Issues & Insights

Will The Real Russia-Collusion Scandal Please Stand Up?

I&I Editorial

Now that the smoke from the always-dubious Trump-Russia investigation has cleared, the real scandal is finally coming into focus. Namely, the one where the Obama administration, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and various top law enforcement officials apparently worked together to spy on the campaign of their political opponent. A scandal with far more credible evidence to back it up than the phony Russia collusion story.

On Monday, news broke that Attorney General William Barr had appointed John Durham, the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to investigate the FBI’s use of the Clinton-campaign-financed “dossier” on Trump as a pretext to spy on Carter Page and, by extension, the 2016 Trump campaign.

At the same time, the Justice Department’s inspector general is looking into whether political bias against Trump influenced the decision to push for wiretap applications. The U.S. attorney in Utah, John Huber, is also looking into the Page FISA warrant.

Finding political bias at work in the decision to spy on the Trump campaign should not be difficult. It’s been plain as day to anyone who’s been paying attention as the origins of the Trump-Russia probe came to light.

Let’s rewind the tape a bit.

The FBI secured a wiretap of Page based largely on a collection of gossip, rumors and innuendo collected by the Trump-hating former British spy Christopher Steele, whose bills were paid by the Clinton campaign.

When the source of the dossier, and its connection to Clinton, came to light, Democrats and various never-Trumpers insisted that the dossier itself played an insignificant role in launching the investigation and obtaining the wiretaps. And besides, the FBI didn’t know that the dossier was politically tainted.

We’ve since learned that all this is false. Not only did the FBI know the dossier was bought-and-paid-for opposition research, but it also knew that the information Steele was peddling was far from credible.

In October, for example, James Baker — who reported directly to former FBI Director James Comey — told congressional investigators that an attorney connected with the Democratic party gave him the dossier during the 2016 presidential campaign.

That revelation prompted House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to say that “Numerous officials at the DOJ and the FBI have told us under oath . . . nobody at FBI or DOJ knew anything about the Democratic Party being behind the Clinton dirt. Now you have one of the top lawyers for the Democrats and the Clinton campaign who was feeding information directly to the top lawyer at the FBI.”

Early this year, The Hill’s John Solomon reported that Bruce Ohr, then a senior Justice official, had “explicitly cautioned that the British intelligence operative’s work was opposition research connected to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and might be biased.”

More recently, we learned that Steele had met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec on Oct. 11, 2016, 10 days before the first warrant application, and Kavalec was unimpressed with the credibility of his work. Among other things, Steele referenced a “Russian Consulate in Miami,” to which she noted that “there is no Russia consulate in Miami.”

She then forwarded the summary of her meeting to other government officials in a memo. Yet, when FBI agents applied for the FISA warrant, they claimed that Steele’s “reporting has been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,” that the FBI had determined him to be “reliable” and that they were “unaware of any derogatory information pertaining” to their informant.

The New York Times also reported in late April that the FBI had interviewed one of the main sources for the dossier in early 2017 and came away with “misgivings about its reliability (that) arose not long after the document became public.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and ranking member of its Subcommittee on Government Operations, told Solomon last week that “This once again shows officials at the FBI and DOJ were well aware the dossier was a lie — from very early on in the process all the way to when they made the conscious decision to include it in a FISA application. The fact that Christopher Steele and his partisan research document were treated in any way seriously by our Intelligence Community leaders amounts to malpractice.”

Add to this the obvious bias of FBI agents such as Peter Strzok, who was a key figure in the Trump-Russia investigation and bragged to his paramour in a text about how the FBI had an “insurance policy” should Trump — God forbid — get elected. Comey’s No. 2, James Baker, resigned amid a House investigation into whether he’d been in contact with leftist reporter David Corn about the Steele dossier. Ohr was demoted when it turned out that his wife had worked with Fusion GPS, the firm that was enlisted by the Clinton campaign to dig up dirt on Trump and that hired Steele. Comey has outed himself as a bitter, Trump-hating partisan. On and on it goes.

The question isn’t whether the effort to investigate the Trump campaign was biased or politically motivated when it so obviously was.

The question is whether any of those involved broke the law.

— Written by John Merline

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