If you were wondering on the time frame of why Devin Nunes went to the press yesterday afternoon in a brazen attempt to wreck the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign, wonder no more. Late last night CNN dropped a blockbuster on the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia: leaks indicate that Trump campaign officials may have been involved with -- you guessed it -- the Russian leaks of DNC emails to hurt Hillary.
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, US officials told CNN.
This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, according to one source.
The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.
It's what many of us suspected all along, but finding proof of it remains the key and always has. Again, the Trump regime has been busy attacking the investigation for a couple weeks now, implying that there's a massive Scary Black Guy conspiracy to wiretap Trump, and it especially serves to explain the sudden Nunes press conference that came out ahead of this story. My guess is that CNN called and asked for a comment earlier Wednesday morning or late Tuesday, the White House refused, and then Nunes was dispatched yesterday afternoon.
One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready." But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it's premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it's largely circumstantial.
The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place, but the information suggesting collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, the officials said.
The FBI has already been investigating four former Trump campaign associates -- Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page -- for contacts with Russians known to US intelligence. All four have denied improper contacts and CNN has not confirmed any of them are the subjects of the information the FBI is reviewing.
One of the obstacles the sources say the FBI now faces in finding conclusive intelligence is that communications between Trump's associates and Russians have ceased in recent months given the public focus on Russia's alleged ties to the Trump campaign. Some Russian officials have also changed their methods of communications, making monitoring more difficult, the officials said.
Last July, Russian intelligence agencies began orchestrating the release of hacked emails stolen in a breach of the Democratic National Committee and associated organizations, as well as email accounts belonging to Clinton campaign officials, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.
The Russian operation was also in part focused on the publication of so-called "fake news" stories aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton's campaign. But FBI investigators say they are less focused on the coordination and publication of those "fake news" stories, in part because those publications are generally protected free speech.
The release of the stolen emails, meanwhile, transformed an ordinary cyber-intrusion investigation into a much bigger case handled by the FBI's counterintelligence division.
Again, "largely circumstantial" evidence won't finish off Trump, and other journalists and outlets have implied the connection before. But now we know what the stakes are being played for, and that the FBI is now suggesting that the DNC leaks are connected to the Trump investigation. If there's proof, if somebody rolls over and talks on this, Trump goes down in flames.
We'll see what becomes of this, but again, this is the story of the century if it pans out.
Or hey, if it doesn't, that could still very well be true.