Philip Ewing | KUER 90.1

Philip Ewing

Philip Ewing is NPR's national security editor. He helps direct coverage of the military, the intelligence community, counterterrorism, veterans and other topics for the radio and online. Ewing joined the network in 2015 from Politico, where he was a Pentagon correspondent and defense editor. Previously he served as managing editor of Military.com and before that he covered the U.S. Navy for the Military Times newspapers.

This week in the Russia investigations: Republicans on the House intelligence committee give President Trump a clean bill of health; Democrats say not so fast. It's a dispute over the basic nature of the Russia imbroglio.

What does Nunes know?

The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., enjoys access not only to a huge breadth of information from America's spy agencies but also to some of their deepest secrets. He doesn't need to rely on press reports.

The House intelligence committee has completed its "Choose Your Own Adventure" story about the Russia imbroglio. Republicans wrote a happy ending for President Trump. Democrats wrote a cliffhanger.

Even though members of the committee say they're taking separate ramps off this highway, however, the road goes ever on. Here are 4 more mileposts still to come in the remainder of the Russia imbroglio.

Updated at 1:10 p.m. ET

President Trump's nominee to take over the CIA faces a rocky confirmation hearing in the Senate and a narrow political path to secure the job.

Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel is a career intelligence officer widely respected within the agency but tied up inextricably with one of the ugliest chapters in its history.

Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET

President Trump announced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired on Tuesday morning in a tweet that followed a year of frequent tension between the two leaders.

This week in the Russia investigations: The "FISA abuse" counter-narrative might be running out of steam — and so, apparently, is President Trump's relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions; the House and Senate intelligence committees are at daggers drawn; does anybody here know anything about cyber-stuff?

Like a dull knife

The Russia imbroglio is so complex it's sometimes impenetrable. Maneuvering within it politically is much more difficult than any other big story these days.

Updated at 4:31 p.m. ET on March 1

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is trying to defend President Trump in the Russia imbroglio, but Trump has slapped Sessions down — again — for work he says isn't good enough.

Updated at 6:17 p.m. ET

President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has lost the top-level security clearance he has been using on an interim basis to do his work inside the White House, according to reports on Tuesday.

Instead, Kushner will begin using a lower level of access to classified information along with other White House staffers who had temporary clearances.

After nearly a month of pronouncements, melodrama, headlines and strife, Round One of memo mania is finally complete.

House Intelligence Committee Republicans went first with their Feb. 2 salvo that alleged "biased" FBI and Justice Department officials had abused their surveillance powers by withholding information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Then, on Saturday, committee Democrats released a rebuttal giving their perspective on the story — or at least part of it.

This week in the Russia investigations: More newcomers join Mueller's roll of honor; the feds meet with state officials on election security; and Washington starts thinking about considering some potential planning to defend the 2018 midterms.

Guilty

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller broke his own record this week for guilty pleas. On Tuesday, Dutch attorney Alex van der Zwaan appeared in federal court and admitted he had lied to investigators about his contacts with Donald Trump's former campaign vice chairman, Rick Gates.

America's top spies say to expect more interference in the 2018 elections, but politicians may not have much defense against one of the most potent weapons — their own inboxes.

Why didn't then-President Barack Obama stop Russia's campaign of active measures against the 2016 presidential campaign?

This week in the Russia investigations: A major new indictment from the special counsel's office that charges thirteen individuals and three companies and shakes up the political rhetoric as new facts are revealed in the sprawling imbroglio.

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller prefers to let his work do the talking for him. On Friday, he delivered a stemwinder.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

A federal grand jury has indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities in connection with the attack on the 2016 presidential election.

The defendants are "accused of violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes," according to a statement from the special counsel's office. The indictment charges them with "conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft."

America's adversaries are circling like coyotes just beyond the light from the campfire, top intelligence officials warn — but that's not the scariest thing to some members of the Senate intelligence committee.

What bothers them is the need to convince people the coyotes are there.

"My problem is, I talk to people in Maine who say, 'the whole thing is a witch hunt and it's a hoax,' because that's what the president told me," said Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.

