We learn the secret origins of RussiaGate

Summary: The major news media work to keep the RussiaGate story fragmented and mysterious. But partisans and fringe investigators slowly put the pieces together and the picture emerges. The narrative change as new facts discredit the old, and we see that partisans on both sides have no interest in the truth – unless it helps their tribe.

Top Secret

As the Dossier Scandal Looms, the NYT Struggles to Save Its Collusion Tale
By Andrew McCarthy at National Review.

“‘Trump Adviser’s Visit to Moscow Got the F.B.I.’s Attention.‘ That was the page-one headline the New York Times ran on April 20, 2017, above its breathless report that “a catalyst for the F.B.I. investigation into connections between Russia and President Trump’s campaign” was a June 2016 visit to Moscow by Carter Page. It was due to the Moscow trip by Page, dubbed a ‘foreign policy adviser’ to the campaign, that ‘the F.B.I. obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’ in September – i.e., during the stretch run of the presidential campaign. …

“{N}o 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]. …despite all that journalistic leg-work and all those insider sources, the name George Papadopoulos does not appear in the Times’ story. …

“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 {details here}. 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! …”

From “For your eyes only: A short history of Democrat-spy collusion
By Roger Kimball in The Spectator.

“…In December 2017, The New York Times excitedly reported in an article called ‘How the Russia Inquiry Began‘ that, contrary to their reporting during the previous year, it wasn’t Carter Page who precipitated the inquiry. It was someone called George Papadopoulous, an even more obscure and lower-level factotum than Carter Page.

“Back in May 2016, the twenty-something Papadopoulous had gotten outside a number of drinks with one Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat in London and had let slip that ‘the Russians’ had compromising information about Hillary Clinton. When Wikileaks began releasing emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee in June and July, news of the conversation between Downer and Papadopoulos was communicated to the FBI. Thus, according to the Times, the investigation was born.

“There were, however, a couple of tiny details that the Times omitted. One was that Downer, an avid Clinton supporter, had arranged for a $25 million donation from the Australian government to the Clinton Foundation. …They also neglected say exactly how Papadopoulos met Alexander Downer.

“As it turns out, George Papadopoulos made several new friends in London. There was Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor living in London who has ties to British intelligence. It was Mifsud – who has since disappeared – who told Papadopoulos in March 2016 that the Kremlin had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. …”

Lee Smith at The Federalist explains further.

“…Further reinforcement of the new origin story came from congressional Democrats. A January 29 memo written by House Intelligence Committee minority staff under ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff further distances Steele from the opening of the investigation. ‘Christopher Steele’s raw reporting did not inform the FBI’s decision to initiate its counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016. In fact, the FBI’s closely-held investigative team only received Steele’s reporting in mid-September.’ …”

From “The Real Origination Story of the Trump-Russia Investigation
By Andrew McCarthy at National Review.

“…{T}here are two basic flaws in version 2.0. First, Papadopoulos’s story is actually exculpatory of the Trump campaign: If Russia already had the emails and was alerting the Trump campaign to that fact, the campaign could not have been involved in the hacking.

“Second, there is confusion about exactly what Mifsud was referring to when he told Papadopoulos that the Russians had emails that could damage Clinton. Democrats suggest that Mifsud was referring to the Democratic National Committee emails. They need this to be true because –

  • these are the emails that were hacked by Russian operatives, and
  • it was WikiLeaks’ publication of these hacked DNC emails in July 2016 that spurred the Aussies to report to their American counterparts about the encounter, two months earlier, between Papadopoulos and Downer – to whom Papadopoulos reported Mifsud’s emails story.

“But if the Australians really did infer that Mifsud and Papadopoulos must have been talking about the hacked DNC emails, the inference is unlikely. As the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross has reported, Papadopoulos maintains that he understood Mifsud to be talking about the 30,000-plus emails that Hillary Clinton had deleted from her homebrew server. That makes more sense – it was those emails that Donald Trump harped on throughout the campaign and that were in the news when Mifsud spoke with Papadopoulos in April 2016. While there are grounds for concern that Clinton’s emails were hacked, there is no proof that it happened; Clinton’s 30,000 emails are not the hacked DNC emails on which the “collusion” narrative is based.

