On May 18th, the New York Times ran a story with this opening paragraph:
President Trump accused the F.B.I. on Friday, without evidence, of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign “for political purposes” even before the bureau had any inkling of the “phony Russia hoax.”
In this writer’s opinion, this is the crux of the entire debate being played out today between the White House, the intelligence community, the DOJ, the FBI and Congress. Basically, this comes down to the following question: Did the FBI plant a “spy” in the Trump campaign prior to any worries about Russian meddling or influence, OR did they plant a “spy” because of evidence of Russian meddling or influence. More importantly, was this an attempt to entrap members of the Trump campaign into actually following through on what the FBI may have thought was going on?
Before a domestic law enforcement agency makes the decision to plant a spy in a political campaign, they damn well better have corroborated, fool-proof evidence of something running afoul, or something so nefariously dangerous that it justifies the action. Leaving the answer to this question is not the job of the media because of their obvious bias here. For example, CNN- that paragon of journalistic integrity- ran this headline at 6:54 PM on May 18th: “Officials Tell CNN That FBI ‘Informant’ Not Planted Inside Trump Campaign.” Less than six hours later, they ran this headline: “Reports: FBI’s Informant Talked to Multiple Trump Campaign Aides.” So which set of CNN sources are correct? No informant, or the informant who talked to “multiple aides?”
Furthering the narrative is the Congressional testimony of Glenn Simpson of GPS Fusion, which was behind the notorious Steele dossier, when he stated that there was a government informant in the Trump campaign and that this supposedly led some credence to the dossier’s authenticity. Simpson later tried to walk back this assertion. But, now we find that should have he should have stuck to the original chain of events. In anticipation of the DOJ Inspector General’s report, this non-existent informant of the FBI is being outed not only by true investigative journalists, but by unnamed DOJ/FBI sources themselves.
The selective leaks are designed to soften an expected scathing IG report. We now know that based on the Steele dossier, a wiretap was authorized on Carter Page. We now know that three other Trump campaign people- Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and George Papadopolous- were the subjects of FBI interest and surveillance. Papadopolous, a low-level campaign adviser, supposedly set the whole investigation into motion because of a drunken claim at a bar in Britain to an Australian diplomat. So, the FBI now chases down drunken leads from low level nobodies in a political campaign?
Regardless, we know that this informant met several times with Page and Papadopolous. Whether a government informant meets the criteria to be a “spy” is semantic splitting of hairs. An informant is someone within the campaign who goes to the FBI saying something is amiss and they use him to gather further information. Or, it is someone they recruit within the campaign given other evidence that something is amiss. A spy is someone inserted into the campaign and Halper seems to fit that description. This is spying (or entrapment), plain and simple.
We know that Halper was somewhat dismayed that Papadopolous- his primary contact- was less than forthcoming about information he had about Russian knowledge of Clinton shenanigans because Papadopolous HAD NOTHING! The New York Times attempts to dismiss the whole affair as a big nothing because opposition research is designed to produce an October surprise and since no such surprise occurred against Trump, no harm/no foul. In my eyes, the main problem is not so much Trump’s accusation that the whole affair was designed to take him down than the fact that law enforcement, the CIA, and foreign intelligence services (mainly, British) went to such lengths to track down what they now conclude two years later: there was no collusion!
We are left with the fact that some Trump campaign operatives met with some people who had some relation to Russia, or they gave a speech in Russia at some point. Whether that is enough to raise red flags and initiate an FBI counterintelligence investigation is debatable. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume it is. Let’s assume that given everything we know now- Manafort’s relationship with pro-Russian dictators, Trump’s favorable comments towards Putin, Papadopolous playing spook and running around Europe looking for dirt on Clinton, Carter Page making a speech in Russia- taken together is grounds for an investigation of foreign meddling in our elections. One can make a case that perhaps some red flags could have been raised in Washington among the intelligence and law enforcement communities.
But other than the “offending” country being Russia, how is that qualitatively different than the Clinton campaign’s outreach to the Ukrainian government. This is how CBS News describes that scenario:
It wasn’t so much the Clinton campaign, per se, but a Democratic operative working with the Democratic National Committee did reach out to the Ukrainian government in an attempt to get damaging information about the Trump campaign.
That operative’s name is Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American former Clinton White House aide who was tasked with ethnic outreach on behalf of the Democratic Party. As Vogel reported, she knew about Paul Manafort’s extensive connections to the pro-Russian regime of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and decided to dig deeper into possible connections between Moscow and the Trump campaign. As part of that effort, she discussed Manafort with the high-ranking officials at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington, D.C.
The Democratic National Committee denies that it was ever in contact with the Ukrainian government.
The DNC denies it, so therefore it never happened? Or, who cares? Ukraine is not Russia.
In other words, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Law enforcement cannot, if they believe foreign governments meddling in our elections is a negative thing, selectively choose which governments to investigate and which to ignore, or which campaigns to investigate and which they will not.
If anything, the many investigations into the 2016 campaign are proving two things. First, despite their efforts to, in their words, stay out of politics, the FBI directly inserted themselves into the political campaign. With Clinton, the email server investigation was certainly warranted since it occurred while she was Secretary of State, not a private citizen. Trump, on the other hand, was a private citizen seeking the Presidency when this investigation went into effect. In fact, despite Comey’s testimony that the investigation started in July, at this point we do not know exactly when the whole thing began! Depending on who one talks to, the investigation was started because of (1) a drunken conversation in a bar in England, (2) an uncorroborated piece of political opposition research, (3) some speeches given by some campaign officials in Russia, (4) some meetings with Russian oligarchs, or (5) all of the above. No matter how you cut it, there should have been no impetus for an investigation except in the sanctimonious minds of James Comey, Brennan and Clapper. All have gone on to lucrative book or television consultancy deals.
Second, we find that there was no collusion, conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. Perhaps the only shining light in this whole chase down the rabbit hole is the revelations of the lengths the FBI, CIA and DOJ went to in this fiasco. I have never been a proponent of the idea of a “deep state” and preferred to relegate that to the conspiracy musings of Alex Jones, but I am starting to reconsider. More importantly, I am beginning to believe President Trump: this may just be bigger than Watergate.