The FBI opened an investigation into whether President Trump was a Russian asset, and Trump hid the notes from his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a break in protocol for meetings with foreign leaders.
Those were two big revelations of the past 48 hours, which forced Trump to respond Monday on the South Lawn of the White House. Here’s what you need to know:
Is the president a national security risk? The FBI’s asking.
The FBI investigated whether the president was secretly working on Russia’s behalf, the New York Times reported Friday.
It had been previously reported that the FBI was looking into whether Trump had obstructed justice in his firing of DirectorJames Comey in May 2017. But it went deeper: The FBI launched a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump acted on behalf of Russia at the expense of U.S. interests, knowingly or not, according to the Times’ report. That means the FBI wanted to know if a sitting president was a risk to national security.
- Two years into his presidency, we still don’t know whether Trump is still the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. “It is unclear whether Mr. Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter,” the Times reports. Now, CNN has transcripts of closed-door congressional interviews that show just what the FBI was looking into. They show just how wide the scope of the investigation was, asking directly whether Trump was working in Russia’s interest.
- One possibility the FBI was looking into was whether Trump was “acting at the behest of and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will," FBI General Counsel James Baker said in closed-door congressional meetings, according to CNN’s transcripts. "That was one extreme. The other extreme is that the President is completely innocent, and we discussed that too."
Trump, for his part, says it’s all fake news.
- He spoke with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro on Saturday, who asked him outright whether he was a Russian agent. “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” Trump responded.
- “I never worked for Russia,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn Monday. “Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it's a disgrace that you even asked that question, because it’s a whole big fat hoax.”
Trump concealed details about his meetings with Putin
On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that Trump had gone to great lengths to conceal details of his face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin from officials in his own administration.
Trump took his own interpreter’s notes, and there are no detailed records of at least five of the meetings he's had with Putin over the last two years, the Post reported.
That’s unusual in any administration, let alone one that Russia tried to help win an election.
Democrats are warming up the subpoenas
House Democrats are talking to their lawyers about subpoenaing Trump’s translator to get whatever details they can about the president’s meetings with Putin. A Democratic aide told ABC News that the revelation that he held onto the notes “changes the calculus” and raises a “new host of questions.”
The takeaway: The president, already mired in conflict with the Democrats in Congress over funding for his border wall, is about to see a host of new investigations into his relationship with Russia.
Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)