The original basis for the investigation into allegations of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians to influence the outcome of the 2016 election has been thrown into doubt. According to a New York Times story published ahead of an anticipated report from the inspector general of the Justice Department, the FBI sent an informant into the Trump campaign to gather proof of its alleged collusion with Russian hackers who stole emails from the Democrat National Committee (DNC) and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager and then published them on WikiLeaks to help Trump win the election.
To give the Times story added credibility, it also revealed the code name that was assigned to the FBI’s spying operation on the Trump campaign, “Crossfire Hurricane.”
The paid FBI spy has been separately identified as Cambridge professor Stefan Halper. He tried unsuccessfully to extract information on the emails from Trump foreign policy advisors George Papadopoulos, after contacting Carter Page and Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis. The spying activity began early in the summer of 2016, some time before the accusations against Trump in the Steele dossier were first delivered to the FBI by Christopher Steele.
THE STORY KEPT CHANGING
The first explanation offered for the origin of the Russian collusion investigation cited the accusations against Carter Page in the Steele dossier. It alleged that Page met with two of Putin’s top cronies during his visit to Moscow in July 2016 and brokered a corrupt deal in which the Russians would help Trump win the presidency by stealing embarrassing Clinton campaign emails and then releasing them on WikiLeaks. Page was to be rewarded by collecting a multi-million-dollar commission on a huge Russian energy deal, and Page would complete the agreement by convincing Trump, after being elected president, to drop the American economic sanctions against Russia.
But that narrative had to be abandoned after the Steele dossier was discredited by the revelation that it was a bogus piece of opposition research secretly paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democrats in order to undermine Trump’s candidacy.
A second version of the probe’s origin was then promoted by the mainstream media. It claimed the FBI investigation was launched because of what an obscure Trump advisor named George Papadopoulos told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer in London in May, 2016. Downer says the half-drunk Papadopoulos claimed he had been contacted by a Maltese professor living in London named Joseph Mifsud, to offer the Trump campaign Kremlin “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails that Trump could use against her. Mifsud, who had contacts with British intelligence, has since disappeared.
Papadopoulos reported the Mifsud offer to Clovis, his superior in the Trump campaign, who told him to check it out. Papadopoulos made several efforts to set up meetings between more senior members of the Trump campaign and his Russian contacts, but then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort ordered that all such proposals be rejected.
After Wikileaks started publishing hacked DNC emails on July 22, Downer reported his May conversation with Papadopoulos to Australian security officials, who passed it on to their American counterparts, prompting the start of the FBI investigation, the second story claimed. Downer played a crucial role in revealing the alleged Russian collusion, according to this version of the story. It is interesting to note that he is also an avid Clinton supporter. He persuaded the Australian government to donate $25 million to the Clinton Family Charitable Foundation.
AN UNLIKELY MESSENGER
Some observers have always been skeptical of the claim that the FBI’s Russian collusion investigation was started by Papadopoulos’ unguarded conversation with an Australian diplomat. It also seems odd that the Russians chose the young and naive Papadopoulos as their messenger to convey such an important invitation to senior members of the Trump campaign. If the Russian approach to Papadopoulos did trigger the FBI investigation in July 2016, why did the FBI wait until the following January to interview him for the first time?
Papadopoulos has also said he believed that the Russians were offering the Trump campaign the missing 30,000 emails from Mrs. Clinton’s private email server, which had no direct connection to the 2016 election. Yet, despite these problems, public opinion seemed to accept this narrative for the launching of the FBI investigation, once the Steele dossier narrative became discredited.
Most of the Russian-collusion related headlines last week focused on the revelation that the FBI had used a spy to collect evidence against members of the Trump campaign. The Washington Post’s version of the story contained an additional piece of information, namely that Halper, who it describes as a retired American professor living in England, began spying on Trump advisers “a few weeks before the opening of the investigation, when Page met the professor at [a] British symposium.”
It had previously been believed that the FBI launched its investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election on July 31, 2016, with the creation an official counterintelligence document, known as the “electronic communication.” That was nine days after WikiLeaks published emails that were apparently retrieved from the computers of the Democrat National Committee (DNC) which revealed, among other things, that senior DNC officials conspired in favor of Mrs. Clinton to deny Bernie Sanders the Democrat presidential nomination.
