Both Byron York at The Washington Examiner and Kimberley Strassel at the Wall Street Journal have written columns in the last week regarding the Russian investigation into Trump that explore some rather odd timing in the release of information contained in the almost completely unverified “Russian dossier” — which we already know was funded by the Clinton campaign — and when and how it was reported in the press.
Strassel bluntly calls the dossier and how it got to the press “one of the greatest political stitch-ups of all time.” She details how the Clinton campaign hired Fusion GPS, who then hired ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, to drum up opposition “research” on Donald Trump and his associates, give it to the FBI (which happened in July 2016), and then spin their own opposition research as an already-existing official government investigation into Trump and his Russian connections.
Among the dossier’s contents were allegations that in early July 2016 Carter Page, sometimes described as a foreign-policy adviser to Candidate Trump, held a “secret” meeting with two high-ranking Russians connected to President Vladimir Putin. It even claimed these Russians offered to give Mr. Page a 19% share in Russia’s state oil company in return for a future President Trump lifting U.S. sanctions. This dossier allegation is ludicrous on its face. Mr. Page was at most a minor figure in the campaign and has testified under oath that he never met the two men in question or had such a conversation.
Yet the press ran with it. On Sept. 23, 2016, Yahoo News’s Michael Isikoff published a bombshell story under the headline: “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.” Mr. Isikoff said “U.S. officials” had “received intelligence” about Mr. Page and Russians, and then went on to recite verbatim all the unfounded dossier allegations. He attributed all this to a “well-placed Western intelligence source,” making it sound as if this info had come from someone in government rather than from an ex-spy-for-hire.
Strassel recounts how Camp Hillary went on something of a press junket after Steele gave the FBI his dossier. Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri took to television news programs to discuss the Isikoff piece that, it turns out, Steele had also been the source for. He held a briefing for reporters including “the New York Times, the Washington Post, Yahoo News and others” in September 2016, 2 months after the FBI had been given the dossier. (Hillary would later say that the dossier was not out before the election. It was out. It was just unverifiable so many outlets chose not to report on it.)
York goes one further, blatantly asking if the dossier — given, as it was, to the FBI in July 2016 — actually led to the Russian investigation of Trump and his associates, which began in late July 2016.
The FBI was very interested in Steele’s report, according to Mother Jones’ David Corn, who was personally briefed by Steele:
The former intelligence officer says the response from the FBI was “shock and horror.” The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates. Yet in August, they say, the FBI asked him for all the information in his possession, and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos — some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. At that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. “It’s quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on,” he says.
Corn’s report suggested the FBI was surprised by the dossier report’s contents, which in turn suggested the FBI wasn’t already on the case when Steele approached the bureau near the start of July.
York even reports that “the Senate’s then-Minority Leader, Harry Reid, wrote a letter to Comey noting ‘a series of disturbing reports’ about whether ‘a Trump advisor who has been highly critical of U.S. and European sanctions on Russia…met with high-ranking sanctioned individuals while in Moscow in July of 2016, well after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee.'”
It’s important to recall that Carter Page, the person alleged to have taken these meetings in Steele’s dossier, has denied the meetings under oath and is currently suing Yahoo News for what Isikoff originally reported.
But as Strassel notes, Page may actually have a case against the Clinton campaign if reporting by the Washington Post is correct and Jim Comey’s FBI obtained a wiretap warrant on Page from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. “If it was the dossier that provoked that warrant, then the wrongs here are grave. Mr. Page is suing Yahoo News over that Isikoff story, but he may have a better case against the Clinton campaign and the federal government if they jointly spun a smear document into an abusive investigation.”
And if it turns out that Hillary Clinton and her campaign fabricated a dossier, lied about a low-level Trump associate to get a FISA warrant to wiretap a man they knew to be innocent, turned over their fabricated dossier to government officials then planted it with the press as an already-existing FBI investigation, what happens to those involved in that shakedown, including any press outlets that ran with a story fed to them by the Clinton camp even while ignoring the denials of the accused?
I mean, of course, if it turns out to be true.