“There was also the curiosity of why, if Papadopoulos was so central, the FBI had not bothered to interview him until late January 2017 – after Trump had already taken office.

“With the revelation last week that the Obama administration had insinuated a spy into the Trump campaign, it appeared that we were back to the original, Page-centric origination story. But now there was a twist: The informant, longtime CIA source Stefan Halper, was run at Page by the FBI, in Britain. Because this happened just days after Page’s Moscow trip, the implication was that it was the Moscow trip itself, not the dossier claims about it, that provided momentum toward opening the investigation.

“Then, just a couple of weeks later, WikiLeaks began publicizing the DNC emails; this, we’re to understand, shook loose the Australian information about Papadopoulos. When that information made its way to the FBI – how, we’re not told – the ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ investigation was formally opened on July 31. Within days, Agent Peter Strzok was in London interviewing Downer, and soon the FBI tasked Halper to take a run at Papadopoulos.

The real origination of the investigation.

“I’m not buying it. …There are many different ways the Obama administration could have reacted to the news that Page and Manafort had joined the Trump campaign.

  • It could have given the campaign a defensive briefing.
  • It could have continued interviewing Page, with whom the FBI had longstanding lines of communication.
  • It could have interviewed Manafort.
  • It could have conducted a formal interview with George Papadopoulos rather than approaching him with a spy who asked him loaded questions about Russia’s possession of Democratic-party emails.

“Instead of doing some or all of those things, the Obama administration chose to look at the Trump campaign as a likely co-conspirator of Russia — either because Obama officials inflated the flimsy evidence, or because they thought it could be an effective political attack on the opposition party’s likely candidate.

“From the ‘late spring’ {2016} on, every report of Trump-Russia ties, no matter how unlikely and uncorroborated, was presumed to be proof of a traitorous arrangement. And every detail that could be spun into Trump-campaign awareness of Russian hacking, no matter how tenuous, was viewed in the worst possible light.

“The Trump-Russia investigation did not originate with Page or Papadopoulos. It originated with the Obama administration.”

——————————–

Summary

The roots of RussiaGate lie in a golden moment Spring 2016. The FBI had reasons to be concerned about links of a few (2, perhaps 3) Trump campaign officials to the Russian government. They brought those concerns to Obama’s appointees at the Department of Justice – and perhaps the White House. They choose to interpret these in a politically advantageous fashion, as indications of treason rather than leads to be investigated. Senior FBI officials (and perhaps some in other intel agencies) cooperated, for as yet unknown reasons (perhaps they wanted Clinton to win, or believed Clinton would win and wanted jobs).

Investigators working with certainty of their subjects guilt: a commonplace, often resulting in false indictments – and sometimes false convictions.  Neither group expected Trump to win and their actions receive public scrutiny. Along the way they appear to have crossed some lines (we do not know for sure). Now they have to conceal or explain away their actions. This explains refusal to cooperate with legitimate Congressional inquiries, the ever-changing stories, the lies.

Now this has become an existential struggle for the FBI. Only success can save the FBI reputation as a non-partisan agency and prevent punitive actions by Republican officials.

Lessons learned

Conclusions

Slowly we learn how the RussiaGate investigate was launched. Piece by piece. The lies we have been told (story #1, story #2, story #3) – and the means (mostly anonymous leaks from government officials – tell us more than the scraps of data we have gathered.

The origin matters, since the Mueller investigation is a nuclear missile aimed at the Trump administration. It has and will do great damage no matter what, if anything, Mueller finds about Trump and Russia.

The investigation could have run quietly until Mueller issued either indictments against central figures or a report of his collected evidence and findings. Instead officials have leaked a steady stream of stories about the investigation to journalists, seeking to damage the Trump Administration – or at least consume its resources.

We have learned that fringe and partisan sources are necessary when the mainstream media become stenographers for the State, uncritically printing whatever officials tell them.

