Both candidates in the 2016 election were warned.
A new report from NBC News reveals that in the weeks following his nomination, Donald Trump was warned about Russia and other foreign governments might try to weasel into the inner workings of his campaign.
The warning came in the form of a high-level counterintelligence briefing by senior FBI officials, the officials said. A similar briefing was given to Hillary Clinton, they added. They said the briefings, which are commonly provided to presidential nominees, were designed to educate the candidates and their top aides about potential threats from foreign spies.
The candidates were urged to alert the FBI about any suspicious overtures to their campaigns, the officials said.
There. I got it out of the way of those loyalists that might feel compelled barf out the rote response of the Trump camp, given his recent, heated attacks on the dignity of the U.S. intelligence community, with a particular focus on the FBI.
Timed to coincide with the period where the two nominees would begin receiving classified information, counterintelligence specialists with the FBI led the sessions, where they informed the candidates that their new status would put a target on their backs for potential activity from foreign spies.
Trump was “briefed and warned” at the session about potential espionage threats from Russia, two former law enforcement officials familiar with the sessions told NBC News. A source close to the White House said their position is that Trump was unaware of the contacts between his campaign and Russians.
And of course, the White House has taken a defensive stance.
“That the Republican and Democrat nominee for president received a standardized briefing on counterintelligence is hardly a news story,” said Raj Shah, a White House spokesman. “That NBC News hears about the contents of this classified conversation due to an inappropriate leak is a news story.”
It’s unclear whether the warning about Russia was passed on to other campaign officials.
Ok. Bow up about that, Shah, but what we now know is that Trump was warned that Russia could be a problem.
His response was to invite Russia to find Hillary’s lost emails and to act like a 14-year old girl with a crush over Vladimir Putin.
But it may have been too late.
By the time of the warning in late July or August, at least seven Trump campaign officials had been in contact with Russians or people linked to Russia, according to public reports. There is no public evidence that the campaign reported any of that to the FBI.
And by September, Donald Trump Jr. was exchanging tweets with WikiLeaks, believed to be an agent of the Kremlin.
There were others. It wasn’t just Trump Jr.
Jeff Sessions had a meeting with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in his office, while still just a senator. Probably not a big deal, but made to appear suspicious, given that he failed to report it in his confirmation hearing.
Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and George Papadopoulos have all been implicated in wrongdoing.
Frank Figliuzzi, a former head of FBI counterintelligence and an NBC News analyst, said counterintelligence briefings “provide an opportunity for investigative subjects to be transparent with the bureau and to come back if such contacts are occurring because of admonishments by the bureau.”
If they fail to do that, he said, “a couple of factors could be at play: They didn’t spread the message to the rest of the team or there is some form of guilty conscience that prohibits them.”
Still, none of this implicates Trump, himself, in any wrongdoing.
What it does is point to how woefully unprepared he was to take on the monumental task of the presidency. This was basic national security measures that he couldn’t be bothered with, simply because he valued Vladimir Putin’s opinion over his own intelligence community.