Well, 'tis the season, folks. We’re going to enact some of the most extensive tax reforms in 30 years, but there’s one issue that’s lingering like crabgrass on Capitol Hill: Russia. Yes, believe it or not, we’re still talking about this investigation which after months of inquiry has produced zero evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with our former Cold War adversary to tilt the 2016 election. It’s been the Democratic Party’s biggest crutch to explain why the unlikable and politically untalented Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the race to Donald J. Trump. Now, the FBI and the DOJ are in the crosshairs, as texts between an FBI agent and the bureau lawyer with whom he was having an extramarital affair have come to light. Agent Peter Strzok and Lisa Page sent 10,000 texts between August of 2015 and December of 2016. Strzok was in counterintelligence before being booted from the investigation headed by former FBI Director and Special Counsel Robert Mueller because of the nature of the texts. They were pro-Hillary and viciously anti-Trump. Yet, in August of 2016, Strzok mentioned an “insurance policy.” He was key in opening the FBI investigation into Russian collusion in July of 2016. According to a Wall Street Journal article, that “insurance” meant the Russia probe, though nothing to suggest some deep state plot.
I can’t speak to that, but the FBI has seen better days. Besides this, there’s former Director James Comey drafting an exoneration statement for Clinton before agents interviewed her. There’s the conduct between the two investigations, Russia and Hillary’s server, in which there is an explicit difference. There’s now-demoted DOJ official Brucer Ohr, who had met with the authors of the now infamous and unverified Trump dossier. Oh, and Comey’s zero hour notice to Congress about the FBI looking over additional emails in October of 2016 was investigated as a Hatch Act violation, but the FBI refuses to turn over the transcripts of his two top aides who were interviewed in this matter. The Journal’s editorial board was more blunt; they think there’s mounting evidence that some in the FBI might have meddled in an election. Those suspicions were not assuaged with Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s seven-hour testimony on Tuesday with investigators that seemed to run contrary to previous statements. The House Intelligence Committee is considering new subpoenas. One issue was when McCabe was asked when did the bureau find out that former MI6 operative Christopher Steele, using sources inside the Kremlin, was compiling the unverified Trump dossier through Fusion GPS, which was hired and subsidized by the Hillary campaign. He claims he didn’t know; that doesn’t’ appear to be quite the truth. Oh, and Mr. Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS in 2016 (via Fox News):
Congressional investigators tell Fox News that Tuesday’s seven-hour interrogation of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe contained numerous conflicts with the testimony of previous witnesses, prompting the Republican majority staff of the House Intelligence Committee to decide to issue fresh subpoenas next week on Justice Department and FBI personnel.
While HPSCI staff would not confirm who will be summoned for testimony, all indications point to demoted DOJ official Bruce G. Ohr and FBI General Counsel James A. Baker, who accompanied McCabe, along with other lawyers, to Tuesday’s HPSCI session.
The issuance of a subpoena against the Justice Department’s top lawyer could provoke a new constitutional clash between the two branches, even worse than the months-long tug of war over documents and witnesses that has already led House Speaker Paul Ryan to accuse DOJ and FBI of “stonewalling” and HPSCI Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., to threaten contempt-of-Congress citations against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“It’s hard to know who’s telling us the truth,” said one House investigator after McCabe’s questioning.
Sources close to the investigation say that McCabe was a “friendly witness” to the Democrats in the room, who are said to have pressed the deputy director, without success, to help them build a case against President Trump for obstruction of justice in the Russia-collusion probe. “If he could have, he would have,” said one participant in the questioning.
Investigators say McCabe recounted to the panel how hard the FBI had worked to verify the contents of the anti-Trump “dossier” and stood by its credibility. But when pressed to identify what in the salacious document the bureau had actually corroborated, the sources said, McCabe cited only the fact that Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had traveled to Moscow. Beyond that, investigators said, McCabe could not even say that the bureau had verified the dossier’s allegations about the specific meetings Page supposedly held in Moscow.
The sources said that when asked when he learned that the dossier had been funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, McCabe claimed he could not recall – despite the reported existence of documents with McCabe’s own signature on them establishing his knowledge of the dossier’s financing and provenance.
Over at the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has already said new subpoenas against Page, Strzok, Ohr, and other officials were in the works (via The Hill):
The House Judiciary Committee will issue subpoenas for testimony from key figures at the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) that were involved with the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server and other election-year controversies, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said Tuesday.
Speaking on Fox Business Network, Jordan, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) was readying subpoenas for four individuals at the agencies that Republicans have accused of bias against President Trump: FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, DOJ official Bruce Ohr and FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
“The chairman of the Judiciary Committee is going to subpoena Lisa Page,” Jordan said. “He’s going to subpoena Bruce Ohr and he’s going to subpoena Peter Strzok and we’re also going to get eventually to Andrew McCabe, as well. We need those people to come in, to be deposed and to put those people on the same stand that [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions and [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein sat on in the past few weeks.”
Merry Christmas, everyone—now we play that game of To Tell The Truth: FBI Edition.