In the last few months, we’ve discovered that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee funded a “dossier,” using sources connected to the Kremlin, which likely started the Obama intelligence agencies’ investigation into whether Donald Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. Nothing in that dossier, aside from information publicly available before it was written, has been verified.
Nevertheless, the FBI may have used that dossier to obtain a warrant at the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court to spy on the Trump campaign. Intelligence community officials also briefed Congress, president-elect Trump, and President Obama on the unverified dossier, which granted the document a legitimacy it most certainly did not earn. Then the Clinton campaign’s media allies used all of this to write stories in the home stretch of the 2016 election, alleging that Trump was a corrupt Russian stooge.
In the last week, even more bombshells have dropped. In response, Democrats and their media allies have flooded the airwaves with the stuff Bess Truman wanted Harry to call horse manure. This makes sense. Many are so invested in the collusion narrative that a severe-enough blowback — where it is found that Hillary colluded with Russia, not Trump, for example — could destroy American institutions that wield enormous amounts of power.
Those at risk include the Democrat Party’s media appendages, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, Business Insider, The Hill, and Vox. Even the Democrat Party, at least the uber-corporatist manifestation that we see today, faces an existential crisis.
In other words, it will get much worse before it gets any better. In the meantime, to cut through all the media’s horse manure, here are five things we’ve learned about the so-called Russia investigation in the last week (and, at the end, what you can do about it).
1. The FISA Abuse Memo
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) constructed a memo using Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ) documents. Nunes viewed the documents in a secure room, and couldn’t take the documents out. Despite congressional subpoenas, the FBI and DOJ have refused to release these documents to congressional investigators in the House and Senate.
The Nunes memo details FISA abuse by senior FBI officials. This memo reportedly alleges that the secret FISA court, meant to grant warrants to secretly spy on U.S. citizens who are engaged in espionage for a foreign power, was not given full info on the Trump-Russia dossier.
The Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee all voted to allow the entire U.S. House to see the memo. The ever-transparent Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and every other Democrat on the committee voted to keep other House members from seeing Nunes’ memo. Your representatives were shocked by what they saw:
I viewed the classified report from House Intel relating to the FBI, FISA abuses, the infamous Russian dossier, and so-called "Russian collusion." What I saw is absolutely shocking.
This report needs to be released–now. Americans deserve the truth. #ReleaseTheMemo pic.twitter.com/oP2UNujKQL
— Mark Meadows (@MarkMeadows) January 19, 2018
The American people should be able to read what I did in that briefing room. It's time to #ReleaseTheMemo.https://t.co/287N3hSGnQ
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) January 19, 2018
#Releasethememo started to trend on Twitter:
‘EXAGGERATES’ findings? Sounds like (a) there are findings, (b) they are not good, and (c) no one can say they are fabricated. That already gives the more standing than, say, ‘salacious and unverified.’ I’m with Kim: Let’s stop the BS and #ReleaseTheMemo. https://t.co/Jqef6AbCoR
— Andy McCarthy (@AndrewCMcCarthy) January 20, 2018
D's claim there is grave Trump-Russia collusion. R's claim there is grave abuse by FBI of FISA. We've been rehashing this unanswerable fight for 18 months. But there's a simple answer. Time to #ReleaseTheMemo. Let's see what FBI has, or didn't have.
— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) January 19, 2018
Schiff and his fellow Democrats insisted the Nunes memo comprises “GOP talking points:”
House Intel Committee Dems disparage the 'FISA abuse' memo as mere 'talking points.' And this WaPo news account repeats the 'talking points' accusation not one, not two, not three, but four times. https://t.co/H8GeGb2t6J
— Byron York (@ByronYork) January 20, 2018
Democrats and Schiff justified voting against releasing the memo by saying that the hayseeds east of California wouldn’t be able to understand its context. Remember, the underlying documents are “highly classified” mostly because the FBI says so.
