The Russian collusion clown show has been a sight to behold, especially with The New York Times’ story that the DOJ probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians actually began when George Papadopoulos blabbered about the Russians having dirt on Hillary Clinton while boozing with the Australian ambassador to the United Kingdom. For the longest time, there’s been much speculation that Carter Page; a foreign adviser to the Trump campaign, and his travels to Russia is what launched the counterintelligence investigation at the FBI in July of 2016. The Steele Dossier is suspected to be what prompted a FISA warrant and the cryptic “insurance” policy that was referenced in texting exchange between Peter Strzok and his mistress Lisa Page, a bureau lawyer. Strzok was part of the FBI’s investigations into Hillary’s emails and signed off on this current Russia probe. He was removed from the investigation last summer once Special Counsel Robert Mueller learned of the texts, of which there are 10,000 between Strzok and Page between August of 2015 and December of 2016. Andrew McCarthy of National Review has a nice post rehashing this whole mess:
Hmmm. Dec. 30--NYT floats a new "origin" story for Trump-Russia probe. Dec. 31-- WaPo issues hit job on Nunes. Jan 2--Fusion GPS attacks GOP investigations. In my experience, such timing rarely coincidental #EmpireStrikesBack— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) January 3, 2018
Seven months after throwing Carter Page as fuel on the collusion fire lit by then-FBI director James Comey’s stunning public disclosure that the Bureau was investigating possible Trump campaign “coordination” in Russia’s election meddling, the Gray Lady now says: Never mind. We’re onto Collusion 2.0, in which it is George Papadopoulos — then a 28-year-old whose idea of résumé enhancement was to feign participation in the Model U.N. — who triggered the FBI’s massive probe by . . . wait for it . . . a night of boozy blather in London.
Well, it turns out the Page angle and thus the collusion narrative itself is beset by an Obama-administration scandal: Slowly but surely, it has emerged that the Justice Department and FBI very likely targeted Page because of the Steele dossier, a Clinton-campaign opposition-research screed disguised as intelligence reporting. Increasingly, it appears that the Bureau failed to verify Steele’s allegations before the DOJ used some of them to bolster an application for a spying warrant from the FISA court (i.e., the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court).
Thanks to the persistence of the House Intelligence Committee led by Chairman Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), the dossier story won’t go away. Thus, Democrats and their media friends have been moving the goal posts in an effort to save their collusion narrative. First, we were led to believe the dossier was no big deal because the FBI would surely have corroborated any information before the DOJ fed it to a federal judge in a warrant application. Then, when the Clinton campaign’s role in commissioning the dossier came to light, we were told it was impertinent to ask about what the FBI did, if anything, to corroborate it since this could imperil intelligence methods and sources — and, besides, such questions were just a distraction from the all-important Mueller investigation (which the dossier had a hand in instigating and which, to date, has turned up no evidence of a Trump-Russia conspiracy).
Lately, the story has morphed into this: Well, even if the dossier was used, it was only used a little — there simply must have been lots of other evidence that Trump was in cahoots with Putin. But that’s not going to fly: Putting aside the dearth of collusion evidence after well over a year of aggressive investigation, the dossier is partisan propaganda. If it was not adequately corroborated by the FBI, and if the Justice Department, without disclosing its provenance to the court, nevertheless relied on any part of it in a FISA application, that is a major problem. So now, a new strategy to prop up the collusion tale: Never mind Page — lookee over here at Papadopoulos! But that’s not what they were saying in April, when the collusion narrative and Democratic calls for a special prosecutor were in full bloom. Back then, no fewer than six of the Times’ top reporters, along with a researcher, worked their anonymous “current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials” in order to generate the Page blockbuster. With these leaks, the paper confidently reported: “From the Russia trip of the once-obscure Mr. Page grew a wide-ranging investigation, now accompanied by two congressional inquiries, that has cast a shadow over the early months of the Trump administration” [emphasis added].
