What is in the surprising timeline of events surrounding President Obama’s January 5, 2017 Oval Office meeting where former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn was discussed?
What is “unmasking,” and were the unmaskings of General Flynn routine intelligence work, as some claim?
In this episode, we sit down with Epoch Times contributor and timeline maestro Jeff Carlson, who was instrumental in our coverage of 2016 election surveillance and the creation of The Epoch Times’ Spygate and FISA Abuse infographics. He is a CFA Charterholder who worked for 20 years as an analyst and portfolio manager in the high-yield bond market.
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Jeff Carlson, so great to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Jeff Carlson: Hi, Jan. Great to be here. And thank you so much for having me back on.
Mr. Jekielek: So Jeff, I’ve just been taking a bit of time to look at this magnificent product that you and our team at the Epoch Times have put together: the timeline of FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] abuse, [with] possibly 150 to 200 entries, I couldn’t count exactly. A really, really interesting perspective. All sorts of questions I hadn’t really considered came into my mind as I was going through it, so we’re gonna dive into that.
I also want to look at another time period that you and I have been discussing, which is this time period around January 5. That’s been on a lot of people’s minds lately, because of … Susan Rice’s declassified email [and] the memory of this White House meeting on January 5, but let’s start with the FISA abuse timeline. How did this thing come about? I mean, this is a labor of love.
Mr. Carlson: Well, it actually started off much smaller. I was simply very curious in looking at the several weeks leading up to the initiation of the counterintelligence investigation, and I decided to do that using the IG [Inspector General’s] report, and one of the elements of IG report is they tend to report things by topic. There’s no linearity in the report. As I began to compile this, you see these details overlap. I literally thought that “Hey, maybe I’ll expand the timeline that I’m looking at.”
Ultimately what it came down to through a number of iterations is deciding I’m going to look at the initiation of when the FBI began to look at Carter Page all the way through to the issuance from the FISA on Page, trying and encapsulate all of the events that were detailed in the IG report and compile them into a timeline. What happened was, as I was doing this, as I was maintaining all of the notes that were within the IG report, this thing grew larger and larger and larger, almost too large, at some point.
There was some thought that maybe we should go ahead and keep all of these notes that we’ve taken, and these references directly to the IG report. We were really fortunate that with a lot of help from the infographic staff, this infographic is now interactive in the sense that every single entry actually has a reference point back to the IG report. It contains a quote, and it contains a page number. So you can go and you can look at every single detail, and you can replicate that just by using the IG report and where we point you to [in] it. [If] you don’t want to go in that much depth, we give you the quote from the big report that is supporting that given data point.
At the end, we were actually having to kind of struggle a bit to keep this within bounds. I think we ended up with 200 separate entries if memory serves correctly. Again, this started from something that was probably going to be looking at maybe 10 data points. As we began to see these overlaps in these conferences, we decided that it would be something that was maybe a lot bigger and much more in depth, because there really are some stories that are told with this process.
Mr. Jekielek: In the article, there’s this kind of block square of an actual graphic that people could print or order. Then at the same time below that; there’s this more interactive version of the exact same infographic. You know I was scrolling through it, [and] it takes some time even just to kind of scroll through the whole thing. As you’re reading it, you can see exactly [what happened]. There’s different reports that are referenced, and at the same time, you’re also linking to different articles that were written by different journalists at the time.
It’s again a fascinating compendium, and I think I could have easily spent, I don’t know how many hours, many, many hours just kind of digging in. For example, one of the things that I noted was just simply how early this whole investigation into Carter Page began. That’s something that’s not generally observed. I mean, you kind of forget about these things, right?
Mr. Carlson: That was one of the things that was part of the impetus of this, saying, “Okay we’ve got to go a little deeper,” because the investigation into Carter Page actually started on April 1st. The FBI in the New York Field Office opened up a counterintelligence investigation into Page officially on April 5th. There was a packet of information that was then put together on Carter Page and was transmitted to FBI headquarters. So it wasn’t as if all this information just stayed out with the New York Field Office and with a localized investigation.