Schiff on FISA memo: The documents that supposedly inform these talking points are highly classified. And they will not be made public, making it impossible for the few Members who have seen the documents to explain the flaws and misstatements contained within the talking points
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) January 19, 2018
When that line fell on deaf ears, Democrats’ media allies started advancing the farce that there is something illegitimate about Nunes’ memo because the FBI was not being allowed to see the memo. Again, keep in mind that the FBI holds the documents on which the memo is based, the memo alleges abuse by FBI officials, and the only reason the memo was created is because the FBI had been refusing to release those documents to Congress.
Wall-to-wall coverage on CNN wondered why the FBI, a creature and servant of Congress, wasn’t allowed to see the memo. Wolf Blitzer said it was “amazing” that Nunes would share the memo with other members of Congress, but not with the FBI. CNN analyst and soon-to-be gangster rapper Philip Mudd was outraged that anyone would dare question the FBI.
Obviously, none of this stuff worked very well, so the neo-McCarthyism was dialed up even further. Without evidence, Democrats and the media blamed #Releasethememo on Russian trolls. The insinuation, of course, was that anyone calling for the memo to be released was joining in with the Russian trolls.
So-called reporters fond of peddling stories for Fusion GPS — the firm that created the Trump-Russia dossier for Democrats, using Russian sources, while also doing work for the Kremlin — sprung into action: Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider and Ken Dilanian at NBC News, among others. Democrats joined in:
NEW: Sen. Feinstein, Rep. Schiff urge Facebook and Twitter to investigate involvement of Russian bots in pushing "Release the Memo" campaign: "If these reports are accurate, we are witnessing an ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors." pic.twitter.com/SkAci5NefK
— ABC News (@ABC) January 23, 2018
But Twitter quickly threw cold water on that idea, with The Daily Beast’s headline reading “Twitter blames #releasethememo on Republicans, not Russia.”
One wonders how many Democrats will still repeat things about Russian “bots” over the next few days, and how many fearless members of the media will correct their outright conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Democrats have come up with their very own counter-memo.
This is obviously meant to cloud the air when the Nunes memo is released, and will be dutifully picked up by the likes of CNN. Still, this is one of many signs of desperation. Meanwhile, about 200 House members have viewed the Nunes memo, and it should be released to the public in around two weeks. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says he is “worried about it.”
2. Strzok and Page Texts Go Missing
Remember the senior FBI official — Peter Strzok — who texted his alleged mistress, Lisa Page, about needing an “insurance policy,” because he and others at the FBI couldn’t “take that risk” of Trump getting elected? We knew this because of texts the FBI released to Congress to explain why special counsel Robert Mueller, appointed to investigate claims of Trump-Russia collusion, had removed Strzok from his team of investigators in July 2017 (although Mueller didn’t inform Congress until months later that Strzok had been removed).
Congressional investigators had been asking for the rest of Strzok’s texts sent and received on his FBI phone after it emerged that he played an integral role in both the Clinton email investigation and the launch of the Trump and Russia collusion probe. After refusing to cooperate for months, the FBI handed over some Strzok-Page texts, but said it couldn’t hand over those occurring from December 14, 2016 to May 17, 2017 because the texts were lost due to technical difficulties.
This is an important time period, spanning from the Trump transition to the day Mueller was picked as special counsel. During this time, any FISA court warrant would have needed to be renewed, oodles of leaks occurred, Fusion GPS’s unverified dossier was published, former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn was interviewed for dubious purposes by agents including Strzok, and former FBI Director Jim Comey was fired.
What occurred during this 5-month period of missing Strzok texts?
-Strzok interviewed Flynn
-Comey and Trump discuss Flynn
-Comey tells Congress abt Russia probe
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) January 21, 2018
Naturally, Republicans in Congress aren’t buying what the FBI is selling. Many experts, too, doubt whether the technical problems the FBI alleges are even plausible.
Will the missing texts be recovered? At first, many thought Justice Department Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz might have the missing texts. But then it began to look like the IG never had the missing texts. This struck senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) as odd, given that the IG had previously seemed to say he had all of the relevant texts, and didn’t mention the missing texts in December 2017.
