Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Politics of McCabe's Dismissal

On the firing of Andrew McCabe

The Deputy Director of the FBI, Andy McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday evening, 16 March, 26 hours before McCabe was due to retire with a full pension.  While the public has no way to judge whether the cause for dismissal stipulated by Sessions was justified, the timing of this decision and the broader context to it, suggest that even if McCabe was guilty of some misconduct, this whole episode reeks of the extreme Trumpian politicization of the institutions of justice in the USA. 

Sessions statement indicated:

After an extensive and fair investigation and according to Department of Justice procedure, the Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) provided its report on allegations of misconduct by Andrew McCabe to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).
The FBI’s OPR then reviewed the report and underlying documents and issued a disciplinary proposal recommending the dismissal of Mr. McCabe.  Both the OIG and FBI OPR reports concluded that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor—including under oath—on multiple occasions.

The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability.  As the OPR proposal stated, “all FBI employees know that lacking candor under oath results in dismissal and that our integrity is our brand.”
Pursuant to Department Order 1202, and based on the report of the Inspector General, the findings of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, and the recommendation of the Department’s senior career official, I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.

The public has no way to judge the validity or justice of this statement.  The reports on which the decision was taken are not public and won’t be for some time.  McCabe may well have committed misconduct deserving of dismissal. The FBI ostensibly takes telling the truth extremely seriously: “lack of candor” from employees is a fireable offense—and agents have been fired for it.  It also needs to be noted that career Justice Department and FBI officials – rather than political appointees selected by Trump – ran the investigation against McCabe.  The charges against McCabe arose out of the broader Justice Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation.  The current head of that office, Michael Horowitz, was an Obama appointee and is himself a former career Justice Department lawyer. As Jack Goldsmith has written, the inspector general has statutory independence, and Horowitz used that independence in his highly critical 2012 report into the Justice Department’s “Fast and Furious” program. So this investigation into McCabe should not be dismissed out of hand as politically motivated.  We should reserve judgment on that.  

A representative for McCabe stated that the deputy director learned of his firing from the press release, though the Justice Department disputes this. McCabe was dismissed for “lacking candor” when speaking to investigators on the matter of an “unauthorized disclosure to the news media.” McCabe denies these allegations. In his statement released to the media after his firing, McCabe wrote:

The investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) has to be understood in the context of the attacks on my credibility. The investigation flows from my attempt to explain the FBI's involvement and my supervision of investigations involving Hillary Clinton. I was being portrayed in the media over and over as a political partisan, accused of closing down investigations under political pressure. The FBI was portrayed as caving under that pressure, and making decisions for political rather than law enforcement purposes. Nothing was further from the truth. In fact, this entire investigation stems from my efforts, fully authorized under FBI rules, to set the record straight on behalf of the Bureau, and to make clear that we were continuing an investigation that people in DOJ opposed.

The OIG investigation has focused on information I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor. As Deputy Director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the Director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter. It was the type of exchange with the media that the Deputy Director oversees several times per week. In fact, it was the same type of work that I continued to do under Director Wray, at his request. The investigation subsequently focused on who I talked to, when I talked to them, and so forth. During these inquiries, I answered questions truthfully and as accurately as I could amidst the chaos that surrounded me. And when I thought my answers were misunderstood, I contacted investigators to correct them.

The report on the Clinton email investigation is to be released later this spring. Without seeing the report, it’s impossible to know whose story reflects the truth here.  But even if McCabe’s conduct was bad enough to warrant dismissal, the timing and the expedited nature of the process is rancid in its overt political overtones.

Michael Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general who is representing McCabe, described how the process against McCabe was uniquely prejudicial.  As he describes it:

The investigation described in the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report was cleaved off from the larger investigation of which it was a part, its completion expedited, and the disciplinary process completed in a little over a week. Mr. McCabe and his counsel were given limited access to a draft of the OIG report late last month, did not see the final report and the evidence on which it is based until a week ago, and were receiving relevant exculpatory evidence as recently as two days ago. We were given only four days to review a voluminous amount of relevant evidence, prepare a response, and make presentations to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General. With so much at stake, this process has fallen far short of what Mr. McCabe deserved.

