Just what do the newly unsealed General Michael Flynn case documents actually reveal?
Are they really “bombshells?” Do they exonerate Flynn, President Trump’s former national security advisor?
And, was the Steele dossier really a product of Russian disinformation, as some are alleging, with Sergei Millian playing a role?
In this episode, we sit down with investigative journalist Lee Smith, author of “The Plot Against the President: The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History.”
This is American Thought Leaders 🇺🇸, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: Lee Smith, such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Lee Smith: Thank you, Jan. It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you again, and especially at a momentous time, in some ways, a terrible time in our history, but maybe we’re coming to an end of it and we’ll start to see more things unfold.
Mr. Jekielek: Exactly. It really is a momentous time. … As we were talking prior to the interview, new documents were released by the U.S. Attorney Shea, or at least made public, for viewing. We have these unsealed documents from the other day that show what a lot of people are calling a “bombshell.” Even [in] the last few weeks, there has been this Senate Intelligence Committee report; there have been the footnotes. There are a lot of things related to this work, whether we call it Russia collusion or Crossfire Hurricane or Spygate, as we have at the Epoch Times. A lot is coming to the surface as we speak. A lot of people are calling the most recent documents that were unsealed a “bombshell.” What are you seeing? And we should also jump into these new ones that just came out moments ago.
Mr. Smith: Right. We knew what happened, right? Everyone knew what happened because the premise of the investigation to General Flynn was nonsensical from the beginning. It is not just General Flynn’s long track record; it’s not just that General Flynn was the director of the DIA and that he served his country honorably in uniform for 33 years, including at least two combat theaters most recently, Iraq and Afghanistan. The fundamentally preposterous thing about it, as I always tried to explain to people who were curious, but didn’t entirely know what to understand, I said, here’s what would really happen, if you have a former director of the DIA, who’s actually suspected of collaborating in some way with a foreign power, especially an often adversarial foreign power like Russia, that’s it, everything shuts down. That person goes away to supermax [prison]. And we probably never hear from him again because that person has access to all sorts of different programs that would put the lives of hundreds of thousands of troops, at least, in danger.
So, the idea that what they were doing instead was running a counterintelligence investigation. Based on what we now know, as one of these documents show, the information of political operatives/confidential human source, Stefan Halper, or it certainly looks like him, gives us more insight into what is going on. But again, at the beginning, the very premise was outrageous and outlandish. We did know for several years that General Flynn had been set up. Remember, this is one of the findings from the House Intelligence Committee’s March 2018 Russia Report, when they had to fight with the FBI to get them to declassify different sections, both Comey and McCabe saying, “Yeah, we believe that General Flynn didn’t lie.” So, they believe that what happened here, we knew that something had been going on for a while.
So, what we have right now is we have evidence of the brazenness of the operation, the brazenness of the corruption of the Crossfire Hurricane team, and other FBI and DOJ officials involved in it. We have known for a while what happened. This gives us more evidence of what they did. And it also gives us evidence of their attitude, of their posture, as they are targeting an American citizen, primarily. This is [the] key, targeting American citizens. Yes, he is the former director of DIA, he served his country honorably for 33 years. But again, to do this to any American citizen is disgraceful. And that is what they did brazenly, indeed, proudly. That is what they did.
Mr. Jekielek: So, it doesn’t sound like it’s a bombshell for you.
Mr. Smith: I think that lots of people understood what was going on. It’s surprising. What’s surprising is how brazen they were. I think a lot of people who have been involved in the investigation for a while, I’m not sure if they knew that there was going to be documentation showing precisely what happened and who was doing what and who was saying what. I’m not sure if they knew that. I’ve been told for several years now, “Look, we were going to be happy if we get a couple [of guys], maybe they’ll flip and talk about this person and talk about that person, that will be a big win.” This, however, shows documentation of a broader sweep of this operation. That’s a bombshell. That’s very big news that we now have documentation and we have a clearer map of what happened.
I think the real bombshell news here is, why was the FBI sitting on this for so long? That’s the real bombshell news. It’s not that General Flynn needed vindication. We knew that General Flynn had been set up and what the contours of that operation targeting General Flynn looked like. They were pressuring him that they were going to do damage to his son. They were going to target his son. We had a very clear picture of how this was going on, right? Why was the FBI holding on to all of this information so long? That’s a bombshell.
That goes back to something else that I know we’ll speak about, the IG report and these newly redacted footnotes. Why was the FBI holding on to these so long? Was Christopher Wray, the director, telling people not to disclose this information? If we find out that the director of the FBI was holding on to these himself with personal involvement, that’s going to be more big news. We’re already getting some sort of picture of what the FBI before Wray looked like, Comey’s FBI, when McCabe was deputy director, and then McCabe was acting director. We now know what they were doing. If this was going on, when Wray was confirmed to the post in August 2017, that is going to add more detail onto a very sad story for the FBI. A terrible story.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s something incredible about this. First of all, John Solomon reported that it was Bill Priestap, that was the author of this handwritten note which a lot of people are calling the bombshell. I’m wondering if you could explain what that note tells us from your view.
