Hearings, Indictments, and Summits
Sometimes you just don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Let’s start with the Peter Strzok hearings. When the subject matter is modestly serious — namely, the possible illegal conspiracy between a hostile foreign government and a U.S. candidate to steal a presidential election — one might think that everyone (Democrats included) would want any investigation to be conducted in a thorough, unbiased manner. After listening to hours of testimony and looking at thousands of Strzok texts and emails, the evidence screams that Strzok, the lead investigator in the matter, was beyond biased against the guy he was supposed to be investigating. And yet he spent most of the hearing vehemently denying that his obvious bias impacted how he did his job. What proof do we have for this? Well, Strzok said so. And since there is no way to get inside his head, you can’t prove him wrong.
Judges in court cases routinely recuse themselves for small fractions of this behavior. Even attorneys general recuse themselves from important cases because they might have shaken hands with an ambassador from a country under review at a cocktail party six months prior. So why was Strzok allowed anywhere near the Russian collusion case, and why didn’t any of his superiors step in along the way? To his credit, Special Counsel Robert Mueller removed him when he learned about the texts. But according to Strzok, Mueller never asked about the biased texts in doing so; he only referred to the appearance of conflict.
But wait — this guy was supposed to be as good as it gets at the FBI in “counterintelligence.” So why was putting the stuff he did in writing on his workplace devices while he was having an affair with a colleague? Don’t they teach you at James Bond school not to put yourself in a position to be blackmailed? When pressed, Strzok admitted that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have all this in writing, but he believed that because the texts represented his “personal” beliefs, he had the expectation of privacy. Further, he said that if he thought the texts might go public, he would never have written them. In a world where employers track every keystroke on workplace devices, you’d think that one of the highest-ranking “intel” guys in the business might be aware of this.
Yet Strzok maintained his innocence of “political” bias and even counterattacked his questioners with an arrogant smirk and a defiant “How dare you little people in Congress question my motives — don’t you know who I am?” attitude. Moreover, Democrats cheered him on and interrupted the proceeding whenever the questions got too close to home, even musing that Strzok had been so bruised by the nasty GOP questioners that he deserved a Purple Heart for having to endure it. It seemed that lacking a memo to the file admitting his political bias, his word of denial was accepted by Democrats. Nothing more to see here; let’s move on.
Contrast this with the Democrats’ position on Russian hacking during the 2016 election. Russian President Vladimir Putin denies that he or the Russian government had anything to do with it, and so far we haven’t found the memo to the files in which Putin instructs his foreign intelligence agency to have at it. Obviously, nothing of this magnitude would ever have been conducted without at least Putin’s approval, but without proof, we are left only with his word — which, according to Democrats, is woefully insufficient. I think both cases are lying-eyes moments, but Democrats disagree.
There wasn’t much new in the Strzok hearings, but one tidbit sneaked out. Strzok admitted that another high-ranking FBI guy, Bruce Ohr, whose wife worked at Fusion GPS, the entity hired by the Clinton campaign to dig up dirt on Trump, gave material from Fusion (I guess through his wife) to the FBI that was used in part to form the dossier that was presented to the FISA court to get warrants to spy on Trump campaign members. I am hoping that the next inspector general report that is supposed to focus on the Russia stuff, including FISA court applications, will pay attention to this.
The bottom line is that Strzok demonstrated his poster-child qualifications for a senior Justice Department position in the Obama administration — arrogant, condescending, dismissive of oversight, and contemptuous of Congress. It followed in the grand tradition of Eric Holder, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Loretta Lynch, John Brennan and company. Regardless of their official titles, you could put “Political Operative” on all their business cards. Personal ambition ruled, and it was crystal clear what constituted résumé enhancement. Just like no one wants to revisit the Hillary Clinton email scandal because all roads would lead back to Obama, and no one wants to be the one who destroys the legacy of the first black president, no one wants to recognize that behind all the anti-Trump bias and cooked books is at least an implied Obama directive.
Then comes Mueller’s indictment of the dozen or so Russian computer hackers. In other words, he accused the Russian spies of being Russian spies. Since they won’t ever be extradited, they will never see a U.S. courtroom. He even off-loaded the case onto the counterintelligence section of the Justice Department, where the focus is intel oriented, not prosecution, so what was the point? The timing is also curious because if you actually read the indictment, the activities of the Russians are amateur-hour hacking attempts that go back a year or more before the election. The process was so pedestrian that the target of their intel sharing, Carter Page, refused to accept an offer of info on Democrat voting patterns in Florida, calling it “standard stuff” and tossing it in the round file. The only Russian effort more lame was the use of Facebook ads that were irrelevant in the grand scheme of Facebook ad volume and wound up influencing the vote of precisely no one.
The Russian attempts to meddle were well known to the entire Obama intel apparatus long before the election, but Obama directed his people to do nothing. Amazingly, the media spin is that Trump is the target of attention because of supposed Russian meddling, when it was Obama’s team that was in charge of protecting the integrity of our elections throughout the 2016 campaign season. I have believed for a while that he did that because he knew Clinton was going to win and didn’t want to taint her victory as being influenced by Russian meddling. He also told Putin to “cut it out,” but did so almost with an eye roll and a lack of serious concern. After all, everybody does this to everybody, not unlike Obama’s dispatching operatives to work with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponent a few years back. But after looking at what the Russian spies actually did, I’ve changed my mind regarding Obama’s motives. True, he may have wanted to downplay any Russian interference, but now I think he had it exactly right — any meddling is not a good thing, but what the Russians did was no big deal and had zero impact on the election. Mueller’s indictment said as much in that no Americans were knowingly involved (there goes the collusion argument) and no votes were changed.
In fact, the bread crumbs left by the Russians were so obvious that perhaps they wanted to be found out so they could have cover to claim that Putin had the power to influence foreign elections. Granted, it was a big feather in our intel services’ caps to be able to discover the real names of the Russians involved, but beyond that, it was not exactly taxing the NSA supercomputers to see what the Russians were doing. I don’t believe Putin ever thought he would impact the election, just that he might stir the pot a bit or perhaps get lucky and hack into some compromising info on Clinton, the likely next president. He probably can’t believe his luck that Democrats and the media are doing his dirty work for him now.
The real reason for the indictments was probably to continue to show relevance for the Mueller probe and to goad Trump into acknowledging Russian interference, all as fodder to keep the probe alive. Trump didn’t fall for the bait, but he did botch the summit by implying that Putin had nothing to do with election meddling and that he trusted Putin more than his own intel guys. He could have turned all that into a positive by explaining the difference between “meddling” and “collusion”, for which there is no evidence, and that’s what he tried to clarify. Even Putin didn’t deny there was meddling, only that the Russian government wasn’t party to it. He characterized what did happen as more of a public service by airing the fact that Clinton and the DNC cooked the books against Sen. Bernie Sanders — not exactly a news flash. Who knows if Trump called out Putin in private, but what exactly would the Democrats and media have preferred Trump to do when asked to confront Putin in front of billions on live TV — call him a liar? To equate what he did say with treason, as many in the media and the ex-Obama intel crowds have done, is absurd.
Trump’s insecurity is at times his worst enemy, and that is highlighted by his preoccupation with denying anything that might call the legitimacy of his election into question. At least he tried to correct the record yesterday, but I will take the occasional inelegant turn of phrase over the alternative administration’s tidal wave of corruption and political operatives masquerading as senior federal law enforcement and intel officials. Once again, the Democrats and media are going to overplay their hand, make themselves look silly, and alienate the majority of American voters. Follow Trump’s actions, not his words, with Russia and everything else.