Now Bromwich may well be exaggerating to a degree: lawyers do. But the haste with which the proceedings against McCabe were conducted do seem to fit with McCabe’s own perspective on the events provided in his statement after his firing:

The release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate former Director Comey's accounts of his discussions with the President. The OIG's focus on me and this report became a part of an unprecedented effort by the Administration, driven by the President himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn. The accelerated release of the report, and the punitive actions taken in response, make sense only when viewed through this lens.

Moreover, in an interview with the New York Times, McCabe said directly that his dismissal “is part of an effort to discredit me as a witness.”

The irregular timing also has to be seen in the broader context of McCabe being in Trump’s crosshairs since the firing of FBI director James Comey. Trump has publicly demanded his firing on multiple occasions, he developed a conspiracy theory about McCabe’s wife, whom he told McCabe was a “loser.”  He demanded to know whom McCabe had voted for.  According to James Comey’s testimony before the Senate intelligence committee, Trump attempted to use what he believed to be McCabe’s corruption as some kind of a bargaining chip against Comey, informing the director that he had not brought up “the McCabe thing” because Comey had told him that McCabe was honorable.  Trump has relentlessly attacked McCabe’s integrity and reputation as part of his attacks on the FBI and DOJ.  And to make matters worse, the firing occurred when Jeff Sessions’s own job is clearly on the line. Sessions may well be serving-up  McCabe in an effort to appease Trump.

Even if the case against McCabe justifies his dismissal, who is going to believe – in the face of overt presidential demands for a corrupt Justice Department – that a Justice Department that gives the president what he wants is anything less than the lackey he asks for?  Regardless if McCabe committed a fireable offense or this is a political attack on McCabe the politicization of law enforcement takes place regardless. It is the consequence of the relentless attempts to politicize the federal justice system that have been a hallmark of the Trump era.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Trump’s cabinet of sycophants

Trump is moving towards the administration cast he is comfortable with.  And that is a problem.

At the very beginning of the Trump administration I, and many others, expected there would be a ‘house cleaning purge’ of key government departments.  Although the early White House was home to some of the ideologues that had flocked to Trump during the campaign, the administration was actually divided into a number of often competing power centres.   
But in addition to the first year’s historic cabinet turnover, over the past couple of weeks, Trump has lost his economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who resigned over the imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs; he fired his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, over Twitter, essentially for occasionally speaking is actual mind; and he is reportedly planning on moving his national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, out of the White House and back into a military position as a four-star general.  McMaster – whose removal has been rumored for months – would be gone already, except the White House is apparently concerned about the optics of losing yet another cabinet member

Cohn has been replaced by Larry Kudlow, a cable news pundit; Tillerson by Mike Pompeo, the opportunist and extreme hawk CIA director. The leading candidates to replace McMaster are John Bolton, the GOP hawk who has publicly pushed the United States to make a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, and Fox & Friends co-host Pete Hegseth – although the latter is more likely to become secretary of veterans affairs. 

These changes suggest that Trump is now fully breaking free of the modest restraints that were erected around him early on in his presidency by GOP advisors to protect against his erratic instincts.  While scandal, chaos and incompetence have forced Trump to remake his cabinet, by now filling it with hawks and cable news pundits, he is turning it into a reflection of his own image.  

While fears of the inherent corruption of his own family members such as Kushner failed attempt to secure a loan from Qatar and subsequent Kushner green-lighting of the Saudi/UAE blockade of Qatar have been proved correct, the incomplete revelations of Russia investigation and scandal have caused the sideling of most of the familial wing of the White House.  Two White House aides who were close to the pair resigned. (Hicks and Kushner press aide Josh Raffel).  Kushner’s access to classified information has been curtailed.  Javanka” appears to be having fairly limited influence in Trump’s Washington.
The establishment GOP wing of the White House is also now basically defunct.  Far right ideologues like Steve Bannon and Seb Gorka are gone, but the extreme conservative views advocated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House senior adviser Stephen Miller — such as attempting to limit legal immigration — have become the policies of the administration. While Trump constantly complains about Sessions, arguing that the attorney general should not have recused himself in the Russia investigation, Sessions looks like he is staying, probably because Sessions acts on many of Trump’s other long-held views, including rolling back Obama-era measures to more closely scrutinize police departments and making enforcement of immigration laws a top priority of the Department of Justice. For all the drama about Sessions’ role, he is now leading the Trump administration in filing a lawsuit against California, the nation’s largest state, over immigration law.