Updated at 3:52 p.m. ET

Russian influence operations in the United States will continue through this year's midterm elections and beyond, the nation's top spies warned Congress on Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate intelligence committee that Moscow viewed its attack on the 2016 election as decidedly worthwhile given the chaos it has sown compared with its relatively low cost.

This week in the Russia investigations: Democrats defend Christopher Steele — for now — but lose Round 2 of memo mania; and the bosses of the spy agencies are due for a rare public appearance on Capitol Hill.

Reinforcing Steele

Memoranda have only been Washington's favorite dueling weapons for a short time but the art of wielding them has evolved quickly.

Witness the slow-motion jiujitsu between President Trump and his Democratic antagonists this week over a secret countermemo that rebuts the once-secret GOP memo unveiled last week.

Updated at 7:05 p.m. ET

The House intelligence committee voted without opposition on Monday to declassify a secret Democratic rebuttal to the once-secret Republican memo about alleged surveillance abuses that was unveiled on Friday.

The Democrats' document now goes to the White House, where President Trump will decide whether it should become public.

This week in the Russia investigations: The much-talked-about memo finally made its public debut.

After a week of hyperpartisan madness that critics warn could shatter key D.C. institutions forever, the inescapable, once-secret spying memo wound up falling like a drop of rain into the Pacific Ocean.

Updated 2:30 p.m. ET

President Trump joined his Republican allies on Friday in piling on with attacks about "bias" in the FBI and the Justice Department as Washington, D.C., waited on tenterhooks for the release of a controversial secret spying memo.

The political hurricane that could bring about the release of a controversial memo on Friday has blown the American ship of state off the map.

Not only has a congressional committee seldom if ever released secrets "owned" by the executive branch. Not only has Washington, D.C., seldom seen a law-and-order party in power commit to such a sustained flogging of its own FBI and Justice Department.

Updated at 9:31 a.m. ET

The latest political sandstorm in the Russia saga is over four pages of paper that have never seen the light of day. Here's what you need to know to make sense of what's going on with this story.

1. What exactly is this memo that everyone is talking about?

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This week in the Russia investigations: Trump wanted to fire Mueller — does that matter? Parsing the tea leaves of the palace intrigue. And is this the end of the FBI memo meshugas?

Whoa

President Trump reportedly tried to fire Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller last year, not long after firing FBI Director James Comey. But White House counsel Don McGahn wouldn't go along, so the president backed off.

Updated at 10:31 a.m. ET

So President Trump sought to fire Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller last year — but the White House's top lawyer wouldn't go along. Does that mean Mueller is safe?

Maybe. Maybe not.

The news about Trump's desire to get rid of Mueller only weeks after the president dismissed FBI Director James Comey — but his unwillingness to press the matter — could mean Trump and his advisers feel it's too dangerous to attempt the same play twice.

Updated at 12:04 p.m. ET

Attorneys for President Trump are emphasizing how much they've cooperated with investigators as negotiations continue over how and when he might talk with Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

Lawyers for the president on Thursday released a list that they said detailed the information and access the White House and Trump campaign have given to Mueller's Russia probe and congressional inquiries.

Last week in the Russia investigations: Will "infiltration" be the new "collusion" or "obstruction?" Another skirmish over executive privilege? Is the Russia imbroglio about the money-go-round? And will the shutdown disrupt Mueller's investigation?

The inside game

How much did Russia "infiltrate" political organizations inside the United States as part of its attack on the 2016 presidential election?

This week in the Russia investigations: President Trump rows back on a potential Robert Mueller interview, Sen. Dianne Feinstein releases a big transcript, and Steve Bannon is headed to the House Intelligence Committee.

The exile

Once upon a time, Steve Bannon was among the princes of the universe. Loved by his allies and hated by his foes, he was, most importantly, feared by both.

The infamous Russia dossier was not the sole basis for the FBI's investigation into Donald Trump's ties to Russia, according to a newly public document that notched a tactical win for Democrats inside Washington, D.C.

This week in the Russia investigations: Big problems for Sessions, Bannon cut adrift and Republicans search for more weapons to fire.

Living on the edge

A lighthouse can stand safely on a barrier island one morning and then when a big storm blows through, be teetering at land's end by the next.

Following the heavy cyclone of news this week, dawn in Washington, D.C., on Saturday found Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the slippery sand — and that could also mean peril for Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

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