Another lesson learned is that Americans will believe almost anything that feeds their partisan bias. This allows our leaders to lie with impunity. So they do. See The Big List of Lies by our Leaders. When we change, so will they.

Until then, facts about RussiaGate will continue to dribble out. We have so much more to learn. Who knows what story will be when it all becomes public?

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Russiaabout RussiaGate, and especially these…

  1. What Trump told Russia, why it matters, and why journalists ignore the smartest man in Washington.
  2. Trump and the Democrats stumble into a ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’.
  3. The verdict on the stories of Russian hacking in the 2016 election.
  4. A review of Russiagate, its propaganda and hysteria.
  5. Secrets untold about the DNC hack, the core of RussiaGate.
  6. Debunking RussiaGate, attempts to stop the new Cold War.
  7. The secrets of RussiaGate, and what it all means.
  8. RussiaGate: fragments of a story large beyond imagining.

20 thoughts on “We learn the secret origins of RussiaGate

  1. The practical effect of RussiaGate has been to immobilize and hamstring the Trump administration for the past 18 months. That already makes it perhaps the most effective piece of political sabotage in US history.
    Moreover, its full potential has not yet been exhausted. A set of indictments is likely in time for the 2018 election cycle, based on Mr. Mueller’s expressed expectation that his inquiry will wrap up by Sept 1.
    Whoever cooked this up was very savvy indeed.

    1. etudiant,

      That’s describes the game in a nutshell.

      “Whoever cooked this up was very savvy indeed.”

      Not at all. The Democrats used broad-based (often flimsy) investigations to cripple the Reagan administration, using their control of Congress. The GOP did the same to Bill Clinton. The GOP tried to do so to Obama (Benghazi Benghazi BENGHAZI!). Now the Dem’s attack Trump. With each battle, the tactics become more sophisticated — and the use of “lawfare” against political foes becomes more normalized.

  2. No one seems to be considering the possibility that this came about in the usual way. We’ve got 10s of thousands of operatives, intelligence professionals, law enforcement officers and informants charged with seeking out terrorists, foreign surveillance, hacking, etc., etc.. What is these “discoveries” came about somewhat randomly from these public officials doing their jobs in the trenches and slowly the FBI and Justice Department began to piece them together.

    Eventually info began to leak and the news media got into the act, helping put together a sometimes clearer, sometimes murkier picture. It became evident that something had happened, though it was (and is) unclear what exactly that something was.

    A bright investigator was then charged with making sense of all of this. The investigation has been thorough and thoroughness takes time. Americans, being the impatient creatures we are, started demanding information and are very frustrated the investigator won’t perform on their timetable. In the absence of facts, the conspiracy mongering industry, having failed to solve JFK’s murder or the existence of UFOs, has gone into high gear developing narratives to support their favorite theories about the nefarious origins of an investigation the origins of which were actually boringly routine.

    1. John,

      “No one seems to be considering the possibility that this came about in the usual way.”

      When writing such a sentence, you should consider the likelihood that everyone else is right – and you are wrong.

      We do not have the necessary evidence to say what happened. But we have enough to decisively disprove your theory. This post gives a 2500 word explanation, linking to even longer articles providing a wealth of supporting evidence.

    2. I read the post and have been following the dialogue closely. I have seen no evidence inconsistent with my suggestion: i.e. this is not a grand conspiracy of the investigators, but instead a logical result of many disparate players doing their job and finding bits and pieces of evidence that eventually gelled into a sufficiently coherent story to justify further investigation. The conspiracy theories require the assumption that the investigators started with an agenda and searched facts that supported their agenda. While that is, of course, possible, it is far from certain and has not been proven.

    3. John,

      (1) To mention two of the most obvious facts showing your theory is wrong. First, the shifting narratives explaining the origin of the investigation. Second, the many lies told about it. Such as “we can’t release the info because it would imperil national security.” Then the info is released under duress, and it is nothing imperiling national security. Most recently, the name of the informant in the Trump campaign.

      Neither of those is consistent with your theory.

