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James Comey was FBI director at the launch of Crossfire Hurricane. (Photo: Getty Images)

Yesterday, the New York Times published a story detailing the beginnings of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign's relationship to Russia, which reported that — contrary to Trump's complaints — the agency erred on the side of secrecy about the inquiry, so as not to appear biased against Trump. The story mentioned "Crossfire Hurricane," which Twitter immediately seized on as amusing. But, wait, what is Crossfire Hurricane?

What is Crossfire Hurricane?

"Crossfire Hurricane" is the code name the FBI assigned to their investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. It was opened on July 31, 2016, because of a tip from Australia's ambassador to the UK, that one of Trump's advisers, George Papadopoulos, knew in advance about Russian meddling in the election.

The term is a reference to a lyric in the 1968 Rolling Stones song "Jumpin' Jack Flash," which begins: "I was born in a crossfire hurricane/And I howled at the morning driving rain.” It's unclear who at the FBI settled on that name, the "Times" reported.

At the beginning of the investigation, the FBI kept it unusually close to the vest, fearing leaks. Only five agents knew about it, compared to the usual 15 who would be notified of an inquiry at that secrecy level.

 

That contrasts starkly to FBI director James Comey's treatment of the Clinton campaign: He sent a letter to Congress about the reopening of an investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server 11 days before the election, and subsequently held a press conference about his decision not to recommend charges.

"Underpinning both cases was one political calculation: that Mrs. Clinton would win and Mr. Trump would lose," the Times says. "Agents feared being seen as withholding information or going too easy on her. And they worried that any overt actions against Mr. Trump’s campaign would only reinforce his claims that the election was being rigged against him."

"Crossfire Hurricane" was the basis for the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel in May 2017. In its first year, the Mueller investigation has brought 75 criminal charges against 22 people and companies, along with 5 guilty pleas, CNN reports.