HIGH LEVEL OBAMA MEETINGS ON THE RUSSIA-TRUMP CONNECTION
The Post’s casual statement that the FBI investigation actually started its investigation earlier than the public had previously been told seemed like a minor detail. But it wasn’t. Its significance was revealed in the recent House Intelligence Committee report on the Russian collusion investigation, which noted that two meetings were held “in late spring” among officials in the Obama administration to discuss the possibility of undue Russian influence on the Trump campaign.
The announcement that Vladimir Putin apologist Carter Page would serve as a Trump foreign policy advisor was discussed at both meetings. During the same March 21 interview with the Washington Post that he announced that Page would be one of his foreign policy advisors, Trump also mentioned Papadopoulos. However, Papadopoulos was virtually unknown to the Washington foreign policy community, and was he dismissed as a lightweight. At the time, the Republican foreign policy establishment had largely rejected Trump as unfit to be a presidential candidate. This left his campaign scraping the bottom of the barrel for almost anyone with foreign policy credentials willing to serve as Trump’s advisor.
WHO IS CARTER PAGE?
Page, on the other hand, had been on the FBI’s radar since 2013, when Russian intelligence operatives had tried to recruit him as a spy. Page had been working as an investment banker with a specialization in Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled energy conglomerate, and other Russian energy companies. Page’s public defense of Putin’s aggressive foreign policies was probably why the Russians thought that they could convince him to work for them. They were wrong. Page, a former Annapolis graduate and naval intelligence officer, was still loyal to the US. He reported the contacts to the FBI and offered to serve as a witness for the Justice Department against the Russian operatives.
Page has respectable academic credentials in foreign policy, but his views in support of Putin are widely considered to be shallow and naive. In 2013 court papers, the Russian agent who tried to recruit him was quoted referring to Page as an “idiot.”
The first of the two high level Obama administration meetings to discuss Page was between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe. The other was a briefing by Comey for the “principals” of President Obama’s National Security Council (NSC). However, the report does not say exactly when in the “early spring” of 2016 those meetings took place, or which senior Obama administration officials were present at Comey’s NSC briefing. They could have included President Obama, serving as the chairman, as well as Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Attorney General Lynch and CIA Director John Brennan.
Despite its lack of details, the House committee report does indicate that senior Obama administration and law enforcement officials had been alerted that the Russians had high level contacts inside Trump campaign. It also implies that the FBI investigation was secretly launched on orders of the Obama administration, long before there was any reason to suspect that the Russians were colluding with the Trump campaign to defeat Mrs. Clinton.
SUPPORTING TRUMP’S CLAIM
The two meetings, combined with the newly revealed fact that the FBI had unleashed a spy on members of the Trump campaign well before the official start date of its Russian collusion investigation, suggest that Trump may have been right in claiming that the motives for launching the FBI investigation were actually political. Trump believes that it had been designed for the purpose of discrediting his campaign, rather than a response to serious national security concerns about Russian collusion, as the Obama administration had claimed.
These disclosures raise the classic Watergate scandal question with new urgency: “What did President Obama know about the bogus FBI Russian collusion investigation and when did he know it?”
We already know what happened next. In April, the DNC and the Clinton campaign used a lawyer who worked for both of them to secretly commission Fusion GPS to do opposition research on Donald Trump who had just wrapped up the GOP presidential nomination. Fusion GPS then hired Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent working out of London.
With input from Clinton’s agents, Steele generated the infamous Trump dossier, based on unverified Russian allegations against Trump, Page, and Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen. It was then actively marketed by Steele and Fusion GPS to media outlets and the FBI. The dossier’s outrageous and unverified allegations were accepted at face value by senior FBI and Justice Department officials, who misused them as evidence to justify a secret FISA court surveillance warrant on Carter Page and the Trump campaign. The dossier also served as the blueprint for two years of investigations which have failed to produce any evidence to back up the dossier’s claims of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians.
GIULIANI DEMANDS FULL DISCLOSURE
The new disclosures that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign and that the Obama administration was secretly tracking its Russian connections as early as March 2016, led former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the spokesman of President Trump’s legal defense team, to demand full disclosure of the origins of the FBI’s investigation.
