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.

Updated at 7:24 p.m. ET

The FBI has fired an embattled special agent who was removed from the Russia inquiry after internal investigators discovered he had criticized then-candidate Donald Trump in text messages with another bureau official.

Peter Strzok had remained on the FBI payroll until his employment finally was terminated on Friday, his attorney said Monday morning.

This week in the Russia investigations: The White House is trying to burn the clock to get into a better political position to handle the Russia imbroglio. Why it might — or might not — work.

Time trouble

In the championship chess match that is the Russia imbroglio, President Trump and the White House are hoping that Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has stumbled into what players call "time trouble."

President Trump is open to visiting Russia if President Vladimir Putin extends a formal invitation, the White House said on Friday.

Putin said in South Africa earlier in the day that he has already talked with Trump about a visit to Russia, although it did not appear that the Russian government has gone through the official protocols involved with following up.

Updated at 10:06 a.m. ET

A hot, newly released document offers a sliver of new understanding to the Russia imbroglio — but has not dislodged warring partisans from their long-term deadlock about evidence and surveillance in the case.

Updated at 4:34 p.m. ET

Charges accusing a woman of trying to build bridges between the Russian government and American political leaders via the National Rifle Association have delivered a breakthrough in understanding one aspect of the attack on the 2016 election: "infiltration."

Updated at 9:38 p.m. ET

The Justice Department charged 12 Russian intelligence officers on Friday with a litany of alleged offenses related to Russia's hacking of the Democratic National Committee's emails, state election systems and other targets in 2016.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who announced the indictments, said the Russians involved belonged to the military intelligence service GRU. They are accused of a sustained cyberattack against Democratic Party targets, including its campaign committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign.

This week in the Russia investigations: "Please don't interfere!" Senate Republicans tell Moscow. Peter Strzok heads back into the lion's den. Is Mueller farming out work? The Senate intel committee supports the intelligence community.

"Putin's fine ... We're all fine"

Members of a Republican delegation to Russia over the Independence Day holiday said they made a clear request of their hosts: Don't attack any more American elections.

This week in the Russia investigations: President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court could play an important role down the road in the Russia imbroglio.

Freefall

Nearly two years into the international hall of mirrors that is the Russia imbroglio, one thing has remained constant: There is no way to know what new madness each sunrise might bring.

In campaign season, eventually the election takes place, new public officials are installed, and life moves on. When legislators try to govern, they either pass the bill or don't, and life moves on.

Updated at 4:27 p.m.

A senior FBI investigator whose personal opposition to Donald Trump has become a huge public embarrassment for the Justice Department made a marathon visit to Congress on Wednesday.

Deputy Assistant FBI Director Peter Strzok talked for several hours behind closed doors with the House Judiciary Committee. The committee issued a subpoena to compel him to appear even though Strzok had said he would speak voluntarily.

This week in the Russia investigations: A Justice Department report impacts Washington like a meteor; the inspector general confirms the presence of likely fraudulent intelligence; a special agent's words could be a political gift to President Trump.

Aftermath

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has painted his masterpiece.

Updated at 10:35 p.m. ET

Prosecutors unsealed more charges on Friday against Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and also accused a new defendant of conspiring with Manafort to obstruct justice.

Prosecutors allege that a Russian partner of Manafort's, Konstantin Kilimnik, helped him try to persuade witnesses to lie to the jury when Manafort's case comes to trial in Washington, D.C., this autumn.

Updated at 10:19 a.m. ET

President Trump resumed his attacks against Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday following reports that he had asked Sessions to un-recuse himself from the Russia investigation — and after more erosion of Trump's claim that the FBI spied on his campaign.

Trump used his Twitter account to echo the comments of House oversight committee chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who has been using TV appearances to try to offer some nuanced support to Trump.

Updated at 2:12 p.m. ET

President Trump intensified his attack on federal law enforcement as he sought to strengthen his case that the FBI's investigation into whether his campaign conspired with Russia actually amounted to unlawful political snooping.

"I hope it's not so, but if it is, there's never been anything like it in the history of our country," the president said Wednesday.

Updated at 11:22 a.m.

No wonder James Clapper always seemed so grouchy.

The longtime spy baron became well-known during his stint as director of national intelligence for his profound scowl and sometimes-Zen-like terseness. Now, in his new memoir, Clapper tells why: It is the tale of how the world — at least from his perspective — fell apart.

Updated at 9:44 a.m.

This week in the Russia investigations: The Senate Judiciary Committee dumps documents about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, the special counsel's office celebrates its first birthday and the GOP escalates its war against the Justice Department.

