A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters' faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, after the election.
The Justice Department official who is leading the government's investigation into potential collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and the Russian government will step down next month.Mary McCord, who has served as acting assistant attorney general for national security since October, informed DOJ employees this week that she will be leaving in mid-May, a spokesman confirmed to POLITICO.DOJ's National Security Division is leading the agency's inquiry into possible links between Trump campaign aides and Moscow, as well as the Kremlin's alleged digital meddling campaign during the 2016 presidential race.
This does not mean that the investigation is over, but Rachel spoke about this last night with Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesperson, who raised
an under-appreciated point.McCord, who's now stepping down for reasons that haven't been publicly disclosed, is a career Justice Department official, not a political appointee, who's had a hands-on, day-to-day oversight role in the counter-intelligence investigation. Once she steps down, it's possible, if not likely, that the DOJ will replace her with a political appointee, chosen by Team Trump, at least temporarily.You see the problem: Team Trump is the subject of the investigation Mary McCord has helped lead. Indeed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who's been accused of lying under oath about his own communications with Russian officials, has recused himself from the investigation, but it may soon fall to him to choose McCord's acting successor.It's why Matthew Miller said
on the show last night, "I think it would be hugely troubling if [the Trump administration] put a political appointee, who had not been nominated, not been confirmed by the Senate into this job to investigate the president.... Eventually, I think it has to be a special counsel, but short of that, it has to be an acting career person until someone can be confirmed by the Senate."Watch this space.