Four recent, blockbuster developments in “Russiagate” could spell big trouble, including, in my opinion, forthcoming criminal indictments for upper-echelon Obama-era officials.
Inspector General’s Report on FISA Abuses
Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a letter to House and Senate leaders on Oct. 24 that he would shortly release his much-awaited report on possible Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses by Obama-era officials against the Trump campaign ahead of the 2016 election.
He also said that he expected the report would be released to the public with “few redactions.”
Horowitz’s investigation began in early 2018, after lawmakers and former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions questioned whether the FBI had misled the FISA court when it sought to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign volunteer, in 2016 in relation to the “Russia collusion” probe.
The collusion probe was proved to be a hoax after the exhaustive nearly two-year investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Partially redacted versions of the FBI’s FISA warrant application to surveil Page revealed that the FBI relied on the largely discredited dossier written by British ex-spy Christopher Steele, while working for Fusion GPS, a research company that had been hired and paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC) to dig up dirt on Trump. The FBI apparently hid from the FISA court that the Clinton campaign and DNC had ordered and paid for the Fusion GPS report, and therefore, indirectly, the dossier itself.
Worse, the FBI apparently vouched for the dossier’s allegations surrounding Page, even though the FBI had already verified that Steele’s allegations concerning Page were false.
For example, while the dossier had reported that Page, during a July 2016 trip to Moscow, secretly met with two associates of Vladimir Putin—Rosneft oil executive Igor Sechin and senior government official Igor Divyekin—as part of the effort to collude with the Trump campaign, the FBI’s investigation revealed that Page only met with a lower-level Rosneft official, and shook hands with a Russian deputy prime minister. This was far cry from the tale spun by Steele’s dossier, as investigative journalist John Solomon reported in a July 2019 article published by The Hill.
Steele claimed that Sechin had offered Page “a 19 percent (privatized) stake in Rosneft in return” if he could get Trump to help lift sanctions on Moscow. According to Solomon, “That offer, worth billions of dollars, was never substantiated and was deemed by some in U.S. intelligence to be preposterous.”
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen—who would eventually “flip” on Trump after facing substantial prison time for charges brought against him by Mueller including for tax and bank fraud unrelated to his work for Trump—admitted (and apparently his passport proved) he was not in Prague in the summer of 2016, when Steele claimed he was meeting with Russians to coordinate a hijacking of the election.
Steele also identified former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort as among the alleged Russian co-conspirators inside the Trump campaign. That proved to be false as well, although, like Cohen, the falsity of Steele’s charges against Manafort didn’t immunize him from criminal charges by Mueller predating and unrelated to his work for Trump.
Mueller, after his exhaustive two-year-long investigation, didn’t confirm, or provide, any evidence for any of the claims made in the Steele dossier, including the salacious claim that Russians controlled Trump because they possessed incriminating sex tapes showing Trump had engaged in depraved acts with Russian prostitutes.
The FBI knew, long before the Mueller report, and even before submitting the dossier to the FISA court to surveil Page, that the dossier was false. According to Solomon, the FBI had prepared an extensive spreadsheet on the dossier, either affirmatively disproving or noting the FBI’s inability to verify its central claims.
Even after developing their extensive spreadsheet disproving or failing to verify the dossier’s claims, the DOJ not only submitted information contained in the dossier to the FISA court, stating contrarily (i.e., falsely) that the FBI vouched for the Page-related claims, but also added that it “did not believe” Steele was the source for a Yahoo News article implicating Page in Russian collusion. Instead, the FBI used that September 2016 article by Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff as independent corroboration of the dossier before the FISA court.
However, UK court documents showed that Steele had briefed Yahoo News, as well as other reporters, at the direction of Fusion GPS in the fall of 2016.
Separately, a troublesome conflict of interest has emerged between the DOJ and Fusion GPS. As Solomon reported last May, Nellie Ohr, while working for Fusion GPS at the time, funneled her research to her DOJ-prosecutor husband, Bruce Ohr.
Tom Fitton, head of Judicial Watch, whose Freedom of Information Act request led to the disclosure of the Ohr–Ohr emails, claims they raise serious questions of a conflict of interest. According to Fitton: “The documents show that Nellie Ohr had extraordinary access to the Justice Department. Nellie Ohr may as well as have had a desk at DOJ."