Oh sure, the Times acknowledged that there might have been a couple of other factors involved. “Paul Manafort, then [i.e., during Page’s trip] Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, was already under criminal investigation in connection with payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.” And “WikiLeaks and two websites later identified as Russian intelligence fronts had begun releasing emails obtained when Democratic Party servers were hacked.” But the trigger for the investigation — the “catalyst” — was Page. Somehow, despite all that journalistic leg-work and all those insider sources, the name George Papadopoulos does not appear in the Times’ story.
Now, however, we’re supposed to forget about Page. According to the new bombshell dropped on New Year’s Eve by six Times reporters, it was “the hacking” coupled with “the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign” — Papadopoulos — “may have had inside information about it” that were “driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.”
Imagine if this had been President Bush listening in to an Obama campaign.— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) January 12, 2018
The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel also weighed in on the dossier’s latest facelift, like when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) decided to unilaterally leak the testimony of Glenn Simpson, founder of Fusion GPS:
This scandal’s pivotal day was Jan. 3. That’s the deadline House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation to turn over documents it had been holding for months. Speaker Paul Ryan backed Mr. Nunes’s threat to cite officials for contempt of Congress. Everyone who played a part in encouraging the FBI’s colonoscopy of the Trump campaign—congressional Democrats, FBI and Justice Department senior career staff, the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama political mobs, dossier commissioner Fusion GPS, the press corps—knew about the deadline and clearly had been tipped to the likelihood that the FBI would have to comply. Thus the dossier rehabilitation campaign.
Weeks before, the same crew had taken a desperate shot at running away from the dossier, with a New York Times special that attempted to play down its significance in the FBI probe.
And so the day before the Nunes deadline, Fusion co-founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch broke their public silence to explain in a New York Times op-ed that what really matters was their noble intention—to highlight Donald Trump’s misdeeds. The duo took credit for alerting the “national security community” to a Russian “attack.”
Meanwhile, Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, decided it was suddenly a matter of urgency that the nation see Mr. Simpson’s testimony, which he gave back in August. That move provided the cable news channels with more than 300 pages of self-serving material. Mr. Simpson extols his journalistic chops, praises the integrity of dossier author Christopher Steele (a “Boy Scout”), professes his love of country and his distaste for Russians (other than those paying him), and ladles on more disinformation about Mr. Trump. Democrats and the media have spun this into a new contention: What mattered were the motives and credentials of the dossier’s creators, which were sufficient to give the FBI good cause to run with the document.
Which you have to admit sounds a lot better than “Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Conjured Up an Opposition-Research Document That Was Fed to the Obama FBI, Which Then Used It to Spy on the Trump Campaign.” Even if that’s a more accurate headline.
Moreover, if this was an attempt to keep the Russian collusion flames going, it failed miserably. For starters, the claim that someone in the Trump campaign came to the FBI over concerns about Russian contacts turned out to be false. The Federalist has more:
Funny. Ds release Simpson transcript to make case the dossier wasn't central. Libs pounce all over Simpson's claim that FBI already had a "source" within Trump world, and say THAT is why GOP was hiding transcript. Simpson then says, uh, never mind. And leaves them hanging.— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) January 9, 2018
So, wait: In other words, nobody from within Trump camp went seeking out the FBI? So much for that narrative. And also: A "source close" to Simpson says he mislead the committee? https://t.co/7CZ389y1F0— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) January 9, 2018
A source close to Fusion GPS tells me there was no walk-in source -- that was a mischaracterization by Simpson of the Australian diplomat tip about Papadopoulis.— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) January 9, 2018
Another interesting tidbit from Simpson is that Steele contacted the FBI because of his belief that Russians had a compromising tape of Trump in a hotel room, referring to the dossier’s allegation that Trump had prostitutes urinate on a bed that President and Michelle Obama had slept on in the Ritz Carleton in Moscow. Amazingly, Simpson reveals this shortly after saying that Steele is a professional at knowing when he’s getting disinformation from a source. But not only is there no evidence that Russians have such a tape, or that such a tape would have any value against known perv Trump in any case, there’s substantial evidence that Steele was the victim of misinformation at best, if not disinformation.
