Dat viel mij ook al op ja. Smerig staaltje framing.quote:In dit proces is de president niet betrokken, ondanks de pogingen van CNN en The Washington Post om hiervan een talking point te maken.
Nee hoor. Trump heeft het al een tijdje op deze kerel gemunt en dat is precies wat de pers ook report. Zoals gewoonlijk verdraait redpilled de feiten weer eens.quote:
Op zich is het begrijpelijk vanuit de optiek van sommige journalisten, omdat er nu eenmaal veel lijntjes zijn tussen hen en DoJ en FBI officials en politieke officials die anti-Trump zijn.quote:
Het nadeel van de grote nieuws netwerken en hun ongelooflijke partijdigheid is dat ze het publiek geen dienst bewijzen door hun manier van berichtgeven.quote:Op zaterdag 17 maart 2018 14:08 schreef dellipder het volgende:
Eventuele aanbevelingen voor strafrechtelijke vervolging zullen ook vanuit het bureau komen waar McCabe werkzaam was en deze aanbevelingen worden gedaan door zijn oud-collega's.
McCabe heeft dit lot zelf over zich afgeroepen en het verlies van zijn pensioen is het minste waarover hij bezorgd zou moeten zijn.
Ik reageer meestal niet op deze en soortgelijke berichten, maar ik ben jou nog niet tegengekomen bij mijn berichten, dus ik maak hier een uitzondering.quote:
quote:John Bolton reportedly set to fire dozens of White House officials amid leaking problem
Incoming national security adviser John Bolton is reportedly poised to remove dozens of White House officials when he starts his new job early next month.
Among those who will get the boot will be Obama administration holdovers and anyone who isn't loyal to President Trump, sources told Foreign Policy.
“Bolton can and will clean house,” one former White House official was quoted as saying.
On Thursday, Trump announced that Bolton would replace H.R. McMaster as head of the National Security Council -- a move that would be effective on April 9.
Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under former President George W. Bush, hinted in follow-up interviews Thursday on Fox News and Fox Business that he would be a strong force to solve the White House's lingering issue with leaks, particularly those of a national security nature.
"It's not for them to put in jeopardy the other 300 plus million American citizens just because they think their morality is better than everybody else's," Bolton said of the leakers on Fox Business.
The issue is so prevalent, the New York Times reported Friday that Trump himself has told Bolton that he needs to plug up the leaks.
McMaster's exit followed a recent high-profile leak where briefing materials for a phone call between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin from Trump’s national security advisers were leaked.
quote:COLLUSION DELUSION: New Documents Show OBAMA Officials, FBI COORDINATED in Anti-Trump Probe
Former Sen. Harry Reid asked James Comey to investigate Trump
Documents obtained by congressional investigators suggest possible coordination by Obama White House officials, the CIA and the FBI into the investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign. Those senior Obama officials used unsubstantiated evidence to launch allegations in the media that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, according to newly discovered documents and communications obtained by Congress.
The documents also reveal that former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, sent a letter on Aug. 29, 2016, asking then FBI Director James Comey to investigate the allegations, which were presented to him by then CIA Director John Brennan. Brennan had briefed Reid privately days earlier on the counterintelligence investigation and documents suggest Reid was also staying in close touch with Comey over the issues. The Gang of Eight is a group of eight lawmakers who have access to the most highly classified information and often meet on Capitol Hill to be briefed on classified material.
The documents, which include text messages from embattled FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and his paramour Lisa Page, also reveal that former Obama White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was involved in the initial investigation into Trump’s campaign. Comey, Brennan and McDonough the “highest-ranking officials at the FBI, CIA and White House” were working in concert to ensure an investigation was initiated, congressional members told this reporter.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was deeply troubled by the findings.
“We’ve been asking for documents with little cooperation of the DOJ and FBI — we’re having to find these unreacted documents on our own,” said Meadows, who’s also chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. “It appears there was a coordination between the White House, CIA, and FBI at the onset of this investigation and it’s troubling.”
Meadows said a meeting that John Moffa, who was part of the counterintelligence division at the FBI, meets with Denis McDonough on August 10, (2016),” Meadows added. “What we’re finding is the more we dig the more we realize that there appeared to be a willful coordination between multiple groups outside the Department of Justice and FBI. Moffa was also the FBI agent who helped draft Comey’s July 5, 2016, exoneration letter to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Meadows said the documents suggest Reid’s briefing from Brennan “was used in Michael Isikoff’s Yahoo News story.”
Isikoff’s article was used as evidence for the FBI’s FISA warrant being granted against Carter Page. Page was a short-term volunteer advisor on the Trump campaign, who was spied on by the FBI. Congress and the Department of Justice are investigating the FBI’s conduct in obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant in October 2016 to spy on Page. Page was a central figure in an unverified dossier put together by former British Spy Christopher Steele alleging the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
In April 2017 The New York Times published the first story about Brennan’s counterintelligence briefing to Reid regarding Trump. The briefings to Gang of Eight congressional members suggested Russia might be helping Trump win the election. Brennan alluded to the unverified information that members of the Trump campaign may be colluding with the Russians. The information briefed to the lawmakers expanded the number of people who were aware of the unverified allegations, and played a significant role in the increase of leaks to the media, according to the information obtained by the committee.
“A chain of events suggest the FBI encouraged Reid to write this letter to legitimize its surveillance of Carter Page”
A congressional investigator told this reporter that they believe the FBI was involved in the briefing to Reid but are still waiting for confirmation.
In the letter from Reid to Comey, he cites information Brennan shared with him that Trump advisor, referencing Carter Page, and other “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow were meeting. Reid asks Comey to launch an investigation by the FBI into the Trump Campaign and the Kremlin.
The letter, which was obtained by this reporter, refers to reports briefed by Brennan but gives “almost no evidence” regarding the Trump campaign and Russia, according to congressional investigators.
For example, the letter only states that “questions have been raised about whether a Trump advisor who has been highly critical of U.S. and European economic sanctions on Russia, and who has conflicts of interests due to his investments in Russian energy conglomerate Gazprom, met with high-ranking sanctioned individuals in Moscow in July of 2016.”
Congressional investigators also note that newly revealed text messages between Strzok and Page also show possible coordination between the FBI, CIA and the Democrats.
Shortly after Reid’s letter was revealed in a New York Times article on August 30, 2016, Strzok texts Page saying, “here we go.” He included a link to the story in the text message.