Horowitz’s forthcoming report on FISA abuses by the DOJ and the FBI, will likely conclude serious FISA abuses, as the information already in the public realm suggests strongly that the FISA court was intentionally deceived by the DOJ and the FBI.
Durham’s Probe Becomes Criminal Investigation
IG Horowitz’s findings on FISA abuses are what likely, at least in part, led to the recent revelation that John Durham, the U.S. attorney appointed by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the investigators, has transitioned into a full-fledged criminal investigation, with the power to issue subpoenas, convene grand jury proceedings, and recommend federal charges.
Besides the potential FISA abuses, a source in the Italian Ministry of Justice told The Daily Beast earlier this month that Barr and Durham went to Rome recently, where, while sitting in a secure conference room, they were played a taped deposition of Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese professor who allegedly told then-Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. In addition to the Steele dossier, the Russia-collusion investigation was largely predicated on Misfud’s alleged statements to Papadopoulos that the Russians had obtained Clinton’s emails.
Papadopoulos has said he was introduced to Mifsud as part of an entrapment orchestrated by U.S. intelligence agencies.
One America News Network (OANN) reporter Jack Posobiec on Oct. 25 reported that Barr and Durham had “flipped” former FBI general counsel James Baker to cooperate with them on the Mifsud situation.
If Mifsud, whose cell phones were recently acquired by Durham, was really an FBI or CIA asset, then, instead of being able to say that a minor Trump campaign volunteer was told by a Russian asset that the Russians had Clinton’s emails, the truth would be that Obama-era officials used their own asset, who initiated contact with that low-level volunteer.
If true, that’s proof of one of the greatest scandals in modern U.S. politics.
Fox News reports that its sources said Durham is “very interested” to question former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan.
‘Sisters Have Begun Leaking Like Mad’
On Oct. 23, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, wrote to Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, asking whether he had opened an investigation into the frequent, national-security damaging leaks—averaging one leaked story per day during Trump’s first 18 weeks in office—by the intelligence community aimed at disrupting the Trump presidency.
The letter included some never-before-revealed texts and emails including a Dec. 15, 2016, text by since-fired FBI agent Peter Strzok to his FBI lawyer paramour, Lisa Page, in which Strzok said: “Think our sisters have begun leaking like mad. Scorned and worried and political, they are kicking into overdrive.”
The senators want to know who the “sisters” are—presumably other intelligence agencies, including the CIA.
Flynn’s Counsel Claims FBI Notes Were Altered
Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, was charged and pleaded guilty to having made false statements to the FBI during their questioning of him, as part of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the president.
Although many people don’t realize it, audio recordings or stenographic transcripts of FBI interviews—while they form the basis of charges such as the one against Flynn—aren’t always made. Instead, the government relies on the FBI agents’ notes, supposedly contemporaneous, of the questions and answers at the subject’s interview summarized in an FD-302 form.
Flynn’s star counsel is now Sidney Powell, an accomplished former U.S. attorney, who worked at the DOJ for 10 years, in three federal districts under nine U.S. attorneys from both political parties. In a blockbuster 37-page motion, a minimally redacted copy of which is available online, Powell charges that the FBI conducted an ambush interview of Flynn that wasn’t for the purpose of investigating any crimes he may have committed.
Indeed, a Jan. 30, 2017, internal joint DOJ and FBI memo, less than a week after his interview, exonerated Flynn of being an agent of Russia, according to Powell.
Instead, Powell charges that the Jan. 24, 2017, interview—four days after Trump’s inauguration and two weeks after BuzzFeed had published the Steele dossier—was arranged as if a mere meeting among colleagues, after FBI top brass, including then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Strzok, Lisa Page, and then-FBI general counsel James Baker, decided upon a strategy of entrapping Flynn into making a false statement. According to Powell, McCabe himself made the call to Flynn, breaking FBI protocol, to set up the perjury trap interview, a move approved—she said—by then-FBI Director James Comey. As noted above, OANN’s Posobiec said that Baker has been “flipped” by Barr and Durham.