Mr. Smith: The note describes an FBI agent. John Solomon reported [that] this is from a senior FBI official who is taking notes. Now it appears [that] this is a man, and this fits the description that I’ve heard of Bill Priestap all along, that he is kind of a boy scout, right? The idea was that I’ve heard from different people that they had Priestap in the middle of this and they were taking advantage of him. They were using him as cover to do a whole bunch of bad things.
This is also evidence that when they’re discussing this operation targeting General Flynn, he has second thoughts about it, right? He’s saying, I know what I said yesterday, but I thought about it overnight, I slept on it and now I’m coming back and I think maybe it’s not a good idea for a number of different reasons. First of all, it’s not really fair. We show people evidence all the time. Why shouldn’t we show him this? And they redact that what they’re talking about showing him it’s perhaps a transcript of his conversation with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, but we don’t know yet [since] that’s still redacted.
And then he is wondering if what they’re planning to do will not get the White House very angry. And he was correct about that. They were targeting the incoming National Security Advisor, and also someone who had grown very close to, at the time the President-elect, now President Donald Trump, General Flynn. [General Flynn] and President Trump traveled around a lot. They liked speaking to each other; they enjoyed each other’s company.
The final part of that was Priestap saying, we need to protect our institution, and to protect our institution, we probably shouldn’t do this if the White House is going to turn on us and get very mad. This is a very important insight because here in Washington, people talk all the time about institutionalists. People actually care more about the Department of Justice, as an example, than justice; or people who care more about the CIA than making sure that this institution, this agency, runs well and runs smoothly. It happens often at Washington, and these people are referred to as institutionalists, people who place the interest of their institution above the interests of the United States of America and American citizens.
As it turns out, these people at the FBI, and this is what Priestap’s note underscores, these people at the FBI were not even protecting their institution, never mind the United States. They were protecting their own narrow political interest. That’s what they were about. That’s another thing this underscores. That’s what they were doing. This was not about their institution. This was about them, and then something you and I have spoken about a lot.
It’s very important to remember who this operation was intended to help. In the beginning, before the election, it was intended to help Hillary Clinton. After the election, the purpose of this operation was a massive cover up. That’s what it was. They were not about protecting institutions. They were certainly not about protecting the rights of Americans or advancing the interests of Americans. They were talking about protecting themselves and damaging other people and leaving a wake of destruction and their path like this country has never seen before.
Mr. Jekielek: This is really fascinating because a lot of the commentary that I’ve seen thus far and certainly what I also zeroed in on those handwritten notes that everyone is talking about right now, is this one line which apparently Bill Priestap wrote that said, something to the tune of, are we trying to find out the truth or are we trying to get him to lie? This is just my very, very broad interpretation because I don’t have it right in front of me, that people are calling this a smoking gun. People are calling this the bombshell. But you’re describing the person that wrote these notes is kind of the fall guy here. This is very interesting.
Mr. Smith: I’m not sure if he is the fall guy. … He’s been described to me as a boy scout. What he turns out to be is the person in that room. We have to imagine this because that’s what happened. It’s in a room. There are people who are clearly arguing, saying like, “no, we’re going to get him to lie, we’re going to jam him up. That’s what we’re going to do with the incoming National Security Adviser.” So, there is a room where this discussion is happening.
As it turns out, Bill Priestap is the one with some sort of conscience. He was like, “Is this the right thing to do? What do we really want here? Do we want to get to the truth? Or do we want him to lie so we can get him fired? Do we want to push the Logan Act and refer him to the Department of Justice? What’s really our point here?” So, you understand the shape of the room now.
Now, the important thing will be finding out precisely who is in that room. We’re starting to get a pretty good idea that there are senior FBI officials in that room, perhaps the director of the FBI himself at the time, James Comey, almost certainly the Deputy Director at the time, Andrew McCabe. That’s a very important thing, to see what the shape of that room looks like and who was in that room and who’s making that argument. And if there will be further documentation saying, Oh, no, this is exactly what Comey said, here’s exactly what McCabe said. So that’s going to be very important to get to the bottom of it.
Mr. Jekielek: This is quite amazing. Another thing that I’ve read recently is Judge Sullivan, who’s the presiding judge in the Flynn case, is very, very, very serious about Brady evidence, potential exculpatory evidence and so forth. This is in a Will Chamberlain’s podcast, I was watching that recently, he talks about this issue in particular. How is it possible that the Department of Justice’s prosecutor held back information like this from the defense?
