The Wall Street Journal continues to counter the liberal mainstream media’s anti-Trump-ness, dropping uncomfortable truth-bombs, exposing the real ‘constitutional crisis’, and refusing to back off its intense pressure to get to the truth and hold those responsible, accountable; in a forum that is hard for the establishment to shrug off as ‘Alt-Right’ or ‘Nazi’ or be ‘punished’ by search- and social-media-giants.
And once again Kimberley Strassel – who by now has become the focus of social media attacks for her truth-seeking reporting – does it again this morning, as she asks – rhetorically, we assume – will the FBI come clean?
In the trench war between congressional Republicans and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we have arrived at a crucial battle. A House resolution sets Friday as the deadline for the Justice Department to come clean on the beginning of its investigation into the Trump campaign. We’ll find out if the FBI has been lying to the public.
That is, if the department complies. It has flouted so many subpoenas, and played so many games with redactions and deadlines, that the entire House GOP united last week to vote for the resolution demanding submission to Congress’s requests for documents. The vote was an order but also a warning—that this is the last chance to comply, and the next step will be to hold officials in contempt. It is a measure of the stakes that even that threat doesn’t guarantee cooperation.
At issue is the FBI’s “origin story,” in which it claims its full-fledged investigation into a presidential campaign was conducted, as it were, by the book. According to this narrative, the FBI did not launch its probe until July 31, 2016, only after Australia tipped it to a conversation junior Trump aide George Papadopoulos had with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer in the spring of 2016 in London. Only after this formal commencement of a counterintelligence probe—Crossfire Hurricane—did the FBI begin to target U.S. citizens with spying, wiretapping and other tools usually reserved for foreign infiltrators. Or so the story goes.
This account, relayed by the New York Times in December 2017, has proved highly convenient for the FBI. The Australian “government” connection allowed the bureau to infuse the meaningless Papadopoulos conversation with significance, justifying the probe. The origin story suggested the FBI had followed procedure. Mostly, it countered the growing suspicion that the bureau had been snooping on a presidential campaign on the basis of truly disreputable info—a dossier of salacious information compiled by an opposition research firm working for the rival campaign.
The story is full of holes, and they are widening. No one has explained why two months passed between the Papadopoulos-Downer conversation and the July 31 probe. We’ve learned that it wasn’t Australian intelligence that passed along the info, but Mr. Downer personally, to State Department personnel in violation of procedure. And a growing list of Trump officials now relate moments when they were approached by suspicious figures before July 31.
That’s why congressional investigators have come to suspect the real origin story is very different. They believe the FBI was investigating Trump officials well before July 31, on the basis of the dossier and dubious information from State Department officials. They think the bureau was employing a variety of counterintelligence tools before there was an official counterintelligence probe—and that this included deploying spies against political actors. They suspect that only when the FBI decided that it wanted to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Trump aide Carter Page (which requires an official investigation) did it surface the Downer information (collected back in May) and make it the official pretext in July.
This theory is at the heart of the standoff with the Justice Department, which focuses on FBI actions prior to July 31. I’m told that multiple senior congressional members have repeatedly asked Justice Department leadership to affirm that the department had provided Congress everything relevant with regard to the Trump investigation. The department has said yes. Yet investigators have credible evidence pointing to the use of FBI informants against the Trump campaign earlier than July 31, and last week’s resolution requires the department to answer whether that is true, and if so, on what basis they were used.
The FBI and its media allies have waged a ceaseless campaign to lower the bar on what counts as appropriate.
We are told it is OK that the government opened a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign. OK that it obtained a warrant to spy on a U.S. citizen. OK that it based that warrant on an unverified dossier from the Democratic campaign, and then hid that true origin from the FISA court. OK that it paid a spy to target domestic political actors.
It’s not OK. Not so long ago, the FBI would have quailed at the idea of running an informant into any U.S. political operation—even into, say, a congressman under criminal investigation for bribery or corruption. These are the most sensitive of lines. But Mr. Trump’s opponents, in government and media, have a boundless capacity to justify any measures against the president.
And finally, Strassel has some advice on how to resolve this… Mr. Trump has an even quicker way to bring the hostility to an end.
If it turns out that the Justice Department and FBI lied about how and when this all started, that is scandalous. Worse if it comes out that senior officials lied to Congress about whether they had complied with its demands for information. And once again, it is a reason for Mr. Trump to step in and declassify everything.
Just what will the deep state do to avoid this eventuality? Do they have anything left to throw at Trump?