It’s Time To Admit The Russia Investigation Was Illegitimate From The Start

It’s Time To Admit The Russia Investigation Was Illegitimate From The Start

While claims that the FBI properly inquired of connections between the Trump campaign and Russia were valid to a point, that point has long since passed.
Margot Cleveland
By

In the last week, as revelation upon revelation hit that Obama administration officials and career employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) spied on the Donald Trump campaign in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, the mainstream media, the Left, and Never Trump Republicans have fallen back on three ready responses.

A solid plurality of this contingent continue to avert their eyes from the facts and dismiss the claims of misconduct as peddled by tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists. There is not much you can say to this faction, because they refuse to consider the proof.

A second—and more extreme group—believes Trump conspired with the Russians to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. There is not much you can say to this bunch either, because they are tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists.

But the final group sees things differently. While they don’t necessarily believe Trump was treasonous, they argue that the FBI and other intelligence-gathering agencies rightly targeted the Trump campaign. With Russian-leaning Paul Manafort and Carter Page involved in the campaign, and Trump trolling Hillary with praise for Vladimir Putin, the government could not just ignore the risk, they posit. And there was no impropriety in doing so.

I Was Once In Group Three, Too

For two years, I teetered between that third contingent and utter disinterest. But then we learned that the DOJ intentionally failed to inform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court that the Democratic National Committee had paid for the Christopher Steele dossier. That unverified and mainly false dossier formed a significant part of the government’s application for a wiretap for former Trump aide Page.

This admission changed everything for me: I had spent nearly 25 years reviewing challenges to warrants based on claims of withheld (or false) evidence. However, unlike the typical criminal case in which a defendant later has access to the warrant application, in the case of a FISA court order, the target cannot view the information the government used to obtain a wiretap, making FISA court proceedings ripe for abuse.

My rule of law alarms went off. Trump’s criticism of the Russia collusion investigation no longer sounded staged, and he no longer seemed paranoid. Then the revelations kept coming, as did leaks intended to harm Trump, change the narrative, or soften soon-to-be released news of other misconduct.

Meanwhile, what was not forthcoming was the information Congress requested, and when it belatedly arrived it was heavily redacted to protect “national security.” Then later releases revealed the national security excuse didn’t hold. So while claims that the FBI properly inquired of connections between the Trump campaign and Russia were valid to a point, that point has long since passed.

Was there good faith in the beginning? Did political appointees and career agents rightfully pursue leads to see if something was there? Or was the investigation always an insurance policy?

I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that there is a convincing mosaic of evidence that the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, and DOJ acted with improper motives—some related to the Obama administration’s general modus operandi, and some specific to Crossfire Hurricane.

Let’s Look at That Mosaic

For instance, we know that the Internal Revenue Service was weaponized to target conservatives under the Obama administration, and we know the media was easily manipulated to push the Iran deal. This makes it even more probable that intelligence agencies and DOJ were likewise politicized to target the Trump campaign and the press used to peddle the Russia collusion narrative.

The specifics known to date support this conclusion. We have former acting attorney general Sally Yates, whose disregard for President Trump rose to such heights she chose insubordination rather than resignation. Yates informed Trump that then-national security advisor Michael Flynn had not been honest in discussing his conversations with the Russian ambassador, leaving Flynn open to blackmail.

Yates later pushed the theory that this conversation potentially violated the Logan Act, an unused law that prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign powers. The DOJ later indicted Flynn for lying to the FBI about his conversation with the Russian ambassador, even though evidence shows the agents who questioned Flynn believed he was truthful.

One of those agents was Peter Strzok, whose texts to his partner in adultery, Lisa Page, revealed a clear anti-Trump animus and the existence of “an insurance policy” to protect against the unlikely event of a Trump presidency. Strzok and Lisa Page were involved in the Russian investigation, and Strzok later became part of the special counsel’s team, until the text messages were later “revealed.” By “revealed,” I mean barely revealed, as they were heavily redacted, even though when small snippets were later released, the blacked-out text served only one purpose: to protect the FBI from embarrassment.

Then we have James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, who instructed then-FBI director James Comey to brief Trump on the Steele dossier, with Clapper leaking the briefing to CNN’s Jake Tapper to legitimize the media’s coverage of the salacious (and false) details. The DOJ used that same dossier to obtain the first of four FISA court wiretap orders on Carter Page, without informing the secret court that the Democrats had paid for the opposition research. Comey, of course, would later leak at least one classified document to a buddy to prompt the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Trump.

It Goes Much Deeper

There’s more: We now have an admission that the FBI used an informant to spy on the Trump campaign beginning before the official launch of the Russia collusion investigation. We came about these details through leaks to The New York Times and Washington Post, while the DOJ continues to ignore congressional demands for the same information.

My point here is not to catalogue every piece of circumstantial evidence demonstrating impropriety. I’m surely missing some substantial threads. Rather, my goal is to illustrate why Crossfire Hurricane can no longer be assumed an apolitical and legitimate investigation. Those pointing out this reality are not Trump apologists: we are patriots.

Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Cleveland served nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk to a federal appellate judge and is a former full-time faculty member and current adjunct instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame.
Photo Pete Souza / White House

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