Minutes ago, FBI Director James Comey made this announcement:
I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counter-intelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counter-intelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed. Because it is an open, ongoing, investigation, and is classified, I cannot say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining.
FBI Dir. Comey: FBI is investigating Russian meddling in election, including “whether there was any coordination” between Trump team, Russia pic.twitter.com/pf8xZyXQYD— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 20, 2017
This is good news on at least three counts. First, by making this announcement, the FBI has ended months of sometimes-irresponsible speculation about its activities. Second, the FBI is informing America that it is doing its job. Of course we should want the FBI to comprehensively investigate a foreign power’s efforts to interfere with an American presidential election. Of course that would include following the evidence wherever it leads, including (if applicable) to one or both of the rival campaigns. Third, since the Trump administration’s DOJ authorized this announcement, it is a sign to all Americans that its system is still working as intended. This announcement is not helpful to the administration, but the DOJ authorized it anyway.
None of this means the election outcome is illegitimate. None of this means that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign broke the law. None of this means that illegal leaks are somehow proper simply because an investigation exists. At all times the Constitution protects the rights of each investigated American. It could very well be that a thorough investigation exonerates the Trump campaign. We simply don’t know yet.
Comey also said he had “no information” to support Trump’s “wiretapping” tweets, and that same assertion applied to the DOJ and all its components. As Comey noted, the president simply doesn’t have the legal authority to order a wiretap on an American citizen.
Bipartisan congressional investigation of all aspects of the Russian intervention in our election is still important, but public trust in Congress is low. Adding a comprehensive FBI investigation to the mix increases the chances that Americans will not only learn the full extent of Russian efforts to undermine our democracy but to do so in a manner that bolsters public confidence in those findings. Comey and the DOJ made the right call. America needed to know that federal law enforcement is on the case.