To add further confusion, it is now being reported that the IG has more incriminating texts than just those between Strzok and Page, though we still don’t know if the IG has (or had) any of the missing texts:
Now, the FBI is saying that thousands of FBI phones were affected by the “glitch.” There are two possibilities. First, there really was a glitch affecting 10 percent of the FBI’s phones. If so, why haven’t we heard about the glitch until now?
The second possibility is that, in an effort to erase the texts of Strzok and other top FBI officials, those protecting him eradicated far more to make the problem seem widespread. The best case-scenario here is that the FBI is incompetent and using shoddy equipment. Either way, there is obviously more to come, so stay tuned.
Here's what i don't understand. FBI is required under law to preserve records. People exist to do this. It's one thing to have a technical "misconfiguration" that gets remedied in a day or so. But no phone records for months is either gross incompetence, or fishy. https://t.co/XBxVs5Fyun
— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) January 22, 2018
Meanwhile, as a thought experiment, imagine what would happen if you were under investigation by the FBI and you suddenly misplaced pieces of critical evidence:
Also, just imagine a mom-pop business is under IRS investigation and says, "whoops, sorry, can't find any financial records for those months." Anyone think the IRS would be understanding? Or do we think mom-pop would face losing their business? https://t.co/XBxVs5Fyun
— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) January 22, 2018
How did the media react? Predictably, the press tried to make a story about something maybe-kinda related, but not about the story itself. For example, stories ran about how Republicans were going after the FBI over the texts, and The Hill mischaracterized a Trump tweet clearly criticizing the FBI’s dog-ate-my-homework explanation:
JUST IN: Trump blames Samsung for missing text messages between FBI agents critical of Trump https://t.co/B6cHZMDsgJ pic.twitter.com/Aq7xM3QM7y
— The Hill (@thehill) January 24, 2018
The DOJ Inspector General is now saying that his team found those missing texts, from FBI devices using “forensic tools.” But this still raises questions. If the IG could get the texts from the FBI devices, why couldn’t the FBI? Does the IG have all of those missing texts?
3. What We Do Know from the Strzok-Page Texts
Even though a large bulk of texts from a highly important time period were reported missing by the FBI, congressional investigators did receive other Strzok and Page texts. Investigators are still going through those, but here are some of the findings so far.
(a) After Page informed Strzok that Trump had secured the GOP nomination, Strzok spoke of “pressure” to wrap up the Clinton probe. “Now the pressure really starts to finish MYE,” Strzok said to Page. “MYE” stood for “mid-year exam,” the FBI’s name for the Clinton investigation. Maybe reporters should ask the FBI why Trump’s political ascendency would have anything to do with the FBI’s Clinton investigation?
(b) The texts contained evidence of coordination between Obama FBI director Jim Comey and former U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch, something Comey has denied under oath. Now, the FBI is the national police force. Cops don’t get to decide whether to bring charges. That’s up to the prosecutor, in this case the Department of Justice.
But the DOJ’s judgment had been compromised after Lynch met Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac, a meeting meant to be secret. Because this meeting came under public scrutiny, Lynch removed herself from the case and said she would accept whatever recommendation Comey made. Seeing this headline, Page joked to Strzok that Lynch’s move was “a real profile in couragw [sic], since she knows no charges will be brought,”
When Comey then made the unprecedented move to exonerate Hillary Clinton, he did so while saying Lynch did not know what he was about to say. He repeated this line to Congress, while under oath. At least the real journalists out there were interested:
(c) Strzok also suggested Mueller wouldn’t find anything in his probe of Trump and Russia collusion. Concerned about his illustrious career hitting a dead-end, Strzok wrote this to Page: “You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern that there’s no big there there.”
Why on earth would Strzok know this? At the same time, before joining the Mueller team, Strzok called the Mueller effort “an investigation leading to impeachment.”
What else did we learn from these texts? As The Federalist’s Sean Davis has pointed out on multiple occasions, two senior FBI agents having an affair and texting this stuff should worry anyone actually concerned about Russian spying. It is an absolute wonder that these two people, especially Strzok, are still employed at the FBI.
