We have learned a lot in the past week about the Russiagate anti-Trump coup plot. The dots are slowly being connected, far too slowly for those who would like the full truth to come out. But any progress in Washington can be counted as a small victory.
One important revelation was that the primary sub-source – used by British spy Christopher Steele to compile his discredited, rumor-filled anti-Trump dossier in 2016 – was linked to Russian intelligence. This was revealed when senators requested that the Justice Department declassify a footnote to Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s 2019 report on FBI FISA abuse against Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Attorney General William Barr then provided a two-page summary of an FBI counterintelligence investigation into Steele’s sub-source, Russian national Igor Danchenko, which lasted from 2009-2011. Danchenko was a known associate of Russian intelligence operatives, but the investigation ended after he left the country in 2010.
Why this information was redacted from the Horowitz report is anyone’s guess since hiding it serves no national security interest; but keeping it from public view did at least keep that part of the Steele dossier coverup alive. In his testimony this week to the Senate Judiciary Committee, former FBI Director James Comey downplayed the role of the Steele dossier in obtaining the FISA warrant, but it is reasonable to assume that the warrant would never have been issued had the FISA court been given the full provenance of the document. No, the dossier was central to obtaining the Carter Page FISA warrant and all that flowed from it through targeting Page’s contacts and tertiary individuals, possibly including Donald Trump himself.
We also now know more details about how the “insurance policy” famously mentioned by FBI agent Peter Strzok was implemented. Newly released texts related to the Michael Flynn case show that the case against Flynn was being readied to be closed just before the 2016 election, but when Donald Trump unexpectedly won, there was a flurry of activity to find justifications to keep the case going. Then after the infamous January 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting between President Obama, Vice President Biden, FBI Director James Comey, national security adviser Susan Rice, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, another flurry of activity to keep the investigation going under the specious rationale of the Logan Act.
“What’s the word on how O’s [Obama’s] briefing went?” one exchange started. “Don’t know,” another FBI employee responded, “but people here are scrambling for info to support certain things and its [sic] a mad house.” “Jesus,” someone replied. “Trump was right. Still not put together….why do we do this to ourselves. What his wrong with these people.”
Then there is a newly declassified letter from Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe that alleged that Obama administration officials had been informed that former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was using the issue of Trump’s alleged ties to Russia to distract attention from her illicit email scandal. The intelligence, briefed to Obama by CIA chief Brennan, “alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016, of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.” An investigative referral was forwarded to the FBI and landed on Peter Strzok’s desk, where of course it died.
Democrats have charged that the Ratcliffe letter itself is Kremlin disinformation, firm in their belief that the Russia card still works. But even at the time Hillary Clinton’s campaign was publicly talking about weaponizing the supposed ties to Putin, and the New York Times reported on July 24, 2016, that promoting the Russia scandal was turning into a major theme of Clinton’s campaign. No, the scandal is not that Hilary was pushing the Russia lie, we already knew that. It is that the Obama administration knew this was going on and did nothing about it, ignoring (or cooperating with) Clinton campaign influence over Steele and Fusion GPS.
How much more will come out? There are reports that U.S. Attorney John Durham will not issue a report on his investigation into the roots of Russiagate before the election. Also CIA Director Gina Haspel is reportedly blocking the release of documents that would further explain the CIA’s role in this affair. Russiagate victim George Papadopoulos tweeted that “the CIA and MI6 were more involved than the FBI” and it was “not shocking to see Gina Haspel trying to block declassification of what was going on in London with the CIA among other capitals” since she was Station Chief there when all this went down. The CIA’s role is more important than the FBI’s since the intelligence agency was in a position to manufacture and feed information to the FBI, using foreign sources and coordinating with foreign intelligence services. This could be fed directly or indirectly to FBI counterintelligence to manufacture the predicate for the case against Trump.
Papadopoulos has called on President Trump to declassify this information immediately. In fact, that has been the call from many quarters for years. There is no excuse not to do it, and it is mystifying that Trump has not just exposed the entire documentary record of the plot. During the presidential debate Trump said, “They came after me spying on my campaign. They started on the day I won and even before I won. … And we’ve caught them. We’ve caught them all. We’ve got it all on tape.” OK, Mr. President, let’s hear it. It’s time to let the people decide for themselves.
Chris Farrell is director of investigations and research at Judicial Watch, a nonprofit government watchdog. He is a former military intelligence officer.