Congressional investigators suggest that the pair were creating inferences “that they knew it would create public calls for an investigation into Russian interference.”
Sept. 23, 2016, Isikoff article, which cites Reid’s letter, is also another example of possible coordination, congressional investigators state. The FBI used the Yahoo news article as part of the evidence in their application to obtain a FISA warrant on Carter Page.
“This sequence of events strongly suggests the FBI encouraged Reid to write this letter to legitimize its surveillance of Carter Page,” congressional investigators stated.
• What began as an investigation into allegations of Russian cyber hacking of the DNC was eventually broadened into an investigation of the Trump campaign.
• By sending high-ranking officials and led to brief members of Congress on the possibility of Russian interference in the 2016 election, the DNC hack, and the possibility Trump campaign associates were in contact with Russia, the FBI was given cover for the investigation they had recently opened on Trump with questionable legal justification.
• The intelligence community has admitted Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election were only the most “recent expression” of their longstanding desire to undermine US elections.
• It appears based on the information “insurance policy” in case Trump won, these briefings by the intelligence community to Congress, which led to several members calling for investigations into Russian interference and Trump, were perfectly timed to plant seeds of doubt in the outcome of the 2016 election.
• By utilizing the FBI’s cyber division to look into the DNC hack, the agents exhibiting improper political biases from the FBI’s counterintelligence division, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok, were offered cover.
quote:The Real Collusion Story
In a textbook example of denial and projection, Trump foes in and out of government wove a sinister yarn meant to take him down.
Barack Obama keeps a close watch on his emotions. “I loved Spock,” he wrote in February 2015 in a presidential statement eulogizing Leonard Nimoy. Growing up in Hawaii, the young man who would later be called “No-Drama Obama” felt a special affinity for the Vulcan first officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise. “Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy,” the eulogy continued. “Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed.”
It is the rare occasion when Obama lets his Spock mask slip. But November 2, 2016, was just such a moment. Six days before the presidential election, when addressing the Congressional Black Caucus, he stressed that the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, threatened hard-won achievements of blacks: tolerance, justice, good schools, ending mass incarceration — even democracy itself. “There is one candidate who will advance those things,” he said, his voice swelling with emotion. “And there’s another candidate whose defining principle, the central theme of his candidacy, is opposition to all that we’ve done.”
The open display of emotion was new, but the theme of safeguarding his legacy was not. Two months earlier, on July 5, in Charlotte, N.C., Obama delivered his first stump speech for Hillary Clinton. He described his presidency as a leg in a relay race. Hillary Clinton had tried hard to pass affordable health care during Bill Clinton’s administration, but she failed — and the relay baton fell to the ground. When Obama entered the White House, he picked it up. Now, his leg of the race was coming to an end. “I’m ready to pass the baton,” he said. “And I know that Hillary Clinton is going to take it.”
But he was less certain than he was letting on. Hillary Clinton was up in the polls, to be sure, but she was vulnerable. Three weeks earlier, on June 15, a cyberattacker fashioning himself as Guccifer 2.0 had published a cache of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). They proved, as supporters of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders had long alleged, that the DNC had conspired with the Clinton campaign to undermine their candidate. Sanders was still withholding his endorsement of Clinton for president, even though her nomination as the Democratic candidate was now a foregone conclusion. At the very moment when Clinton had expected the Democratic party to unite behind her, its deepest chasm seemed to be growing wider. In contrast to Clinton, Obama held some sway over the Sanders insurgents. He came to Charlotte to urge them to support Clinton against their shared enemy, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump.
The insurgency was not the only Clinton vulnerability on Obama’s mind. He had come to Charlotte, in addition, to deflect attention from the news conference that James Comey, the director of the FBI, had held that morning in Washington, D.C. The investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server was complete, Comey announced. The FBI would recommend no criminal charges — that was the honey. But Comey administered it with a dose of vinegar. He dwelled on Clinton’s mishandling of classified material in such detail that it sounded as if he was laying the foundation for an indictment. The decision not to charge Clinton, his statement signaled, was an exercise in prosecutorial restraint, not a true exoneration.
From the perspective of the voters, Clinton’s twin email travails — the hack of the DNC and the investigation into her server — were two faces of a single problem. Call it “Clinton, Inc.” Sanders and Trump were painting Clinton as Wall Street’s darling, the establishment candidate. She was the greatest defender and a prime beneficiary of a rigged political and financial system. Comey’s statement had played directly into the hands of the Sanders insurgents. It left the distinct impression that laws are for the little people; they simply don’t apply to Hillary Clinton, because, well, she’s Hillary Clinton.
Which points to Obama’s third and final job at Charlotte: humanizing the queen. “I saw how she treated everybody with respect, even the folks who aren’t, quote/unquote, ‘important,’” Obama testified. He enlarged Clinton’s humility before the crowd, because it was invisible to the naked eye. With his jacket and tie off, the cuffs of his sleeves turned, and a winning smile spread from ear to ear, Obama came to loan Hillary Clinton his common touch.
Passing the baton to her was a team effort, however. It demanded hard work from countless enablers. These included not just Democrats but also many Republicans, who shared the conviction that Trump represented an extraordinary threat to our democracy. Desperate times call for desperate measures. To block Trump, Clinton’s supporters bent rules and broke laws. They went to surprising lengths to strengthen her while framing him — both in the sense of depicting him in a particular light and of planting evidence against him.
When it comes to ongoing FBI criminal investigations, presidents typically refrain from describing their preferred outcomes. They fear the appearance of exerting undue influence over Lady Justice. But in the case of Hillary Clinton’s email abuses, Obama made an exception. “She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy,” he remarked in a TV interview in April 2016. She has displayed “a carelessness in terms of managing emails,” he allowed. “But I also think it is important to keep this in perspective.”
Well-intentioned but careless, said the commander in chief. Three months later, the FBI finished its investigation, and James Comey arrived at an identical conclusion. “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information,” he said in his July 5 statement, “there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” Well-intentioned but careless — Comey was locked in a Vulcan mind-meld with his boss.
As a political move, highlighting Clinton’s intentions was astute. It had a commonsense feel. Americans instinctively take intentions into account when determining guilt. As a strict matter of law, however, it was vapid. The mishandling of classified information falls into the category of a “non-intent crime.” It’s a type of objective recklessness, like running over a pedestrian while blowing through a red light. Violations of this sort trigger criminal liabilities regardless of the offender’s state of mind.
