President Donald Trump has taken a major step towards uncovering the attempted bloodless coup orchestrated by the Democrats and the mainstream media against him. Together, they sought to force Trump’s removal from office by spreading false accusations that Trump illegally conspired with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections, and then obstructed justice by interfering with the subsequent FBI and special counsel investigations. The sordid details of that conspiracy to undo the results of the presidential election are about to come to light, as the Obama administration and intelligence agency officials who conspired against Trump have begun to turn on each other in an attempt to escape responsibility for their roles in the plot.
Last week, Trump issued a directive to the CIA, the director of National Intelligence, the Pentagon and several other national security agencies, ordering them to cooperate fully with the probe now being conducted Attorney General William Barr into the origins of the FBI’s 2016 counter-intelligence investigation, code-named “Crossfire Hurricane,” which was aimed at uncovering an alleged plot by Trump campaign officials to conspire with Russian agents to interfere in the election.
In fact, the Mueller investigation has proven that the conspiracy allegations against Trump and his campaign were bogus, and that the basis for the FBI investigation, the now notorious Steele dossier, was manufactured opposition research propaganda masquerading as reliable intelligence information. It had been secretly bought and paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democrat National Committee and was intended to discredit Donald Trump and his campaign.
It appears that the real Russian-inspired conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election was perpetrated by Democrats, politically motivated FBI and Justice Department officials, pro-Clinton advocates in the Obama administration and the mainstream media. For the past two years, they joined forces to foist the unverified allegations in the Steele dossier on the American intelligence community and the voting public.
GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF THE CONSPIRACY
Now that Attorney General Barr has announced his intentions to thoroughly investigate and expose that conspiracy, the president has given him the tools he will need to achieve that task. He has instructed all government intelligence agencies to “promptly provide such assistance and information as the attorney general may request in connection with that review,” and given Barr the authority to declassify any intelligence that his investigation and any subsequent prosecutions would require.
All efforts to reveal the origins of the investigation of the Trump-Russian conspiracy over the past two years have been blocked by a stubborn refusal by government officials to release the relevant underlying documents and sources of information. According to a statement by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s order empowering Barr “will help Americans learn the truth about the events that occurred, and the actions that were taken during the last presidential election and will restore confidence in our public institutions.”
In response to Democrat complaints that Trump’s order would result in compromising sensitive FBI “sources and methods,” Sanders assured the public that Barr will use his new authority “to declassify information pertaining to this investigation, in accordance with the long-established standards for handling classified information.”
NOW COMES THE COVERUP
Democrats are not the only ones who have reason to fear the coming release of the documents. Their media accomplices also do not want their role in the conspiracy to destroy Trump’s presidency revealed. A New York Times report declared that Trump wants to use “the intelligence to pursue his political enemies.”
A Washington Post article quoted Michael Morell, a former CIA deputy director, who fears that Barr might not listen to the advice of current intelligence officials and release sensitive information which could compromise foreign sources and “raise questions among our allies and partners about whether to share sensitive intelligence with us.”
The embarrassing truth is that the Justice Department, the FBI and other government agencies commonly use their power to classify information and to redact documents which they have been ordered to release to avoid political embarrassment and cover up mistakes, while claiming they are acting to protect national security.
Senior government bureaucrats frequently use selective leaks of classified information to cooperative media outlets to get ahead of a potentially embarrassing story they know will soon become public, in order to put their own positive spin on the news coverage.
For example, when conservative reporters started looking into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the New York Times claim that the origin of the July 2016 FBI counterintelligence investigation had nothing to do with the Steele dossier, and originated with a delayed report by Alexander Downer, a Clinton-affiliated Australian diplomat, about a conversation he had with George Papadopoulos in London, the details became progressively murkier.
Allegedly, Papadopoulos was originally approached about Russian “dirt” on Hillary Clinton by Joseph Mifsud who, at first, appeared to be a Russian agent, but more likely was working for the British. Papadopoulos and other members of the Trump campaign team were then approached by former CIA agent Stefan Halper, who tried to pump him for information about the Russian information on Clinton, and got nowhere. When congressional investigator continued to probe the undercover tactics used by the FBI to entrap subjects of the Russia-Trump investigation, a new named surfaced in a leak to the media, Azra Turk, a woman posing as an assistant to Stefan Halper whose true identity is anybody’s guess.
PEELING THE ONION
Trying to get to the bottom of how the Trump-Russia investigation was conducted is like peeling an onion. Every time a new layer of facts is uncovered, another layer of even more bizarre facts appears underneath.
To his credit, Attorney General Barr appears to be determined to peel away enough layers of that onion to expose its rotten core, and hold as many people as possible accountable for their role in the attempted coup. Barr apparently began that task some months ago when he appointed famous Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham to launch a new, broader probe into the FBI investigation of Trump and his campaign itself, rather than the false allegations which were used to justify it.
