5 Times Media Spin Biased The Government’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation

5 Times Media Spin Biased The Government’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation

The recent inspector general report revealed that the Crossfire Hurricane team and Department of Justice and FBI leaders fell for many of the false Russia collusion narratives the press pushed.
Margot Cleveland
By

In addition to exposing substantial evidence of FBI misconduct and malfeasance, the recent inspector general report on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuse revealed that the Crossfire Hurricane team and Department of Justice and FBI leaders fell for many of the Russia collusion narratives the press pushed. Here are the top five.

1. Blessed Saint Christopher Steele

The media pushed glowing accounts of FBI source Christopher Steele, portraying him as a top MI6 Russian spy, the man behind the dismantling of the international soccer FIFA bribery conspiracy, and a long-time reliable source for U.S. intelligence agencies. The IG report revealed the press accounts greatly embellished the dossier author’s resume and that the Crossfire Hurricane team regurgitated the press’ puffery to the FISA court.

For instance, while the FBI told the FISA court that Steele’s reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,” based on the urban legend that Steele had brought down the FIFA fiefdom, the IG report revealed that Steele’s connection to the FIFA matter consisted of him suggesting “the FBI should talk to a contact who had information on corruption in the FIFA organization,” and “it was the contact’s information, in part, that led to the opening of the FIFA investigation.”

But the FIFA case agent and prosecutor told the IG that “Steele did not have any role in the investigation itself, he did not provide court testimony, and his information did not appear in any indictments, search warrants, or other court filings.” Further, while the FBI notes review by the IG “referenced that Steele had held a ‘moderately senior’ position in Moscow,” the FISA applications called Steele “high-ranking.” Also, a thorough review of Steele’s reporting concluded his intel was at most, “minimally corroborated.”

Rather than “‘turn the file upside down’ looking for information” about Steele’s performance as a confidential human source (CHS), as his handling agent said should have done, the Crossfire Hurricane team ran with the media narrative. Even then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates seemed snuckered, telling the IG that she “believe[d] criminal cases had been made, or he had participated in criminal cases,” referring to Steele.

The FBI’s misapprehension of Steele’s history wasn’t a mere fleeting idolatry. The IG report revealed that as late as July 2018, the FBI remained as confident in Steele as the press was. At that late date, in the Rule 13 Letter sent to the FISA court to update the previously filed FISA applications, the FBI maintained it “accessed Steele as reliable,” “for the reasons described in the FISA applications.” While the Rule 13 letter informed the court that Steele had been responsible for the Yahoo News disclosure, the FBI continued to defend the reliability of Steele’s reporting.

By then, though, the FBI knew full well that Steele’s election reporting had not been corroborated; that his prior reporting had been only minimally corroborated and never used in court proceedings; that Steele’s primary sub-source had called into question the election reporting; that in several instances, the reporting “was inconsistent with information gathered by the Crossfire Hurricane team”; and that some of Steele’s “intel,” such as Michael Cohen’s purported meeting in Prague, was “not true.” Yet the FBI was so smitten by the media’s portrayal of Steele that they presented the press’s party line of Marvelous Mr. Steele to the FISA court.

2. Republicans Funded the Steele Dossier

Another media myth the IG report revealed the FBI and DOJ believed concerns Republicans’ role in the Steele dossier. There was none, but the press’s careless reporting quickly conflated a previous Republican contract with Fusion GPS to perform general opposition research on Donald Trump—which did not involve Steele or a focus on Russia—with Fusion GPS’s hiring of Steele in June 2016 on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The DNC/Clinton contract was specifically to “obtain information about whether Russia was trying to achieve a particular outcome in the 2016 U.S. elections, what personal and business ties then candidate Trump had in Russia, and whether there were any ties between the Russian government and Trump or his campaign.”

This distinction matters, because if Republicans had previously hired Steele, that fact would counter claims Steele held a pro-Democrat bias that influenced his reporting. Also, by conflating the two separate contracts, it creates the appearance that Trump’s Republican opponents were pushing the Russia collusion hoax before Hillary got involved. But neither is true.

Yet so complete was the press’s conflation that Yates was confused on this point, telling investigators in the IG’s office that her understanding was that Steele, “at one point, was actually working for someone connected with the Republican Party.” Yates also told the IG “that she remembered hearing that Steele’s research was conducted first for a Republican and then later for a Democrat, but she said she did not recall whether she heard that before or after she left the Department in late January 2017.”