But let’s assume that some clever lawyer in the Department of Justice discovered a very learned and superficially compelling rationale for applying Obama’s fictive standard of intent. Even so, Hillary Clinton couldn’t clear the hurdle. The sheer volume of classified material the FBI recovered from her server constituted proof of intent. “Fifty-two email chains . . . contain classified information,” Comey said.
Particularly damning was the form this material took. It is impossible to paste a classified document into an unclassified email accidentally, because the three computer systems (Unclassified, Confidential/Secret, and Top Secret) are physically separate networks, each feeding into an independent hard drive on the user’s desk. If a classified document appears in an unclassified email, then someone downloaded it onto a thumb drive and manually uploaded it to the unclassified network — an intentional act if ever there was one.
One of Clinton’s emails suggests that downloading and uploading material in this fashion was a commonplace activity in her office. In June 2011, a staffer encountered difficulty transmitting a document to her by means of a classified system. An impatient Clinton instructed him to strip the classified markings from the document and send it on as an unclassified email. “Turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure,” Clinton instructed.
On three separate occasions staffers got sloppy and failed to strip the “nonpapers” of all markings that betrayed their classified origins. The FBI recovered one email, for example, that contained a “C” in parenthesis in the margin — an obvious sign that the corresponding paragraph was classified “Confidential.” When an agent personally interviewed Clinton, on July 2, he showed her the document and asked whether she understood what the “C” meant. For anyone who has ever held a security clearance, “C’s” in the margins are more ubiquitous than “C’s” on water faucets — and no more baffling. But Clinton played the ditzy grandmother. She had simply assumed, she said, that the “C” was marking an item in an alphabetized list.
In the 2,500-year life of the alphabet, this was a first: a list that started with the third letter and contained but a single item. The explanation was laughable, but any sensible answer would have constituted an acknowledgement of malicious intent. Her only out was the “well-intentioned but careless” script that Obama had written for her. In other words, she lied to the FBI — a felony offense.
Before she ever told this howler, however, Comey had already prepared a draft of his statement exonerating her. The FBI let Hillary Clinton skate.
But give Comey his due. If he had followed the letter of the law, the trail of guilt may have led all the way to Obama himself. As Andrew C. McCarthy has demonstrated at National Review Online, Obama used a dummy email account to communicate with Clinton via her private server. Did this make Obama complicit in Clinton’s malfeasance? Anyone in Comey’s position would have thought twice before moving to prosecute her — and not only because the case might have ensnared the president himself. The FBI must enforce the law, but it must also be seen to be enforcing it. As a rule, these two imperatives buttress each other. During the 2016 election, Comey faced extraordinary circumstances. If he had followed the law to the letter, he would have toppled the leading candidate for president and decapitated the Democratic party. Clinton’s supporters, more than 50 percent of the electorate, would have erupted in outrage, screaming that a politicized FBI had thrown the election to Donald Trump.
Guarding the bureau’s reputation for impartiality is a serious concern. But it is nevertheless a thoroughly political concern. Comey would have us believe that it was a unique moment in his career, the singular entry into the political arena of an otherwise apolitical servant of the law. Truth be told, Comey loves being in the thick of it, but not because he is a partisan brawler. He is not. It is the drama that he relishes — the grand stage. His favorite role is that of Joe Friday, the no-nonsense lawman, the guardian of legal processes before the encroachments of dirty politicians.
Joe Friday, however, was a simple detective, a confirmed bachelor, content to live quietly with his mother and his parakeet. And, of course, he was a TV fiction. In real life, humble straight shooters get clobbered with a brick before they ever reach the limelight. In real life, snagging the big part often requires the equivalent of leaving a bloody horsehead in the producer’s bed.
quote:McCabe and the Lovers
And it requires a supportive staff. Midyear Exam, the codename for the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, relied on a team of men and women with the right stuff — a quality that is hard to define but easy to recognize.
The right stuff did not require strong Democratic credentials, but they certainly helped. Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI, led the team. McCabe was not your FBI gumshoe of old. He spent no time in his younger days chasing bank robbers in Des Moines. He was part of a new breed — the post-9/11 FBI leadership, for whom the career fast track was counterterrorism. He came of age at the intersection of law enforcement with national security, shuttling between D.C. and New York. Along the way, he developed a valuable personal network. His wife, Jill, ran as a Democrat for a Virginia state-senate seat in 2015. The political organization of Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, one of Hillary Clinton’s very closest associates, gave her nearly $500,000.
Perhaps more important than having Democratic credentials was having a heightened understanding of the needs of senior leadership — in the FBI, certainly, but also in the DOJ. Right across the street from the J. Edgar Hoover Building sat Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She would be scrutinizing Midyear Exam in every detail. And not just Lynch. Hillary Clinton herself would be watching closely — and would be brought in for questioning, too. Being willing and able to treat her with kid gloves was essential. She “might be our next president,” team member Lisa Page reminded Peter Strzok, the agent in charge of Midyear Exam. Referring to Clinton’s upcoming FBI interview, Page wrote, “The last thing you need us going in there loaded for bear.”
Like McCabe, Strzok had pursued a career at the nexus of law enforcement and counterterrorism. But he was less overtly political. A John Kasich sympathizer, he was by nature a middle-of-the-roader, and a Republican-leaning one, at that. Clinton left him cold. But Trump left him even colder — and his active personal life helped concentrate his mind on that antipathy. Strzok was having an affair with Page, who was an FBI lawyer on McCabe’s staff. Both were married. Page’s politics were typical of highly educated people in D.C.: She detested Trump and his supporters. He is “a loathsome human being,” she texted to Strzok, who readily agreed. After Trump captured the nomination, hostility to him quickly became part of their private idiom.
If “the ultimate aphrodisiac,” as Henry Kissinger famously claimed, is power, then wielding it together with an illicit lover must be the pinnacle of eroticism. Together, Strzok and Page explored the power of secrets, routinely leaking to the press to shape political outcomes. “Still on the phone with Devlin,” Page texted to Strzok, referring to former Wall Street Journal national-security reporter Devlin Barrett. Big news about the Hillary Clinton email story was breaking when Devlin and Page were on the phone together. “You might wanna tell Devlin he should turn on CNN, there’s news on,” Strzok texted back.
