FBI Director James Comey pauses while making a statement at FBI Headquarters in Washington, Tuesday, July 5, 2016. Comey said the FBI will not recommend criminal charges in its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Political dirty tricks are part of the game and have been a mainstay of American politics since the election of John Adams. On a few occasions, a sitting President used the large arsenal of the federal bureaucracy to go after the opposition. Richard Nixon comes to mind. A more recent example may be Obama’s IRS going after Tea Party groups. That would be one egregious example, but there may be a more egregious example and one that does not bode well for the FBI, our premiere law enforcement agency we are constantly reminded. Either way, if true, recent revelations do not bode well for that agency. Either they were willing accomplices, or they were duped. One cannot discern which is worse.
The story starts with the infamous Steele dossier, a series of memos from a former British intelligence officer, Michael Steele, to GPS Fusion, a DC-based opposition research group. According to his own words, the task fell to him some time in June 2016. According to Congressional testimony, Steele shares information with the FBI some time in the summer of 2016 after being on the job less than three months.
During the campaign, according to later accounts, this dossier was common knowledge among journalists who never published the story since they could not corroborate many of the allegations. It was not until January 17, 2017 that Buzzfeed decided to publish it.
We have since discovered that a second “dossier” exists and it is this one that is of particular interest here since it may answer the chicken or egg dilemma in this whole escapade. As concerns Steele, the FBI had previously used his services and they likely had no reason to doubt his credentials, as they cite in a FISA warrant request- the subject of the Nunes memo. According to some sources, this second memo largely mirrors the Steele dossier in its allegations of Russian shenanigans and Trump’s sexual escapades. Regardless, for a former British intelligence officer whom the FBI so trusted, the series of memos show some sloppy fact-checking and, at times, appears unprofessional for an intelligence officer.
Now we find out that State Department official Jonathan Winer had passed information to Steele regarding Trump. In this spook-wannabe game of the childhood game of telephone, these tidbits were provided to him by long time Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal. This information, in turn, was provided to Blumenthal by another shadowy figure within the Clinton orbit- Cody Shearer- the alleged author of this second dossier.
Flashback to the year 1991. George H.W. Bush is gearing up for his reelection campaign with Dan Quayle as his running mate. Meanwhile, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton is trying to claw his way to the top of the Democratic heap. Suddenly, rumors start to surface that Quayle had used cocaine. These rumors are based on allegations by a convicted drug smuggler serving a sentence for drug crimes and perjury. Back when there was some semblance of journalistic integrity, the New York Times refused to run the story finding no truth in the allegations. But, comic strips have no integrity and the Doonesbury series was set to run a two-week series on the alleged drug habits of Vice President Quayle. The problem is that the comic strip is syndicated and runs in many newspapers. Quayle issues a categorical denial.
The story suddenly shifts from whether Quayle actually bought and used cocaine to whether the Bush White House is trying to cover up something. There is a shift from a specific criminal allegation to some nebulous conspiracy afoot in the White House. Later revelations showed that a “freelance journalist” tried to sell the LA Times a story that there was a quashed drug sting operation against Quayle. We then found out the “freelance journalist” was Cody Shearer.
The tactic of forcing the White House into a state of detraction and denials of a crime it cannot prove never happened is a well-worn theme of Shearer. The silly initial accusation never really needs to be proven. All you have to do is have the target of the smear defend against the accusation. This is another aspect of the trick: use the damage control of the accused to create another crime (denials = obstruction of justice… sound familiar?).
And there is more on Shearer. Along with Sidney Blumenthal and Tyler Drumheller, they are often referred to Clinton’s “Plumber’s Unit”- a quiet, off-the radar intelligence-gathering group for Bill and later Hillary Clinton. Blumenthal and Shearer, we know from many sources, had been feeding Clinton “intelligence” on the deteriorating security situation on the ground in Libya prior to Benghazi. Previous to that, Shearer’s name came up in 1996 during Congressional hearings into Bill Clinton’s fundraising in the election.
Senator Don Nickles had questioned Terry Lenzner, a private investigator. Lenzner’s company, Investigative Group International, had used Shearer as a liason with the Cheyenne-Arapahoe tribe. They had donated $100,000 to the Democratic Party hoping President Clinton would intervene on their behalf over a dispute about drilling rights on tribal land. Lenzner had been hired to find nefarious links between Nickles and oil interests. Lenzner (and Shearer) were later accused of attempting to smear the reputations of any woman not named Hillary that Bill Clinton had come in intimate contact with.
During the Quayle cocaine controversy, Shearer was at the root of rumors that a prisoner was held from testifying about the Quayle cocaine purchases after the prisoner, apparently on orders from President Bush I, put that prisoner “in the hole.” In fact, then Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) repeated the rumor, taken as fact, about this prisoner (Brett Kimberlin) being “in the hole.” Shearer was also instrumental in sinking John Tower’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense. Rumors that Tower caused a hotel fire after he fell asleep drunk smoking a cigarette are also attributable to Shearer. And although after these vicious rumors circulated (and there were others) with even the Washington Post coming to the defense of Tower, the damage was done.
Like any smear concocted by Shearer, it is forgotten once it is no longer needed. With John Tower out of the way, no one cared about his alleged alcoholism. With Bush’s defeat in 1992, no one cared about Quayle’s alleged drug use. With Clinton exonerated by the Senate in their impeachment vote, no one cared about the proclivities of Bill Clinton’s female accusers. But, Trump is not out of the way, so the smears continue.
It is disheartening that journalists and politicians fall for these smear tactics all the time. BUT, we should expect higher of our “premiere” law enforcement agency- the FBI. If Blumenthal and Shearer were feeding Steele salacious information in an attempt to smear Trump before and after the election through Jonathan Winer at the State Department and this information made it into the Steele dossier as uncorroborated “fact,” then that is bad enough in itself.
IF that information was then used to obtain a FISA warrant- as the Nunes memo suggests and as the Grassley-Graham referral also suggests (notwithstanding that dud of a Schiff counter-memo which basically confirms the Nunes memo)- then the FBI is guilty of falling for the biggest political ruse of all time. That alone would be reason enough to fire James Comey.
We do not know whether Shearer is responsible with any degree of certainty, but the circumstantial evidence is piling up… certainly more than the circumstantial evidence that fuels the whole Trump-Russia collusion narrative and Mueller’s probe. It will certainly be interesting to see where all these investigations land… Stay tuned.