Giuliani told CNN, “We are more convinced, as we see it, that this is a rigged investigation. Now we have this whole new ‘Spygate’ thing thrown on top of it, on top of already very legitimate questions.” In an interview with Fox News, he said that until Trump’s legal team was given access to all of the classified documents and testimony related to the opening of the investigation, he would not allow Trump to submit to being interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Giuliani also said his legal team would resist any attempt by Mueller to subpoena Trump all the way up to the Supreme Court, if necessary. “What we have to do is go to court and seek protection from the court, if we have to do that. Our first thing is we are not going to testify unless it’s all straightened out, unless we learned the basis of that Russian investigation,” he declared.
The former NYC mayor conceded to a CNN reporter that his aim is to “question the legitimacy” of the Mueller investigation in the eyes of “public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. And so our jury – and it should be – is the American people.”
THE KEY ROLES OF BRENNAN AND CLAPPER
While we don’t know who in the Obama administration assigned Halper to spy on the Trump campaign, Giuliani told radio host John Catsimatidis that Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper must have been aware of the spying operation and undoubtedly informed President Obama of it during his presidential intelligence briefings from Clapper.
“Brennan and Clapper knew about it. Brennan briefed Obama every day,” Giuliani said. “You would have to have brought this up, wouldn’t you? Gosh, I can’t see how you would escape it.”
Former federal prosecutor Joe diGenova told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that President Obama must have known about the FBI spying on the Trump campaign because of the curious memorandum that Susan Rice wrote on inauguration day in an attempt to whitewash what was said during a January 5 meeting with Obama she attended at the White House. “On January 5th, the president, Biden, Yates, Rice, they were discussing exactly what we’re finding out now [about the investigation into the Trump campaign] and they were trying to figure out a way to explain it because they knew since Hillary didn’t win, now it was going to come out and they needed a story. Obama knew all about this and the notion that he didn’t is ludicrous,” diGenova said.
DiGenova added that Comey, Brennan and Clapper, who each played key roles in the conspiracy to falsely accuse Trump of colluding with the Russians, are “a group of psychotics who can’t stop lying” to cover it up. He also said that Clapper and Comey are now engaged in “gaslighting,” which means trying to make the American people believe that the facts now coming to light about the anti-Trump investigation are not real. “They are lying in the most unbelievably brazen and insidious way,” the former federal prosecutor said.
A CONVINCING MOSAIC OF EVIDENCE
The steady drip of embarrassing details and concealed facts about the FBI’s handling of the Russian collusion investigation is having a cumulative effect on American public opinion. Writing in The Federalist, Margot Cleveland, who spent nearly 25 years as a law clerk to a federal appellate judge, described herself as initially being willing to give the FBI the benefit of the doubt in investigating the collusion allegations. But after learning how the Department of Justice misused the Steele dossier, Cleveland said she changed her mind. “My rule of law alarms went off. Trump’s criticism of the Russia collusion investigation no longer sounded staged, and he no longer seemed paranoid. Then the revelations kept coming, as did leaks intended to harm Trump, change the narrative, or soften soon-to-be released news of other misconduct.
“Meanwhile, what was not forthcoming was the information Congress requested, and when it belatedly arrived it was heavily redacted to protect ‘national security.’ Then later releases revealed the national security excuse didn’t hold.”
Cleveland concedes that there may have been reason for the FBI to look into a possible relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia at a much earlier point, but two years into the investigation “that point has long since passed.”
Instead, she writes, there is now “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.”
PORTRAIT OF A VETERAN POLITICAL SPY
The Washington Post’s innocuous description of Dr. Halper as a retired college professor is misleading. He has a previous history of involvement in presidential campaign intrigue. During the 1980 campaign, Halper had been on the staff of GOP vice presidential candidate George H. W. Bush and served as the Director of Policy Coordination for the Reagan-Bush ticket. A July 7, 1983, article in the New York Times written by Leslie Gelb said that Halper was in charge of a Reagan-Bush campaign operation to collect inside information on Carter’s foreign policy. In a scandal that has become known as “Debategate,” Halper and a number of former CIA officials reportedly gained access to Jimmy Carter’s briefing book just before his only TV debate with Ronald Reagan. Carter still blames his 1980 loss to Reagan on the briefing book.
Halper always denied any involvement in the Debategate scandal, but there is circumstantial evidence suggesting he could have easily been involved. His father-in-law at the time was Ray Cline, a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Cline left the CIA in 1969 to join a Washington think tank and became one of the agency’s most vocal public defenders when it came under fire while George H.W. Bush was Gerald Ford’s CIA director in the mid-1970s.