Page: He knows. He just got handed a note.
Strzok: Ha. He asking about it now?
Page: Yeah. It was pretty funny.
Influencing the nation’s politics was routine. And ridiculously easy: one quick call to “Devlin,” and boom! The world changed.
Deploying secrets for political effect — deciding which to keep, which to tell, and how to tell them — was a task that they approached with alacrity. The ultimate goal, of course, was not propping up Hillary Clinton so much as maximizing the power and autonomy of the FBI. In pursuing this goal, McCabe and the two lovers demonstrated the very essence of the right stuff: a breezy comfort with bending the law to the demands of politics.
They honed their skills on Midyear Exam. As that test ended, an even bigger one loomed before them. At the end of July, Comey and McCabe would officially open an investigation into Russian meddling in the election, including possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. On July 5, the day of Comey’s press conference on Clinton’s emails, a former British spy, Christopher Steele, flew to Rome to meet an old FBI contact. The information he brought had weighty implications for the impending investigation. But neither the information nor the implications are what we have been led to believe.
quote:The Super Spy
Steele — a former British spy and a Russia expert — was working on contract to Fusion GPS, a Washington-based public-relations firm, which, in turn, was on contract to a D.C. law firm, which, in turn, was on contract to the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC. Steele, that is to say, was working for Hillary Clinton. His job, among other things, was to collect opposition research on Trump from his network of Russian sources.
When Steele arrived in Rome, his famous “dossier” did not exist. The dossier, as we have come to know it, is some 17 reports that he compiled between June and December 2016. In early July, Steele had been working on the Clinton account for only a few weeks and had written but one report, dated June 20. It claimed that Trump was Vladimir Putin’s Manchurian candidate. “[The] Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting, and assisting Trump for at least 5 years,” Steele reported. Putin’s goal was “to sow discord and disunity both within the US itself, but more especially within the Transatlantic alliance.” The Russian leader supported Trump, mainly, by supplying “valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”
Putin had offered lucrative financial contracts, but Trump had turned them down. The wily Russian, however, had managed to get his hooks into Trump due to the American’s “sexual perversion.” During a visit to Moscow in 2013, Trump had hired prostitutes to stay with him in the same hotel suite used by the Obamas on one of their trips. The FSB, Russia’s secret police, had fitted the room with cameras and recording equipment. Trump had the prostitutes defile Obama’s bed by putting on a “golden shower” performance for him. All of it was caught on tape.
Earthshaking news: Vladimir Putin was blackmailing Donald J. Trump. No doubt, Steele’s FBI handler rushed this report to his superiors in Washington, D.C. They, in turn, raced it straight to Obama’s desk. Sorry, wrong. According to the New York Times, Steele’s explosive revelations wound their way to the J. Edgar Hoover Building only slowly. It took weeks before they appeared in Strzok’s in-box. Why?
Mike Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA, helps explain the delay. Morell did some digging into Christopher Steele’s dossier and shared the results of his research at a public forum in Washington, D.C., in March 2017. Steele, according to Morell, did not have direct access to the Russians whom he labeled as his “sources” — people who included former officers in the FSB. He “communicated” with them, if that is the right word, through paid intermediaries, who paid the so-called sources.
The chances of Steele having been played were thus great. Morell explained it like this:
If you’re paying somebody, particularly former FSB officers, they are going to tell you truth and innuendo and rumor, and they’re going to call you up and say, “Hey, let’s have another meeting, I have more information for you,” because they want to get paid some more.
This process, Morell said, “takes you nowhere.”
Steele’s report was, in a word, junk. And Morell, the man who expressed that opinion, was not just a seasoned intelligence professional; he was also a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton for president. Nor did Steele’s FBI handler in Rome set off an alarm in Washington, because he, presumably, was also a seasoned professional who knew junk when he saw it. And he had many additional reasons to doubt the veracity of Steele’s reporting — reasons that Morell refrained from broaching. How, for example, could Steele be sure that the former FSB officers in his network were fully retired? The convoluted pipeline between Moscow and London gave Russian intelligence too many opportunities to inject disinformation into the flow of reports to London.
And let’s not neglect the glaring issue of plausibility. When in the history of the rivalry between the West and Russia has it been possible for a British spy to call up sources in Moscow and gain immediate access to the deepest secrets of the Kremlin? Steele, relying only on his wits, unearthed gems the likes of which glittered only in the dreams of the CIA, Mossad, and MI6, the greatest intelligence-gathering organizations on earth. To believe that tale, we must assume that Steele, like James Bond, is no ordinary secret agent. He’s a super spy.
Then there’s the little matter of Steele’s personal bias. According to one well-informed associate, Steele was “passionate about” preventing Trump from winning the election. His financial incentives, of course, oriented him in exactly the same direction. He was a paid piper — and he got paid only for collecting information detrimental to Trump. Isn’t it possible — likely, even — that his shadowy paymasters in the demimonde of the Clinton campaign were calling the tune?
Steele’s reports certainly harmonized beautifully with the campaign’s propaganda. On June 2, in a speech in San Diego, Hillary Clinton unveiled her main line of attack on Donald Trump’s foreign policy. His ideas, she said, were “dangerously incoherent.” In fact, they weren’t “even really ideas — just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies.” Particularly mystifying was his attitude toward the Russian dictator: “He said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. . . . I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.”
But the demimonde wasn’t about to leave it to mental-health professionals. It hired instead a British super spy. He immediately explained that Putin was extorting Trump. Two weeks after that, he flew to Rome to share his explanation with the FBI. By the time he left Rome, his handler might not have guessed that the Clinton campaign was funding the spy’s work. The political nature of Steele’s mission, however, would have been obvious.
