At the New York Times Monday evening, Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers reported that "none of the (FBI) investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government."
Naturally, since this was news favorable to the Trump campaign, Tuesday's print edition carried the pair's story on Page A21. Though their story is the very last item listed in its detailed "Today's Paper" list, it was still visible as a link at the paper's home page at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday.
The story's headline and the content inexcusably delayed the most exculpatory (yet still preliminary) finding. Its unequivocal nature should have been the substance of the story's headline. The FBI's most direct evaluation in the still-incomplete investigation — in the Times's words, "that Mr. Trump himself has not become a target. And no evidence has emerged" to implicate him or his advisers in any way — did not appear until Paragraph 10:
Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia
For much of the summer, the F.B.I. pursued a widening investigation into a Russian role in the American presidential campaign. Agents scrutinized advisers close to Donald J. Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats, and even chased a lead — which they ultimately came to doubt — about a possible secret channel of email communication from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank.
Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.
Hillary Clinton’s supporters, angry over what they regard as a lack of scrutiny of Mr. Trump by law enforcement officials, pushed for these investigations. In recent days they have also demanded that James B. Comey, the director of the F.B.I., discuss them publicly, as he did last week when he announced that a new batch of emails possibly connected to Mrs. Clinton had been discovered.
... The F.B.I.’s inquiries into Russia’s possible role continue, as does the investigation into the emails involving Mrs. Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, on a computer she shared with her estranged husband, Anthony D. Weiner. Mrs. Clinton’s supporters argue that voters have as much right to know what the F.B.I. has found in Mr. Trump’s case, even if the findings are not yet conclusive.
... Still, they have said that Mr. Trump himself has not become a target. And no evidence has emerged that would link him or anyone else in his business or political circle directly to Russia’s election operations.
... Investigators, the officials said, have become increasingly confident, based on the evidence they have uncovered, that Russia’s direct goal is not to support the election of Mr. Trump, as many Democrats have asserted, but rather to disrupt the integrity of the political system and undermine America’s standing in the world more broadly.
The hacking, they said, reflected an intensification of spy-versus-spy operations that never entirely abated after the Cold War but that have become more aggressive in recent years as relations with Mr. Putin’s Russia have soured.
... The investigation has treated it as a counterintelligence operation as much as a criminal one, though agents are also focusing on whether anyone in the United States was involved. The officials declined to discuss any individual targets of the investigation, even when assured of anonymity.
The Times appears to have obtained the information about the FBI's and intelligence officials' Russian investigation exclusively and anonymously. There is, as would be expected, no related press release.
Given the FBI's recent erratic history in matters relating to the 2016 presidential campaign and the Old Gray Lady's demonstrated history of permitting its reporters to actively work with Clinton campaign operatives to spin the news during the campaign — or at the very least or at least condoning it — one can only speculate what motivated the FBI and "intelligence officials" to release any new information now, and what's behind the Times's decision to publish exclusive information on the status of the Trump-Russia investigation now.
Theories abound relating to possible election-related intrigue as to the timing of these apparently anonymous disclosures and the story's appearance, but exploring them is not the province of this post. However, one point Rush Limbaugh made Tuesday afternoon about the newspaper's priorities in making the story visible is very likely spot-on:
The New York Times has come out with a piece last night that says definitively there is no Donald Trump link to Russia. Now, they put it on page 21 so that New York Times readers on the Upper West Side won't see it and have their days ruined, but they still run it.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.