting, which hasn't been independently confirmed by MSNBC or NBC News, officials at the bureau had long been concerned about Trump's Russian ties, but it was the circumstances surrounding Comey's ouster -- which the president admitted to NBC News' Lester Holt was related to Trump's concerns about the Russia investigation -- that "helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry."
The historic nature of this is quite breathtaking. Throughout much of the Cold War, the FBI launched plenty of investigations into Americans thought to be possibly working on behalf of a foreign adversary.
None of them was a sitting president of the United States.
For those inclined to support Trump and give him the benefit of the doubt, I suppose the obvious response to revelations like these is to argue that the president only appeared to be a Russian asset when the FBI opened its inquiry. That's not, however, the White House's argument.