In Rome on July 5, the FBI was beginning to acquire a new secret. But it was not the one contained in Steele’s report. The Clinton campaign, the FBI would soon learn with certainty, was intent on framing Trump as Putin’s puppet. That secret was truly explosive — and perhaps thrilling for the two lovers on McCabe’s staff. In time, all of them —Strzok, Page, McCabe, and Comey — would all mishandle it, damaging their careers irreparably. In July, however, they were not yet in a rush to ruination. The team with the right stuff cautiously watched and waited. Not until September would they take their fateful missteps.
quote:The Birth of the Collusion Thesis
On July 22, WikiLeaks released the largest cache of DNC emails. The plan behind the hack now became clear: to sabotage the Democratic National Convention, which opened in Philadelphia on July 25. While Clinton was organizing a celebration of Democratic unity, Guccifer 2.0 was working to flood the convention floor with enraged Bernie Sanders insurgents. In the event, Clinton managed to prevent the protests from ruining the convention. But they did damage her theater of power — and they also handed Trump a fresh opportunity to broadcast his “Crooked Hillary” theme. He took obvious delight in the rage of the Sanders followers. “An analysis showed that Bernie Sanders would have won the Democratic nomination if it were not for the Super Delegates,” Trump tweeted on the eve of the convention.
The statement hit Clinton like an iron bar to her kneecap. The thought that a malevolent foreign actor was helping Trump deliver the blow only increased the pain. Most observers assumed that Russian state-backed hackers stood behind Guccifer 2.0 (an assumption that has grown stronger with time). If Trump felt sheepish about benefiting from such people, he hid it well. “I will tell you this, Russia. If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said on July 27, referring to Hillary Clinton’s messages that the FBI never recovered during its investigation of her private server.
In the eyes of his supporters, Trump’s appeal to Putin was a stage whisper, a mock gesture — and a pointed dig at Clinton. In her rush to hide emails from the FBI, Trump implied, she had delivered them up to Putin on a platter. But his brand of humor was lost on Clinton and her team. To them, the appeal to Putin was sinister. “I just think that’s beyond the pale,” said Clinton loyalist and former CIA director Leon Panetta. To shame Trump before the voters, the campaign shifted its rhetoric perceptibly. In June, Clinton had depicted Trump’s attitude toward Putin as irrational. Now the two were said to be in a partnership — a “bromance” was how John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, described it. “This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” said senior Clinton policy aide Jake Sullivan. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national-security issue.”
Shaming was all well and good, but it only resonated among committed voters. Winning the election required convincing independents that Trump was more than just a passive beneficiary of the DNC hack; he had to be an accomplice. Clinton’s campaign thus posted five questions on its website:
1. What’s behind Trump’s fascination with Vladimir Putin?
2. Why does Trump surround himself with advisers with links to the Kremlin?
3. Why do Trump’s foreign policy ideas read like a Putin wish list?
4. Do Trump’s still-secret tax returns show ties to Russian oligarchs?
5. Why is Trump encouraging Russia to interfere in our election?
Each question was followed by a short answer, leading to the inevitable conclusion that Trump was actively conspiring with Putin.
And so, the collusion thesis was born. The website did not spell out the details of the conspiracy, but the campaign’s demimonde left nothing to the imagination. Christopher Steele had discovered Russian “sources” who painted a vivid picture of the plot. Putin had decided against releasing the compromising videos of Trump. The Manchurian candidate was proving just too beneficial to Russia. In fact, a full-blown alliance had formed between Putin and Trump. Based on their “mutual interest in defeating . . . Hillary Clinton,” they struck a grand bargain: Putin would help elect Trump, who would deliver a supine American policy on Ukraine and NATO defense.
The super spy’s network was remarkable. His Russian sources were as close to Trump as they were to Putin. “An ethnic Russian close associate” of Trump’s “admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy” between him and the Russians. Another source revealed more: The DNC hack was carried out “with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team.” There it was: the proof the Clinton campaign needed. The great crime against Hillary Clinton was a joint Russian-American operation, and Trump was in on it from the beginning.
Steele’s startling discoveries hardly stopped there. But before revealing more, let’s pause and consider the purpose of his reports. How, precisely, did his direct employer, Fusion GPS, use them?
quote:The Super Duo
To hear Glenn Simpson tell it, his company, Fusion GPS, is a research organization. “What we do is provide people with factual information,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August 2017. “Our specialty is public record information.” In truth, Simpson’s true specialty is not research but persuasion — more specifically, persuasion of reporters. He has a talent for convincing journalists to publish stories, true or not, that benefit his clients. In short, he is a public-relations flack.
But Simpson is no ordinary PR man; he’s a super flack. In the first decade of this century, he was in his early forties and working as an investigative journalist for the Wall Street Journal. He was reaching the pinnacle of his profession just as the Internet was gutting the print media. Simpson, however, had a marketable talent. “I call it journalism for rent,” he said at a public forum in August 2017. Journalism as we once knew might be dead, but deep-pocketed clients still needed to get stories into the press. And they needed to block other stories from being published. Simpson knew almost every member of the Washington press corps personally, and he understood the constraints under which they worked — what it took to get a story past an editor. He handed them canned articles. They got scoops; he got happy clients.
When pitching stories on Trump-Putin collusion, Simpson eventually discovered the great benefit of placing Christopher Steele directly in front of reporters. In September and October, he would fly the spy from London to the United States so the two of them could brief major media outlets as a team. Before that, in July and August, Simpson did not have the benefit of Steele’s physical presence. But neither was he alone. He still had the super spy’s reports — James Bond in a briefcase.
Con men stoke the greed of their marks by letting them catch glimpses of suitcases bulging with cash. Simpson gave his marks a sense that he was similarly loaded — but with valuable information, not money. “In September 2016, Steele and I met in Washington and discussed the information now known as the ‘dossier,’ ” wrote Jonathan Winer, in the Washington Post. A former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, Winer admitted passing Steele’s information to his superiors. “I was allowed to review, but not to keep, a copy of these reports to enable me to alert the State Department,” he explained. Simpson, we infer, would let journalists catch a glimpse of the super spy’s “raw intelligence.” Then he would quickly take the document back — because, you understand, it was just too sensitive to leave lying around.
If journalists feared that Steele’s startling reports (such as, for example, the one about the golden shower) contained Russian disinformation, Simpson had a well-rehearsed spiel at the ready to reassure them. He inadvertently shared it before the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017. Steele, Simpson explained, had a “standard presentation” for journalists to explain how he avoided falling prey to the diabolical Russians. Sliding into the first person, he rattled off Steele’s lines:
I was the lead Russianist at Ml6 in the final years of my career. And I was previously stationed in Moscow. And I speak Russian. And I’ve done Russian intelligence/counterintelligence issues all my life. And the central problem when you’re a Russian intelligence expert is disinformation, and that the Russians have . . . a long history and an advanced capability in disinformation. And so . . . before we go any further, I just want you to know that . . . this is . . . the fundamental problem with my profession. And it should be assumed that in any sort of intelligence gathering . . . there will be some disinformation. And I’m trained to spot that and filter it out, but . . . you should understand that . . . no one’s perfect.
