Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

Over the last four years, despite the murkiness of the Swamp, one thing has been crystal clear to anyone paying attention: the FBI has been up to something. We’ve received puzzle pieces here and there, enough to get a rough idea of how power was being abused and who, though not certain down to every detail, was involved.

We’ve known that the FBI surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, and a few of us were able to discern the tool they used to do it — a poorly written dossier filled with (obvious) Russian disinformation funded by the Clintons. We know that once President Trump was elected, it threw the entrenched bureaucratic power structure into a frenzy, and nothing good ever follows those. We came to learn that Gen. Michael Flynn—then the National Security Advisor—had been entrapped for a felony by an FBI team under the direction of former director James Comey, and that all signs suggested that Comey himself was executing a plan hatched in the office of former president Barack Obama just a month before.

And now, thanks to investigative information uncovered released by none other than Sen. Lindsey Graham, we have further completed the picture of corruption that permeated the highest levels of the federal government during our last “peaceful transfer of power.” From the dodgy dossier to the “mad scramble” to manufacture a good old Russian conspiracy in the press, there is plenty to examine.

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The Dossier

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For all the hysterical talk of secretive alliances with Russia to destroy democracy, it turns out those tasked to beat back the conspiracy were the most useful conspirators Vladimir Putin could ever hope to attain.

The primary sub-source for the so-called Steele Dossier was the subject of an earlier counterintelligence investigation by the FBI, which is a fancy way of saying he/she was a suspected spy. One might think that information of that sort would be important to include when submitting the aforementioned dossier as a primary piece of evidence in attaining a surveillance warrant against a US citizen, but only if one is so naive as to believe truth played in any role in the FBI’s mission. The fact is, facts regarding the dossier’s sub-source were known to the investigating counterintelligence team, the Crossfire Hurricane team as it was called, as early as December 2016.

At that point in the game, the CH team had been surveilling Trump campaign foreign policy volunteer Carter Page for two months. And more consequently, despite learning that they had used garbage information from a shady Russian asset to spy on an American citizen, the team proceeded to use the dossier to authorize three subsequent FISA warrants against Mr. Page. Yes, they knew, and no, they didn’t care. This should come as a surprise to no one, as any counterintel worth the title should have known that the dossier was not a solid intel product from the beginning. Those on the receiving end of this garbage should have been able to hear the Russians laughing halfway across the world with each absurd line. Thus, it strains credulity to suspect mere incompetence. Deliberate deception is the far more likely suspect.

“Between May 2009 and March 2011, the FBI maintained an investigation into the individual who later would be identified as Christopher Steele’s Primary Sub-source,” the two page FBI memo states. “The FBI commenced this investigation based on information by the FBI indicating that the Primary Sub-source may be a threat to national security.”  

According to the memo, the FBI opened a preliminary investigation in 2009 after receiving information that a “research fellow for an influential foreign policy advisor for the Obama administration” was approached by the individual, later identified as the dossier sub-source, who allegedly inquired about their future “access to classified information” and if they “wanted to “make a little extra money.”

The memo states that the research fellow and co-worker questioned the possibility the individual might be a “Russian spy,” which intel personnel are trained to do when confronted with probing questions of that sort.

A full blown investigation would ensue after a review of FBI databases revealed the individual had contact in 2005 and 2006 with the “Russian embassy and known Russian intelligence officers.”

It would appear that our spy friend figured out that we were on to him, as he left the country just as the investigation gained steam in 2010. As a result, the FBI withdrew a surveillance warrant application to the FISA court and closed the investigation, stating that “consideration would be given to re-opening the investigation in the event that the Primary sub-source returned to the United States.”

The dossier’s primary sub-source did indeed return to American soil and was interviewed over a three-day period at the FBI’s Washington Field Office in January 2017 where he described some dossier allegations as “rumor and speculation,” and in other cases did not recognize the claims.

So for those keeping score at home, not only is our sub-source a probably Russian spy, he can’t even vouch for much of the info in the dossier. This is the material that was used to spy on a campaign staffer for the incoming President of the United States. The depth of corruption is astonishing to consider.

As it turned out, the case into the suspected spy was never reopened despite his returning to the U.S. And I suppose that makes sense, seeing as how he was essentially Team FBI, though neither party was Team America. And the FISA court? They were informed about none of this. Not the scandalous nature of the sub-source, not his doubts as to the dossier’s veracity, none of it. The FBI got their surveillance ticket and that’s all that mattered. The ends justified the means because the end was never justice. It was espionage.

