Guest Host: Todd Zwillich

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump shake hands before a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump shake hands before a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018.

Over the weekend, The Washington Post and The New York Times published explosive stories about President Donald Trump and Russia.
The Times said the FBI had opened an investigation into President Trump, questioning whether he was working for Russia.

In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

The Times report says this segment of the investigation has been taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The president responded to that story on Twitter.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported that President Trump has been secretive about his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. U.S. officials learned of Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Tillerson.

The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries.

The Post noted that after the publication of this story, Trump denied going out of his way to hide details of the talks.

What do they mean about the scope of the Russia investigation and the president’s approach to foreign relations?

Guests

  • Mark Mazzetti Washington investigative correspondent, The New York Times; author, "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth"; @MarkMazzettiNYT
  • Asha Rangappa Senior lecturer, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale University, former associate dean, Yale Law School; legal and national security analyst, CNN; former FBI agent; @AshaRangappa_

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