Simpson then switched to the first-person plural. Perhaps, when briefing journalists, this was the point at which he would speak, in his own voice, as the leader of the talented and experienced team at Fusion GPS:
And so we’ve essentially filtered out everything that we think is disinformation, and we’re not going to present that to you here. We’re going to present to you things that we think come from credible sources, but we’re not going to warrant [sic] to you . . . that this is all true.
Simpson staked the credibility of the dossier on just one thing: Steele’s super awesomeness. On his own, Simpson would have been flacking salacious rumor, but paired with Steele, he was briefing “credible intelligence.” Together, they became a super duo.
The purpose of the dossier would change over time. In July and August, the goal was not to get Steele’s reports directly into the press. Nobody knew better than Simpson, a highly experienced reporter, that Steele’s claims were unverifiable and, therefore, unprintable. The best he could achieve was an article that reinforced the main suppositions of the collusion thesis — an article such as “Trump and Putin: A Love Story,” which David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, wrote and published in early August. “Putin,” sees in Trump a grand opportunity,” Remnick explained. “He sees in Trump weakness and ignorance, a confused mind. He has every hope of exploiting him.”
Remnick stopped just short of claiming that Putin was actually blackmailing Trump, but his depiction of their relations matched, in general, the story that emerged from Steele’s reports. Remnick took pains, for example, to instruct readers:
The gathering of kompromat — compromising material — is a familiar tactic in Putin’s arsenal. For years, the Russian intelligence services have filmed political enemies in stages of sexual and/or narcotic indulgence, and have distributed the grainy images online.
Did Remnick personally rely on a Fusion GPS briefing? We do not know. Jane Mayer, a staff writer for the New Yorker, recently confessed that she received a briefing, in September, directly from super spy himself — so the potential for communication certainly existed. Regardless of what inspired Remnick, his approach represented a win for Simpson. If, with the help of the dossier or any other tool of persuasion, he could convince journalists that Putin was blackmailing Trump with compromising videos, then it was just that much easier to convince them to report stories about, say, the danger to the Western alliance that Trump represented — a story that would require nothing more than stringing together a few quotes from Trump with a few ominous warnings from foreign-policy experts. The dossier, in short, helped Simpson sell a master narrative.
quote:A Diabolical Mastermind
By choosing to convince voters that Trump was somehow an accomplice to the DNC hack, the Clinton campaign had set itself a difficult challenge: defining the role of Putin’s American partners in crime. After all, the hack did not require the assistance of a Tom Cruise character. No one broke into DNC headquarters, crawled through a ventilator shaft, rappelled from a cable, and slid a disk into a hard drive. The hackers carried out the operation unilaterally, electronically, and probably from offshore. They required no accomplices on American soil.
Steele solved this problem by finding “sources” who revealed that the crucial contributions of Trump’s team came in the planning stages. As it turns out, Steele reported, the idea to hack the DNC actually originated from the American side. It was Trump’s team that defined the objective of the operation: “leaking the DNC e-mails to Wikileaks during the Democratic Convention” in order “to swing supporters of Bernie Sanders away from Hillary Clinton and across to Trump.”
This report solved half of the Clinton campaign’s problem: It established Trump’s guilt. But a conspiracy can’t grab the popular imagination if it is devoid of actual conspirators. Here again, the super spy’s “sources” came to the rescue. On the day-to-day level, the job of managing the Trump-Putin collusion fell to Paul Manafort, who, at that time, was still Trump’s campaign manager. But Manafort was not the architect of the DNC hack. Fortunately, the super spy was running a mole who was able to identify that criminal genius. The plot, Steele reported, “was conceived and promoted by Trump’s foreign policy adviser Carter Page.”
Here the super spy’s vaunted ability to filter out Russian disinformation appears to have failed him. Carter Page (who is no relation to Lisa Page on McCabe’s team) played a negligible role in the campaign. The Trump people had placed him on a team of foreign-policy advisers, to be sure, but they had thrown the group together in haste to counter the accusation that the campaign lacked an expert bench. Page did not know Donald Trump personally. He worked in finance, with a focus on investing in Russia’s energy sector, but he had no notable achievements to his name. A former boss described him, very unkindly, as “a gray spot,” a man “without any special talents or accomplishments.”
Steele’s allegations against Page make sense only in a Marvel Comics universe. Carter Page: by day, a mild-mannered businessman; by night, a diabolical mastermind.
The role that the super spy ascribed to Page may have been absurd, but what choice did he have? The conspiracy needed a face. That person had to have plausible connections to Russia plus a certain amount of visibility. In Trump’s orbit, there were only two candidates: Manafort and Page. Manafort’s ties, however, were to Ukraine, not Russia — and he was too well known. He had been working in Washington since the Reagan era.
Page, by contrast, had direct connections to Russia, having lived in Moscow for some three years. The modesty of his career was actually a plus, because Clinton’s propagandists could present it as shadowy rather than unsuccessful. For an unknown, Page was surprisingly visible. His trip to Moscow in July 2016 had received significant press attention, not least because he had expressed opinions in favor of rapprochement with Russia and critical of American foreign policy.
With the aid of Fusion GPS, the Clinton campaign rolled out their master narrative on Trump-Putin collusion. A new orthodoxy immediately gripped the establishment press, which amplified the overwrought propaganda, complete with suggestions of dirty deals, dark conspiracies, and blackmail. It was Jeffrey Goldberg, the national correspondent (now editor) of The Atlantic, who first trumpeted the new line. In his aptly titled article, “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton Is Running against Vladimir Putin,” Goldberg alleged that Trump “has chosen . . . to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
In “Putin’s Puppet,” Franklin Foer of Slate examined the matter from the Russian side: “Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West — and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump,” he wrote. David Remnick’s article discussing Putin’s affinity for grainy sex videos made identical points. All three authors noted, with grave concern, the Russian ties of Paul Manafort and . . . Carter Page.
