In our nation’s worst governmental scandal, Watergate, the Federal Bureau of Investigation heroically kept widespread White House corruption from being concealed, eventually reviving important prosecutions. Sadly, in today’s increasingly convoluted moral universe, senior FBI officials, it now appears, have tried to artificially create serious “Russiagate” crimes, thereby becoming implicated in a scandal promising to be nastier than Watergate. Congress presently awaits DOJ documents which may or may not confirm what presently seem reasonable inferences of such FBI wrongdoing.
In Watergate, the White House and senior DOJ officials attempted to limit the investigation to the seven arrested members of the burglary team caught penetrating the DNC Headquarters in the Watergate Office Building. Deputy Associate FBI Director Mark Felt, to prevent the FBI from becoming complicit in a politicized investigation, met with the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward to avoid this corruption through public exposure. The FBI deserves its honor as the unsung hero of Watergate, refusing to become politicized.
However, one perverse lesson of Watergate is that Felt would have received great perks and personal laurels if he had gone along with the corrupt political program. Heeding a lesson not intended by Felt, FBI Director James Comey engaged in acrobatic contortions during the 2016 election to help presumed President-Elect Hillary Clinton to escape serious criminal charges in the email and related obstruction probes. But this blatant politicization pales in comparison to emerging evidence that Comey’s team, working with John Brennan’s partisan CIA, and partnering with British intelligence agency GCHQ, had attempted to fabricate serious Trump-Russia electoral interference crimes akin to treason.
The ”Russian collusion” inquiry began in December 2015 (not, as claimed, on July 31, 2016), with a tip from GCHQ to Brennan that Putin wished to financially support a Donald Trump presidential candidacy. Nothing has yet emerged, in subsequent FISA warrant applications or elsewhere in leaks, to suggest that the tip was anything but phony. But on December 28, 2015, after Brennan had hurriedly formed a special “inter-agency” group, one of Comey’s top aides Peter Strzok was attempting to get approval for “LUREs,” Fedspeak for spies, inferentially to penetrate the Trump campaign. All of this would have been well and good if there had been a solid basis to suspect criminal activity by the Trump campaign. But, it now appears, rather than dismiss the inaccurate tip as disinformation, the FBI tried to manufacture evidence where none had existed, hoping real wrongdoing would eventually be found. Thus started an investigation without a crime, long a Comey specialty.
Soon a seeming British plant (associated with UK’s Claire Smith) with Russian connections, Joseph Mifsud, became greatly interested in London-based George Papadopoulos after he was named a Trump advisor on Russian issues in March 2016. Mifsud, whom we should now view as wearing an FBI uniform through his sponsor GCHQ, told Papadopoulos days later of Russian-hacked Clinton emails, and introduced him ostentatiously to a number of Russians. Because Mifsud could be sold to the public as a Russian agent, given his wide array of Russian connections, when Papadopoulos was later indicted for misstating the timing of his Mifsud conversations, American citizens, understandably, could smell Russian collusion. But it was, it seems now, really interaction with a disguised GCHQ actor working under the aegis of the FBI.
To keep Mifsud portrayed as a Russian agent, the FBI had to confirm Papadopoulos’s knowledge of Russian “dirt” on Clinton through another, more acceptable source. So Australian intelligence’s Ambassador Alexander Downer made strenuous efforts to meet Papadopoulos, drink copiously with him and then report to American intelligence the ho-hummer that Papadopoulos knew the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton. So this relayed conversation, likely pretextually, caused the claimed opening of the Russian collusion investigation on July 31, 2016. But this slender reed took eight months of trying by the FBI, and was based upon the FBI’s own manufactured evidence originating with Mifsud. If this seems to be attempted evidence fabrication, the efforts of ex-GCHQ spy Christopher Steele confirm it in spades, emerging information suggests. Steele wrote his report after his source Sergei Millian, a shadowy figure, like Mifsud, with seeming Russian connections, actively insinuated himself into the naïve Papadopoulos’s orbit. Steele, presumably with the approval of GCHQ and its partners CIA and FBI, readily quoted his source Millian as knowing of Russia-Trump electoral collusion, as well as kompromat through peeing prostitutes. But the FBI knew, documents should show, that Millian, Steele’s “Source E” was not, as he claimed, close to either the Trump campaign or to the Trump Organization. If the FBI, as we suspect, had knowledge of this material falsity in Steele’s Dossier, yet used it to get a FISA warrant, each agent so knowing should be guilty of obstruction of justice under 18 U.S.C. §1505.