      (2) “this is not a grand conspiracy of the investigators”

      That’s the usual rebuttal: “there is no conspiracy.” As if “conspiracies” in that sense are rare. All large-scale actions by institutions require groups of senior executives to cooperate. Institutions very often attempt to keep their internal actions secret, whether corporations, non-profits, or governments. If you believe that’s not happening, then you’re kidding yourself.

      (3) “The conspiracy theories require the assumption that the investigators started with an agenda and searched facts that supported their agenda.”

      I see you didn’t read this post. It says the exact opposite. In red.

    4. The material in red represents the conclusions of the author drawn from facts that just as easily support the alternative thesis I posited. I will certainly agree that that at some point the entire U.S. national security apparatus reached a conclusion that the Russians had interfered with the election and started to take actions they hoped would prevent a recurrence.

      The “most obvious fact” to counter the narrative of the article is that the FBI made a number of public statements about the Clinton email investigation, but not about the Trump investigation during the election. If the Obama Administration, through its appointed representative, Mr. Comey, was conspiring to create a Trump/Russia conspiracy, why was the investigation not mentioned when it’s disclosure would have mattered?

      I have not seen one shred of evidence that top Obama Administration officials sent agents out to look for a Trump/Russia conspiracy prior to the revelations from the Australian diplomat and the Page surveillance. I have seen plenty of documentation that the FBI and the national security apparatus became concerned about Russian interference and were looking for evidence of that. I would hope they would do so again if they have reason to believe that a foreign power is interfering with U.S. elections (or the power grid or the financial system).

      The issue is that some folks around Trump clearly had lots of interactions with some pretty shady Russians, which were discovered in the surveillance of those Russians. Seems like getting caught up in an investigation is a risk you take when you do business with shady Russian characters. I’ve never been tempted to do so for just that reason.

    5. About conspiracy theories

      The perjorative use of the term “conspiracy theory” — implying that the theory must therefore be false — has a murky history (here are examples of past use). The modern use as a method of delegimization goes back to the CIA’s attempts to quash criticism of the Warren Report (with its many improbably claims) — and hide the CIA’s involvement (its operations inside Cuba, Oswald’s involvement, and the possibility that Castro killed JFK in retaliation). This was most clearly spelled out in CIA Document 1035-960: “Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report.” This was issued in 1967 and declassified in 1976.

      As a psyop, it succeeded on a vast scale. Say “it’s a conspiracy theory” to the average American and their mind stops. Like ringing a bell to Pavlov’s Dogs. Despite the US government’s long list of lies to conceal its activities, most of which involve conspiracies at high levels (see the Big List of Lies).

      “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”
      — About the JFK assassination. Attributed to CIA Director William Casey by Barbara Honegger. She says she heard him say it in early February 1981 at a meeting in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House. Source.

    6. We can agree that conspiracies exist and the term “conspiracy theory” is used to mask true conspiracies. We can also agree that elements of the government lie from time to time and that the CIA’s mission is built in part around disinformation, which is another way to describe a lie. That said I believe most of what happens in government is much too mundane to fit the definition of a conspiracy and that many, if not most, government employees are committed to doing their job honestly and fairly. Conspiracy theory is so easily used as a pejorative because there are a lot of folks who instinctively look under every rock to create conspiracies that never existed. Working together your co-workers to do the job you were hired to do is not a conspiracy.

    7. John,

      “That said I believe most of what happens in government is much too mundane to fit the definition of a conspiracy”

      To say that statement is irrelevant to RussiaGate is an understatement. It’s a rebuttal to something nobody has ever said.

      You should read this post. You have said nothing that indicates any awareness of what it says. Or have you given any response to the facts that show your theory is false.

    8. Follow-up to John,

      “I believe most of what happens in government is much too mundane to fit the definition of a conspiracy”

      That is quite false. Most conspiracies deal with the “mundane” workings of government and business. Wage fixing, such as the Silicon giants did. Overcharging for contracts, a staple of city political machines. Patronage rings, a staple of governments and businesses. Lies to avoid legal liability (business as usual in the pharmaceutical biz) and circumvent govt regulations (VW misreporting emissions). Bilking customers, a core of Wells Fargo’s biz. Procurement overcharging, such as the Navy’s Fat Leonard op.