And while the “economic nationalism” that was also central to Bannon’s ideology had been largely sidelined by Trump in his working with the GOP on lowering taxes, his decision to push forward tariffs on aluminum and steel imports, a policy backed by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, is a return to the position he and Bannon advocated as a candidate.
Meanwhile, social conservatives within the administration have either convinced Trump of their own agenda, Trump already agreed with it or they are just doing what they want while the president isn’t paying attention. DeVos, Pruitt and other agency leaders in the Trump administration are rolling back regulations at an aggressive pace with little interference from the White House. The administration has either tried to enact or actually adopted a number of limits to abortion, a priority of Vice President Mike Pence’s. In fact, it’s hard to think of many major decisions Trump has made that break with the ideology of his vice president.  It is for this reason, that no matter what he has said over the past weeks it seems very unlikely that Trump will move in any meaningful way towards gun control.

And now the so-called “adults in the room” Tillerson, McMaster, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have been removed or neutralized, and Chief of Staff Kelly has shown himself to be more Trumpian than many had anticipated.  All in all, Trump is moving towards creating the cabinet and White House that he wants: one that either shares key Trump views, channels the views of his socially conservative base, or won’t stand up to him in any meaningful way.  

Changes at the cabinet level mirror those that have been made in various key government departments.  On 15 March 2018, the ranking Democrats on the House of Representatives Government Reform Oversight committee and Committee on Foreign Affairs sent a letter to the Trump Administration demanding a response to the claims made by a whistleblower that systematic ‘cleansing’ of career staffers not thought ‘loyal’ enough to Trump.  The letter builds on reporting going back over a year of political interference in the staffing of non-political positions in various departments.  Taking political considerations into account in hiring, or in other personnel decisions, for career positions is illegal under US law.  This is a core principle that reinforces the independence and professionalism of career government employees found in all mature democracies.  But independence and professionalism are concepts not just lost on Trump the bullshit artist, but are completely at odds with his notion of the government as a private business run to his whim and direction.

There is no reason to think that such political interference has been limited to the State Department.  Not only did Trump and his advisors likely run afoul of US federal law in that chaotic period from the transition to the leaving of Reince Priebus, but the quality of the hacks, hangers-on, and supplicants involved suggests they weren’t even aware of the boundaries they were running up against – a combination of malfeasance and cluelessness that sets up perfectly for politically motivated decisions not just in the State Department but across the government. 

All this suggests that despite the normalization of the administrative chaos of Trumpocracy, there has been a slow but steady movement towards the kind of supporting cast of sycophants that Trump was used to in his business.  This is absolutely not a good development.  

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

George Nader's Cooperation Suggest a World of Trouble for Trump World

Why the George Nader story is potentially so significant

Over the past few days a number of details have emerged about the Mueller-led “Russia” investigation’s interest in the Trump campaign’s dealings in the middle-east, most particularly with the United Arab Emirates.  What does the UAE have to do with the Russia investigation?  Potentially quite a bit.  The direct tie is due to one George Nader, a Lebanese-American member of the Trump circus who seems to have been a quite active arranger for Trump and his family, particularly, Jared Kushner.  

According to New York Times reporting, Nader was returning to the US on 17 January, 2018, when he was met by FBI agents at Dulles airport with search warrants and a subpoena.  Nader was in transit to Florida for the celebration of Trump’s first year in office at Mar-a-Largo.  But he was stopped by the FBI, who confiscated all his electronics, questioned him at length and almost immediately turned him into a cooperating witness for the Mueller investigation.  He’s already made at least one appearance before Mueller’s grand jury.

