The FBI and special counsel’s horrible, terrible, miserable week
Albert Einstein had his theory of relativity validated by the atomic bomb. Like it or not, Donald Trump’s widely ridiculed “witch hunt” theory was bolstered by a couple more explosive revelations released last week that once again prove paranoia doesn’t mean they’re not actually out to get you.
The first blast revealed that the FBI investigated the primary source of the Steele dossier years ago for being a Russian spy. Amazingly, we’re just learning this now. The second detonation comes from an FBI agent deeply embedded in the Crossfire Hurricane and special counsel investigations who lambasted the exercise as an effort to “get Trump” rather than follow actual evidence.
Let’s start with the spy-crafted dossier. If it wasn’t clear before, it’s now nearly inescapable that those at the top of the FBI were not “never Trumpers,” they were “sever Trumpers.” The more their actions come into corroborated focus, the more apparent was their desire to decapitate the new administration.
The front office’s Stop Trump tone was set early on by former agent Peter Strzok’s infamous text to former FBI counsel Lisa Page on Aug. 15, 2016 — “I’m afraid we can’t take that risk” — regarding Trump’s chances of being elected president.
The troika at the top — former FBI director James Comey, his deputy director Andrew McCabe, and Strzok — had a problem, though. They feared a Trump presidency but lacked any real evidence to stop him. We know from the communication crafted by Strzok opening the Crossfire Hurricane investigation that he articulated no legal basis to initiate the case.
Not to be deterred, the trio decided to exploit the Steele dossier to continue their unprecedented investigation of a presidential campaign, even though they knew it was paid for by the Clinton campaign, even though Comey himself described it as “salacious and unverified,” even though the primary sub-source admitted he fabricated most of it, and — we now learn — even though the FBI investigated the sub-source years prior as a Russian spy.
Any one of those factors would have been enough to prompt a high school civics student to disregard the dossier wholesale. Yet these FBI leaders trundled on, eventually relying on it to invade the privacy of a U.S. citizen — not once but four times, without cause. In essence, the three used the words of a suspected Russian spy to, in the words of the attorney general, “spy” on the Trump campaign. In short, they really, really wanted to believe the dossier.
There is an axiom in law enforcement that you should never concoct a theory and then search for evidence to fit the narrative. No, you follow the evidence and let it tell its own story. The dossier was not evidence, or even anything close to it, but it fit a narrative favored by the trio in the FBI’s front office. Despite its outlandishness, it supported their view that a Trump presidency was too risky.
Will they be held accountable for their illicit investigative activities and the massive damage they have done to the reputation of the FBI? That part isn’t clear yet. In the meantime, they all endure the inside-the-Beltway hardship of writing a book apiece and collecting large sums of money; movie stars line up to play them in propaganda films. The FBI trio continues to be the gift that keeps on shivving, slicing up the bureau’s legacy even now.
The second explosive revelation last week further exposed the “stop Trump at all costs” aims of the disgraced FBI trio and special counsel’s office. FBI agent William Barnett was recently interviewed pursuant to U.S Attorney John Durham’s investigation because he ran the subsidiary investigation of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, codenamed “Crossfire Razor.” The only reason we are privy to what he said is that Barnett offered even more exculpatory information that had to be released to the court that refuses to dismiss the Flynn case.
In his interview, Barnett observed that the Crossfire Hurricane and Razor cases had not turned up much and were running out of steam when the special counsel (SC) was appointed and took over those investigations. He noted that, among the attorneys leading the SC effort, “(t)here was a lack of letting the evidence lead the investigation and more the attitude of ‘the evidence is there we just have to find it.’” Okay, we won’t call it a “witch hunt.” We’ll just call it a “hunt.”
Barnett went on to say that this attitude seemed to influence how witnesses were interviewed, which led to misinterpretations of accounts, attempts to have witnesses change their stories to fit what the SC wanted to hear, and desires to charge witnesses for false statements. Barnett singled out lead attorney Andrew Weissmann — another new book huckster, by the way — who has been accused of abusive prosecutorial conduct.
Barnett said there were numerous attempts to obtain evidence from witnesses implicating President-elect Trump in wrongdoing based on nothing more than assumptions by the special counsel team, which Barnett described as “astro projection(s).” That’s a government way of saying “shooting for the stars.”
Barnett paints a bleak picture of both the FBI and the special counsel’s office handling of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, characterizing much of it as a “get Trump” exercise in which SC attorneys were “green-lighting” “whatever legal process you wanted” against the targets of the investigation. So much for probable cause standards.
Using the awesome powers of government to conduct an investigation of U.S citizens, based on a predetermined set of beliefs or assumptions or political biases, and then abusing that power to hunt for, fabricate or eliminate evidence — all of which appears to have happened — is a scandal of immense proportions.
It was another bad week for the FBI, thanks to its tarnished former leaders. The restoration of trust in the bureau will come with a price tag of maximum transparency, deep cooperation with the Durham investigation, and rapid disclosure of all pertinent documents with minimal redactions. Let the evidence tell the story of these mounting misdeeds, no matter how painful, because we want our FBI back.
Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, was an FBI special agent for 24 years and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He independently consults with private companies and public-safety agencies on strategic mission technologies.