Mr. Smith: General Flynn’s lawyer, Sidney Powell, has a great deal of experience taking on Department of Justice corruption. I think she had a pretty good idea walking into this case what had happened. That’s what I mean. I think the general contours of what had happened were clear. Also, Ms. Powell knew where to look and the questions to ask.
I think many people had been surprised that Judge Sullivan’s demeanor toward General Flynn, especially a year and a half ago, when he started saying that he was treasonous, a traitor [who] has betrayed his country. I think a lot of people were quite shocked. I think a lot of people were also shocked when he reprimanded Ms. Powell, accusing her of plagiarizing some documents. So, people have been surprised.
I think with the evidence that has been amassed, I would imagine that the judge is going to have to accept General Flynn’s plea to withdraw his guilty plea. I think it’d be very difficult to believe him, not allowing him to vacate his guilty plea. What will happen after that? Will the DOJ then turn its attention to the prosecutors as well as the FBI agents? It wouldn’t surprise me.
This is a Mueller team case. And we know what the Mueller team was tasked to do. The Mueller team was also tasked to participate in a cover-up operation. So, what would different prosecutors be doing in this case up to? What was Van Grack up to? Why hadn’t the documents that Ms. Powell requested, why weren’t they made available? How much did he have to do with that? Again, how much does the FBI have to do with that? So, we’ve seen something, it hasn’t turned around entirely yet. But we certainly see, the momentum is going in a different direction.
… It’s not just the DOJ and the FBI, the bad guys in these institutions. It’s also the press. It’s the legal experts, the talking heads you see on TV every night. You saw them, maybe recently, after some of these documents started to come out on Twitter, still heaping garbage and dung on General Flynn because they themselves have something at stake in this. They themselves have something at stake in targeting General Flynn, and it’s [a] despicable and disgusting behavior.
Nonetheless, what we’re seeing now is, the momentum is shifting. The wind is blowing in a different direction. And now it’s in the back of Ms. Powell and General Flynn, and this is an excellent thing. This is [a] cause for celebration, in spite of the fact that we’ve seen… evidence of brazen corruption, a celebration of corruption, pride, and contumely. The pleasure that these people take in corruption is repugnant. It should make all Americans disgusted to see what federal law enforcement officers were doing, or that they can target any American citizen. Never mind a retired three-star general. So, it’s good; it’s going the other way now.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s amazing because I have seen commentary today saying something along the lines of, hey, this is a kind of routine, this type of activity, getting someone to lie or whatnot.
Mr. Smith: This is comical, right? The defense of the people who are defending the dirty cops in the FBI and the crooked prosecutors who were part of the Mueller team, but offense is, “Hey, they jam up people like that all the time.” These are people who used to call themselves, they probably still call themselves friends of Mr. Cohen, friends of Mr. Weissmann, [and] say, “Hey, these guys do it all the time. That’s what our friends do. They jam people up. This just happens to be a retired three-star general and not a drug dealer or not a terrorist.” If that’s true, then we have even more problems with the FBI than we thought.
But here’s the thing, the people who are saying this, “this happens all the time,” the people who are saying this, were also people who were celebrating this operation run by dirty cops. That’s a rare thing. When the FBI are setting up drug dealers, or when they’re setting up Muslim Americans as terrorists (say that’s happening), you don’t see people getting on TV, talking heads or media people [saying], “And it’s a good thing they set them up. It’s a good thing they targeted him.” That’s what these people have been doing for three years.
The press has leased itself out as a platform for these vicious operations targeting Trump team officials, targeting Americans also non-Americans like Svetlana Lokhova. It’s disgusting what they did. So, the idea that they themselves are turning around so quickly [and saying], “Hey, man, it happens all the time. You got to understand, that’s what the FBI does. They’re a bunch of dirty cops. And those are our friends. And that’s why we supported their operation against General Flynn and everyone else.”
Mr. Jekielek: Another thing before we leave this to the court case and move on to a few other related areas. The defense counsel, there’s this whole question around the defense counsel not providing an adequate defense and so forth. I wonder if you could speak to that because it seems like there’s big challenges from all sides, right?
Mr. Smith: I believe they still have many thousands of documents yet to produce, which they said last week that, “Oh yeah, we just found them.” One of the problems is that there was a conflict of interest that had been identified and this was a bad thing. Also, unfortunately, you look at the people who staff that law firm. The big question is, were they looking out for the interest of their client? As we now see, that seems pretty clear. They were not looking out for the interest of their client. They were looking out primarily for their own interest. I don’t mean to exculpate them, but to give them a break in any way.