With the exception of Fox News, the broadcast media beat the same drum. CNN might not have accused Page of masterminding the hack of the DNC, but it recognized a dangerous man when it saw one. On August 8, for example, it devoted a long segment entirely to Page. “What’s really remarkable here,” Jim Sciutto, CNN’s chief national-security correspondent told anchorman Wolf Blitzer, is that Page’s positions “match almost word for word the positions of the Kremlin, on, for instance, alleged U.S. orchestration of pro-democracy in and around Russia. And that is sparking concern from Russia experts and former policy makers even inside the GOP.”
So Page was “sparking concern” even among Never-Trump Republicans? How ominous! But imagine how much more ominous it would have sounded if journalists could have reported that Page was also sparking concern in the FBI! At that moment, John Brennan, the director of the CIA, was doing his damnedest to hand journalists precisely that story.
quote:A Ventriloquist and His Dummy
While the establishment press was singing in harmony with the Clinton campaign, a cacophonous debate erupted inside government. At the end of July, James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, said at a public forum that the intelligence community was not “ready yet to make a call on attribution” — not ready, that is, to attribute the DNC hack to Putin. Clapper was also unready to say that the intention of the hackers was to get Trump elected. The goal, he said, may simply have been “to stir up trouble.” When combined with similar comments by other intelligence officials, Clapper’s statements undercut Hillary Clinton’s efforts to brand Trump as Putin’s active accomplice.
Enter John Brennan. In early August, Brennan launched a personal campaign to force a consensus in support of Clinton’s propaganda. Before long, Clapper became his partner in this effort. They would succeed, however, only after the election — and then only by establishing an ad hoc and highly unorthodox intelligence-assessment team. To man the team, Brennan and Clapper handpicked a small number of analysts, tasking them with reaching a consensus before the inauguration of Donald Trump. The team, no surprise, did not disappoint. In January 2017, it produced the “consensus” that Brennan had been trying to orchestrate for the previous five months. By then, it was still useful as a propaganda tool against President Donald Trump, though it had arrived far too late to help Hillary Clinton win the election.
Of course, Brennan has never admitted his political motives. On the contrary, according to an in-depth Washington Post investigation (based on interviews with either Brennan himself or people very close to him), the CIA director claimed to be in possession of eye-popping intelligence reports about the DNC hack. These reports supposedly “captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.” Yet even if this intelligence trove actually did exist and truly did convince the CIA director, it obviously did not have the same persuasive impact on his colleagues, as evidenced by Brennan’s failure to deliver a consensus assessment of Putin’s motives.
In his mission to transform the intelligence community into an official choir of the Clinton campaign, Brennan ran up against a 6’7″ wall in the form of James Comey. According to the New York Times, in August 2016, “a critical split” emerged between “the CIA and counterparts at the FBI, where a number of senior officials continued to believe . . . that Russia’s cyberattacks were aimed primarily at disrupting America’s political system, and not at getting Mr. Trump elected.” As a component of this disagreement, Brennan may also have pressured Comey to investigate possible collusion with Russia by aides and associates of Trump.
By law, the CIA cannot spy on Americans; only the FBI has the authority to investigate citizens. But the CIA can share reports with the FBI about efforts by foreign agents to suborn individual Americans, and it can strongly urge the bureau to take action on the basis of those leads. Brennan, it would appear, did just that in July 2016.
That was the moment when the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence the Trump campaign. As we mentioned, Peter Strzok, who had been in charge of Midyear Exam, took charge of this investigation, too. The genesis and scope of it, however, is shrouded in a fog of deliberate misinformation. From the little we know, the probe seems to have centered on George Papadopoulos, a young foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Acting mostly on his own initiative, Papadopoulos reached out to Russians in the hopes of brokering a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. In the process, he may have bumped into Russian intelligence agents.
Papadopoulos’s activities took place, primarily, in London — a part of the world where the CIA has greater reach than the FBI. How did Comey come to learn of them? The answer is unclear, but certain clues point to Brennan.
One of these is Brennan’s own testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in March 2017. The CIA, he explained, had shared certain information with the FBI — an apparent reference to the Papadopoulos leads. This was information, he said, “that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.” Was Brennan taking responsibility for kick-starting the investigation into the Trump campaign? He seemed to be saying that he had dropped the Papadopoulos file on Comey’s desk and said, “Investigate Trump!”
If this supposition about the origins of the investigation in July is correct, it may also help explain Brennan’s behavior in late August, when he grew increasingly exasperated with Comey. In an effort to gain allies, Brennan turned to friends in Congress for help. With the blessing of Obama, he organized a series of briefings for the so-called Gang of Eight — the Democratic and Republican leaders in both chambers of Congress, and the chairs and ranking minority members on the Senate and the House intelligence committees. According to the New York Times, Brennan told these senior lawmakers that he “had information indicating that Russia was working to help elect Donald J. Trump president,” a view that was not supported by an authoritative intelligence assessment.
Obama and Brennan explained the briefings as an effort to forge bipartisan unity in the face of the Russian threat. But if Brennan couldn’t force a consensus inside the intelligence community, how could he possibly convince Republicans and Democrats to join hands — during a polarizing election, no less?
This high-minded bipartisanship was simply cover for a highly partisan move. The true motive of the briefings was to ventriloquize the Democrats on the Hill. If Brennan himself had gone public with his claims about Putin, he would have called down attacks on himself for passing off Clinton propaganda as an official intelligence assessment — and for meddling, as the director of the CIA, in domestic politics. Democratic lawmakers who received his briefings, however, operated under no such constraints. They were perfectly free to pass along Brennan’s views to the public as their own. They became the ventriloquist’s dummies, moving their lips mechanically as the CIA director spoke.
Brennan placed one of them center stage. On August 25, he gave a briefing that differed from the others; he tailored its content especially to the bare-knuckle politics of its recipient, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. During the 2012 election, Reid had assisted President Obama by falsely claiming that his Republican presidential challenger, Mitt Romney, had paid no taxes for ten years. When later asked if spreading a false rumor wasn’t reminiscent of McCarthyism, Reid responded, “They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win, did he?” With the certain knowledge that Reid, who was in any case retiring after the 2016 election, would do whatever it took to win, Brennan indulged his own partisan political passions. He told Reid, according to the New York Times, “that unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election.”
If Reid’s response is anything to go by, Brennan did much more than that: He briefed the senator on information taken directly from Steele’s dossier; and he complained about the recalcitrance of the director of the FBI. Two days after the briefing, Reid wrote a letter to Comey, which he immediately shared with the press. Claiming there was mounting evidence of “a direct connection between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” Reid demanded that the FBI launch an immediate investigation. The American people, he wrote, deserve all the facts “before they vote this November.”