As a matter of fact, I think it was [on] April 29th, there was what they call a director’s meeting. That meant McCabe, Comey, the top level guys at the FBI actually had a late April 2016 meeting. Mind you, this is before [Christopher] Steele even really got started on the whole Carter Page investigation. At a later point in time, all of that information in the entirety of the investigation was transferred from the New York Field Office over to FBI headquarters.
One of the other things that you find with this [timeline] and what I found useful about it is the overlay of differing series of events that, at the same time, are still interrelated. You could see where the FBI started their investigation of Carter Page, and then at the same time, you see that just so happens to be when Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS then approaches Christopher Steele, and says, “Hey, are you willing to come work for me and put together some work on Russia etc, etc.” This is before Steele is hired by Fusion GPS.
At the same time, you have these activities by the DNC [Democratic National Committee] operative, [Alexandra] Chalupa, along with Michael Isikoff, who happened to write that sort of seminal Yahoo piece in late September outing Carter Page, and they were doing their entire line of work. Then while this is going on, you can see the FBI is wrapping up their investigation and finalizing and closing their investigation into Hillary Clinton. When you see these happen within a sequence of days of each other, suddenly the picture changes a little bit. These events don’t appear to be quite so isolated, but rather they appear to be a variety of interrelated activities that happened to be transpiring at the same time. That was one of the fascinating aspects about this.
I guess the other thing I would note is that even though I’m the guy that actually wrote this thing, given the number of details and the number of entries, I find myself very often going back to it as a reference source. … Every day we’re getting new discoveries, new details, new dates, etc., and it’s very informative oftentimes to go back and see what else was transpiring. At the same time, this new information, these new dates, how do they overlay with everything else that was going on at the same time?
… One of the other things that was interesting about this was watching how the information from Christopher Steele began to come into the FBI. It was apparent that that information was being circulated at a high level in DC, apparently both at the FBI leadership level it appears, as well as the State Department and other sources. Even though the crossfire hurricane team, the folks that ended up running the investigation on the whole Trump-Russia collusion, series of events, didn’t have that information until late September, others did. You know, that in of itself raises a lot of interesting questions.
Mr. Jekielek: Looking at this, one of the things that jumped out at me was how ridiculous, how silly it was that this Carter Page investigation began in the first place. It doesn’t make any sense.
Mr. Carlson: Well, there’s a lot of questions that fall around that, because from what we know, Carter Page, you’ve been doing some work on the Evgeny Buryakov investigation. They closed in March and frankly, that’s how the FBI first came to have this kind of coincident meeting that led to this April 2016 investigation opening.
The other thing that I found that was really ridiculous in all this was the opening of the counterintelligence investigation on July 31. Now that comes out of a conversation that Alexander Downer, the Australian diplomat, held with George Papadopoulos in a bar. But when you actually see the documents, the two-page electronic communication, and how this was transmitted into the FBI, it’s really kind of startling. Effectively, Alexander Downer had a conversation with Papadopoulos. He went to our embassy in the UK, Elizabeth Dibble. He told her about that conversation. She then told the FBI Legal Attaché that conversation, and then that was transferred into FBI headquarters.
They looked at that conversation, and then on that they elected to go ahead and open the entirety of an investigation. You have a conversation of a conversation, of a conversation, of a conversation, and you have zero actual intelligence. Everything was completely informal. There was no actual formal intelligence. There was no Five Eyes intelligence that was being relayed in. You just have one person really in a conversation to another person to another person, and on that predication, the FBI decided it was worth opening up a full-blown counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. When you see it on paper, it looks ridiculous.
Mr. Jekielek: With Page there’s, of course, this exculpatory evidence, which was basically held back, right? On top of everything else.
Mr. Carlson: Yeah, and that was one of the other items that kept reoccurring. You had this sense, Carter Page works for another agency, it was probably the CIA. That information was known at certain levels at the FBI, but that information was never relayed on. The parties that were overseeing it was the DOJ’s Office of Intelligence, which sort of oversees the entire FISA process. They weren’t given this information. Certainly, the FISA court was never given that information.
