by Willis L. Krumholz · February 12, 2018
When the House intelligence committee memo dropped a week ago Friday, it confirmed the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign paid opposition-research firm Fusion GPS to create a dossier that the FBI used to obtain a warrant to spy on Carter Page, a low-level foreign policy adviser to the Donald Trump campaign.
The FBI grossly misrepresented the dossier’s veracity in seeking a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, failed to specifically outline its political origins, and used a news article based on the unverified dossier to corroborate the dossier. Fusion GPS did this to enable reports in the media, right before the 2016 election, that Trump had nefarious ties to Russia.
Not only was Fusion GPS’s dossier unverified, but it was constructed by a British national—Edward Baumgartner—with actual ties to Russia. While working for former British spook Chris Steele to compile the dossier, Baumgartner allegedly used Russians with possible ties to the Kremlin as sources. While running this whole operation, Fusion GPS was also doing work for the Kremlin, directly working with the Russians who set up a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. in Trump Tower to discuss information that would “incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.”
With Hillary’s 30,000 deleted emails in mind, Don Jr. likely thought he was about to find evidence of a pay-to-play operation at the Clinton Foundation and State Department. Instead, he was treated to drabble about Russia’s hoped-for repeal of a law called the Magnitsky Act, passed to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of a Russian whistleblower, Sergei Magnitsky. Fusion GPS provided the anti-Magnitsky Act documents for that meeting. Fusion GPS’s founder Glen Simpson even met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, one of the Russian attendees, both before and after that infamous Trump Tower meeting.
In other words, the Clinton campaign fabricated a dossier with the help of Russians, and the FBI bought it hook, line, and sinker. The goal of the Clinton camp was to influence the election, at least by planting media stories about Trump’s supposed ties to Russia. This looks pretty bad for both the media, the FBI leadership, and the Democrat Party. Because of this, politicians and parts of the U.S. government are fighting full disclosure of the facts to the American people.
After months of stonewalling congressional investigators, it took House Speaker Paul Ryan’s threat of holding the FBI in contempt of Congress for the agency to allow congressional investigators to see the underlying documents on which the Nunes memo is based. When the memo was about to come out, the FBI and Democrats falsely claimed it risked national security.
Attempts to Discredit House Intel Committee Memo
Now that the memo is out, Democrats and their media allies are employing three lines of attack to discredit it. First, there’s the general truth-twisting, obfuscation, and fear-mongering that increasingly doesn’t work. In just two examples, former President Obama strategist David Axelrod said the memo was “from the lunatic fringe of the Internet.” Rep. Adam Schiff, who needs to be censured by Congress, suggested the Nunes memo would cause more terrorism, specifically another Oklahoma City bombing.
The second seeks to show that Page was a suspicious dude who deserved to be spied on. This, despite the Nunes memo claiming that the FBI would not have gotten a FISA warrant without the unverified dossier. For example, here’s Business Insider’s Natasha Bertrand, a reporter known for working with Fusion GPS and House Democrats:
! Big news from @TIME: “Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin,” Page wrote in a 2013 letter. https://t.co/i0ht385qIQ
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) February 4, 2018
Yet the FBI fully checked Page out in 2013, including with a FISA warrant, and Page cooperated fully with the FBI’s investigation into the Russian spies in question. Russian spies were trying to get Page, a college professor at the time, to give them his not-secret slide deck from a lecture. The FBI informed Page that the Russians were trying to recruit him, and Page cooperated fully.
What of this Time story saying Page “bragged that he was an advisor to the Kremlin”? Page’s whole career was built on his work as an investment banker working with Russia’s energy sector. Of course he would publicly tout claims about his experience and supposed influence in Russia. The letter in question was sent to an academic publisher after a dispute over proposed edits to his writings. It reads: “Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda…”
In other words, Page was just a college professor, not a Russian spy. And is the precedent to be that any American who has worked in a foreign country, or been the subject of a FISA warrant before, can be spied on for the rest of his life? Isn’t even Page eventually entitled to his privacy?