But it also gives you an indication of how hard charging that Mueller team must have been coming in. They said, “We’re going after your guy and we want your guy to give us something on Trump.” Now, we do know that this has happened before. This is what they did to Scooter Libby in 2003. Again, James Comey was part of that, too, with the whole idea being, “Hey, if you give up Cheney, we’ll let you walk. If you don’t give up Cheney, we’re going to stick everything on you.” It looks pretty clear. That’s precisely the same sort of thing they did with General Flynn. His lawyers were a messenger for that. I believe there’s one of the documents, she then shows that the lawyers are making that case to him, saying, “Hey, do you have anything on Trump?” This appears to be very inappropriate, right? This appears to me that it’s veering away from legal representation to participating in a political operation. In addition to the Mueller team prosecutors, in addition to the FBI, there’s going to be very serious questions asked about law firms coming to bring the different people who were representing General Flynn.
Mr. Jekielek: What was the conflict of interest? Can you lay that out for us?
Mr. Smith: It had to do with a FARA case. FARA is Foreign Agents Registration Act. General Flynn started up a firm where he was, … This happens all the time in Washington. You represent different clients. Some of them are tied to foreign countries, and some of them are foreign businesses. It’s a rather elaborate situation with different laws and regulations that apply whether someone has to register for FARA with the DOJ or register under a different thing with Congress. General Flynn, as he said, was very careful.
This is from his statement, I believe, January 2020, which I’ve put on Twitter. I really encourage all of your viewers to go back and read General Flynn’s statement from January 2020, where he’s talking about how he wants to withdraw his guilty plea, [and] talks about what happened. It’s a deeply moving and important document. I believe it’s there where he makes the case, he said [that] he told his lawyers to be very precise. … Remember, this is a serious man who served in the U.S. Army for 33 years. Precision is important. Precision should be important in law, and precision is certainly important in the military. He wanted them to be precise.
It turns out that there were certain problems with their filings. That appears to have been the lever that the Mueller team used against his legal representatives in turn. That was the conflict of interest right there. It appears that they are the ones who have made some sort of error in their filings. That’s when the Mueller team said, “Oh, we can put pressure on the law firm as well.” That’s at the center of the conflict of interest.
Mr. Jekielek: So, with General Flynn, it’s incredible how many different instruments these prosecutors had to use against him. It’s the whole system. It’s remarkable to me to even think about it. One of the things that they used initially to attack Flynn was his conversation with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, right?
Mr. Smith: Right. This is bizarre if you look at what happened. It’s very important because remember, President Obama was referred to as he always thought diplomacy was an important thing. Of course, diplomacy is an important thing. But what happened with the Obama administration? At the end of the Obama administration, they turned the Russian ambassador … they made him radioactive. Anyone who spoke with the Russian ambassador, whether it was Michael Flynn, whether it was Jeff Sessions, they tried to jam up Carter Page on this, anyone who spoke to him was bad. The Russian ambassador is in Washington for one thing, and that’s to speak to American officials, right?
So, they perverted the idea of diplomacy. That’s what happened with the Obama administration. They turned diplomacy on its head, instead of being able to go to foreign officials and look, what’s the primary thing, right? We want to avoid conflict, and Russia is an often-adversarial power. How do we avoid conflict? Figure out what’s really happening, discuss different issues.
But what they did with Kislyak was they turned him into a pariah. So, anyone who talked with him was now dirtied up and was now subjected to, if not an investigation, certainly hostile press coverage because they would say so and so was talking with Sergei Kislyak. The idea that they turned this into an instrument to damage Trump team officials is an astonishing thing. An astonishing thing especially for an administration that was so high on diplomacy as the way to solve different things. Here they are not only dirtying and Trump team officials but dirtying foreign diplomats.
Mr. Jekielek: I know we’re going to find out a lot more probably even today before we get a chance to even publish this interview. Why don’t you speak to these new documents that we were just looking at literally minutes before we started talking? What are you seeing in there? I can tell our viewers [that] I posted a tweet that just said wild and crazy … What did you see?
Mr. Smith: There’s a big picture here and it ties together the other things you want to talk about, which is aspects of the IG report. We want to talk about the newly redacted footnotes. You want to talk about the excellent new article by Epoch Times today on Mr. Sergei Millian. I know we want to cover all these big issues. Let me just make it a big picture of what happened after Donald Trump was elected. The FBI has been participating in this spying campaign against Donald Trump. Donald Trump has been elected; they know they’re in big trouble. The first move [was] John Brennan. When he [went] to Barack Obama or Barack Obama [went] to him. They said, “Give me everything you have on Russian interference in the 2016 election.” That’s the first move.