The Trump campaign, Reid continued bluntly, “has employed a number of individuals with significant and disturbing ties to Russia and the Kremlin.” He was particularly concerned with Trump associates who may have served as what he called “complicit intermediaries” between the Russian government and hackers. “The prospect of individuals tied to Trump, Wikileaks, and the Russian government coordinating to influence our election raises concerns of the utmost gravity and merits full examination.” In an unmistakable reference to Steele’s reports on Carter Page, Reid informed Comey that “questions have been raised” about a Trump adviser who allegedly “met with high-ranking sanctioned individuals while in Moscow.”
Serving as Brennan’s dummy, Reid publicized the Marvel Comics rendering of Carter Page, and he demanded that the FBI launch an investigation on the basis of it. Before long, Comey would obey.
Shortly after Reid’s letter, Obama asked the FBI for an update on its investigation of Russian tampering with the election. The president, Lisa Page texted to her lover Peter Strzok, “wants to know everything we’re doing.” The text probably refers to Obama’s preparations for the G-20 meeting in China, where he personally lodged a complaint with Putin about the Russian hacking. But the request is intriguing. Obama was engaging the FBI just as it stood ready to use the allegations of the Steele dossier as a basis for broadening its investigation of Trump. When Comey informed Obama about “everything we are doing,” did he discuss the Carter Page allegations? Did he note their source, Christopher Steele? And what about the president himself? Did Obama nudge Comey to comply with the demands of Brennan and Reid?
Whatever signals the president may have sent, McCabe and his lovebirds certainly began supporting the efforts of Brennan and Reid to paint Trump as Putin’s puppet. The form of support was nuanced and clandestine. If Peter Strzok and Lisa Page had contacted their favorite reporter, Devlin Barrett, and leaked the fact that a Trump adviser was coming under investigation, the leak would have implicated the FBI. Trump and his supporters would then have castigated Comey, accusing him of intervening in politics. To avoid such problems, the lovers used a pair of cutouts — intermediaries who laundered the FBI’s information in the same way that Reid had laundered information for Brennan.
Who better to play this role than the super duo, Simpson and Steele? Either directly or through an intermediary, Strzok shared with Steele the news of the impending investigation of Carter Page. He did so with the certain knowledge that Steele would channel it to Simpson, who, in turn, would incorporate it into his standard press briefings. (FBI representatives would later deny having used Steele as a cutout with the press, but their self-defense, as we shall see below, is demonstrably false.)
The experience of the journalist Julia Ioffe demonstrates how diligent Simpson was at spreading the news that Strzok was surreptitiously feeding him. In mid September, Ioffe published a profile on Carter Page for Politico. “As I started looking into Page,” she relates, “I began getting calls from two separate ‘corporate investigators’ digging into what they claim are all kinds of shady connections Page has to all kinds of shady Russians.” One of those investigators was, presumably, Simpson; the other one probably represented another dank corner of the Clinton demimonde. Both emphasized an allegation that came directly from Steele’s dossier: namely, that Page, during his trip to Moscow in July, had met with Igor Sechin, who is a key Putin ally and the chairman of the Russian state oil company. The “corporate investigators,” however, now had something else to push, something new and very newsworthy: “The FBI was investigating Page.”
As knowledge of the FBI’s interest in Carter Page spread, Steele’s credibility soared. To exploit the opportunity, Simpson flew Steele to the United States to brief select media outlets in person. Thanks to the information that McCabe’s team was leaking to the press through Steele, Simpson could repackage the super spy. No longer just a former MI6 operative working as an “independent” researcher, Steele was now a trusted colleague of the FBI’s. He possessed unique insight into the fears of American counterintelligence officials about Trump’s nefarious relations with Putin.
For the first time, Steele agreed to go on the record as a quoted source for journalists. This round of briefings generated an article, written by veteran Yahoo reporter Michael Isikoff. Entitled “U.S. Intel Officials Probe Ties between Trump Adviser and Kremlin,” it focused, naturally, on Carter Page. Isikoff reported that American officials had “received intelligence reports” that Page had met with Sechin. “At their alleged meeting,” Isikoff reported, “Sechin raised the issue of the lifting of sanctions with Page, the Western intelligence source said.” A Western intelligence source? That would be Christopher Steele. By identifying the super spy in this manner, Isikoff disguises (wittingly or unwittingly) Steele’s identity as a Clinton operative and as the author and disseminator of the reports in question. The moniker had the added benefit of making Steele seem to work for a Western government, creating the illusion of transatlantic trepidation about the cunning Carter Page.
Confirmation of the article’s central claims came from two other sources. The first was a “senior U.S. law enforcement official,” who told Isikoff that Page’s meetings in Moscow were “being looked at.” Would that be Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, or Lisa Page? The second confirmation came from “a congressional source familiar with . . . briefings” that lawmakers had received about Carter Page’s meetings in Moscow. Would that be Harry Reid? Whether these were indeed the correct identities, it is obvious where Isikoff found his sources: on Glenn Simpson’s Rolodex. Here was a story processed and canned in Fusion GPS’s information factory. All Isikoff had to do was add water and shake. His sources were all part of a single network conspiring to hoodwink the public.
Why did Comey participate in this fraud? Perhaps it was to get Brennan and Reid off his back. On the risk side of the ledger, the dangers were minimal. Today the Isikoff article is a fingerprint on a hot bullet casing, irrefutable proof placing the FBI at the scene of the crime. But in September 2016, the chances of anyone ever tying the bureau to it were negligible. Although the article announced with great flourish the opening of an investigation into Carter Page, it’s not even clear that, at this point, Page was truly an official target of the probe.
The important thing to Brennan and Reid was helping Hillary Clinton win the election. What they desired most from the FBI was a public statement that the Trump team was under investigation for conspiring with Putin. With the Isikoff article, Comey didn’t fully satisfy them, but he threw them a bone.
On the reward side of the ledger, he showed Hillary Clinton and her friends that he was, despite everything, a team player. And his contribution to the team effort was indeed significant. The FBI’s leaks were indispensable in giving super-flack Glenn Simpson a stable of seemingly independent sources willing to go on the record about the grave concern sweeping the Western world about, of all people, Carter Page.