Meanwhile, one message appeared to reference a “secret society.” Sen. Johnson picked up on this text because a whistleblower has informed Johnson’s office about offsite and secret meetings between FBI officials, possibly others, related to the “Russia investigation.”
.@SenRonJohnson on alleged 'secret society' mentioned in @FBI agents' texts: "That 'secret society' – we have an informant that's talking about a group, they were holding secret meetings offsite." #SpecialReport https://t.co/0NPVFhqWiY pic.twitter.com/NaXelnfaJP
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 23, 2018
Although the text containing the “secret society” language appears benign, Johnson’s point was always to highlight what he had heard from the whistleblower. Nevertheless, the media has used the benign language in the text to attempt to show that Johnson was spinning conspiracy theories out of whole cloth.
4. The ‘Secret Society’ Runs a Distraction Campaign
The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway correctly predicted that as information highly damaging to the collusion narrative began to see the light of day, the media would go haywire:
Really bad day for FBI, so be a bit more skeptical of their panicky leaks.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) January 23, 2018
Therapy shows like MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” ignored real news to talk for the millionth time as if the dam was really, maybe this time, about to break and Trump would soon be carted out of the White House in chains.
Leaks to the press also said Mueller’s team was investigating whether Russia helped Trump through the only organization more evil than Russia, the National Rifle Association. Of course, there is no evidence to suggest a Russia-NRA connection, only anonymous leaks that say Mueller is looking into such a connection.
At the Washington Post, 15 reporters were in part tasked to comb through pictures of Trump’s inauguration crowd to look for Russians. The reporters did find six Russians in attendance, which is utterly shocking, given that the Russian embassy is only a short walk away. The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross helpfully pointed the FBI to the next investigative target:
Haha. WaPo does a guilt by association piece about Russians who attended the Trump inauguration. Turns out that a Russian visited WaPo's newsroom. Maybe FBI should investigate. https://t.co/0r9mTqEIYu pic.twitter.com/w14RL4uPn6
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) January 21, 2018
Finally, if leaks to the press are to be believed, current FBI Director Chris Wray threatened to resign if FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe were fired. Many in the Trump administration and Congress want McCabe fired because of the role he played in the Strzok texts — supposedly the “insurance policy” needed in case of a Trump win was discussed in McCabe’s office.
McCabe is also under investigation after his wife, in pursuing a state senate seat, received a campaign donation from Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe while McCabe was overseeing the Clinton email investigation. Anonymous officials, possibly trying to protect McCabe against a firing, are now claiming that Trump asked McCabe how he voted in the 2016 election.
5. Comey’s Leaking Friend Now Claims to Be His Attorney
When President Trump fired Comey, at least partly for implying to Congress that Trump was under investigation while personally telling Trump that he was not, Comey leaked classified documents to a friend, a law professor named Daniel Richman, who then leaked those documents to The New York Times. The purpose of that leak, Comey says, was to get a special counsel appointed. It turned out that special counsel, Robert Mueller, is Comey’s buddy.
Now, possibly worried about the repercussions of leaking classified information, Comey is claiming the law professor is also his attorney, which would allow Comey and the professor to assert attorney-client-privilege to hide their communications. The Federalist’s Sean Davis called Richman to ask when he became Comey’s lawyer. Richman wouldn’t say.
What You Can Do About All This
No matter where you live in America, call your federal representatives. Tell them that you want them to support Nunes’ and Grassley’s efforts to find out what happened at the FBI during the 2016 election. There are still Republicans refusing to stand up on this issue because they dislike Trump.
You should especially call your senators and members of Congress if you are represented by a Democrat. There was a time, not terribly long ago, when many Democrats cared about the abuse of power, especially by our intelligence agencies. Some still do today, but they are few and far between.
Any reform of the intelligence agencies or just conclusion to this collusion madness will require Democrats to place the country over their party, just as many Republicans did during the waning days of the Nixon years. This country needs a responsible Left. Here’s to hoping that there are more than a few principled liberals in Congress.
Editor’s note: This piece was updated to reflect new developments in the missing FBI texts. The DOJ inspector general says investigators have recovered the missing texts between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.