At any given time, you would find a number of examples, some of them large like that, others smaller, where any information that appeared to be exculpatory or maybe cut against the case that the FBI gave to FISA in the first place was somehow mysteriously not passed along or held back, deferred, what have you from both the Office of Intelligence at the DOJ, which oversees the FISA process, and then the ultimately FISA court itself.
There are some very, very egregious examples, and they would apply to Steele as well, so it wasn’t just on Carter Page himself. When the FBI had information on Steele, either with regards to his sources, [or] to him being a source of information for the media, these things were all withheld, and in some cases language would be mysteriously changed. What would always happen is the people involved when presented with evidence of these hold backs or these sudden changes, alterations of information, would just say they either didn’t know how it happened, or they couldn’t recall it.
[Andrew] McCabe is another great example of that: you’re kind of a central figure with the deputy FBI director and running this element. At any number of times, he was presented with events from the IG. Oftentimes, it would be like McCabe’s own notes. So, you know, the IG would have come across these notes about a meeting, such as when he might have briefed Sally Yates or Director Comey. There would be this kind of repetition of McCabe always saying, “Well, I don’t recall that.” And that’s with the IG having the evidence that McCabe himself put to paper. That would be a repeated theme by a number of the different folks at the FBI.
One other thing that does come out of this: it appears Stuart Evans, as the Office of Intelligence at the DOJ. He’s a guy that appears to have been asking the FBI repeatedly for more information, and it always felt like the FBI was holding that back from him. There was a lot that wasn’t being seen or in some cases, information that was coming into him very, very last minute that then required a flurry to try to further explain some things that should have been explained a long, long time ago. That is something you see repeating itself at various points throughout the timeline, and we try to note that as much as we possibly can where it occurred.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. One other thing that we noted here is the seeming early knowledge that former Director [John] Brennan had about the Steele dossier.
Mr. Carlson: Yeah, you know, Brennan’s always been very cautious on the Steele dossier and [in] all his interviews and everything, he would go to great lengths to say that it wasn’t used in the intelligence community assessment, also known as the ICA. But it looks like Brennan knew about the Steele dossier, sometime in August certainly is what it appears to be. It also appears that some of this information was transmitted directly by Brennan into the White House, so it seems the White House certainly had at least some knowledge of what was going on at a fairly early point. That also evolved in terms of how Brennan briefed members of Congress, the so-called gang of eight.
What becomes clear is that one thing Brendan did is brief Terry Reed probably first and separate from all the other members. It also appears that some of the information that he gave Reed related to Steele’s work, and whatever it was that Brennan told Reed prompted Reed to fire off a couple very angry letters to Director Comey asking for full public disclosure. What was classified information but what Brandon had indeed told Harry Reid, the minority leader then.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating, I’m kind of looking through some of these notes. Another piece that comes up—and I think we often forget about this aspect as there’s this counterintelligence operation that’s starting— is there’s this stark lack of what you call defensive briefings to the people that are extensively being compromised or attempts are being made to compromise them.
Mr. Carlson: That’s always been an ongoing bone of contention. One would think that as concerns developed about people who might be in the campaign, and this could extend to dates beyond this, such as the whole fiasco, if you will, with General Flynn, if the FBI had concerns about any of these people, you would expect that the Trump campaign would be given a heads up on this. If they really thought there were concerns about Carter Page’s affiliation … with the Russian government, if there were some misgivings with Flynn etc., why wasn’t the Trump campaign warned about this? They were not.
There were a couple briefings they were given, but even here, these were briefings about foreign threats. They were not anything to do with a sort of heads up of what the FBI was doing in relation to whom they were looking at. That’s another item that comes out in the IG report and is in the timeline: they actually used these briefings and sent some of their top guys that were leading the charge into these briefings, specifically because they were trying to gather more information on General Flynn. So here’s an FBI briefing that’s supposed to be an intelligence briefing to the Trump campaign. And really, the underlying premise of that briefing was for the FBI, to gather intelligence and IG [Michael] Horowitz makes no bones about it. It’s very, very clear in his report, and it happened several times.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, … a number of guests on this show have noted this, that when there is this fear or some sort of credible evidence that someone around you might be a spy or have been compromised by a foreign power, a defensive briefing is one of the first things that has to happen.