The third claim is that the unverified dossier is no big deal because the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign started in July 2016. This refers to George Papadopoulos, another low-level and unpaid campaign aid who, while meeting with an Australian ambassador in a London bar in May 2016, said a London-based professor told Papadopoulos in late April that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” Allegedly, once news of the DNC hack came out in June, the Aussie diplomat put two-and-two together and notified the U.S. government.
Among many others, CNN’s Jake Tapper and even Fox News’ Chris Wallace advanced this narrative last weekend. But those pushing it are either uninformed or purposefully deceiving. First of all, it’s contradicted by leaks to the media in 2017 that said the entire FBI operation started with Page’s trip to Moscow (this Moscow trip was about the only verifiable piece of information in the dossier).
Also, if the investigation really did start with Papadopoulos, why did the FBI direct its FISA warrant at Page? The FBI also never bothered to even interview Papadopoulos, the supposed spark of the investigation, until 2017, and never briefed Congress about Papadopoulos until months after the election. And former director of national intelligence James Clapper had no knowledge of Papadopoulos.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (in a Tuesday CNN interview): George Papadopoulos “was not a name on my radar scope when i left.” So head of intelligence had never heard of the dude that the NYT now claims launched the entire Trump-Russia probe?
— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) January 3, 2018
What’s Significant About July 2016
But if the Australian diplomat’s story about Papadopoulos really did start the Russia investigation in July 2016, that is even worse for the collusionistas. In May 2016, before the public knew of the document theft at the DNC, Papadopoulos was in all likelihood talking to the Aussie ambassador about Hillary’s 30,000 emails. These went missing from her unsecured private server, and everyone in conservative-land was sure some foreign power had scooped them up. It is also likely that Papadopoulos was simply drunkenly bragging to the diplomat.
As for the college professor who allegedly told Papadopoulos about Russia having these emails, it is again likely that this professor had no inside knowledge of a Russian intelligence operation and was only joining conservative media and speculating that Russia, or some other country, had these emails. So far there is no evidence Page had solid ties to the Kremlin. He has hopefully been thoroughly investigated, and disputes whether he offered Papadopoulos Russian help in the first place.
Between May and July of 2016, something changed. The alleged DNC hack occurred.
Papadopoulos may have been referring to Hillary’s 30,000 missing emails, but between May and July of 2016, something changed. The alleged DNC hack occurred, and as soon as the DNC and Clinton team were aware of it, they sought to tie Trump to Russia.
On June 10, 2016, DNC staffers were made aware of an internal breach, and forced to hand over all computer equipment on the spot. Fusion GPS, which Democrats hired in April 2016, hired Steele to tie Trump to Russia in June 2016.
Remember the meeting between the two Russians working with Fusion GPS and Don Jr. in Trump tower? That occurred on June 9, 2016. On June 12, WikiLeaks announced that it had information that showed the DNC was mistreating Clinton primary opponent Bernie Sanders. On June 14, the DNC said it had been hacked, and blamed Russia. Thus on the day of the Trump Tower meeting, the DNC and the Clinton campaign would have known that the DNC files had been stolen, and that their cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike would say Russia had hacked the DNC.
What explains the Clinton campaign’s quick move to tie Trump to Russia after the DNC theft? Just think back to early 2016. Bernie supporters were throwing chairs before the DNC’s mistreatment came out. There was talk that the Democrat convention could devolve into a riot, Chicago 1968-style. This wouldn’t do. The convention was supposed to be a coronation, and only Hillary could save the country from the ignominious Trump in November.
When the WikiLeaks revelations came out only days before the convention, things were so bad that Debbie Wasserman Schultz had to step down as DNC chair. She was then booed off the stage by her own delegation.
So the Clinton campaign went nuclear to distract from the DNC’s mistreatment of Bernie Sanders. In late July, days before the Democrats’ convention, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said—likely referring to the Fusion GPS/Steele dossier his campaign was paying for—that “experts” were saying the Russians wanted to elect Trump.