After the 1980 election, Halper left his government job to become the founder and chairman of the Palmer National Bank of Washington, D.C. The Palmer bank was later used by Oliver North, working from the Reagan White House, to funnel illicit funds from Iran to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua as part of the Iran-Contra scandal.
Halper has maintained his ties to the federal government as a well-paid outside consultant. From May 2012, to September 2016, he was paid more than $900,000 by the Defense Department for “classified” work. He was also paid $129,280 by the federal government in July 2017, for unspecified work he did the previous year.
Former FBI director James Comey strongly objected to media reports last week which characterized Halper as a government “spy” who misrepresented himself to members of the Trump campaign in an effort to trick them into revealing incriminating information. Comey insisted that Halper be referred to by the media with more respect as a “confidential human source” working for the government. But those who disapprove of the FBI’s use of Halper as a spy to entrap Trump campaign officials refuse to describe him with terms implying that he was acting like a hero. They note that members of the law enforcement community usually refer to such unsavory individuals as “informers,” “rats” or “snitches.”
HOW A POLITICAL SPY SETS UP HIS TARGET
According to Sam Clovis, Halper’s relatively casual contacts with him and Carter Page were intended to set up his meeting with Papadopoulos, whom he then pumped hard for information about any connections between the Russian and the Trump campaign. Clovis’s first contact with Halper was an email from him on August 29, 2016, in which he said that Carter Page had mentioned his name when they met at a conference in Cambridge, and suggested that he and Clovis meet the next time Halper was to visit Virginia. The two did meet a few days later and held a very casual conversation on foreign policy issues.
Clovis did not think that his conversation with Halper had any political significance at the time. Carter Page’s name came up only in passing and Halper did not indicate any eagerness to volunteer for the Trump campaign. Instead, Halper politely offered to share the results of his research with the Trump campaign “if it would be useful. Halper apparently adopted the same friendly but passive attitude toward the Trump campaign in his conversations with Page. But in retrospect, Clovis now believes that Halper used his friendly contacts with him and Carter Page to set up a much more intense interrogation of Papadopoulos.
In the summer of 2016, Papadopoulos was approached by Halper with an offer of $3,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to London to write a research paper on energy issues in the Middle East. In fact, the trip was a setup for Halper and an assistant to pump him for information about ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
According to a report by Chuck Ross published by the Daily Caller, when Halper asked Papadopoulos whether he knew what had happened to the emails which had been hacked from the computers of the DNC by the Russians, he strongly denied the allegation. When Halper then grew agitated and pressed Papadopoulos for more information about the DNC emails, Papadopoulos reportedly became suspicious that Halper was recording their conversation.
It appears that very few people were aware that Halper was spying for the government against the Trump campaign. Clovis said that during his 19 hours of interrogation by congressional investigators and members of Mueller’s team, nobody ever mentioned Halper’s name. Similarly, during Carter Page’s testimony before Congress, nobody from either side showed any interest in the details of his trip to Cambridge University to meet with Halper.
HOW THE FBI USED PAGE TO GAIN ACCESS
According to the House Intelligence committee report, the spring 2016 meeting between Lynch, Comey and McCabe to discuss Page considered several options. The normal reaction would have been to provide senior officials in the Trump campaign with a “defensive briefing” to warn them that Carter was subject to Russian undue influence, but they chose not to do so. They did order the FBI to interview Page at the end of March, but the reason is unclear.
Some Trump supporters believe that the Obama officials wanted to see whether they could use Page’s well-known Russian connections to serve as a credible excuse to launch a counterintelligence operation against the Trump campaign. But to strengthen their case and convince a FISA court to issue a search warrant, they obviously needed more evidence of Page’s disloyalty, which was conveniently manufactured by Christopher Steele in July as part of the Trump dossier.
The second high-level Obama administration meeting to discuss the Russian collusion plot was convened by FBI Director James Comey to brief the “principals” of the White House National Security Council about Page and possibly Paul Manafort, who joined the Trump campaign on March 29.
Manafort was a veteran Republican political operative with experience on GOP presidential campaigns in 1976, 1980, 1988 and 1996. When Manafort joined the Trump campaign, his job was to ride herd on the GOP convention delegates which Trump had won and make sure that they would not succumb to the well-organized delegate poaching efforts of the Cruz campaign, and to head off any potential problems with rebellious Trump delegates at the Republican National Convention.
