Take a ride on the RussiaGate merry-go-round!

by Fabius Maximus

Summary: We have been on the RussiaGate merry-go-round for almost three years, yet we still have more questions than answers. Let’s take a ride and look at the madness of Republicans and Democrats as they play with the few facts the Deep State has given us, frantically protecting their party’s interests. Here we look at the nature of the probe. Was it an investigation or spying on the Trump campaign?

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The opening salvo: government officials leak to the NYT.

Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation” in the NYT, 16 May 2018. It consists of NYT reporters acting as stenographers for government officials, who look like bold patriotic heroes in the article.

“Within hours of opening an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in the summer of 2016, the F.B.I. dispatched a pair of agents to London on a mission so secretive that all but a handful of officials were kept in the dark.”

The article implies that the FBI was being too gentle on Trump. Some of it reads now like black humor, such as this by the man whose fake info from Russian officials dominated the news for two years.

“For Mr. Steele, it {unclear what that refers to} dashed his confidence in American law enforcement. “He didn’t know what was happening inside the F.B.I.,” Glenn R. Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS, testified this year. “And there was a concern that the F.B.I. was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people.”

These leakers revealed little about the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. The reasons for FBI’s actions remain unknown, other than the leakers’ flattering justifications and reams of outsiders’ guessing. Also unknown is the role of the “dossier” from Christopher Steele (prepared for the Clinton campaign) – stories given him by Russian officials, for as yet unknown reasons.

Attorney General Barr asks if the FBI was spying on the Trump campaign.

Barr testified before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on 10 April 2019. From CNN transcripts here and here. He believes that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign. He wants to know why. So do we.

Barr: As I said in my confirmation hearing, I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activity activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016. A lot of this has already been investigated and a substantial portion of it has been investigated and is being investigated by the Office of Inspector General at the department. But one of the things I want to do is pull together the various investigations that have gone on, including on the Hill and in the department, and see if there are remaining questions that need to be addressed.

Senator Jean Sheehan: Can you share with us why you feel the need to do that?

Barr: …I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. The generation I grew up in, which is the Vietnam War period, people were all concerned about spying on anti-war people and so forth by the government. There were a lot of rules put in place to make sure that there’s an adequate basis before our law enforcement agencies get involved in political surveillance. I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated but I think it’s important to look at that. I’m not talking about the FBI necessarily but intelligence agencies more broadly.

Sheehan: You’re not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?

Barr:  I think that spying did occur. …I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated but I need to explore that. I think it’s my obligation. Congress is usually very concerned about intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane and I want to make sure that happened. We have a lot of rules about that and I’m reviewing this. …I do have in mind having some colleagues help me pull all this information together and let me know whether there are some areas that should be looked at.

I also want to make clear is not launching an investigation of the FBI. To the extent there were there were any issues at the FBI, I do not view it as a problem that’s endemic to the FBI. I think there was probably a failure among a group of leaders there at the upper echelon and so I don’t like to hear attacks about the FBI because I think the FBI is an outstanding organization.

Barr: “I believe I have an obligation to make sure government power is not abused.”

The Democratic Party’s journalists go berserk on Barr.

Chuck Todd at MSNBC’s MTP Daily on April 10 (video and transcript here).

“Using the word spying plays right into the President’s language and argument that the Russia investigation to him is just a witch hunt. And every time they’ve brought up this allegation, there has been zero factual basis for it. Every effort to perpetrate the spying conspiracy theory has been debunked. I’ll get to that in a moment.”

Chris Cumo on CNN’s “Cumo Prime Time” on April 10 (transcript).

“He says spying, knowing the term is an insult to the men and women who work for him. …He knows that that is a defamatory way to refer to surveillance.”

Jeffrey Toobin on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360”, April 10 (transcript). He was Assistant US Attorney in Brooklyn and is now CNN’s chief legal analyst.

“That is a President Trump talking point. … his use of this term shows how much the paranoid lunacy of the right wing is now moved right in to the Department of Justice.”

William Barr, Trump toady” by Jennifer Rubin in a WaPo op-ed, April 10.

“This is the language of a PR spinner, not the attorney general of the United States. …Now, if you didn’t already think Barr was failing to fulfill his oath to enforce the laws as the people’s lawyer (not Trump’s lawyer), this latest episode might do it.”

One of the investigation’s targets speak out.

The Russia Probe Started With the Spies Who Marked Me” by George Papadopoulos, an op-ed in the WSJ, April 17.