The fact that the FBI apparently presented him with evidence against him serious enough to compel immediate cooperation suggests that Mueller’s team were not merely looking for further leads in their investigation.  Why might he be important enough to warrant such attention?   As both the Times and CNN have explained, Nader was a participant and perhaps even the convener of the Trump Transition team’s meeting in the Seychelles which brought together a representative of President Trump (Erik Prince) with representatives of both Russian President Putin and the government of the United Arab Emirates.  He continued to have on-going contact with the Trump White House.  Most importantly appears to have been an interlocutor with Jared Kushner in Kushner’s dealings with Gulf states, which connect up with Kushner family’s failed attempt to secure a loan from Qatar and subsequent Kushner green-lighting of the Saudi/UAE blockade of Qatar.  While the other Gulf states had their own clear motives for punishing Qatar, the fact the Kushner backed Qatar’s diplomatic isolation after failing to get money from its sovereign investment fund to bail-out his own family’s real estate debts, suggests a level of potential criminal corruption within the White House that is clearly legally actionable.  And Nader may well be a key witness in this particular focus of the investigation.  Mueller’s investigators are also reportedly examining whether Nader helped facilitate illegal transfers of foreign funds to the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

The Nader story suggests that:

1. all those observers who have been saying that Mueller appears to be mainly pursuing an obstruction investigation against Trump rather than a collusion (or more accurately, a conspiracy against the United States) investigation are wrong.  Mueller seems to be pursuing very serious investigations into alleged crimes which have nothing to do with obstruction of justice on the part the President.  He is likely to be pursuing the obstruction angle as well, but those expressed fears/hopes that there was evidence of a pattern of obstruction but no evidence of the crimes that the obstruction was meant to hide, seem to me to be wrong.  Mueller is investigating both serious crimes and the subsequent conspiracy to hide them. 

2.  there are clearly sovereign actors involved in addition to Russia.  The UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey may all be involved, if not as primary actors than as targets or collateral damage – Qatar for instance, which Kushner tried to shakedown for a half billion or more to save his family business and the subsequent blockade by the rest of the Gulf states.  And Michael Flynn’s story is as tied to Turkey as it is Russia.  Thereare indications here that the Trump administrations actions in the Middle East,which we’ve known to involve Kushner’s money begging, are connected with Russia’s efforts to cultivate the Trump syndicate as well as interfere in the 2016 election.  Personally, I’ve been very skeptical of the maximal interpretations of the Qatar story which connects Kushner’s money troubles with Russia and the Steele Dossier.  But maybe there is something there: Mueller’s recent tack in the investigation suggests there might be.  

3.  Jared Kushner’s finances and activities are as much a part of this as Donald Trump’s and may go places even Trump did not.  Losing his security clearance might be the least of Kushner’s worries.

Friday, 16 February 2018

A thought about Mueller's Indictment of Russian interference in the American Election

The depth of detail in the indictment filed today by Mueller's Russian investigation team is quite amazing and should put to rest all but the most deluded conspiracy theorists about Russia's active interference campaign.  Its important to note that this indictment makes no claims about the impact of the campaign nor does it identify Americans as willing co-conspirators.  But the sheer amount of detail, and the fact that it is unlikely that the much of the evidence collected by Mueller's team is in this charge document, should make Trump and his gang even more nervous.  Because although this document might show "no collusion" there are plenty of indications within the indictment that the other shoe might well be dropping down the road.  As there is little chance that any of the named conspirators in the indictment will ever face US justice, this is a 'speaking indictment': it sets out a narrative of events onto which later pieces of the investigation will be mapped.  It provides a base to which other bad actors can be connected.

But clearly details are included or not included in this indictment for reasons we cannot know.  For instance, take a look at Item 81 in the indictment  (see below).  This item is part of a detailed chronology of events, and yet it doesn't quite fit.