      These are conspiracies of middle and senior managers, from small to massive.

    9. Well said, John.

      +1 for Larry proving that we can have conspiracies and unethical behavior in mundane government though.
      Glad we got that resolved.

    10. Alfred,

      Got to admire the CIA for their creativity. After careful training, say “that’s a conspiracy” and watch people’s brains switch off. No matter how many are uncovered, we think they’re like dragons (not ants).

      We are a gift to our rulers.

    11. The conversation appears to have started with a discussion about a claimed conspiracy the President attempted to brand as SpyGate. In the current era the half life of conspiracy theories is such that SpyGate has been debunked by Fox News during the time we spent arguing over whether conspiracies exist in government, which I never questioned. I did and do question whether the majority of government employees are bad actors. The fact that some politicians and government employees are crooks no more proves that all government employees are crooks than the fact that some men are misogynists proves that all men are misogynists.

  3. Tell em he’s a pig f#@ker. It ain’t true but make him deny it. The real collusion or conspiracy story here is why HRC doesn’t undergo the same scrutiny for her Russian contacts and dealings. The destruction of 30,000 emails, the fact the Russians most likely acquired those emails from an unsecured server. I know, move along there’s nothing to see here. So I continue my cynical, sarcastic ways.

    1. Gute,

      (1) “Tell em he’s a pig f#@ker. It ain’t true but make him deny it.”

      Tell who? Also, I don’t understand the point of the exercise.

      (2) “The real collusion or conspiracy story here is why HRC doesn’t undergo the same scrutiny for her Russian contacts and dealings.”

      Like Benghazi, Benghazi, BENGHAZI! there just isn’t much there.

      (3) “The destruction of 30,000 emails, the fact the Russians most likely acquired those emails from an unsecured server.”

      That was pretty clearly white-washed. (What’s the racially PC term for this?) On the other hand, it’s probably a venial crime. Lots of high officials use personal emails for govt work — to avoid leaving an official record. The FOI requirements are well-intended, but making doing business almost impossible. So workarounds are used.

      That’s what happens when well-meaning “reformers” create a hodgepodge of a thousand regulations. We get incompetent or corrupt government. Or both. Honest competent people have better ways to spend their lives.

  4. A few honest questions: Do you consider the white-washing of Hillary’s venal conduct toward emails to also be only a venal crime? Or did the pseudo-investigation do us a greater injustice (e.g. by preventing needed public discussion of the fair point you make, about regs and workarounds)?

    1. Jaqship,

      Both good questions. Both outside my wheelhouse, so I’d prefer to defer real answers to someone more familiar with such issues. However, he’s my guesses.

      “Do you consider the white-washing of Hillary’s venal conduct toward emails to also be only a venal crime?”

      Yes, in the sense of it being a common practice. The US and UK operate socially under “common law” systems, in which precedents and accepted practice rule. Such as driving within 10 mph of the posted limit is OK.

      “Or did the pseudo-investigation do us a greater injustice (e.g. by preventing needed public discussion of the fair point you make, about regs and workarounds)?”

      The conduct of law enforcement — the image projected — must be fair and impartial. Failures to do so, however common, have a corrupting effect on the public’s confidence. As so often the case, the cover-up is worse than the crime.

  5. Putting it another way, if Comey had said “No reasonable prosecutor would push this case, because this sort of conduct is so common, BECAUSE the regs push officials into such workarounds”, I suspect that he’d be in less hot water than is currently the case.
    Indeed, if he’d just limited his remarks to summarizing the evidence, instead of editorializing about what prosecutors should do, he’d have spared his FBI some of the flack it has been catching, see A. McCarthy, at https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/04/comey-confirms-in-clinton-emails-caper-the-fix-was-in/ .

  6. When you write “The conduct of law enforcement — the image projected — must be fair and impartial”, do you see the pre-Comey-statement buzz about her conduct as being proportional to her crime (i.e. she did more such skirting than others), or was her “all-but BAU”
    conduct targeted because she was the presumptive nominee?

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