The next move we see is this. This is one of the things these documents show. It shows that Peter Strzok goes and wants to find out if a bogus investigation they had on General Flynn was still open. Why did they want it to still be open? Because they need to target General Flynn. This is a central part of their cover-up operation. Why? Because this is an administration full of people, many of whom are in Washington for the first time. A lot of them work with the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. James Mattis is now the former Secretary of Defense. He’s now in a cabinet-level position. Mike Pompeo is coming from Congress to the CIA. The one person with extensive experience in the intelligence community is Michael Flynn. They know that Michael Flynn is going to present serious troubles if Flynn starts asking for the reports, they were using to open up all these investigations on Donald Trump.
As it turns out, January 4, when Strzok [went] to check if that investigation is still open because he sees an opportunity there. On January 6, when Brennan, Comey, [and] Clapper briefed the intelligence community assessment to Donald Trump, only Comey stuck around to brief him about the dossier. According to the IG report, one of Trump’s national security officials wanted to know about Steele sources. Right now, the FBI is starting to understand that they’re in trouble because people are going to start to look. It’s imperative that they go after General Flynn because General Flynn is the biggest problem for them. It’s an enormous cover-up move. I know we wanted to talk a little bit about the Russia disinformation aspect as well. This is also part of the cover-up.
What these documents show is now they’re starting to give us dates. Exactly when they started going after General Flynn after the election because they knew he was going to be trouble. That’s what we’re seeing here. This is the other thing that we knew about, but now we’re having more and more evidence of it. A massive cover-up operation to obscure what they did, to hide what they did. After they targeted General Flynn, they got him removed from the White House. The next step is to have the then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuse himself. Now, they’re on a roll.
What happened next [was] James Comey went to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, and he laid out an obstruction trap. Saying, “Yes, we have an investigation going on.” And so many words for the President. He was very careful in his wording, but he let it be known. There was an investigation of the President of the United States. At that point, the President’s legal team would have said, “Anything you do right now might lead to trouble.” They might try to roll this into an obstruction charge. Next thing we had [was] in May. A special counsel was appointed after Comey was fired. So, the reigns of the coup, and the reigns of the cover-up [were] handed from James Comey to Robert Mueller. That’s what we’re seeing.
The picture is much fuller now. The evidence we have is much fuller. That’s why these documents are very, very important. It’s not so much one item or two items. It’s the way it’s helping us fill out what happened, especially after the election. The IG report and other things are also helping us understand what happened before the election. But right now, it’s after the election. We’re looking at, presumably, when the Attorney General William Barr says, “I want the U.S. Attorney John Durham to look at things after the election, too.” That’s what’s really concerning, what happened after the election. Presumably, this is a very large part of it, the cover-up, the different things that are going on, especially the FBI, therefore certain happenings in other places as well. But it looks like right now that’s the center of it at the FBI.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the things that’s come out since these documents have been unsealed as I see a heck of a lot of people saying whoever out there has thought of this whole thing as a conspiracy theory, “The Plot Against the President,” as it’s called in your book, right? Now, it’s certainly gone from being any sort of conspiracy theory to actual conspiracy or conspiracy fact. What’s your take?
Mr. Smith: I remember when I was reporting my book, “The Plot Against the President,” Congressman Nunes would talk about how it was very important for them to get to a certain point. They were trying to push American opinion [and] explain to people what happened. They saw that it was steadily growing, that more and more people came to understand, including these fellow Republican members of Congress. They came to see the details and what he put forth. They did have a certain amount of growth. After a certain point, it can’t go much further, right? That’s the nature, tragically, of the country right now. We talk about why shouldn’t left wingers be suspicious of the intelligence services doing bad things. That’s fiction. That’s not exactly how these things work, right? It’s like, if the FBI and CIA is doing something politically advantageous to you, as it turns out, tragically, as we’re seeing, dramatized right here, they don’t care. They don’t care. … It’s very limited. The amount of people who will say, “Oh my goodness, I’ve been wrong. I thought it was a conspiracy theory.” But as it turns out, it’s really true.
It’s important for people to understand what mattered to these media organizations was not simply that they were motivated by an anti-Trump animus. It is essential to understand they were not merely complicit. They were not duped; they were not fooled into believing it. They were platforms for this entire operation. Without the press, none of this could have happened. They are the essential components of this entire operation, targeting Trump and targeting Trump officials. This is why I’ve been saying it for a while and writing it, too. For the press, the entire operation, even before these revelations that we’ve seen the last week, even before this represented an extinction-level event, these organizations will continue to exist by name in one fashion or another. But the fact is, we’re in a very different place now. These people will never admit, these journalists, especially those deeply involved in it.