At this point, there are so many holes in the Papadopoulos story that many conservative analysts believe that it is just a diversion to shift attention away from the Steele dossier, the real source of the investigation. Its false allegations are so discredited that it would be an embarrassment for the FBI to admit, at this point, that the dossier was the main evidence used by pro-Clinton FBI agent Peter Strzok to launch the Trump-Russia investigation.
Trump told reporters that the Russia probe was “an attempted coup or an attempted takedown of the president of the United States.” After giving Barr all the authority he needs to demand full cooperation with his investigation, Trump said, “Let’s see what he finds. . . I hope he looks at the U.K. and I hope he looks at Australia and I hope he looks at Ukraine. I hope he looks at everything, because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country.”
Trump added, “We want to be very transparent, so as you know, I declassified everything. We are exposing everything.”
That is exactly what Trump’s enemies who were involved in the attempted coup are afraid of.
Meanwhile, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is winding up his year-long internal investigation into many of the same matters, including the methods the FBI used to begin surveillance on the Trump campaign. But the attorney general has much broader authority than Horowitz does, including the ability to file criminal charges against the people involved who are no longer employees of the Justice Department.
Barr also reportedly intends to look into allegations that the CIA was negligent in failing to try to verify, using its own sources, the wild allegations in the Steele dossier against Trump and members of his campaign,
Targets of Barr’s new investigation are likely to include former FBI Director James Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe, as well as former FBI agent Peter Strzok, lawyer Lisa Page, former FBI General Counsel James Baker and former Justice Department Associate Deputy Director Bruce Ohr, all of whom played a role in the use of the bogus Steele dossier to make a search warrant application to the FISA court to begin spying on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. Barr’s investigation is also likely to expose the roles played by Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Advisor Susan Rice in the origins of the Trump-Russia probe and the numerous leaks of related classified information to the media.
WHY DEMOCRATS FEAR WHAT BARR WILL FIND
Fear of what Barr is now likely to find is why many of these same former Obama administration officials are now engaged in desperate efforts to blame one another for the use of the Steele dossier as a source of information for the FBI and as the justification for the FISA search warrant against Carter Page. For example, Comey accuses Brennan and Clapper of insisting that the dossier be included in the official Intelligence Community Assessment that was given to Trump during the transition, while they accuse Comey of inserting it into Trump’s briefing without consulting them. Baker has also said in a recent podcast that he and other senior FBI officials had concerns about Comey’s one-on-one meetings with Trump, in which the president allegedly asked for Comey’s allegiance and for leniency in his handling of the case against his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn. Also, in newly released congressional testimony given by former attorney-general Loretta Lynch, she denies Comey’s congressional testimony that she had instructed him to refer to the probe of Mrs. Clinton’s email as a “matter” rather than an investigation.
Eric Felten, an investigative reporter for the RealClearPolitics web site, has written a lengthy article about how the government officials who cooperated in the effort to bring down Trump are now trying distance themselves from the scandal.
THE LONG KNIVES ARE OUT
Felten writes, “Making the game even more difficult is how much of the play is being done under cover. When so much of the frenzied blame-shifting is right out in the open, who knows how much whet work with the long knives is going on in the shadows?
“There’s no overstating institutional animosities and how likely they are to affect efforts to find out the full story of what happened in the 2016 election. The Department of Justice, the FBI, the State Department and various intelligence agencies are supposed to cooperate, working together to amplify their efforts through coordination. Instead, they often end up at odds, competing for the praise and resources that come with successes and laying off on others the blame that attends mistakes and failures. . .
“Even in the best of times, departments and agencies such as Justice, State and the FBI find themselves in back-stabbing bureaucratic battles of all against all. Imagine how those bureaucrats are likely to behave when the outcomes being fought over have profoundly personal ramifications.”
Felten also offers his readers a guide to determining which government agency was most likely the source a leak concerning the anti-Trump plot, depending on the newspaper which published the story. He quotes a longtime Capitol Hill staffer who says, “The Department of Justice has good relations with, and tends to leak to, the Washington Post. The FBI leaks to the New York Times.”
To prove the point, Felten cites their competing for the coverage of the incident, shortly after Comey was fired, in which then-Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed secretly recording conversations with Trump to generate evidence that would justify the president’s removal from office because of incompetence under the provisions of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.
According to Felten, the Times version, presumably based on a leak from an FBI source, depicts McCabe as “the level-headed professional pushing back against Rosenstein’s fevered fantasies” while the Washington Post version of the same story, presumably based upon a source in the Justice Department, suggests that Rosenstein’s comment about wearing a wire in discussions with the president was meant as a sarcastic response to McCabe’s serious desire to launch an “investigation into the president.”
HOW HIGH WILL THE INVESTIGATION GO?
