by George Rasley
In the last week, as revelation upon revelation hit that Obama administration officials and career employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) spied on the Donald Trump campaign in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Margot Cleveland writing for The Federalist, observed that the mainstream media, the Left, and Never Trump Republicans have fallen back on three ready responses:
A solid plurality of this contingent continue to avert their eyes from the facts and dismiss the claims of misconduct as peddled by tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists. There is not much you can say to this faction, because they refuse to consider the proof.
A second – and more extreme group – believes Trump conspired with the Russians to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. There is not much you can say to this bunch either, because they are tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists.
But the final group sees things differently. While they don’t necessarily believe Trump was treasonous, they argue that the FBI and other intelligence-gathering agencies rightly targeted the Trump campaign. With Russian-leaning Paul Manafort and Carter Page involved in the campaign, and Trump trolling Hillary with praise for Vladimir Putin, the government could not just ignore the risk, they posit. And there was no impropriety in doing so.
Ms. Cleveland says for two years, she teetered between that third contingent and utter disinterest. But then we learned that the DOJ intentionally failed to inform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court that the Democratic National Committee had paid for the Christopher Steele dossier. That unverified and mainly false dossier formed a significant part of the government’s application for a wiretap for former Trump aide Page.
That admission changed everything for Ms. Steele. An attorney, she had spent nearly 25 years reviewing challenges to warrants based on claims of withheld (or false) evidence. And she says, unlike the typical criminal case in which a defendant later has access to the warrant application, in the case of a FISA court order, the target cannot view the information the government used to obtain a wiretap, making FISA court proceedings ripe for abuse.
She then asked these key questions: Was there good faith in the beginning? Did political appointees and career agents rightfully pursue leads to see if something was there? Or was the investigation always an insurance policy?
Back in February we asked a similar question that is even more pertinent today: Did Anyone Really Believe The Steele Dossier?
As a veteran of over 300 political campaigns I’ve compiled dozens of opposition research memos. No candidate I’ve ever worked with would have paid me for the Steele dossier, unless of course they didn’t care if it was true or not.
This experience begs the question: Given the problematic sourcing, did anyone involved on the FBI or Hillary Clinton side really believe the allegations in the Steele dossier? Or was it always known to be a cynical lie?
Ms. Cleveland says she doesn’t know, but what she does know, though, is that there is what she calls “a convincing mosaic of evidence that the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, and DOJ acted with improper motives—some related to the Obama administration’s general modus operandi, and some specific to Crossfire Hurricane.”
Cleveland then goes on to outline what she calls the “convincing mosaic” thusly:
For instance, we know that the Internal Revenue Service was weaponized to target conservatives under the Obama administration, and we know the media was easily manipulated to push the Iran deal. This makes it even more probable that intelligence agencies and DOJ were likewise politicized to target the Trump campaign and the press used to peddle the Russia collusion narrative.
The specifics known to date support this conclusion. We have former acting attorney general Sally Yates, whose disregard for President Trump rose to such heights she chose insubordination rather than resignation. Yates informed Trump that then-national security advisor Michael Flynn had not been honest in discussing his conversations with the Russian ambassador, leaving Flynn open to blackmail.
Yates later pushed the theory that this conversation potentially violated the Logan Act, an unused law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign powers. The DOJ later indicted Flynn for lying to the FBI about his conversation with the Russian ambassador, even though evidence shows the agents who questioned Flynn believed he was truthful.
One of those agents was Peter Strzok, whose texts to his partner in adultery, Lisa Page, revealed a clear anti-Trump animus and the existence of “an insurance policy” to protect against the unlikely event of a Trump presidency. Strzok and Lisa Page were involved in the Russian investigation, and Strzok later became part of the special counsel’s team, until the text messages were later “revealed.” By “revealed,” I mean barely revealed, as they were heavily redacted, even though when small snippets were later released, the blacked-out text served only one purpose: to protect the FBI from embarrassment.
Then we have James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, who instructed then-FBI director James Comey to brief Trump on the Steele dossier, with Clapper leaking the briefing to CNN’s Jake Tapper to legitimize the media’s coverage of the salacious (and false) details. The DOJ used that same dossier to obtain the first of four FISA court wiretap orders on Carter Page, without informing the secret court that the Democrats had paid for the opposition research. Comey, of course, would later leak at least one classified document to a buddy to prompt the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Trump.
There’s more: We now have an admission that the FBI used an informant to spy on the Trump campaign beginning before the official launch of the Russia collusion investigation. We came about these details through leaks to The New York Times and Washington Post, while the DOJ continues to ignore congressional demands for the same information.
My point here is not to catalog every piece of circumstantial evidence demonstrating impropriety. I’m surely missing some substantial threads. Rather, my goal is to illustrate why Crossfire Hurricane can no longer be assumed an apolitical and legitimate investigation. Those pointing out this reality are not Trump apologists: we are patriots.
As our friend, investigative journalist Sheryl Attkisson put it in an article for The Hill, “It’s incredible to think of how many FBI and Justice Department officials would have touched the multiple applications to wiretap Trump campaign adviser Carter Page — allegedly granted, at least in part, on the basis of unverified and thus prohibited information — if normal procedures were followed.”
Attkisson quoted a former FBI agent as saying, “DOJ verifies the accuracy of every fact stated in the [FISA warrant] application. If anything looks unsubstantiated, the application is sent back to the FBI to provide additional evidentiary support – this game of bureaucratic chutes and ladders continues until DOJ is satisfied that the facts in the FISA application can both be corroborated and meet the legal standards for the court. After getting sign-off from a senior DOJ official…”
The choice, and it was a choice, not a failure on the part of the FBI, not to follow procedure then begs the question where were the FISA Court judges in all of this? Did they join Glenn Simpson in suspending judgement on the veracity of the Steele dossier, or were they hoodwinked by the rogue elements of the Obama-era FBI and Department of Justice? And if they were hoodwinked, what are they going to do about it?
Sheryl Attkisson’s outstanding article for The Hill is the best distillation we’ve seen of how the FISA warrant application process is supposed to work, and what it shows is not just a breakdown in communication or the failure of one or two people to follow procedures – it shows that for the unverified and unverifiable Steele dossier to form the basis for a FISA warrant application there must have been not just a breakdown, but an intentional waiver of the normal constitutional safeguards supposed in place at the Department of Justice and the FISA Court.
It seems clear to us that his was not a procedural breakdown, it is a criminal conspiracy to violate the constitutional rights of President Trump, Carter Page and various other individuals who were caught up in the net cast by the illegal acts behind the FISA warrant applications.
It is our recommendation that Congress subpoena those who signed the FISA warrant applications, put them under oath and ask them point blank, “On what basis did you believe the information in the Steele dossier to be true?”
Once that question is answered, then Congressional investigators should start working their way backwards through the chain of command at the FBI and DOJ to find out who ordered the normal FISA warrant verification and fact-finding process to be waived. Only at that point will the real extent of the conspiracy against President Trump be revealed, so that action may begin to punish those who perpetrated it.
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George Rasley is editor of Richard Viguerie’s ConservativeHQ.com. A member of American MENSA he is a veteran of over 300 political campaigns, including every Republican presidential campaign from 1976 to 2008. He served as lead advance representative for Governor Sarah Palin in 2008 and has served as a staff member, consultant or advance representative for some of America’s most recognized conservative Republican political figures, including President Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. He served in policy and communications positions on the House and Senate staff, and during the George H.W. Bush administration he served on the White House staff of Vice President Dan Quayle.