Deception & Misdirection

Russiagate: Heroes of the Hoax

A major objective of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation and the subsequent probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller was to find out “whether individual(s) associated with the Trump campaign are witting of and/or coordinating activities with the Government of Russia.”

The answer was a definitive “no.” Four years and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars failed to uncover even a single person who collaborated with the Russian government while working on the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. But what the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General has discovered “serious performance failures” by federal law enforcement in the conduct of the investigation.

A new and comprehensive profile at InfluenceWatch lays out the gory history of the Trump-Russia Collusion Claims (“Russiagate”) and why the world’s only superpower credulously fell for them.

A sample from the profile is today’s ranking of the heroes of the hoax: individuals or groups who bucked the trend of ignorance in media and politics and instead provided helpful advice or information. This information is also being posted in an archive of the who’s who of Russiagate.

GOLD: Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stu Evans

One of the most significant abuses of Russiagate was the use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants to conduct electronic surveillance on 2016 Trump campaign aide Carter Page. According to the DOJ inspector general, those warrants would not have been granted without the FBI passing along to the FISA courts information from the debunked and discredited Steele dossier.

If the FBI had never conducted its improper spying on Carter Page, rumors of it would never have leaked to media. In this alternative reality, a critical spark that lit the hoax afire would never have occurred.

The inspector general portrays at least one person as trying to stand in the way of the FBI buying into the Steele dossier: Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stu Evans. It was Evans’s job to review the information in the warrant applications being sent to the FISA courts. He raised concerns about the potential political bias of Steele (who was indeed paid by an agent of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign) and questioned the value of targeting Carter Page for surveillance.

The inspector general portrays FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page (no known relation to Carter Page) as the chief rivals of Evans in this bureaucratic infighting. Strzok was the leader of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, and Lisa Page was the legal counsel to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Messages between the pair expressed concerns that “Evans was slowing things down” and that Strzok was “nervous” about what Evans might say to the FISA court. At one point after receiving these concerns from Strzok, Page kicks a message out to her boss (McCabe) that a “high-level push” may be needed to overcome Evans’s objections.

Those objections were ultimately overcome, with horrible results.

Sometimes one person can make a difference. Stu Evans apparently tried to be that person. If he had succeeded, he would have saved the FBI’s reputation and the nation from most (and perhaps even all) of a needless self-inflicted trauma.

SILVER: The DOJ’s Office of Inspector General

History should record that the Russiagate hoax was definitively and mercilessly killed in December 2019 when the team working for DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz released their devastating report. It showed the Steele dossier to be a comprehensive and comically silly fraud, which the FBI used to prop up otherwise indefensible and unprecedented spying on a presidential campaign. Team Horowitz also exposed a multitude of “extensive compliance failures” and “basic and fundamental errors” that the FBI committed in its investigation of the cooked-up collusion rumors.

The FBI’s sordid Russiagate performance seriously wounded the very nation the bureau was built to protect. Intelligence officials such as former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper acquitted themselves little better as they too amplified the Russiagate collusion hoax. In hindsight, with what we now know from the work of the Inspector General staff, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team also should have done a much better job of exposing the flaws in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

The DOJ’s Office of Inspector General stands alone as the only team of federal law enforcement officials who deeply engaged in the Russiagate scandal yet emerged from it with real answers that made the nation stronger as a result. When darkness had become trendy, they turned all the lights on.

BRONZE: The Honest Lefty Media

Choosing a favorite media failure from Russiagate requires wading into a wide field with many options. Do you like the Washington Post for their stable of credulous opinion columnists penning missives calling Carter Page a “Russian spy” (Jennifer Rubin) and claiming that much of the Steele dossier had been “confirmed” (David Ignatius)? Or how about the team effort from MSNBC and CNN when they both managed to misread a date on an email and used that confusion to falsely accuse Donald Trump Jr. of leaking DNC/Podesta emails before Wikileaks had published them? Something else?

So much speculation and fabrication regarding Russiagate was repeated (and even created) by mainstream media bluebloods that a news consumer who simply ignored everything (until the December 2019 release of the Inspector General report) would have emerged statistically less ignorant than someone who followed it all closely.

This cannot be said of the reporting and commentary produced by a few well-left-of-center journalists. Outside of Fox News and right-leaning news journals, some of the earliest, most skeptical and ultimately accurate commentary on Russiagate was produced by Matt Taibbi (formerly of Rolling Stone), Glenn Greenwald (co-founder of the Intercept), and Aaron Maté (a contributor to The Nation and RealClearInvestigations).

One need not agree with their left-wing perspective to derive value from the thinking it produces. Those who were reading these honest lefties during Russiagate were learning the correct things about a scandal that wasn’t. That’s a good reason to keep them in mind for reporting on scandals yet to come.


Ken Braun

Ken Braun is CRC’s senior investigative researcher and authors profiles for and the Capital Research magazine. He previously worked for several free market policy organizations, spent six…
+ More by Ken Braun