Former FBI special agent Clint Watts told MSNBC on Thursday that it almost didn’t really matter if sex spa owner Cindy Yang’s interactions with President Donald Trump amounted to espionage or lobbying — the real issue is that everyone, including foreign countries, sees the president and his family as “open for influence.”
“In this case, Ms. Yang, you can’t tell what’s influence, you can’t tell what’s espionage, you can’t tell what is just good political donations,” Watts said. Lobbying, he added, was traditionally a “very formalized” process. “But in this case, we just see open doors and access.”
“We’ve even seen reports of foreign countries saying ‘we should go at Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, they are open for influence, let’s try and nudge up to them,'” Watts continued. “Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a spy. It’s a great way to advance your interest for a very low cost, and the doors seem to be wide open on this White House.”
That radical departure from established norms was the reason so many of Trump’s associates were running afoul of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), Watts said.
“I think that’s why you’re seeing from the Mueller investigation this reoccurring theme of going after the FARA act, and are we going to enforce it or not,” he said, adding that the “focus on Ms. Yang” was a dead end, and offering advice for Congress.
“I know that is a sensational story, but I think a better question Congress can be asking when it comes to counterintelligence is just go to the intelligence community and ask one simple question,” Watts said. “‘How many times since the Trump Administration started have we seen espionage targets that we believe are trying to penetrate the U.S. government show up at the White House, or Mar-a-Lago, with Trump campaign people.’ You don’t need to be specific on those but it will tell you the severity of the problem.”
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Rudy Giuliani recently asked Trump to pre-emptively pardon him in case he’s charged with a crime: report
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that outgoing President Donald Trump's attorney and ally Rudy Giuliani has discussed the possibility of a pre-emptive pardon with the president, in case he is charged with federal crimes down the road.
"It was not clear who raised the topic," said the report. "The men have also talked previously about a pardon for Mr. Giuliani, according to the people. Mr. Trump has not indicated what he will do, one of the people said."
We’ll be learning bad stuff about Donald Trump for years
The media may not have to quit their addiction to President Donald Trump anytime soon.
The nature of presidential record-keeping, and Trump's habit of ripping up documents and making enemies of his staffers, should ensure a steady flow of shocking news about the Trump administration long after he finally leaves the White House, wrote journalist Timothy Noah for The Atlantic.
Trump baffled by vaccine hold-up because he has the ’emotional make-up of a small child’: CNN
Reporting on a planned White House task force meeting on Tuesday where FDA head Steven Hahn is expected to provide an update on the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, CNN's John Harwood said officials in the government are having to fend off a pestering Donald Trump.
According to CNN's Jim Sciutto, Trump is "upset" that the vaccine hasn't been released to the public yet because he doesn't understand the complexity of the massive public health project and why the FDA hasn't approved the vaccine's release.
"This is not the first time we've been concerned about the president interfering, perhaps with an eye towards politics, to the scientific questions about vaccine approval. What do we know?" Sciutto asked.