Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump poses for a photo after an interview with Reuters in his office in Trump Tower, in the Manhattan borough of New York, N.Y., May 17, 2016.
Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

New details from investigation cast cloud over Trump inauguration

Updated
The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/19/17, 9:58 PM ET

NYT: Intercepts part of Trump-Russia investigation

Rachel Maddow relays breaking news from the New York Times that U.S. intelligence investigators are looking at intercepted communications and financial transactions between Russia and members of the Donald Trump campaign.
It’s safe to assume that Donald Trump and his team aren’t pleased that this is on the front page of the New York Times the morning of Inauguration Day.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.

The continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him.
U.S. intelligence agencies have already concluded that Russian agents, by way of an illegal espionage operation, intervened in the American presidential election, in part to help put Trump in the White House. We don’t yet know whether, or to what extent, the intercepted communications relate to the previous findings.

According to the Times’ reporting, however, the counterintelligence investigation is focused on contacts between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign team, including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and longtime Republican operative Roger Stone.

The inclusion of Page is of particular interest. Just last week, incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters, “Carter Page is an individual whom the president-elect does not know.” According to Trump, that wasn’t true: last year, during an interview with the Washington Post, Trump singled out Page as one of only a handful of people who were advising him on matters of foreign policy.

TPM’s Josh Marshall summarized the landscape nicely: “Just to state this clearly, that means that on the eve of Trump’s inauguration, the nation’s top law enforcement and intelligence agencies are pursuing a counter-intelligence probe of contacts and payments between key members of his campaign and Russia. We have not been here before.”

Several members of Team Trump, including the president-elect himself, have said there were no contacts between the campaign and Russia before Election Day. We don’t yet know whether those claims were true.

As for the timing of this news, that’s nearly as interesting as the reporting itself.

The Times’ report added, “As president, Mr. Trump will oversee those agencies and have the authority to redirect or stop at least some of these efforts…. Of the half-dozen current and former officials who confirmed the existence of the investigations, some said they were providing information because they feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts.”

In other words, officials working on this counterintelligence investigation realize that, by this afternoon, Donald Trump will have the authority to shut down their probe. Those intelligence professionals pursuing this controversy will be his employees, and he’ll have the power to order them to drop the matter.

That would be an extraordinary move, to be sure, and it would no doubt lead to a series of resignations, but the incoming president could, in theory, do it anyway.

And so, counterintelligence officials apparently want the public to know this is happening, in case the new White House decides to stop it from happening.

We’re in uncharted waters.


Donald Trump, Russia and Scandals

New details from investigation cast cloud over Trump inauguration

Updated