Of course, revelations regarding shady sources were but one reason the bureau had to doubt the credibility of the dossier. Declassified footnotes from the Inspector General’s report into the four FISA warrants for Carter Page showed that despite being warned on multiple occasions on the possibility of a Russian disinformation scheme—warnings that frankly should have gone without saying—the bureau pushed ahead undeterred with their surveillance mission. One such warning appeared in an intel product published in early 2017, which specifically noted that two individuals Russian intel operatives knew of former British spy Christopher Steele’s “election investigation” in early July 2016, three months before the FBI would begin citing the dossier. In other words, since we know that the Russians were clued in to what Steele was doing well before the election, it’s quite likely that they used the occasion to take us to the disinformation cleaners. Yet the sound of Russian laughter could not be heard over the internal cries to take down the president.

Attorney General Barr was sure to include his own thoughts of the FBI’s malfeasance, stating on the cover letter to Graham’s documents that U.S. Attorney John Durham brought the new information to his attention, and that it “bears upon the FBI’s knowledge concerning the reliability of the dossier.”

Graham, in whom I’ve invested little faith to uncover criminality up to now, has been overseeing the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into Crossfire Hurricane and review of the FISA process. As part of that oversight, Graham announced that former FBI Director James Comey will testify publicly before the committee on September 30 as to his role in the investigation. Given the rough run for reelection in which Graham is currently embroiled in South Carolina, one hopes that this hearing will be used to truly dig into what Comey knows and hold him accountable for any inconsistencies, which should be plentiful.

As to the Durham investigation, there are still no indications as to when his findings will be made public, nor where exactly the investigation is headed. What we do know is that AG Barr is receiving personal updates from Durham on a regular basis. 

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Big Picture

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Consider for a moment the disparity between the target of corrupt FBI surveillance, Carter Page, and the intel source that was used in order to secure the warrant for that surveillance. Mr. Page is a graduate of the Naval Academy and someone who has never made himself a stranger to the intelligence community. In fact, Page has personally debriefed both the FBI and CIA on his trips to Russia so as to assuage any worries that he had somehow been co-opted by clever Russian operatives to do Putin’s bidding. For all intents and purposes, he was an open book and never behaved otherwise.

The dossier sub-source, on the other hand, was a shady Russian person who personally reached out to American intel personnel in an effort to pay for classified information, then left the country once people began to take notice. He was anything but an open book and by any fair, non-corrupt American intelligence official should have been presumed a hostile actor. Yet there would be no need for debriefs from our Russian friend. To the contrary, any information he offered that flew in the face of the anti-Trump narrative was completely ignored, even hidden from the court that would later transform his musings into the foundation of a surveillance warrant to spy on an American citizen.

So why would the bureau spy on a man who would have probably volunteered his phone for surveillance if asked, based on information gleaned from a source who by all accounts should have been surveilled himself? The answer is depressingly simple. This was never about finding bad guys, it was about creating one, specifically the one just elected as President of the United States. Page was an easy target, a Russian apologist who’d taken several trips to Russia over the years and written about his desire to normalize relations between our countries. But it wasn’t Page’s communications they were interested in. Rather, it was the orbit he inhabited that was so valuable. Page spoke to other Trump campaign staffers, and even better, he spoke to them about Russia. What better place to initiate a dragnet to see what comes up? This was about gathering anything and everything, in context or not, to damage an incoming president. The leakers were there waiting to leak whatever they could to the press, if only something juicy could be reeled in.

Unfortunately for the bureau, Page proved to be of little value, as innocent men tend to be. Thus, it was onto the next target, which we now know was Michael Flynn, another man friendly to Russia and hence an easy target for the type of operation that was underway. And just as with Page, the truth never mattered when it came to Flynn’s case, only what could be leaked to the press to damage the new administration of which he was an integral role. Except this time, no FISA warrants would be needed. All calls involving Russian counterparts are intercepted by the government. Comey’s team would need only to have a transcript of phone calls handy so as to catch Flynn in an inconsistency and voila!— Flynn is charged with lying to the FBI.

Dirty. Underhanded. Disgraceful. There are many words to describe the actions of the FBI under James Comey. What’s missing are the words to describe the actions of those above him, specifically Barack Hussein Obama. That the bureau acted deceptively and with corrupt intent against an incoming administration is beyond doubt. The only question that remains is how much further down the rabbit hole AG Barr is willing to go, and what is he willing to do about what he finds?

The justice-starved citizens of this country demand those answers, and soon.

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