Nobody knows how high up the political ladder the scandal will go when Barr finally uncovers its true dimensions. Some of Trump’s supporters believe that the Barr’s investigation will reveal that the Obama White House, FBI and CIA abused their government power to perpetrate the greatest hoax in American political history in an effort to secure Mrs. Clinton’s victory in the 2016 president election. After their initial effort failed, and Trump won the election, the hoax turned into a coup attempt. The conspirators used the false Russian conspiracy allegation to launch a special counsel investigation which they hoped would drive Trump from office, or provide justification for an impeachment effort.
Commentator L. J. Keith, who writes for the Communities Digital News website, suspects that if Barr follows the trail of evidence to the end, it will lead to former president Barack Obama. “Most Presidents leave office,” Keith recently wrote, “and essentially step back from public life. Not Barack Obama. Shellshocked by Hillary Clinton’s loss, Obama, Brennan, Clapper, Comey, and Clinton set in motion a series of events that will forever tar his presidency, and decimate the concept of a peaceful transition of power.”
If that is true, the Trump-Russia conspiracy was not only a threat to Donald Trump’s presidency but also the principle of respecting the decision of the voters by conducting a peaceful transition of power, which is fundamental to American democracy. As Keith observed, “Even in the most contentious elections and after disputed results, there has never been this sort of dangerous, systematic, deliberate rejection of the will of the people. The abrogation of the Constitution to use extrajudicial methods to destroy the incoming president – it is the very definition of a coup.”
DEMOCRATS REJECT TRUMP’S OFFER OF COOPERATION
Trump has long threatened to declassify the materials describing the origins of the FBI’s Russian investigation, knowing that they would embarrass his Democrat critics. Trump came close to doing it last September, but abandoned the idea after Rosenstein and other advisors warned him that it could have a negative impact on the then-ongoing Mueller investigation, which Trump still hoped would exonerate him. After Barr released the Mueller report, clearing Trump of the bogus charges against him, the president hoped that the Democrats would back off and agree to work with him like a normal opposition political party during the last 18 months of his first term. He expected to be able to negotiate with them and reach agreements to pass items on their mutual legislative agenda, starting with a bipartisan deal on an infrastructure bill.
Despite the findings of the Mueller investigation clearing him, Democrat House Committee chairmen such as Jerrold Nadler, Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummins are determined to continue their campaign of “presidential harassment” through endless investigations. But Trump believed he could still do business with Pelosi on passing major legislation, as long as she continued to reject calls from House Democrats to launch an impeachment effort.
Trump respects Pelosi. Shortly after the midterm elections, he said of her, “You know, she loves this country. And she’s a very smart woman. She’s done a very good job.” At that time, Pelosi also seemed willing to cooperate, saying, “We have all had enough of division. Americans want peace. They want results.”
The two sides had already begun to work together. Trump, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had reached a tentative agreement on an infrastructure bill, and had hoped to finalize it at a White House meeting last week.
TRUMP CALLS PELOSI’S BLUFF
But the increasing pressure on Pelosi from progressive Democrats to launch an impeachment proceeding got in the way. Pelosi has long argued that without much stronger evidence, any effort to impeach Trump was doomed to fail in the Senate, and likely to result in political disaster for the Democrats in the 2020 election. Democrats dissatisfied with that stance have been pressuring Pelosi to change her tune, and last week, they succeeded. Upon emerging from a meeting with her caucus, Pelosi publicly accused Trump of engaging in a “cover-up,” and then departed for the scheduled meeting at the White House to finalize the infrastructure deal.
Trump saw Pelosi’s accusation on television and took it as a declaration of political war. He walked out of the infrastructure meeting with Pelosi and Schumer before it got started, and then called an impromptu press conference in the Rose Garden to reject Pelosi’s accusation. “I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump said, and put Democrats on notice that he would not negotiate with them as long as he remained under attack.
This was the backdrop for Trump’s decision to grant Barr extraordinary powers to conduct his investigation. Last November, the president told New York Post reporter Michael Goodwin that his power to declassify the sensitive documents behind the Trump-Russia probe, which would shock the nation, was a powerful political weapon against the Democrats which he was keeping in reserve to release at the right time. “If they want to play tough, I will do it. And they will see how devastating those pages are,” Trump said.
Some have asked why it was necessary for Trump to give Barr additional authority over the nation’s intelligence and security agencies even though he now has, in John Durham, one of the most effective prosecutors in the country leading his investigation.
FIGHTING THE DEEP STATE STONEWALL
Jed Babbin, writing in the American Spectator, suggests that Durham may now be running into the same kind of stiff bureaucratic opposition that former House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes encountered when he tried to get the FBI to provide him with the documents he needed describing its investigation of Trump, including the origins of the FISA warrant against Carter Page. The FBI was able to stonewall Nunes’ requests for months in order to conceal what it had done, and it then dragged its feet on declassifying Nunes’ January 18 memo on what he had found, for as long as it could.