Mr. Carlson: One would absolutely expect that that would be the case. And again, the FBI was using these meetings that they were having with the Trump campaign, which were not defensive briefings. They were using these meetings to actually gather intelligence on the Trump campaign, specifically because General Flynn was going to be at these meetings. So it was a reverse gathering, it was the exact opposite of what one would anticipate.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk a little bit about General Flynn. Of course, this is very prominently in the news we had. The case seems to have been dismissed, but now there are questions. Is it really dismissed? We’re awaiting all sorts of new information. Even by the time we actually publish this interview, there may be further new information that we don’t know right now. What’s really interesting here is a lot of what happened before and after the timing of this meeting on January 5th that the recently declassified email was about.
Mr. Carlson: Yeah, the White House meeting.
Mr. Jekielek: Exactly.
Mr. Carlson: … I know some of your other guests have touched on this, but what is important to note is … that the intelligence product [about the Flynn call] came through the FBI. Now, there’s some possibility that the FBI got it from a different source such as a foreign intelligence service, but they may have simply got it themselves. The issue [is] that Flynn wasn’t actually masked in that call and that whatever documents the FBI turned over relating to that call probably should have showed Flynn’s name from the get-go, which would explain why none of the unmasking requests, although there were a number of them, were directly surrounding that actual December 29th call.
And before I forget about this, just because I do think this is important: at that January 5th meeting, Comey referenced a couple different times the number of contacts that Flynn had had with [Sergey] Kislyak. Well, there’s a big problem with that. One of the calls that he made was made from the Dominican Republic, and that call kept dropping, so Flynn would have to try and call back. It seems apparent that every time that there was an attempt to reconnect that single call, that was treated as another call, another attempt at a contact. So you are dramatically exaggerating the number of contacts that Flynn actually had. You may be taking as many as three, four or five of them from a single call, which contained multiple drops but was on the same topic.
Now … recently Trey Gowdy was speaking about the actual transcripts of the call, and he’s warning everybody, “hey, you’re going to be bored out of your mind.” When you actually read these transcripts, there is literally … nothing there. They had to know that.
… I’m always a big fan of putting together timelines. That timeline, starting let’s say December 15th and running through January 12th, but even more tightly to January 5th, the date of the White House meeting that Susan Rice later wrote her letter to herself [about] on January 12th, there were a huge number of sort of concurrent events. If you recall, the FBI was set to close their investigation into General Flynn on January 4th. Now at that White House meeting suddenly that same day [Peter] Strzok finds out … through air, if you will, that the investigation was supposed to be closed but hadn’t officially been closed. He suddenly noted interest from the seventh floor. It seems there was a bit of a scramble to keep that investigation from being officially closed.
Well, on January 5, you have Comey in the meeting with Obama, Biden, [and] Rice. At that meeting, Flynn was discussed, and that’s where they referenced the unusual number of contacts that Flynn had with Kislyak. This is where those dropped calls come into play, because I think it’s likely going to be proven that there wasn’t an unusual level of contact once you take those dropped calls and consolidate them as one. Also, [as to] the topics that were discussed on the call, Trey Gowdy has seen it. He’s telling us we’re going to be bored by it; there’s nothing special there. But he had Comey telling Obama that this was of interest, and it was something to be watched. Therefore, suddenly the investigation into Flynn that was supposed to be closed, continues.
Mr. Jekielek: So, Jeff, I want to do a little segue here briefly and just talk about this issue of unmasking because I think there is, I guess, considerable debate or confusion around what it actually means, how common it is, what makes these specific unmaskings that we’ve just been discussing particularly significant. I’m wondering if you could break that down for us a little bit.
Mr. Carlson: … Unmasking is the process of basically getting the name of an American citizen. If you’re collecting data, say on an overseas target and an American is captured through incidental capture, part of the conversation is identity or identity is not supposed to be released. But sometimes you need to have that identity in order to provide context of the conversation, and you can request that that name be unmasked. [The name] is then unredacted, if you will, and can be read.