And remember, some of these journalists who’ve covered this and pushed this operation are in their late 20s and early 30s. They may live for another 50 years. I can guarantee you; they will guard this for the rest of their lives. There will be no time ever, that they will ever reconsider what they did. Because it’s not as though they were fooled. They weren’t tricked. They participated in an operation with the intelligence community. It doesn’t get any more third world than that, when the Ministry of the Interior coordinates with the Ministry of Information. In the third world, they never say we were wrong. They just roll it into another operation. That’s what will happen here, too. So, we would like to see [the people saying], “We were wrong. Now it’s time to go back and revisit how we got things wrong and how could we make sure we don’t do this again. And we can really serve the American public and we can really play a positive role in our great country.” That will never happen. The press that we have today is an entirely different thing. It’s not a press. It’s a rolling platform for information operations.
Mr. Jekielek: Powerful words, Lee. [It’s] very, very difficult to stomach even though we know some of the significant challenges out there right now.
Mr. Smith: It’s a sad and terrible thing, as someone who has been involved in journalism for all of my career, my father was a journalist, my great-grandfather was a typesetter at The Daily News. My family is deeply invested in this. I look at this from the inside, and I say what has happened is astonishing and destructive, and they will not recover from it. The upside that I believe is very important is that one of the things that we’ve learned that you’ve seen, there are alternatives like Epoch Times. There are other places for people to obtain information, for Americans to obtain information. One of the great things about Twitter is as nutty as it can be from time to time, the number of people who produce information on Twitter. There’s still a hunger for it. People still need it. People still believe it forms our democracy because it does. But the places that people have been accustomed to getting it from, that won’t happen anymore.
Mr. Jekielek: One of our columnists, Jeff Carlson, he calls it “our little corner of Twitter.” …
Mr. Smith: Yes. Jeff is terrific. I had the pleasure of meeting your colleague recently in California. He’s very fun, very nice.
Mr. Jekielek: Something super central to this whole cover-up as you are describing it, this whole plot, as you describe it, is the Steele dossier, with the IG report and the footnotes and other information that’s coming to bear. The validity of that dossier has been completely undermined. In your book, you’ve outlined four of these proto dossiers, which you believe were the materials that formed the final dossier. One of the things that a lot of people are beginning to believe, and I know you don’t, that’s why I want to talk to you, is that the dossier is actually a product of Russian disinformation, right? You are vehemently opposed to this interpretation. I want to give you a chance to talk about that.
Mr. Smith: It is a very interesting subject. I’m actually less concerned about it now than I was before. Because we know now when we were talking about the notes that Bill Priestap is taking in that room, who’s talking about framing Flynn getting him to lie. We know one thing, there were no Russians in that room, right? There’s no Russian saying, “Ah, Vladimir, let’s get Flynn to lie.” Right? Those were Americans. Those were American intelligence agents, right? So, we understand what’s happening now. That’s the actual thing. This is the American intelligence services, not Russian intelligence services.
But I know some of these recently declassified footnotes that came out several weeks ago now, and that was the big news until we started getting more big news. There were indications that different people had warned the FBI in 2017. In fact, January 12, 2017, that a particular dossier item might have been infiltrated or might have been compromised by Russian intelligence. It’s important to remember the entire dossier, the entire premise of the story is that all of this information comes from Christopher Steele sources and sub sources who have insight into the Russian government. In fact, the most important memo in the dossier is the very first thing, the most memorable one for everyone, is about the “Pee Tape.” That’s the most memorable, but that’s not the most important. The most important one is the one that says, Donald Trump has been compromised by Russian intelligence. Really? Who says so? Russian intelligence officers. The FBI has many problems. It’s sad. It’s a tragedy. I still like to look back at The Untouchables [by] Eliot Ness. We recognize the FBI has many problems. But you can’t possibly tell me that something that comes in, no one in the FBI says, “Wait a minute, I want to get this right, who’s the one who’s saying that Trump is compromised by Russian intelligence officers? It’s a Russian spy. Well, that’s nonsense.” Instead, what did they do? They use that to get a FISA.
Did they ever check it? Not according to Bill Priestap, he said the verification of the dossier was in its infancy. Not even according to the director of the FBI, James Comey, he called it unverified. So, that claim went in there, that a Russian spy said Trump is compromised by Russian spies. And when finally did someone decide to say, there might be Russian disinformation here? January 12, 2017, just as they’re starting their cover-up, that’s what the Russian disinformation story is.
It’s part of a cover-up. Look at the memo they’re talking about. It’s some memo about Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, in Prague. That’s the one that gets their attention that it might be compromised by Russian intelligence. Do you mean the first dossier, source to a Russian spy saying Trump is a Russian spy, that one’s okay? But the ones that we now think we have problems with, that’s the one about Michael Cohen. So, once we see that these warnings, the point of these warnings start to come into the FBI, that’s part of their larger cover-up operation.