3. The Platform Party Change That Wasn’t

A third time the FBI fell for the media spin concerned former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page’s supposed involvement in massaging the Republican Party platform concerning Ukraine. According to the IG’s report, “all of the Carter Page FISA applications alleged that Page participated in drafting the RNC’s platform change on providing lethal assistance to Ukraine. The FISA applications alleged that the platform change on Ukraine would not include a provision to provide weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, controverting Republican Party policy.”

Again, this allegation followed the conventional wisdom but was wrong, in two respects. First, the Republican Party platform never called for providing “weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces.” Rather, as reporter Byron York detailed, the draft platform read: “We will meet the return of Russian belligerence with the same resolve that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will not accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force, in Ukraine or elsewhere, and will use all appropriate measures to bring to justice the practitioners of aggression and assassination.”

As York further explained, when the platform committee met before the start of the GOP convention, one delegate proposed an amendment to include “we also support providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces” language. But in response to an objection by a Trump aide, J.D. Gordon, the platform committee changed the language from providing “lethal defensive weapons” for Ukraine, and instead promised “appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine.” So that was the second error: It was Gordon and not Page who pushed for the change in the proposed amendment to the RNC platform.

Yet the FISA secret surveillance applications all painted Page as responsible for changing the platform, just as the media had. Plus, the FBI did more than merely believe the press’s narrative—they cited the fake news from “identified news organizations” in the FISA applications to bolster the charge that Page bore responsibility for weakening the platform.

In fact, the FBI believed the media narrative about the platform change over the intel the bureau’s own CHS, Stefan Halper, had obtained: In an October 2, 2016, monitored conversation with Page, the Trump advisor told Halper, with regard the platform committee proceedings, that he had “stayed clear of that,” even though there were “a lot of conspiracy theories that I was one of them.” “In retrospect,” Page added in the secretly monitored conversation, “it’s way better off that I remained at arm’s length.”

4. The 30,000 Missing Emails

A fourth narrative that took hold with the Crossfire Hurricane team concerned Trump’s late-July joke, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Many in the press played Trump’s comments as “quite literally” an entreaty to Russia to hack Clinton’s emails. However, this narrative made no sense because “the 30,000 emails” were ones Clinton had deleted from her homebrewed server, so there was nothing to hack.

Soon, however, the media narrative took on a life of its own, with the press and Democrat politicians painting Trump’s comments as concerning the DNC’s emails that were hacked and later released by WikiLeaks. The IG report now reveals that the FBI fell for the press and Democrat’s dissembling, as seen by the FBI’s misinterpretation of a comment Page made to Halper in August 2016.

During that FBI-monitored meeting, Halper asked the Trump aide whether there was an “October Surprise” in the works. According to the IG report, “Page stated that there would be a ‘different October Surprise’ this year.” Page then shared what he called his own “conspiracy theory” about “the next email dump,” saying it would be the “33,000.”

Any political junkie not high on the left-leaning media’s anti-Trump dope would have known then that a reference to “33,000” emails meant Clinton’s missing emails and not the DNC’s hacked emails. Yet, in the FISA application, “the FBI assessed that these statements, along with other evidence, indicated that Page was aware of the pending leak of DNC emails,” proving yet again that the FBI fell for the press’ propaganda.

5. The Russia Collusion Hoax

Bruce Ohr, who featured largely in the IG report for his improper role as a conduit between Christopher Steele and the FBI following Steele’s termination as a CHS, provides a final example of the higher echelons consuming the media’s hype. It appears Ohr swallowed the Russia collusion narrative whole.

According to the IG report, on December 7, 2016 then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Ohr convened an “interagency meeting” “regarding strategy in dealing with Russian Oligarch 1,” who is widely recognized to be Oleg Deripaska. The IG report detailed how after that meeting, one of Ohr’s junior colleague, asked Ohr “why the U.S. government would support trying to work with Russian Oligarch 1.”

According to the IG report, “Ohr responded that ‘Steele provided information that the Trump campaign had been corrupted,” and Ohr then told the junior colleague that the “allegations went ‘all the way to the President’” The junior staffer added that “Ohr said to her that this information was ‘the basis for the [Russian Oligarch 1] discussion.’”

This exchange reveals Ohr had so bought the media hype that he believed President-elect Donald Trump was corrupted by the Russians. Either that, or Ohr was intentionally selling the same fake news. “To whom?” is another question.

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 adjunct instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.

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