Now, I think one of the big questions to be answered is “Exactly how common is this process?” Congress has tried to get to the bottom of this before and has always gotten kind of cagey answers from the intelligence community. I believe at one point in time, [James] Clapper was saying he was doing very infrequent unmasking. They’d be here or there, but it wasn’t the commonality. Then we see these large numbers of unmaskings that happened in this December-January period. By folks that you really wouldn’t expect would need to go through an unmasking process. You’ve got Jacob Lew, the Secretary of the Treasury, you’ve got Denis McDonough who is Obama’s Chief of Staff, [and there is] Samantha Power, of course. You’ve got all these parties that you wouldn’t think would really be the ones that would need to be masking, but they are.
So I actually think that is going to be a story unto itself, as we begin to find out what the true frequency of unmasking was. How many American citizen citizens were unmasked? What were the reasons given for their unmasking? And really, was there a true need to know? Did the parties that were requesting the unmasking actually need to see that name in order to know who was behind it? Did that actually add context? Or was the whole goal to get to that name?
There’s something called reverse targeting. Reverse targeting is a process that is, well, essentially illegal, but it’s when you’re trying to capture Section 702 data that incorporates conversations with foreign persons, but your true underlying goal is to sweep up American citizens that are either being discussed or are somehow part of that conversation. Your goal from the onset has left the foreign parties to which you can have full access to their names and [moved to] more of the American citizens which are supposed to be masked.
Again, I think that’s going to be an ongoing revelation: finding out to what detail our intelligence communities were actually looking at American citizens, how often were these unmaskings being done, and who were doing the unmaskings, because I think we’re going to find out that there’s a lot of folks that are going to look askance at this and wonder why it was so necessary that they actually had the name unmasked.
Now, in other instances, sometimes there’s unmaskings that are done, and there’s a claim that we need to see this name, and we need to know. The reality is a lot of times, these parties know perfectly well who has been discussed, who the American citizen is that they mask. They don’t actually need to be unmasked. Given the large number of illegal leaks that were coming out of the intelligence community at the time to the press, I have a lot of questions about that, and I think there’s a lot more to come on that matter.
Mr. Jekielek: Right, and, of course, in the context of all this is that this FISA process is created for looking at foreign intelligence targets. But the suggestion or what’s being explored right now is: it was this very, very powerful surveillance methodology or tool [that was] actually used to target Americans.
Mr. Carlson: Yeah, and there are a lot of different methods, but the big ones are Section 702, which is when you’re looking at targets that are outside of the US, [and] then a FISA is for folks that are within the US that are considered to be an agent of a foreign power, such as Carter Page. He’s an American citizen, but the FBI, essentially using the Steele dossier, was able to point a finger at him and falsely claim that he was an agent of a foreign power and therefore get a FISA on his communications.
Now for General Flynn, I can imagine several different ways that was done. One could be a FISA on Kislyak. Another could be intelligence coming in externally from a foreign intelligence source into the FBI, but it seems clear that the FBI had the transcripts of those of those phone calls. Flynn actually wasn’t masked in that sense, but it was a little bit of a different process. That’s why you didn’t see the unmasking request immediately following Flynn’s call. A lot of that was that he actually probably wasn’t unmasked.
Mr. Jekielek: Right, so let’s jump back into circa January 5th timeline that we’ve just been discussing. Tell me a bit more about what you’re seeing there.
Mr. Carlson: Well, this isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing timeline but rather some events that are very interesting. First, there was a large number of unmasking requests that occurred on December 14th, 15th, and 16th at the end of 2016. Those happen to coincide directly with James Clapper’s signing of the Obama NSA data sharing order, which was kind of an unusual order that allowed for broader dissemination of intelligence reports out of the NSA across intelligence communities. Kind of an unusual order, but I guess that’s sort of a separate story.
I do find it very interesting that right when clapper signed that on December 15th, is when we see a preponderance of the unmasking requests that were made. In other words, this order allows for dissemination of intelligence products much more easily than had been allowed before, and as this order [was] signed by Clapper, on December 15th, we see a lot of these requests. Now in fairness, that order wasn’t signed into effect until January 3rd by Attorney General [Loretta] Lynch. But I do find it very coincidental that those events were happening at the same time.