Between presidential elections, Manafort had developed an unsavory reputation as a paid lobbyist for rogue regimes around the world, including the pro-Russian regime of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, but this was not initially seen as a problem for his delegate management role in the Trump campaign. In June, Manafort replaced Corey Lewandowski as campaign manager, and ran a moderately successful GOP national convention in July, but by mid-August, the media had begun reporting embarrassing details from Manafort’s lobbying past, forcing him to resign from the Trump campaign.
Manafort had not been in charge for long, but it was sufficient for the masterminds behind the bogus conspiracy theory to portray him in the dossier as the point man for election collusion with the Russians inside the Trump campaign.
This was not yet apparent when Manafort first joined the Trump campaign as a delegate wrangler on March 29. At that time, Page’s presence as a Trump foreign policy advisor appeared to pose a greater potential Russian collusion threat. As a result, the House report says that the main subject of Comey’s briefing to the principals of the NSC was “the Page information.”
NO ATTEMPT TO WARN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN
Unlike the smaller meeting between Lynch and the senior FBI officials, there is no evidence in the House report that the NSC principals even considered warning Trump and his other senior campaign officials of a potential traitor to the country in their midst. Instead, the Obama officials just assumed the worst and launched a covert campaign to compile more evidence of the suspected collusion with Russians. From then on, every discovered contact of a Trump campaign member with a Russian, no matter how tenuous, was treated by the FBI and the leaders of the Obama administration as more proof of Trump campaign treachery, for potential future use to help Clinton against her likely opponent in the general election.
At that point, so early in the campaign, any potential threat of Russian collusion that might have been posed by Page or Manafort could have been easily neutralized with a quiet, well-placed word of warning to Trump and other senior people in his campaign.
Instead, Comey notified senior members of Team Obama that the FBI was working on the assumption that the Trump campaign was actively colluding with the Russians to subvert the election and that a full-fledged secret FBI investigation was about to be launched to find more evidence to prove it.
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign and the Democrat National Committee instructed their Washington lawyer to secretly pay millions of dollars to Fusion GPS to come up with a convincing story of Trump collusion from a credible intelligence source. That became the Steele dossier, which accused Trump, Manafort and Page of acting in collusion with the Russians to illegally interfere with the outcome of the 2016 election. The only problem with the dossier was that its unproven accusations were so outrageous that most respectable American media outlets did not dare to publish them before the election.
THEY ALL BELIEVED THAT CLINTON WOULD WIN
At the time, nobody in the Obama and Clinton camps was worried about a lack of proof. They were confident that Clinton would win the election, and that Democrats would be in full control of both houses of Congress. They were therefore confident that the truth about the secret investigation of the Trump campaign, the bogus Russian collusion accusations and the lies in the dossier would never be revealed to the American public.
But then the unexpected happened. Clinton lost to Trump, and the Republicans won control of the Senate as well as the House. Instead of the Steele dossier becoming an “insurance policy” against the off chance of a Trump victory, it was repurposed by Comey, Brennan and Clapper after election day in order to undermine the newly elected president.
Comey was intent on pushing the bogus FBI investigation. When Trump eventually fired him for that and other legitimate reasons, Comey engineered a press leak that would assure the appointment of Mueller as special counsel, and keep the investigation designed to bring Trump down going indefinitely.
The pro-Clinton resistance, at first, was highly effective in manipulating the media with damaging leaks of confidential information to make Trump and his top officials look bad.
But then the American public slowly began to realize that the wildest accusations against Trump were untrue, that his policies were working and that he was keeping his promises to them. Republican-led committees in the House and Senate began to take a harder look at how the FBI investigation got started, and the deeper they dug, the more lies they exposed about its essential nature.
The original public explanation for launching the investigation, the accusation that Carter Page had made a corrupt deal on behalf of himself and Manafort with Putin’s top cronies, became untenable once it was revealed that the dossier had been bought and paid for as a piece of opposition research by the Clinton campaign. Then, when it became clear that the FBI knew the accusations were bogus, the remaining credibility of the Justice Department and the FBI itself was badly undermined.