“During my time as an adviser to the Trump campaign, federal intelligence and law-enforcement organizations used operatives to contact me in person and by email on multiple occasions. Their goal? To discuss rumored coordination efforts with Russia and extract evidence of a collusion crime.

“‘Operatives’ is a euphemistic term for these men. Spies is a more fitting label. One is Stefan Halper, a professor at the University of Cambridge who runs intelligence seminars and has ties to the CIA. The Washington Post named him as the FBI informant who approached at least three members of the Trump campaign. Then there’s Alexander Downer, who had the lofty title of Australian high commissioner to the U.K. and was an adviser to the British private intelligence firm Hakluyt & Co. Finally there’s Joseph Mifsud, who taught at Rome’s Link Campus University, where many faculty members have ties to intelligence agencies.

“These men spied on me. As spies, they hid behind the cloak of their public personas while trying to ferret out information about the campaign and Moscow, and prod me into corroborating their bad intelligence. Major newspapers have confirmed that Mr. Halper reported to the FBI and Mr. Downer reported to Australian intelligence. Mr. Mifsud’s handlers remain unidentified.”

Also see “Spying Did Occur” – his interview on the Byron York show, April 16.

A squib pretending to be a bombshell.

F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet With Trump Aide in 2016” by in the NY Times, May 2. More self-serving leaks by government officials to the NYT. It consists of confident justifications mixed in with trivial about the investigation.

“The conversation at a London bar in September 2016 took a strange turn when the woman sitting across from George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, asked a direct question: Was the Trump campaign working with Russia? The woman had set up the meeting to discuss foreign policy issues. But she was actually a government investigator posing as a research assistant, according to people familiar with the operation. …Ms. Turk {a pseudonym} went to London to help oversee the politically sensitive operation, working alongside a longtime informant, the Cambridge professor Stefan A. Halper.

“While in London in 2016, Ms. Turk exchanged emails with Mr. Papadopoulos, saying meeting him had been the ‘highlight of my trip,’ according to messages provided by Mr. Papadopoulos. ‘I am excited about what the future holds for us :),’ she wrote.”

The article included this damning graph: “Mueller Report Shows Depth of Connections Between Trump Campaign and Russians” from their 26 January 2019 article – “Donald J. Trump and 18 of his associates had at least 140 contacts with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, or their intermediaries, during the 2016 campaign and presidential transition.”Team Trump contacts with Russia

Those few who clicked through to the graphic, then clicked on the dots, were less impressed. Most of Trump’s horrific “contacts” were things like invited to birthday party in Moscowinvited to forum in Moscowdeclined invitation, etc.

Papadopoulos made a provocative comment about the article, but offered no evidence.

Conservatives reacted with glee to the NYT article, as in “Spying on the Trump Campaign Isn’t a Conspiracy Theory Anymore” by Jim Geraghty at National Review, May 3.

“Sending undercover agents to meet with targets and try to get them to divulge sensitive information is …spying, isn’t it? This isn’t a conspiracy theory anymore. As Barr said, this might be on the up-and-up, a bunch of FBI officials hearing odd and troubling things about the Trump campaign being in contact with the Russian government and being obligated to investigate further.”

The conservatives’ theory is still a conspiracy theory. There still is not the slightest evidence for it.

Conclusions

After billions of words in every media about one of the major news stories of the past two years, we have the conclusion to RussiaGate: Trump was not a Russian pawn or agent. But all we have are questions about all other aspects of RussiaGate. What a clear demonstration that we do not run America, we just live here!

There is no public evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC or influenced the election. We have officials’ statements, but US government officials often lie to us about matters of the highest importance (see the big list of lies).

The conservatives’ stories about the investigation – that it was an illegitimate attempt to get Trump – have zero evidence. The FBI’s story is logical, but suspicious. Some of its key officials involved in the investigation were partisans, with a visceral hatred of Trump. The FBI’s reliance on the Steele portfolio remains unclear – why and how much?

The most glaring oddity is the role of the Russian officials who gave Steele the dirt – still either false or unproven – on Trump. Why would the FBI believe that they would blow the biggest intel op ever: the suborning or even controlling of an American President? Their trial for treason would be short, followed by a quick execution. Which means that the Steele dossier, one of the drivers of RussiaGate, might be a Russian disinformation op to wreck Trump.

Perhaps these questions will be answered soon. But I doubt it.

 

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