Thumb on scale, continued: FBI stays mum about its Trump-Russia probes

    The Grand Kremlin Palace and the Kremlin embankment are shown in September in Moscow. (sikaraha/<a href=''>Big Stock Photo</a>)

    The Grand Kremlin Palace and the Kremlin embankment are shown in September in Moscow. (sikaraha/Big Stock Photo)

    FBI chief James Comey has wielded a bullhorn to blare the news (or non-news) about Anthony Weiner’s laptop – an announcement that has had the desired effect of pleasing Republicans and tightening the polls. But for some reason (gee, take a guess!), he and his agency refuse to officially discuss whether, or to what extent, they’re probing links between Trump and Russia.

    That’s how the double standard works, folks. If there’s a new innuendo about Hillary Clinton, go public with it 11 days before an election. But if there are serious allegations that Donald Trump is a tool of, in cahoots with, or financially beholden to, one of America’s top adversaries … well, in that case, he deserves all the innocent-until-proven-guilty perks that come with investigatory silence.

    On Trump and Russia, here’s what we’ve learned in the last day alone:

    1. Washington journalist David Corn, a scoop machine best known for breaking the news about Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” remarks, has posted a new story that speaks for itself: “A former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence [tells Corn] that in recent months he provided the [FBI] with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump.”

    Corn has read these memos. The first one says: “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by Putin, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” The intelligence officer told Corn that the Kremlin has long been feeding intelligence to Trump’s inner circle; in the officer’s words, “an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin for mutual benefit … an extraordinary situation.”

    So. Is the FBI willing to discuss whether it’s looking into any of this? Like the way they went public with vague insinuations about the perv’s laptop? Heavens no, the FBI certainly wouldn’t want to cast aspersions on the Republican candidate. An FBI spokeswoman told Corn: “Normally, we don’t talk about whether we are investigating anything.” (I love “normally.”)

    2. Early this morning, four NBC reporters (the lead reporter is a respected former colleague of mine) broke the news that the FBI is quietly probing ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s financial ties to Russia. That evidence has been around for awhile — Manafort reportedly earned $12 million working for Putin’s Ukraine puppet, Viktor Yanukovych; he’s had serious business dealings with Putin oligrachs, one of whom has been linked to organized crime — and Manafort, as campaign chief last summer, was believed to have been instrumental in softening the GOP platform’s stance on Russia.

    The NBC story quotes David Kramer, a former senior State Department official under George W. Bush: “The relationships that Trump’s advisors have had with pro-Russian forces are deeply disturbing. Trump’s attitude on Russia is not in line with most Republican foreign-policy thinking. Trump has staked out views that are really on the fringe.”

    But has Comey blared anything publicly about this probe, in the spirit of pre-election “transparency” (his word, justifying the Clinton announcement)? Nope. No way he wanted to put a cloud over Trump this close to election day. NBC broke its story based on leaks from “law enforcement and intelligence sources.” Officially, “the FBI did not comment.”

    3. Late yesterday afternoon, the website Slate posted a lengthy story about computer scientists who have found something suspicious — “a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.” That’s a Russian bank headquartered in Moscow. And in September, when The New York Times started to sniff around the story and spoke with Alfa, the Trump Organization promptly shut down the server. The Slate story cautions, “We don’t yet know what this [Trump] server was for, but it deserves further explanation.”

    So is the FBI is looking into any of this? Not a word. Traditional reticence reigns — but only with respect to Trump. He has publicly encouraged the Russians to hack us, and has publicly called for the weakening of our NATO treaty obligations (aligning himself with Putin’s fondest wishes). Those moves alone, coupled with the credible allegations of ties to Russia, would appear to the average rational mind to be as dangerous to our national security as the emails in the Weiner household.

    But ah yes, the double standard.

    Just yesterday — story number 4! — CNBC reported that federal intelligence officials reached a very worrying conclusion back on Oct. 7. They signed off on this statement: “The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations …. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

    In other words, pro-Trump interference.

    But take a guess who refused to sign on to the statement. James Comey, of course.

    An intelligence source told CNBC that the FBI chief agreed with the statement, “but was against putting it out before the election.”

    Try not to retch.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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