That moves us to January 3rd, you have Lynch sign that into effect, and then you have the January 5th White House meeting, [during] which Comey effectively raises these questions, [or so it] appears anyway from Susan Rice’s letter, raised … these doubts. Just says there’s been all these number of contacts that Flynn has had with Kislyak, so we’re unsure here; we want to keep an eye on things.
Incidentally, that same day, January 5th, that’s the same day that Christopher Steele just so happened to have all his communiques wiped off of his server using GPS. Now, we still don’t exactly know how that happened. But we know that it did, because Chris Steele testified to that effect in some UK court cases that he’s currently involved in. So again, all of Chris Steele’s work was kind of erased. All his backup data was wiped out on the same day. That January 5th Whitehouse meeting would later be kind of memorialized, if you will, by Susan Rice and that January 20th letter that she did.
Now, the very next day, January 6th, that’s the day that Comey went and briefed President Trump about the existence of the dossier. However, Comey didn’t brief President Trump about everything in the dossier. He only briefed them on the quote unquote “salacious” bit. So some of the more outlandish claims that were made in there relating to the prostitutes in the hotel, all of that. There’s never been any proof of that whatsoever. But he didn’t inform President Trump of all the much more detailed aspects, the meat of what was being investigated, so it was a specialized briefing. When Comey was questioned why that was done, he said that was done at the direction of the intelligence chief and the inference being that that would be Brennan and Clapper.
Now as we move on, we know that the Steele dossier was published by BuzzFeed on January 10th and four days afterwards. It was on the same day that CNN came out with their big piece that was basically telling the world that the intelligence had briefed President Trump on the existence of the dossier. It sort of reinforced for the public that there was something really to this; that if the intelligence community heads are briefing Trump on everything that’s going on, you know, the various activities that are alleged in the Steele dossier, this must be a real event.
Now right after that comes January 12th. January 12th is a fascinating day because a number of things broke out at that time. There was a communique on Steele that was delivered; now it’s not clear ultimately who saw that. Flynn should have seen that, [but] he may not have been allowed to see it. That communique was UK intelligence calling into question basically Steele’s credibility. On this exact same day that this communique comes in and just casts some serious doubt on Steele’s entire product, suddenly the possibility of Russian disinformation having made its way into the Steele dossier is raised. That’s noted in the IG report; it’s in a footnote.
It also made its way into another very important article that was released on that same day: the David Ignatius Washington Post article where it confirmed that General Flynn had this conversation with Kislyak and really set off a firestorm. Within that Ignatius article the issue of Russian disinformation was raised suddenly for the first time. So in other words, somewhere, somebody decided to throw this in there that, oops, is it possible that there was actually Russian disinformation and maybe the FBI got played, meaning that it wasn’t their fault. They weren’t culpable. But as I know, Lee Smith pointed out in a great interview on your show, we basically raised the very obvious point of: wouldn’t the FBI have been looking at the possibility of Russian disinformation from day one? So it’s more that an excuse appears to have been manufactured in this time frame.
Another thing that came up to light on that same day is there’s a gentleman by the name of Adam Lovinger, who I’ve written about a couple different times, and he was put on the National Security Council and brought into the White House by none other than Flynn himself. January 12th was the date that he was officially invited on board. Well, on that very date, the ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence] director James Baker, not to be confused with the then FBI General Counsel James Baker, told Lovinger that he was filing charges against him, it was an initiated investigation.
This is somebody who was placed on the council, brought into the White House by General Flynn. So in tandem with Flynn himself coming under this suddenly extended investigation, you have one of his right-hand guys hand-picked, and they go until “Lovinger, hey, you’re under investigation.” Lovinger ultimately was forced to leave the White House. Now I believe he’s been fully exonerated; if not he will be. Again, that’s a lengthy story unto itself, but another data point that happened at exactly the same time.
A couple other events happened on January 12th. That was when the Page FISA was renewed for the first time. It was also the time of the final unmasking of the call that was recently outed, and that was Joe Biden. So Joe Biden made his unmasking request on General Flynn on January 12th, same day.