Yet when congressional investigators asked Simpson if Steele would know if he were being fed false information, Simpson is vehement. He says, “a trained intelligence officer can spot disinformation that you or I might not recognize, certainly that was Chris’s skill, and he honed in on this issue of blackmail as being a significant national security issue.”
Simpson’s testimony frequently characterizes the relationship as if reporters come to him seeking information that he then shares. But asked if Fusion GPS’s business involves getting media outlets to publish stories, he says it is.
Some people believed that since the dossier was not published until January 2017, it was not used during the campaign. Simpsons says otherwise. He says part of the purpose of being hired for opposition research was to share information with journalists. He says, “some of it was gathered for the possibility that it might be useful to the press.”
Wait—what? Strassel posited three questions regarding Mr. Steele, Fusion GPS, and the dossier given what we know now. The first being directly related to Steele supposedly raising red flags over possible blackmail:
1. If Mr. Steele was such a professional, why was he out spreading national-security “intelligence” through the media?
2. If Mr. Simpson was so worried for his country, why did he spend months dodging congressional requests for testimony, and refuse to name his client?
3. If Mr. Steele was confident enough in his document to spool it to the FBI, why has he ducked every congressional request that he explain his work?
This whole narrative has walked a waffled line from the beginning. There’s no evidence to support the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians during the 2016 election. Not a shred. Now, the principals involved with the dossier, being exposed as a Democrat-funded opposition research projected subsidized by the Hillary Clinton campaign, are trying to desperately redirect the attention back to the Trump campaign. This is getting increasingly silly, folks. Now, knowing that this is a dead horse, the media and some liberals are not even saying collusion anymore, not because there’s new evidence to suggest it exists—but because it’s somehow been proven without said evidence. The Washington Examiner’s Pete Kasperowicz dissected this nonsense, where collusion, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and criminal are being used to try and undercut this president. The thing is that it’s meaningless. There’s still nothing to back this up, hence the mercurial nature of this whole clown show.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (in a Tuesday CNN interview): George Papadopoulos "was not a name on my radar scope when i left." So head of intelligence had never heard of the dude that the NYT now claims launched the entire Trump-Russia probe?— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) January 3, 2018
Before Thanksgiving, Strassel was on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson’s show, where she said that Fusion GPS did correctly send this to the FBI and then the press to give their shoddy document “some air of credibility.” We need answers, which is why she has advocated that all documents related to the dossier should be declassified and released. This piece mean approach only breeds more confusion and nonsense. A Trump associate was a source for Fusion GPS. Not true. The guy we hired to compile this document knows what misinformation looks like, obviously that might be overstated. There’s the connection between the FBI and the Fusion, as a top DOJ official’s wife worked for the latter and the official, Bruce Ohr, met with the firm and did not disclose them. He has since been demoted from his position as deputy assistant attorney general. Also, getting back to the Papadopoulos angle, the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he wasn't on the radar. Papadopoulos, the guy who the Times says started this probe, pretty much received a "who?" answer from the man who was at the head of our national intelligence. The absence of evidence and the misinformation in the dossier just shows that we're still a square one here. It's time to move on from this shoddy theory that won't harm the president, won't boot him from office, and won't catch on with the Americn voter. In fact, that's already happened; voters don't care. What we need to know is whether the dossier was actually used as the reason to wiretap Paul Manafort and Carter Page, but that remains in a file locked in the J. Edgar Hoover Building. Now, that is a story, but one that really doesn't hurt Trump and throws more mud in the FBI's face.
Prediction: A whole lot of people (who are making very bold statements about the specific facts of FBI evidence/actions/dossier/FISA warrant etc.) are going to have a whole lot of omelette on their faces when the actual documents are declassified.— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) January 12, 2018
It is time to release absolutely everything related to the dossier that can be legitimately declassified. The spin has become silly.— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) January 10, 2018