How else do we know this? This is interesting. I have to credit my friend and colleague, Svetlana Lokhova, for coming up with this. If you go back to the original David Ignatius story about Michael Flynn, January 12, 2017, targeting Michael Flynn, saying did Flynn discuss sanctions with Sergei Kislyak? There’s also a very, very important part of that. A very, very important part of that piece. And that is what David Ignatius wonders, maybe this is Russian disinformation. Ah, there you have it. This is the operation.
The whole idea that this is Russian disinformation, as part of the cover-up. I understand why many of our colleagues on the right, why many Republican officials, were happy to turn this around on Democrats and say, “It’s not the Trump team that colluded with the Russians. It was actually Democrats who got fooled by Russian disinformation.”
I just want to give a general look into the future. If any of these people wind up in DC courtrooms, if any of the dirty cops from the FBI and DOJ wind up in DC courtrooms, I guarantee you that their defense lawyers will have portfolios full of statements and tweets and comments from all sorts of Republican officials and conservative thought leaders saying, “This is Russian disinformation. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you’re telling me you’re charging my client as part of a conspiracy to do poorly at his job? But this is un-American. Pardon me for bleeding red, white and blue here, but this is just un-American. Who among us has not done poorly at their job? That’s the same thing with these guys. They got fooled by the Russians. It was Russian disinformation.” Is that argument going to work? No. It’s a Hail Mary pass, but that’s all they’re going to have.
That is going to be surprising to some people if they do wind up in court to have some people hear their statements coming back to them out of the mouths of defense lawyers. For people that we’ve rightly zeroed in on the last three years as dirty cops, corrupt prosecutors, rogue spies.
So, I think it’s important to understand where the Russian disinformation idea comes from. It’s just the cover-up. There’s no Russian disinformation in the dossier. It’s all Clinton disinformation. What the dossier is, it’s Google plus Fusion GPS libel. That’s what it is.
There is nothing in that entire 35-page document, comprising 17 different memos, allegedly authored by Christopher Steele, that you and I, given an afternoon could not make up entirely just by using the Internet and letting our imaginations run wild. That’s where it comes from. It’s Clinton disinformation, not Russian disinformation.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. Let’s talk about Sergei Millian now. This is one of the extensible sources [which was] brandished about by Christopher Steele, as it would happen, and this wasn’t planned. We have this article written by Petr Svab, a really long-form piece, looking into all the fascinating conflicting realities around Sergei Millian. I know this is someone that you’ve been studying for a while as well.
Mr. Smith: Not as long as I should have been because I think that is an excellent piece. I think it’s real reporting. A lot of the other reporting on Mr. Millian hasn’t been reporting. It’s been directed to target Mr. Millian. This is one of the things that we’re seeing right now. This is one of the things that has come to the surface with the Inspector General’s report. If you look, Mr. Millian is alleged to be Person 1. If you look at the documentary evidence in the IG report, where Steele’s so-called primary sub source speaks to Person 1, and that’s how he’s downloading the information. They have a 15-minute phone call, in which the primary sub source isn’t even sure he’s speaking with Person 1 but recognizes or appears to recognize his voice on YouTube. Once you look at that, it becomes clear what happens.
Before the election, Sergei Millian was smeared as one of the Trump campaign’s points of collusion with Russia. He was smeared by a number of different periodicals. We won’t be surprised to hear where it originates with Fusion GPS. He was also smeared on broadcast TV. After the election, the FBI appears to take control. They say, Sergei Millian will be useful for us to plug him in as a source for the dossier. So, before the election, he’s smeared by the press and by Clinton campaign operatives. And afterwards, he is used by the FBI as part of their cover-up operation to show that they had real sources. There are no sources in the dossier, either. This is entirely contrived. It’d be interesting to know who made these things up. They needed to point at certain people or hang the dossier around certain people’s necks to say, “Yes, we told you, it’s a real thing, and this person is one of the sources.” So, this is what they did to Sergei Millian.
I encourage people to go look at the IG report and read about this preposterous, childish fantasy of the 15-minute phone call. There’s evidence, some of it that your excellent reporter and your excellent publication got today. There’s more evidence out there and there will be more forthcoming to show how the press and how the FBI targeted Mr. Millian. Unfortunately, it’s a terrible thing. Mr. Millian left the country at a certain point. He’s not in the country right now. He’s an American citizen. So, add him to the list of other people, including Michael Flynn, including Svetlana, Carter page, George Papadopoulos, other people who weren’t stuck in a dossier. He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending himself, who had their name smeared. Michael Caputo comes to mind, add him to the list of people who were targeted and who were damaged and who’ve been left in the wake of this horrible path of destruction.