Now, while all this is going on, we have one other event that went very unnoticed at the time, but of course has proven to be incredibly meaningful and powerful. That was an announcement by the DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. What he announced was the initiation of his investigation into the FBI activities leading up to the 2016 presidential election. I find it very notable that we don’t have any other, at least to this point, unmasking requests … They all ended on that day, when Horowitz announced his investigation.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s a fascinating, fascinating series. I mean, even just talking through it like this, it requires going back. Do you think you’re gonna have this particular timeline up on the Epoch Times anytime soon?
Mr. Carlson: Well, I have toyed with doing something on that. I do think that … [during] those two weeks, December 15th through January 12th, there were so many different things that took place that appear to be interrelated. When you look at them, you really start to scratch your head and think it’s very, very difficult to chalk up all of these things that happened in very close proximity, oftentimes on the same day, and say that they were just coincidences, given how related they actually were. So yeah, I probably will do something on that. Thanks for publicly calling me out on it, Jan.
Mr. Jekielek: Jeff, so let’s jump back to the original FISA abuse timeline for a moment here. How would you recommend that people that are interested that … sink their teeth into this?
Mr. Carlson: I think it depends on what people want to use it for. I know that there’s an extended group of researchers on Twitter that I interact with all the time. It’s the kind of thing where [when] these new dates come up, it becomes a very useful exercise to go ahead and turn around and look at what else was transpiring. At the same time, I think if people are interested in giving themselves more of an introduction to what went on and how this information got into the FBI, is just kind of a quick run-through of that one sort of poster infographic, can be kind of enlightening and you will just see time and again, either events that are overlapping; I kind of think of them almost as parallel investigation, parallel tracks that are all moving towards kind of a singular goal. Or you will see areas where the FBI repeatedly is not transmitting the proper information above or to the FISA court. And it becomes very, very difficult to see this happen time and time and time again. Or we’re language describing Steele is suddenly changed and nobody can remember why it was changed. And it’s language that basically said Steele wasn’t a source for Yahoo News when he was a source for Yahoo News, you know, five days later they changed that.
You see these kinds of events come up and it’s something that really highlights what a lot of us have been saying was really going on at the FBI. You’re seeing it in black and white. And frankly, it’s pretty hard to explain [it] away when you see it like that. If you have doubts, it’s not me saying this. It’s the Inspector General saying it. We give you the links to click on and go to the sources and look, and if you want to go into the IG report and go to the page yourself, you can do it; we tell you right where to go.
There’s a lot of things that are very difficult to explain. A lot of times … FBI leadership suddenly seems to get very forgetful, despite the fact that the IG actually had notes, their data that they had put down on paper themselves. It can be both a research tool, and it can be very, very eye opening for people who are maybe a little bit newer to this whole series of events now that it’s getting a lot more noise in the media.
Mr. Jekielek: Just briefly, Jeff, what are the different parallel track investigations that are happening? Just kind of summarize that you see.
Mr. Carlson: Well, you had the FBI investigation into Carter Page at the New York Field Office much earlier than a lot of people think was going on, and how that was transmitted into FBI headquarters and used almost like a convenient vehicle to get in on the Trump campaign, because that’s not how it started out at the New York Field Office. You have Alexandra Chalupa, along with interacting with Isikoff and some others that were looking into [Paul] Manafort who became the Trump campaign chairman and ultimately was forced out. You have Glenn Simpson at the Fusion GPS, going to Steele and basically trying to recruit him in May 2016 at the same time these other early events are going on.
It’s those types of things you kind of see over and over; these parallel things that all happen to be focused in some way on discrediting the Trump campaign in some fashion. They’re all going on, and they’re all initiating at very interesting points in time, and they begin to get up to full steam conveniently as the investigation into Hillary Clinton is actually closed by the FBI.
Mr. Jekielek: And, Jeff, so why did you choose to finish your timeline in October of 2016?
Mr. Carlson: Because basically, the timeline would have been too large to continue and do for the entirety of the dates that were covered by the IG report. Frankly, we ran out of space. This thing was already 50 something pages long, and that’s really not counting all the notes that we had at the side which frankly, probably dwarf the actual writing pieces themselves. So it became a matter of: we decided to make it a topical thing. Alright, we’ll look at the initiation of the FBI’s attempts to get a FISA warrant and will terminate it with the FBI’s obtaining of a FISA warrant. So it was for practical purposes as much as anything.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay, got it. Well, I for one will be very excited to see this more recent, tighter timeline of just a few months later show up in some sort of form, because of all the parallel things going on there.