Page 29
[The passage was highlighted and annotated by Josh Marshall in his column on Talking Points Memo].

What is described here is the updating of a list of US residents with who the defendants have been in contact and are working with Russian operatives (knowingly or not).  The inference is clear that it was created at some point in the past, and likely updated many times, possibly after this date.  But why is this update included in this very precise indictment?  Why is this important enough to be noted?

What else was happening in the Trump campaign around 24 August 2016?  Well a week before, Trump named Steve Bannon campaign CEO and Kellyanne Conway campaign manager. Bannon and Conway are close allies of Robert Mercer and Rebekah Mercer, who encouraged the use of the company Cambridge Analytica to micro-target political data on social media.  Also on 17 August, Trump received his first classified national security briefing from the US intelligence community.  The same day, Roger Stone famously tweeted: “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary.” Then on Aug. 21 Guccifer 2.0 posted hacked DCCC documents on Pennsylvania’s congressional primaries.  The next day Guccifer 2.0 uploaded almost 2.5 gigabytes of stolen documents — including the Democratic Party’s get-out-the-vote strategy for Florida.  In an interview with Breitbart Radio on 26 Aug. Roger Stone said “I’m almost confident Mr. Assange has virtually every one of the emails that the Clinton henchwomen, Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills, thought that they had deleted, and I suspect that he’s going to drop them at strategic times in the run-up to the rest of this race.” On 31 Aug. Guccifer 2.0 posted documents hacked from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s personal computer.    

So no obvious, direct, connections but a critical and busy point in the campaign, with some suggestive possible connections. I don't think the inclusion of this notice of an update of a list of Americans contacted to assist the Russian campaign in the indictment is of no consequence.  The Mueller investigators know a lot more than they are currently saying.  I expect that some of the people on that list will be important when Mueller's other shoe drops in the months to come.


Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Learning from the Brexit and Trump Campaigns: Comparing British and American attempts to fight 'Fake News'

On the British hearings in Washington about Social Media's role in spreading political misinformation

It didn’t get much mainstream press in North America, but last week 11 British MPs held hearings in Washington investigating US technology companies and their responsibility for monitoring and/or preventing malicious "news" content on their platforms.  This hearing was the first ever select committee session to be live-streamed from abroad.  Why the committee chose to hold its hearings in the US is unclear, but it may be a sign of both how seriously the UK is taking this issue and of how important it is that the inquiry be highly visible on both sides of the Atlantic.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Trumpian Assault on American Justice

The Dangers of the Current Moment

While Trump gave his first State of the Union in a fashion clearly meant to be conventionally “presidential”, developments in the ongoing attack on the credibility of the FBI and the Mueller investigation by the White House and its and GOP enablers have moved in a very dangerous direction.  Last year right after FBI director Comey was fired, lots of commentators worried aloud about the slide towards autocratic rule that further meddling in the independence of the career officials at the Department of Justice would entail. After all, it was a major campaign pledge of Trump: wielding the Justice Department’s immense power as a political weapon. 

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

On the history of the Steele Dossier... you know the Trump "pee pee" document

What’s known about the provenance of the infamous Steele memo on Trump-Russia collusion.

Recent revelations in the Washington Post about the funding of the opposition research memo prepared by British ex-Spy, Christopher Steele, has caused a storm of controversy (at least among conservatives in the US), with pundits on the political right suggesting this funding history indicates the dossier is a partisan ‘hack’ job, and that Hillary Clinton should actually be investigated for collusion with Russians.

The following is a timeline of what has been made public about the origins and funding of the Steele dossier, compiled from Washington Post, the New York Times, publicly accessible court documents and reporting in Talking Points Memo, Mother Jones and other reputable media outlets.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Trump again uses his thumbs to distract, again

The current furor over Trump's comments about the NFL is leading to some much needed discussion about race issues on mainstream venues -- which is important. 