The enemy within

After chapters on "wiretaps," eavesdropping, "unmasking" and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the new hotness this week was confidential sources.

Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET

Thursday marks one year since the appointment of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller. Has any public figure in the United States ever become such a partisan lightning rod after having said so little?

This week in the Russia investigations: Enter Viktor Vekselberg. Who is helping Michael Avenatti? Oleg Deripaska's wings have been clipped — for now.

The Vekselberg matter

Energy baron Viktor Vekselberg has the reputation as a "nice" Russian oligarch.

Updated at 4:24 p.m.

An explosive document released Tuesday by an attorney suing President Trump and his personal lawyer could be the most important public evidence in the Russia imbroglio since Donald Trump Jr. released his emails last year.

Updated at 10:27 p.m. ET

Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, may have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from both corporate clients and potentially a Russian billionaire, according to new allegations from an attorney suing them.

Michael Avenatti, who represents adult film actress Stormy Daniels, described what he called Cohen's suspicious financial relationships in a document released on Tuesday evening.

Updated at 12:51 p.m.

President Trump's newly aggressive stance toward special counsel Robert Mueller will be the biggest test yet of the work he and allies have carried on for months to shape the political landscape among their supporters.

Trump and his attorneys appear to be hardening their attitude toward Mueller's office as discussion continues swirling about a potential presidential interview — whether Trump should agree, or risk a subpoena, or fight it, or invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to give evidence.

White House attorney Ty Cobb is retiring at the end of this month and veteran Washington lawyer Emmet Flood, who helped President Bill Clinton in his impeachment proceedings in the late 1990s, has signed on to replace him, the White House said Wednesday.

Updated at 11:35 a.m. EDT

The slow-motion showdown between President Trump and Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has entered a new phase: a knife fight over how, when or whether the two men may meet for an interview.

Direct interaction between the president and the special counsel's office has been possible all along, and in an earlier phase, Trump said he wanted to talk with Mueller — if his lawyers said it was OK.

Updated at 10:34 a.m. ET

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller may have developed evidence that has not yet been made public about contacts between Donald Trump's campaign and the Russian government as it attacked the 2016 election, based on questions published Monday by The New York Times.

Updated at 2:18 a.m. ET

President Trump acknowledged on Thursday that his longtime attorney Michael Cohen had "represented" him in what he called the "crazy" deal in which Cohen paid $130,000 to buy the silence of a porn actress just before the 2016 election.

Why is President Trump's campaign being investigated for potentially conspiring with the Russian attack on the 2016 election?

Because of something that happened early in 2016: Trump, a political newcomer who had never served in the military or held elective office, was criticized for his lack of experience and faced pressure to name the team that would advise him on national security and foreign policy. Once he did, people on it began to receive overtures from Russians or their agents.

What is obstruction of justice?

It's against the law to frustrate or try to frustrate an investigation, even if no underlying crime was committed. Lying to federal investigators is a crime on its own and so is acting more broadly to prevent or delay or otherwise interfere with the course of their work.

It's also politically important: The last two occasions on which Congress has filed articles of impeachment against sitting presidents — against Richard Nixon and later, Bill Clinton — they included allegations about obstruction.

Updated July 20, 2018

What are "active measures?"

The Russian government launched a broad influence campaign against the United States starting in 2014. Intelligence professionals call it the latest examples of "active measures," secret tools of statecraft that have been used for centuries and were employed throughout the Cold War.

In recent years they have included many interlocking elements:

Updated at 6:46 p.m. EDT

The Democratic National Committee filed an attention-grabbing lawsuit against the Russian government, WikiLeaks and Donald Trump's presidential campaign that says they conspired to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The suit — which faces legal obstacles because of the Justice Department's investigation into Russia's attack and the difficulties involved with suing a foreign government — develops a theory about alleged collusion between Trump's campaign and the Russians.

The Justice Department on Friday detailed its reasons for recommending that former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe be fired in March, just short of his scheduled retirement.

A report by the department's inspector general confirmed that investigators concluded McCabe had violated Justice Department policy by authorizing an aide to talk with the Wall Street Journal about the FBI's probe into the Clinton Foundation — and that McCabe had "lacked candor" in discussing the matter afterward inside the Justice Department.

This week in the Russia investigations: How different is the congressional situation now, really? How much might Moscow have depended on straw donors in the United States?

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral looks lovely in the picture postcards, but the ancient church is sinking.

After another head-spinning week in Donald Trump's Washington, an important new question is about the strength of the foundation under the support the president has enjoyed from another iconic edifice: The United States Capitol.

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