A MUCH BROADER FBI INVESTIGATION
The FISA warrant permitting FBI surveillance of Page opened the door to more widespread spying on other members of the Trump team, because Page maintained an office in Trump Tower, which was the headquarters of the Trump transition team after the election. Manafort also had a residence in the building. Flynn, Bannon and Kushner regularly conducted transition meetings there with foreign dignitaries, such as the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, which were apparently under electronic surveillance.
According to investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, the FBI conducted secret surveillance on members of the Trump team in addition to Carter Page. These include Manafort, Papadopoulos, political strategist Stephen Bannon, lawyer Michael Cohen, national security advisor Michael Flynn, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Attkisson also says that the surveillance on Flynn began in July 2016, six months before he had his wiretapped conversation with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak which led to his dismissal from his White House job.
Other illegal procedures used by the FBI and senior Obama administration national security officials to spy on Trump’s team both before and after the election included national security letters which bypass the need to seek judicial approval. This was a favorite tool of Robert Mueller while he was the director of the FBI, and he was frequently criticized for its use by the inspector general of the Justice Department.
ILLEGALLY “UNMASKING” TRUMP SUPPORTERS
Another surveillance tool, “unmasking,” was frequently abused by at least four senior Obama officials, Clapper, Rice, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and deputy attorney general Sally Yates, to identity members of Trump’s team whenever they were contacted by foreign individuals who were under legal US surveillance for other reasons. Unmasking without just cause is considered to be a violation of a US citizen’s constitutional right to privacy. Yet Power made near daily unmasking requests. Clapper initially claimed he could not recall how often such requests were made, and Rice finally admitted to doing it after initial denials. Clapper and Yates also admitted that they illegally shared unmasked surveillance material with other Obama administration officials.
James Clapper and John Brennan appear to have been the masterminds behind the covert surveillance campaign. They mobilized the resources to keep tabs on every important move and communication by the members of the Trump campaign and transition team. They also are suspected of organizing the effective campaign of illegal leaks of sensitive and classified information to the media that kept the Trump transition operation and later the Trump White House constantly on the defensive. Some of the leaks turned out to be true, but others proved to be false, such as the claim that Trump’s personal banking records had been subpoenaed by Robert Mueller, or that Michael Flynn was ready to become a witness against Trump.
But by far the most effective leaker of anti-Trump material to the media is former FBI Director James Comey. He was quick to take his revenge on Trump for firing him last year by giving his professional memos on his private conversations with the president to a Columbia University law professor named Daniel Richman, for the purpose of conveying the embarrassing information in them on Trump to the New York Times. The resulting political pressure led directly to the decision by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to turn over the FBI investigation to special counsel Robert Mueller, who was widely seen at the time as a politically neutral professional prosecutor. What was not widely known at the time was that Richman was more than just an Ivy League legal scholar. He also worked for the FBI under Comey with the status of a “Special Government Employee.”
THE FUSION GPS CONNECTION
It was also not well known at the time that the FBI and officials at the Justice Department were accepting intelligence information from Glenn Simpson and his political opposition research firm, Fusion GPS. The FBI had also asked the author of the Trump dossier, Christopher Steele, to continue gathering unverified dirt on Trump from his Russian sources, while Steele was peddling the same information, at the behest of Simpson and Fusion GPS, to various media outlets. Sharing such secrets with the media was a violation of FBI rules, and led to the cutting of the FBI’s ties with Steele for having lied to them about it, but they still used the Steele dossier accusations in their warrant applications to the judges of the FISA court for the surveillance of Carter Page, without informing them that Steele was no longer viewed as a reliable intelligence source.
CLAPPER AND BRENNAN TRYING TO PROTECT THEMSELVES
Since leaving government service, Clapper and Brennan have been among Trump’s most outspoken critics in the anti-Trump mainstream media. After the spying operation on the Trump campaign was revealed in the New York Times story, Clapper made an appearance on ABC where he not only admitted to it but also claimed that Trump should be thankful to him because the spying protected him from further Russian influence.
Brennan’s public condemnations of Trump have been particularly bitter, suggesting a certain desperation on his part now that the full extent of the spying and subversive operations he led against Trump are coming to light.
According to Attkisson, Clapper was the source of the leak of a particularly salacious piece of political opposition research against Trump which was reported by CNN last fall. He was later hired by CNN as a regular member of its team of political analysts. In February, Brennan was hired as a paid analyst for MSNBC, which is even more outspokenly biased against Trump in its news coverage and commentary than CNN.