According to Powell’s filing, the FBI also altered the FD-302 form of Flynn’s interview to create, “from whole cloth,” statements that have no basis in the handwritten notes.
At issue are supposed false statements by Flynn regarding what he “said or did not say” about then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, getting back to him on how Russia would react to his requests about a U.N. vote and about President Barack Obama’s expelling of 35 Russian diplomats for Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election.
There’s no mention of Kislyak’s response in the handwritten notes, Powell said.The notes do indicate that Flynn denied making the requests to Kislyak in the first place. Those statements were immaterial, Powell argued, since they had nothing to do with the FBI’s Russia probe and “policy discussions by the incoming National Security Adviser were none of the FBI’s business.”
Powell also charges that the Flynn 302 writeup laid in a “deliberative” state in FBI hands for an inordinately extended period.
The FBI had transcripts of the Flynn–Kislyak calls, which they had wiretapped, so they knew what had been said between Flynn and Kislyak, and had no legitimate basis to investigate Flynn about them (again the purpose was solely a perjury trap). In fact, after a transcript of the Flynn–Kislyak calls was leaked—with the consent of then-FBI general counsel Baker, Powell charges—to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius on Jan. 10, 2017, DNI Clapper told Ignatius to “take the kill shot” on Flynn, or words to that effect, according to Powell.
In her motion, Powell asks the court to make the DOJ prosecutors explain why they shouldn’t be held in contempt of court, to produce the original draft 302 notes and other exculpatory documents, and to dismiss the case against Flynn (despite his previous guilty plea and before he is sentenced) because it involves “outrageous government conduct” that is “repugnant to the American criminal system.”
Flynn pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, but he did so, according to Powell, based on a fraudulently altered 302, after exculpatory evidence was improperly withheld from him, and while his then-defense counsel, Covington and Burling LLP, was laboring under an intractable conflict of interest, as they had worked with the government to prepare and file for Flynn the very same Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) papers that the government then used to threaten him with a FARA violation charge.
In addition, Powell asserts that texts show that the federal judge who initially presided over the case, Rudolph Contreras, who was recused from the case shortly after accepting Flynn’s plea, was a friend of Strzok, and that exculpatory correspondence from Obama’s then-attorney general, Sally Yates, has been hidden.
In her motion, Powell refers to Mifsud as a CIA “asset” and charges former FBI top officials Comey and McCabe with having run a politically driven campaign to convict Flynn as part of a larger attempt to oust Trump.
Are Criminal Indictments Forthcoming?
All this suggests criminal deception of the FISA court, coordinated criminal leaks of classified information by U.S. intelligence agencies to disrupt the Trump presidency, the secret use of an asset by U.S. intelligence agencies to entrap a low-level Trump campaign aide, and the entrapment of Flynn, coupled with the criminal alteration of an FBI 302 to at least partially fabricate federal crimes against him.
All this, as I wrote in February of last year, was part of a politically motivated and highly coordinated effort by upper-echelon Obama-era officials to use the vast power and machinery of the federal government to oust Trump, based on the entirely fabricated charge that Trump had colluded with the Russians, which itself began as an Obama-era narrative to excuse Clinton’s historic loss to Trump in 2016.
In other words, a silent coup.
Americans are appalled at the unimaginable level of corruption at these formerly revered U.S. institutions—the DOJ, the FBI, and the CIA. Obstruction of justice also includes framing the innocent. Besides criminal leaking of classified information and perjury, the coup attempt is arguably treasonous.
Don’t believe the liberal media damage-control spin that Barr is just doing Trump’s dirty work, in an attempt to ensure the president’s reelection. The mainstream media are deeply complicit and have a vested interest in preserving the false narrative they’ve been peddling for years.
Barr’s motivation is apolitical: He knows that the vast damage these Obama officials have done to the reputations of the DOJ, the FBI, and the CIA can only be repaired with convictions and meaningful jail time for the bad actors. Obama’s top brass knows this, and that’s why they are now lawyering up. It remains to be seen how high the corruption goes, including whether Obama will be implicated.Stephen Meister is a founding partner of Meister, Seelig & Fein LLP, a law firm headquartered in New York; a published author; and an opinion writer. Twitter @StephenMeister. Opinions expressed here are his own, not his firm’s.