Clinton Campaign Messaged Russia as a Distraction
This isn’t something Mook and his compatriots said in just one interview. This was purposeful messaging. The Clinton campaign ran a circuit of the mainstream media shows, which ate this allegation up. Whenever poor old Bernie came up, Clinton’s people would respond with pointing to Russia’s support of Trump. In other words, “Forget about the DNC, let’s talk about how awful Hillary’s general election opponent is. What if he is a Kremlin stooge?”
Whenever Trump brought up Hillary’s deleted emails, Clinton would counter by bringing up Trump’s potential ties with Russia.
Don’t take my word for it. Jenn Palmieri, Hillary’s communications director, wrote a big article after the election about how the Clinton campaign was first to sound the alarm about Trump and Russia. If only we had listened!
Going into the general election, the purpose of the “Russia angle” was even more obvious. The point was to make Hillary Clinton’s ethical issues a wash in voter’s minds. “Sure, Hillary might have made a mistake with her emails, but Trump isn’t above board either, because Russia!” This came out specifically during the presidential debates. Whenever Trump brought up Hillary’s deleted emails, Clinton would counter by bringing up Trump’s potential ties with Russia.
So, long before Fusion GPS was planting stories in the media about Trump’s ties to Russia, Clinton operatives were peddling this narrative. In fact, they started the narrative. Then, all it took was the Aussie ambassador going to the Obama administration, and voilà, just like that, an investigation into the opposing party’s U.S. presidential campaign was started in July 2016.
The Dangerous Trend of Politician Target-Spotting
This is yet another example of a dangerous trend where politicians call out a target, and the bureaucracy gladly “shoots.” Republicans aren’t absolved of this completely, but the bureaucracy rarely listens to Republicans (one of many reasons Republicans should radically check and reduce the federal bureaucracy).
The entire ‘Russia investigation’ may just be another case of prosecutorial point and shoot.
But the bureaucracy does listen to Democrats. When Obama weighed in on an ongoing investigation and signaled that Clinton shouldn’t be charged for having a secret server, the bureaucracy fell into line. When a parade of Democrat politicians called for a Logan Act investigation into the Trump campaign and transition team, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates was happy to send FBI agents to interview Michael Flynn. Keep in mind that the 200-plus year-old Logan Act is routinely flouted, has never been prosecuted, and is likely unconstitutional.
Another famous example is the Democrat politicians who, after Citizens United, repeatedly called on the Internal Revenue Service to crack down on “political groups.” Obama and his fellow Democrats never had to actually say “Go target conservative groups,” but the bureaucracy got the picture and complied. In other words, the entire “Russia investigation” may just be another case of prosecutorial point and shoot, this time by the DNC and Clinton campaign.
Politicians spurring bureaucrats into partisan action is dangerous. This destroys American “institutions” like the FBI and the DOJ far more than Trump calling them the “deep state.” Calling certain bureaucrats a deep state sounds nefarious, but simply refers to the over-powerful, unchecked, and not democratically accountable bureaucracies seen in countries like Turkey and Pakistan. We are at that point here in America.
Former CIA counterterrorism official Phil Mudd: The FBI people “are ticked” and they’ll be saying of Trump, “You’ve been around for 13 months. We’ve been around since 1908. I know how this game is going to be played. We’re going to win” https://t.co/5x39x20g3e pic.twitter.com/fByOLNrh0I
— CNN (@CNN) February 2, 2018
It’s time for politicians on both sides to clean up the federal bureaucracy. The first step is civil-service reform. Political appointees need much greater leeway to demote or fire even senior civil servants. And pensions should be subject to divestiture for wrongdoing. No civil servant should be above the law. Peter Strzok and Lois Lerner come to mind, but there are many others.
Finally, if our politicians are unwilling to crack down on federal bureaucrats’ abuse of power, especially bureaucrats in our powerful security apparatus, these politicians—Democrat and Republican—need to be shown the door.
The Federalist · by Willis L. Krumholz · February 12, 2018