As media analysts, Clapper and Brennan have become members of the media elite, with the power to influence how breaking news is presented to the American people. It puts them in a perfect position to soften the coming revelations about their abuses of power as the heads of the federal security apparatus during the 2016 election cycle, by lending credence to the false accusations that the Trump campaign knowingly colluded with the Russians against Hillary Clinton.
The pro-Clinton professionals who helped Clapper and Brennan with that task whom they left behind and are still working at the FBI and the Justice Department continue to obstruct Republican efforts to uncover the details of their anti-Trump conspiracy by stonewalling Congressional requests for the official documents and redacting the most incriminating details.
WAS THE TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION AN OBAMA PLOT?
After examining the all the evidence about the probe released so far, National Review commentator Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, has come to the conclusion that the launching of the Trump-Russian collusion investigation had nothing to do with Page or Papadopoulos. He agrees with Trump, that the investigation was originated by the leadership of the Obama administration to help assure Hillary Clinton’s victory, and later as an excuse by the liberal establishment and its unscrupulous allies in the mainstream media to overturn the results of a presidential election.
A group of more than a dozen frustrated Republican congressmen, led by New York’s Lee Zeldin, have signed a letter calling for the appointment of a second special prosecutor to look into the Justice Department stonewalling of the investigation into the source of the Russian collusion investigation. But many of the Obama-era officials responsible have already left government service and are no longer subject to internal penalties for their professional misconduct. While what they did was immoral and an abuse of government power, most of it did not violate criminal statutes, and they cannot be prosecuted for it in federal court.
Some are also calling for Trump to use his presidential power to declassify the key documents they have asked for, to deny government officials their main excuse for continuing to withhold the key documents from public scrutiny. That would be useful in helping the public to sort out what was actually behind the Russian collusion accusation, and who was responsible for it.
ANOTHER SPECIAL PROSECUTOR IS NOT THE ANSWER
Furthermore, upon reflection on what we have seen over the past year from Robert Mueller’s probe, one might expect that most Republicans would not really want to unleash another open-ended fishing expedition by having a second special counsel appointed, even for the purpose of investigating their Democrat political opponents.
The truth will eventually come out, and Democrats will be held accountable for their anti-Trump tactics by the voters. If not in this November’s midterm elections, then certainly by Election Day 2020.
Finally, we must ask ourselves what the outcome of these revelations will be on Mueller’s probe. According to some media reports, members of Mueller’s legal team have already told Giuliani that they believe they do not have the legal authority to put Trump on trial while he is a sitting president. At best, Mueller can submit a report to Congress on the results of his investigation and leave it to them to determine whether there are sufficient grounds and political support for Trump’s removal from office via the impeachment process.
MUELLER’S JURISDICTION IS BEING CHALLENGED
As for other members of Trump’s camp who now are in jeopardy from Robert Mueller’s probe, there may be good news on the legal front. Professor Steven Calabresi of the Northwestern Law School is the co-founder of the Federalist Society, the country’s predominant conservative lawyers’ association. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, he argued that much of Mueller’s investigation is unconstitutional because it exceeds the narrow mandate originally given to him by assistant attorney general Rod Rosenstein when he appointed Mueller as special counsel.
Calabresi cites a landmark 1988 Supreme Court decision known as Morrison v. Olson, in which the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, declares that only prosecutors who have been appointed by the president are authorized, under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, to wield the wide-ranging powers that Mueller has assumed. Since Mueller was not appointed by the president, his jurisdiction to prosecute is strictly limited, under constitutional law, to the narrow terms of his original appointment by Rosenstein. In other words, according to Calabresi, Mueller’s power to prosecute members of the Trump camp is limited to the crime of colluding with the Russians or obstruction of justice, but nothing else.
That is the same argument which was raised by Federal District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, when he challenged the jurisdiction of Mueller’s team to prosecute Paul Manafort for crimes he allegedly committed years earlier which had nothing to do with the 2016 election.
Obviously, Mueller’s team will challenge that interpretation, and any lower judicial decision on the matter is likely to be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court before it is finally resolved. So unless Mueller and his team can find “smoking gun” evidence of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians, or proof that Trump intended to obstruct justice by firing James Comey, any prosecutions on crimes not directly related to the Trump-Russian collusion allegations that Mueller tries to bring to court are likely to be tied up in the legal system for a very long time.