If Durham’s investigation is now facing the same kind of stalling tactics in response to his requests for government documents, Barr will be able to use the extraordinary authority that Trump has just given him to overcome the stonewalling. Those now in charge of the main U.S. government intelligence agencies are all Trump appointees, and would normally be expected to cooperate with Barr’s requests for information, especially now that they bear the president’s explicit endorsement. But Babbin suggests that lower level CIA and NSA bureaucrats who were there in 2016 may have a lot of documents from that era that they will have reason to hide from Barr’s gaze.
Babbin also suggests that some of the material these agencies may still want to hide comes from our closest foreign allies, the members of the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing program, and particularly Great Britain. Christopher Steele was a former member of MI6, and wrote his dossier in London, George Papadopoulos had his fateful conversation with Australian diplomat Downer in a London wine bar, and in the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, the head of the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) flew to Washington to brief CIA Director John Brennan about communications his agency had intercepted between members of the Trump campaign and Russian agents.
Given that background, it would not be surprising if British officials objected to the release of those contacts and others which took place on British soil to Barr and his investigators, whose probe is still in its early stages.
PELOSI’S HARD CHOICE
Trump has now thrown down the gauntlet to Pelosi and her fellow House Democrats, refusing to work with them on any other issues as long as the threat of impeachment remains on the table. Democrats must now decide whether going forward with an impeachment action will be worth the political risk of provoking a voter backlash similar to the one which punished Republicans following their failed attempt in 1998 to impeach Bill Clinton.
Former Clinton political advisors Mark Penn and Doug Schoen strongly recommend against impeachment, both for pragmatic and historical reasons.
Even though Democrats were deeply disappointed by Mueller’s report which undermined their legal case justifying Trump’s impeachment, they have stubbornly refused to give up on that goal, and are desperately searching for a strong enough political hook to hang it on.
Unfortunately, the substitute accusation which Pelosi has found, that Trump is engaged in a cover-up, is unconvincing. If Democrats were to be asked, “a cover-up of what,” the honest ones among them would have to admit, “we don’t know yet.” Pelosi might point to the subpoenas issued by House Democrat committees that the White House has rejected on the principle of its executive privilege as a co-equal branch of government. She would have no grounds for complaint, and the courts would not back her up.
Pelosi has resisted impeachment up to this point because she understood that, after more than two years, the American people have had enough of the Trump-Russia investigation. Most want Democrats to accept Mueller’s verdict and get on with the long-neglected business of government. Her attempt to have it both ways, by continuing to support all kinds of accusations and congressional investigations of the president without actually pulling the impeachment trigger, has run out of political wiggle room. Trump has called her bluff, forcing her to make the decision she has been trying to avoid since Mueller’s findings were announced.
She can give the green light to Chairman Jerrold Nadler of the House Judiciary Committee to start formal impeachment proceedings, which are doomed to fail in the Senate because of the Republican majority there and the lack of adequate grounds for Trump’s removal. Or she could try to restore a working relationship with Trump, which will infuriate the leftist Democrat activists in her caucus who refuse to wait until 2020 to defeat Trump in an election.
DEMOCRAT ARGUMENT AGAINST IMPEACHMENT
Democrat strategists who are urging Pelosi not to give in to the demands of impeachment cite the example of the high political price Republicans had to pay after their 1998 effort to remove Bill Clinton from the White House failed, even though Clinton admitted to committing the crime of lying before a federal judge.
Trump, on the other hand, insists upon his innocence, and, after an exhaustive two-year investigation, Mueller’s findings back him up.
Mark Penn suggests that a more appropriate analogy would be to the failed 1868 Republican impeachment effort against Democrat President Andrew Johnson, which, according to Penn, “is widely recognized as one of the most embarrassing moments in American history.
Republicans sought to remove Johnson from office because he had fired the secretary of war in violation of the Tenure act that required Congress to approve removing Cabinet officials. The law was subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional for violating the principle of separation of powers. Johnson’s impeachment was ultimately defeated by an act of political courage by Kansas Senator Edmund G. Ross, who defied intense pressure from his Republican colleagues, and provided the decisive vote against Johnson’s removal.
By contrast, in Trump’s case, nobody denied that, as president and head of the executive branch of government, he had a constitutional right to fire FBI Director Jim Comey. Also, in the end, Trump did not fire Mueller nor did he obstruct his investigation.
Penn also makes a more fundamental argument that “America cannot operate this way. Hounding presidents with investigations cannot become a substitute for elections. . . We are a nation based on orderly elections and transfer of power. We are based on the equal application of our laws and not allowing legislatures to single out individuals and families for persecution. . . The impeachment clause was put in the Constitution in the event of treason and other high crimes, not to be used as a weapon of political rage by those who lost an election.”