Mr. Carlson: [The] January time frame really is indeed fascinating and [a] so much more compressed timeframe. Again, I would think that you could take [as] your starting point December 15th, when Clapper signed Obama’s NSA data sharing order, which happened to be the same time that all the unmasking requests really first started propagating. Then carrying that through January 12th, when suddenly those are maskings come to a stop. That short four-week timeframe is really fascinating [with] the number of events that were swirling around, generally on similar days.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m sure there’s a documentary film or docu-drama or something that could be made of that.
Mr. Carlson: One thing that does sort of become apparent, and for now, let’s call it more theory than fact, but it seems as if the FBI was focused in on Carter Page… He was their target. “Here’s how we’re going to get our FISA warrant,” and they did that. Once they had done that, in my opinion, I think they began to get increasingly concerned that somebody like General Flynn with all his intelligence experience … becoming a national security adviser, [would] be the guy that’s going to see everything that the FBI did. And he’s going to instantly grasp the ramifications of that.
It feels as if there was a target shift. “It’s okay, now we’ve got the FISA warrant, but we have a secondary problem, and that is General Flynn is the kind of guy who’s going to understand everything that transpired. We really have to find a way to neutralize him if you will. We can’t allow him to be unfettered in the Trump administration, because he’s going to find out everything that we did.” That’s why that January section is sort of separate and distinct from the previous time frame when they were trying to get the FISA warrant.
One of the things I will bring up, thinking about it real quick, is although the FBI didn’t get a FISA warrant on Carter Page until late October, they thought they were going to get one in August. There’s been this issue about: the FBI tries to claim, “Well we didn’t even get a FISA warrant on him until after he left the Trump campaign.” Well, that’s only because you couldn’t get it sooner. You were denied. It was clear that some of the case agents thought that they were going to get a FISA warrant towards the end of August, and they were denied.
Now, the reasons they were denied is because the evidence they did have wasn’t very good, and even more importantly, it was the sole source. This was noted several times even before they finally attained it in October. That was one of the big push backs from the Office of Intelligence, where they’re telling the FBI that this is effectively, and I’m going to quote here, a “sole source warrant.” So for all those folks trying to say that the Steele dossier was not that important to the Carter Page FISA warrant, wasn’t that critical, was just one component, well, the DOJ who is going along with the approval process, albeit reluctantly, disagreed with that entirely. And they called it a “sole source warrant”, [because it was obtained] based on a sole source, meaning the Steele dossier.
Mr. Jekielek: Right, so contrary to it not being important, it was all there was.
Mr. Carlson: It was absolutely critical. Yes, that was it. They probably had a few other small things. But again, you don’t want to use the words that this is effectively a sole source warrant. We need more information on Christopher Steele, because everything centers around this. That is the DOJ and the FBI’s general counsel going back and forth on every matter.
Mr. Jekielek: Jeff, we’re gonna finish up in a moment. Any final thoughts before we do?
Mr. Carlson: No … I would just note that I found this to be a really fascinating exercise, because I did not by any stretch of the imagination anticipate that it would turn into what it turned into. The more I looked, the more intrigued I became. I got a lot of prompting from my editor. … We just kept growing this thing until finally we ran out of space. That’s why again, we felt it was sort of a component story focused on Carter Page ending with the issuance of the warrant. That’s where we’re going to draw the line, but it was just a very educational process for me to go through. As I said, I still go back and I still reference it frequently.
I’ll just give a quick shout out to the graphics department because they really made this work great and they achieved a few things that I had hoped for in terms of linking us to all our super source material out of IG report, but frankly, I didn’t know if we could do it or not. So, [I’m] very thankful for all their work.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Jeff Carlson, such a pleasure to have you back, and I’m sure we’ll be talking again in sometime in the near future.
Mr. Carlson: Hey, thanks a lot for having me on, Jan. Very much appreciated and good to see you again.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.