Deep in The New York Times's latest bombshell is one singularly deadly word, a lethal bit of shrapnel aimed directly at the vitals of a criminal-and possibly treasonous-presidency. The word is tucked into a sentence that, at first glance, seems to be a perfectly anodyne statement of the current facts. Indeed, it's tucked into a sentence that would be an unremarkable bit of knee-jerk newspaper balance if this explosive charge of a word weren't placed right the in the middle of it. That word is "publicly," as in:
No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.
Notice where that sentence, which functions as the casing for the bomb, is placed in the story. It is placed after the following paragraphs:
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 investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.
Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.
Each of those paragraphs, taken by itself, would be a gobsmacker. Taken together, they are the most astounding evidence of Oval Office criminality since the release of the "smoking gun" tape in 1974. The counterintelligence apparatus of the FBI looked at the conduct of the president* of the United States and determined it appropriate to look into the possibility that he was being run by a foreign power. They thought there was enough there to wonder if the president* was a threat to the security of the nation.
And then, there's that word, "publicly."
This is not a word chosen idly, not in a piece as judiciously written as this one. Clearly, the Times printed pretty much all it was given by its sources, but the implication of that "publicly" is that investigators likely know far more than what appeared in the newspaper.
Otherwise, "publicly" is empty verbiage. To have written simply that, "No evidence has emerged that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government official," would have sufficed for the purposes of journalistic balance. But by dropping that fatal "publicly" in there, the Times and its sources likely are giving us a preview of coming attractions. (Judging by his manic episode on the electric Twitter machine on Saturday morning, the president* knows this, too.) And the one thing about which we can all be sure is that is whole megillah is nowhere near as weird as it's going to get.