While Trump stirs up another high profile culture conflict that sucks-up all the media oxygen:

I haven't seen the analytics yet, but I'm willing to bet the NFL/anthem tweets and subsequent story dominates almost mainstream media at the moment.  Dangerously, Trump may not know much about anything, but he is very effective at disguising that fact and distracting everyone from pressing issues at any given time.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Pardoning the unpardonable

While much of North America is worried about the impending landfall of a potentially catastrophic hurricane in Texas, the US president has quietly pardoned the Arizona Sheriff recently convicted of racial profiling and refusing to obey a federal court’s injunction against continuing such practices.  Trump’s pardoning of Joe Arpaio may seem like a rather minor issue compared to the litany of major issues that have bedeviled this president, or indeed the impending disaster facing South East Texas.  I don’t want to diminish those other issues, but I want to highlight why this pardon is also a very big deal.  

Trump has recently mused publicly about the extent of his pardon powers.  And the Arpaio pardon his may well be the trial run of a string of pre-emptive pardons.  But even if it isn’t, the suggestion that Arpaio merited a pardon, as he hinted at his Phoenix political rally with the phrase that Arpaio had been “convicted for doing his job” is indicative of the contempt Trump holds for the rule of law and to his willingness to use the Presidency’s judicial privileges for crass political gain.

Normally, a president considering a pardon solicits and make publicly available the recommendation of the Department of Justice.  However, in this case that is unlikely to have happened since it was Trump’s own Department of Justice that secured the very conviction for criminal contempt that is the subject of the pardon.  A president can ignore a DOJ recommendation, but the DOJ’s participation is one check on the abuse of this extraordinary power in the hands of a president.  And even Attorney General Sessions was hardly likely to recommend a pardon for a law enforcement officer convicted of willfully and openly flouting a federal court order, prosecuted by his own department.

Moreover, this case is still active with Arpaio’s lawyers preparing an appeal of a decision that was only issued this past July.  Normally (and this pardon just goes to underline how far from ‘normal’ the US has travelled in the past 7 months), this would be a strong reason for a pardon to be thought entirely premature: the president is literally intervening in the middle of an ongoing legal proceeding.  Thus the pardon circumvents normal judicial process and has the appearance of being (and substantively is) a direct interference in the regular administration of justice.  Trump has already shown himself to have difficulty grasping and respecting the independent and impartial operation of federal law enforcement.  With this act, Trump has dramatically escalated the assault on these limits.

Trump is pardoning a political ally who quite deliberately flouted the law and did so as a law enforcement officer.  It places Trump, again, on the side of bigotry and racism. Trump has already made political spectacle of Arpaio in order to placate some of his restive critics: at his Phoenix political rally he asked, “Do people in this room like Sheriff Joe,” showing explicitly the very defined political audience for the pardon.  Perhaps Trump thought that pardoning Arpaio would bring political gain without cost.  It is true that this pardon cannot be stopped and will please the Trumpite base.  But it will also not escape the attention of Mueller and his team as they investigate obstruction of justice and evaluate evidence bearing on Trump’s motives and lack of respect for law.  

Unlike a pardon of himself, family members, or aides in the Russian investigation, pardoning Arpaio will probably not result in a demand for an impeachment inquiry.  But as impeachment pressure increases in the future (as they will), the Arpaio pardon in the background will be highly damaging to the Trump’s position.  Ultimately, it will strengthen the arguments of those who have long claimed Trump does not have the requisite respect for the rule of law, or an understanding of the meaning of his constitutional oath, to remain the president.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Who now is the hand of the king?

The infighting within Trump’s White House reached a crescendo this week, with the addition to the menagerie of mini-me-Trump Anthony Scaramucci and the subsequent and connected ousting of the buffoonish Sean Spicer and stalwart Republican insider Reince Priebus. 

Friday, 21 July 2017

The new Trump offensive

I think we should expect a ramping-up of accusations against Trump’s critics in the coming days.

Trump’s interview with the New York Times on Wednesday 19 July, and the subsequent reporting in the Washington Post on Trump’s querying of the extent of his own powers of pardon signal, I suspect, the start of new offensive on the part of the Trump White House against those tasked with both usual legal oversight of the US government and the extra-ordinary Russia investigation.