The FBI also likely knew from the CIA that Carter Page, another loosely-termed Trump adviser on Russia, had been closely watched while in Moscow in 2013 and 2014, and was confirmed to be a harmless wannabe dealmaker. But it reportedly did not so portray Page to the court in 2016 when it sought to surveil him.
Of course, by July 2016, the FBI knew it had nothing, even though it did not tell FISC that in its warrant application. So it sent in its informant Stefan Halper to lure Papadopoulos and Page, with Halper eventually making an awkward attempt in September 2016, to get Papadopoulos to agree that he knew of hacked emails. But the FBI certainly realized that its approaches to Papadopoulos, standing alone, were thin gruel and were not going to cut it.
It seems that the FBI as a result of its nonexistent case had also earlier sent in yet another plant, Henry Greenberg, to try to entrap another peripheral Trump bandwagon-rider, Roger Stone. Greenberg, posing as a Russian agent, credibly so because of his thick accent, offered to sell the Trump campaign Russian-hacked Clinton emails for $2 million, which Stone dismissed. If, as is now suspected, Greenberg was in fact an FBI spy, this offer would amount to attempted entrapment. It was not a proper “sting” attempt, because there was no reason to believe Stone was predisposed to purchase hacked emails. So all of this amounted to, in common parlance, our government trying to frame one political candidate to help another.
So by the time the FBI applied for a FISA warrant in October 2016, it knew not only that it had nothing other than evidence that was either planted (Mifsud and Downer) or fabricated (Millian and Steele) by its own undercover informants posing in other roles.
Did the FBI and CIA at least make sure to keep this false evidence out of the public eye during the campaign, so as not to politicize the investigation? No. Brennan made a big show of briefing the Gang of Eight in August 2016, and privately briefed the unprincipled Senator Harry Reid, who thereafter wrote a public letter. Steele, likely with his sponsors’ approval, leaked to Yahoo News, the reporting on which the FBI used as bootstrapped corroboration for the FISA warrant. Steele leaked about this Dossier after the FBI had contracted to retain him. Did the FBI subsequently fire Steele because he leaked, or because he was outed as a leaker, thereby potentially exposing the FBI for manufacturing evidence? And did Clinton just coincidentally happen to retain Steele to investigate collusion, or did someone with the FBI or CIA suggest this, so that “evidence” could be created for a FISA warrant?
If there was any doubt about Comey’s intent to leak the demonstrably false, scurrilous claims of the Steele Dossier, look no further than Comey’s contrived January 6, 2017 briefing of Trump on the Dossier, where he hid its false and partisan nature. The purpose of his briefing, by conspiracy with DNI James Clapper, was to give Clapper a news hook to leak to CNN, followed by BuzzFeed’s publication of the entire scurrilous document.
The present apologia of Comey, Clapper and Brennan is that the spies were employed not to ensnare Trump, but were designed to investigate what the Russians were doing. But this same “inter-agency” group twice voted not to give the Trump campaign the “defensive briefing” normally given to a kompromat target, likely because doing so would retard their entrapping activities.
The dearth of evidence gained by the FISA surveillance appears confirmed by the reliance of Comey thereafter on nothing other than the jejune Papadopoulos comment and the absurd Steele Dossier. In spite of its use of informants and an improperly gained FISA warrant, it appears that no viable electoral collusion evidence was obtained, and this entire country-disrupting investigation has been based on manufactured pseudo-evidence.
At bottom, this scandal reveals the endemic political corruption at the top of the storied, politically independent FBI. It was not, as in Watergate, trying to protect the FBI and the public from a politicized, whitewashed investigation, but, rather, trying to foist a false, politicized scandal on the country. Watergate roiled the country because of seemingly bad actions by the administration in power. Russiagate, now becoming Spygate, has enflamed the country because of false claims against the administration occupying the White House.
Key FBI documents can prove or disprove these reasonable, but not conclusive, inferences presently available from evidence and reports. We hope that, whatever these documents show, the country will unite in denouncing any proven fabrication by the FBI of a false scandal.
John D. O’Connor is the San Francisco attorney who represented W. Mark Felt during his revelation as Deep Throat in 2005. O’Connor is the co-author of “A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being ‘Deep Throat,’ and the Struggle for Honor in Washington” and is a producer of “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” (2017), written and directed by Peter Landesman.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.