One of the more important pieces of the puzzle surrounding the Trump-Russia scandal is the dossier put together by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence operative, and despite Republican efforts to discredit the document, it's stood up pretty well to scrutiny.
Given that the dossier, put together during the 2016 election, points to connections between Donald Trump and Russia, it's not good news for the White House that the document hasn't been discredited. This also helps explain why the president continues to attack it, as he did again this morning.
"Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?"
For now, let's look past the fact that Trump really ought to avoid admonishing those who take advantage of their 5th Amendment protections -- especially since some people close to him may soon be doing the same thing.
Let's instead focus on the precise nature of the president's new allegation. According to what Trump published this morning for all the world to see, he thinks it's possible that the Federal Bureau of Investigation cooperated with a foreign adversary, in secret, in order to undermine him. Indeed, Trump explicitly raised the possibility of the FBI "paying for" the dossier in question.
That's a rather serious allegation for a sitting president to just casually throw around on Twitter -- without proof -- against the nation's top law enforcement agency. And yet, Trump it did anyway.
It's worth remembering that the Republican president has not exactly endeared himself to those who work at FBI headquarters. Remember this Washington Post report from May?
Within the Justice Department and the FBI, the firing of Comey has left raw anger, and some fear, according to multiple officials. Thomas O'Connor, the president of the FBI Agents Association, called Comey's firing "a gut punch. We didn't see it coming, and we don't think Director Comey did anything that would lead to this."Many employees said they were furious about the firing, saying the circumstances of his dismissal did more damage to the FBI's independence than anything Comey did in his three-plus years in the job.One intelligence official who works on Russian espionage matters said they were more determined than ever to pursue such cases. Another said Comey's firing and the subsequent comments from the White House are attacks that won't soon be forgotten. Trump had "essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI," one official said. "I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind."
A day after that article was published, Trump was scheduled to visit the FBI's offices, but the White House abandoned the plan. One FBI employee told NBC News at the time, "Trump would not be well-received at headquarters."
Five months later, the president apparently isn't done taking steps designed to antagonize the bureau. If there's wisdom behind such a strategy, it's hiding well.