Trump and Russia
And the Oscar award for the most significant and least covered blockbuster in the Donald Trump/Russia/Robert Mueller/FBI probe goes to … the Bruce Ohr testimony before Congress in August. Granted, the transcript has not been released, so the main event is still the subject of leaks, which is one of the major problems with this whole affair (more on that later). But respected reporters have confirmed it from credible sources, and there has been no pushback.
What are we talking about? Ohr told Congress that prior to the FBI and Justice Department seeking a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign, he met with Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier. Without this key document, according to Andrew McCabe, approval for the FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign would never have been submitted. He then told everybody associated with the case at the FBI and Justice that Steele was to be viewed with skepticism, and any document he produced was unverified and suspect. He said that Steele was biased against Trump, desperate not to see him elected, and urged everyone to be aware and double-check everything. For good measure, he also confirmed that the document was commissioned and paid for by Hillary Clinton and the DNC and should be viewed as a political opposition research product. And finally, he claimed some extra degree of credibility for his view because his wife worked at the very firm commissioned to do the research.
In spite of this, the FBI and Justice went ahead with their FISA warrant application and withheld this information from the court — at minimum inconsistent with FBI protocols and potentially a fraud on the court. The dossier was then also used as a basis for the Mueller probe, which is going on two years now. The revelation is being buried because it totally nukes the Democrat narrative that those involved were not aware of the dossier and the details of its creation when the FISA warrant was sought and when the FBI initiated its unprecedented counterintelligence investigation of the president.
While media coverage of this is hard to find, it did spawn a series of articles designed to downplay the importance of the dossier and propose other explanations for why the FBI believed Trump was a Russian agent and felt compelled to begin its investigation. There are two reasons for this.
First, the obvious: providing cover for the FBI and Justice, which is particularly interesting given that some of the players involved wound up on Mueller’s staff.
Second, prepping the battlefield for the Mueller report. Leaks have started indicating that the Mueller report is not going to have a legal basis for anything criminal linking Russia to Trump. But for most special counsels, and especially for this one, that won’t be good enough. Mueller won’t be able to have lunch in this town without providing something anti-Trump, and that’s likely to come in the form of an innuendo-laden report that cites numerous potential avenues for Trump collusion, but also an inability to prove anything because everyone is lying to him. It will be a roadmap for the Democrat-controlled Congress to continue the probes.
And that screeching sound you hear is the goal posts being moved. The initial basis for the FBI/Mueller probe was to see if Trump conspired with Russia to steal the election. But as revealed by The New York Times and reiterated by Democrat-friendly talking heads on the MSNBCs of the world, the probes were based on the belief that Trump could have “wittingly OR unwittingly” been doing Russia’s bidding.
“Unwittingly”? That expands the universe a tad, but you can’t have collusion or a conspiracy with an unwitting participant. And wouldn’t you think that if the FBI thought Trump was unaware that what he was doing was somehow endangering national security and helping Russia, it would have simply picked up the phone and told him? But no — it started a counterintelligence investigation.
Back to those related articles that have cropped up everywhere since. The leader of the pack was the big New York Times article that broke the story of the FBI counterintelligence probe. The main rationales apparently were — ready for this? — the firing of James Comey (that’s right— the constitutionally permitted dismissal of an executive branch appointee that, if supposedly done to stop the Russia probe and let Vladimir Putin off the hook, didn’t turn out so well for either Trump or Putin); the fact that Trump had said nice things about Putin; and Trump’s sarcastic “invitation” for Russia to hack Hillary’s email and try to find the missing ones.
In quick succession, we had an article on Trump doing Putin’s bidding by threatening to quit NATO; another one on extraordinary contributions to the Trump inaugural by Ukrainians with ties to Putin; a big one on the emoluments case working its way through the courts claiming that Trump benefitted financially from having Russian delegates stay at his hotels; several on the Syria withdrawal and Trump’s favorable comments on Russia’s decades-old reasons for invading Afghanistan; more on all the nice things Trump has said about Putin while trashing the FBI and allies; a full-page article on how Paul Manafort shared some campaign polling data with someone who had dinner with Putin’s niece in 2002; and another full-page article about how Trump is not sharing his notes of private meetings with Putin with anyone and had instructed his interpreter to say nothing.
This is seen as evidence that he discussed untoward stuff with Putin endangering national security and was leaked to the media. The irony is that Trump is holding these notes close because he has been burned before by — you guessed it — leaks! And now we have the word of convicted liar Michael Cohen that Trump ordered him to lie to Congress to hide the extent that Trump was involved in a Moscow hotel deal with Putin just before the election.
Nothing concrete has come of any of this, but the sheer volume of innuendo is designed to prop up the Mueller report and provide fodder for a Democrat-controlled Congress to spend the next two years “getting to the bottom of whether Trump is a Russian agent.” Trump isn’t without blame here — not because he is guilty of anything but because he evidently believes there is some political benefit in playing the victim.
He could put so much of this to rest by simply allowing the disclosure of all documents, including the FISA application, and transcripts that have any bearing on this situation. Both sides are looking mostly at the political implications, but the longer this goes on with nothing but spin and innuendo driving the train, the more polarized the country becomes and the more faith in the justice system is destroyed.
Perhaps the street cred from William Barr’s friendship with Mueller and the fact Barr is a respected straight shooter who is at a stage in his life where he doesn’t need the money or the love of the establishment will allow him to bring some closure, let our institutions begin to regain respect and credibility, and give the country a shot at engaging in nonpartisan dialogue. It’s a long shot, given the apparent Democrat congressional agendas and the tit-for-tat game plan of leaders on both sides, but here’s hoping.