Mr. Jekielek: We could talk for hours and hours more about the nuances of some of this stuff. It’s interesting when I read the Millian piece that Petr put together, I still have a lot of questions remaining. It’s interesting how you’ve interpreted that. I want to talk a little bit about how this is occupied an incredible amount of time and headspace of not just our intelligence communities, but [also] the entire American public in different ways. The little corner of Twitter, mainstream media, newer media. You’ve done some writing, which I was quite impressed with about the issue of China and the Chinese Communist Party. I hadn’t realized, given your focus with the writing you’ve done, this is actually something that was of interest to you.
What really struck me with this juxtaposition is that this could have easily been something that you would have been focusing on for the last however many years, because of the strategic importance of China and the role of the Chinese Communist Party. As we’re seeing through coronavirus or CCP virus, as we call it at the Epoch Times, [the] aggression and a lot of bad acting on a giant state actor. So, I want to talk a little bit about that to finish up. This thing has dominated the news cycle, kind of Zeitgeist for years. As more evidence came to show that it’s a conspiracy theory. How much time have we lost because of this, and should we have been looking elsewhere?
Mr. Smith: Yes, definitely. They obstructed a presidency for at least three years. They roll that into the bogus impeachment process. I’ll start on the macro level. Congressman Nunes has said many times, even before the CCP virus, as you guys call it. He said, “Look, with Trump elected, it was important for us to start looking at some of the things that China was up to.” What happened instead, the House Intelligence Committee was instead consumed with this nonsense about Russiagate. I don’t believe that Russiagate was constructed to obscure the things that China was doing. But if you look at the amount of attention paid to a conspiracy theory. If you look at the very serious things that the Chinese [government officials] have been doing, and the ways that the Chinese [government officials] have been interfering, not only in our elections, but there’s a cottage industry of people writing about Russian disinformation, the hundred thousand dollars that the Russians spent on Facebook, Russian disinformation; we have to be very worried about Russian disinformation. As it turns out, once you move that aside, you see the real issue, which we’ve seen since the onset of COVID-19.
We’ve seen in very uncomfortable ways that the press’ anti-Trump messaging has dovetailed with the CCP’s propaganda campaign, which is anything from anti-Trump to call it a Chinese virus or even to note that it comes from Wuhan, “This is racist.” I think that the U.S. press is actually controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. We should pay attention to the fact that both the New York Times and The Washington Post use paid inserts in their paper from China Daily. That’s a significant thing that we should actually pay attention to. But the fact that the Chinese Communist Party understands the different sensitivities and sensibilities of the American public and they know they can message us on racism that this will shut up many critics and many people who are simply pointing out the facts, what happened here. That’s a very small level, but at a much larger level, we lost three years looking at something very important. And we now see how important it is.
One of the pieces that I wrote for Tablet Magazine about the Chinese, I quote Senator Cotton, he says, a lot of Americans didn’t understand that our penicillin was manufactured in China. And he said this has to stop. We have to start to move our manufacturing base back here. We lost three years on that; our attention now needs to focus on that. It’s very important that we round up the bad guys who are responsible for targeting Americans, targeting the Trump campaign. It’s very important that we round them up. But the strategic focus of the United States, and I am optimistic we can do this, is to focus on what the Chinese Communist Party is up to. It’s a very, very serious issue.
I am optimistic. … We’re very fortunate, as the President of the United States was, at least in part, if not in large part, elected, because he talked about the different problems with China. Whether this was manufacturing, whether this was sending our jobs off.
While so many people have marvel how the Chinese Communist Party has managed to raise 800 million people out of poverty over recent years, no one has really noticed that that’s coincided with the impoverishment of our working class; with the impoverishment of people who make things in the United States. While many Chinese have gotten wealthier, regular people, fine, God bless them, that’s an important thing. But the idea that our political and business elites were profiting from this, while Americans were hurting, while jobs were actually going to China, Trump said he was going to get those jobs back. That’s when President Obama mocked him and said, “What magic wand you’re going to wave to get those back?” This is clearly important for President Trump.
At least, we’re fortunate that it’s a President who understands the problems and there are different people like Senator Cotton, like Representative Gallagher. There are also Democrats who take this seriously as well, like Chuck Schumer, like Sherrod Brown, like Ron Wyden. There are problems on both sides of the aisle, too. Republicans, as well as Democrats, who are not as sharp on China as they should be.
I think the hope for all of us is that the American public is looking at what happened here, looking at the serious threats that the Chinese Communist Party does pose to our national security, both now as we understand, not just abroad, but here at home. I do believe that we can bring this into focus and that this is something that people from both sides of the aisle can bear down on and start to address immediately.
Mr. Jekielek: Lee, that’s a powerful place to finish up. I also hope that this issue which we’ve been covering since our inception for 20 years does indeed become the bipartisan issue; does indeed become the thing that can bring America together. Such a pleasure to have you on again.
Mr. Smith: Thanks, Jan. It’s always lovely to speak with you and thanks so much for inviting me.