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 (IG) has discovered are “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. This information is also being posted in an archive of the who’s who of Russiagate.
A sample of the information available in the profile is today’s ranking of the three strangest mysteries we still haven’t solved:
- GOLD: Who started the investigation?
It’s a question that should have a simple answer, based on a largely agreed upon set of facts: Who is responsible for launching a full-blown counterintelligence investigation chasing a phony conspiracy theory about the president of the United States colluding with Vladimir Putin to win an election?
It is anything but simple. The most serious concern, perhaps first noted by left-leaning journalist Matt Taibbi back in December 2019, is that the former directors of the FBI and CIA are directly contradicting each other, and one of them is likely not telling the truth.
Also serious, but comical, is that while the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe should rank right up there as one of the federal bureaucracy’s bigger “oops” moments, the two top bureaucrats seem to be competing to claim credit for who started it!
The FBI carried out the investigation and has its stamp on some of the ugliest errors, yet former CIA Director John Brennan really wants to claim the blame for setting the whole fiasco in motion. In May 2017, Brennan testified to a U.S. House committee that he personally became “aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons” and that this “served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion—cooperation occurred.” Then in 2018, Brennan further clarified on MSNBC that he had “put together a fusion center at CIA that brought NSA and FBI officers together with CIA” to make sure the “proverbial dots” could be connected for things that were of “great relevance” to the FBI’s work.
The team working for Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz asked FBI officials about “then CIA Director John Brennan’s statements reported in several news articles that he provided to the FBI intelligence on Russian contacts with U.S. persons that predicated or prompted the opening of Crossfire Hurricane.” What the IG found was that FBI Director James Comey and his top people told a very different story from that of Brennan, namely that a tip given to them by a “friendly foreign government” (an Australian diplomat) was the only reason they opened the probe.
The IG’s report stated Team Comey was unanimous in their assertion that the “case was based solely on the FFG [friendly foreign government] information,” not from Brennan or any other “members of the USIC [United States Intelligence Community].” The Horowitz team even dug around some more in a futile effort to find evidence to corroborate Brennan’s side of the story, but “did not find information in FBI or Department electronic communications, emails, or other documents, or through witness testimony, indicating otherwise.”
- SILVER: Brennan and the Steele Dossier
Even as Brennan seems curiously willing to claim the largest hunk of the “credit” for starting the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign, he is (more understandably) less eager to take the blame for spreading the cooked-up conspiracy theories from the now debunked Steele dossier. Yet a similar mystery arises because Brennan’s memory seems to conflict with what reporters have uncovered.
As late as a 2018 interview on MSNBC, Brennan claimed he first “put eyes” on the Steele dossier in December 2016, after Donald Trump had won the 2016 election and just as Brennan was contributing the CIA’s part in the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA), which concluded the Russians had tried to interfere in the election. Even then, Brennan discounts the influence of the Steele dossier, stating to Congress in 2017 and then on MSNBC in 2018 that the dossier’s reporting was not used nor influential in forming the conclusions reached by the ICA.
RealClearInvestigations reporter Paul Sperry found people ready to tell a different tale:
Several Capitol Hill sources say Brennan, a fiercely loyal Obama appointee, talked up the dossier to Democratic leaders, as well as the press, during the campaign. They say he also fed allegations about Trump-Russia contacts directly to the FBI, while pressuring the bureau to conduct an investigation of several Trump campaign figures starting in the summer of 2016.
In August 2016, according to Sperry’s reporting, Brennan met with then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to tell Reid that “Russians were backing Trump” and the FBI would be investigating.
Sperry reports that days after this meeting the Senate Minority Leader sent the first of two letters to FBI Director James Comey, seeking an investigation of the Trump team’s alleged ties to Russia. Reid’s first letter specifically mentioned a now-debunked rumor about Trump aide Carter Page, which was from the Steele dossier.
Left-leaning journalist Aaron Maté, also writing for RealClearInvestigations, similarly noted the importance of the Reid meetings and that other reporters had made a great deal of the CIA director’s contribution to Reid’s pestering of Comey:
Reid’s letters show the extent to which Brennan maneuvered behind the scenes to funnel collusion to a public audience. In their book “Russian Roulette,” Michael Isikoff and David Corn report that Reid “concluded the CIA chief believed the public needed to know about the Russia operation, including the information about the possible links to the Trump campaign.”
Someone sure appears to have been passing along Steele rumors to Reid about the time he spoke with Brennan.
- BRONZE: Why is Hillary Clinton so invested in the conspiracy theory?
The fingerprints of Obama administration officials are all over the botched Crossfire Hurricane investigation. President Barack Obama was the captain of this deeply flawed vessel when it set sail, but he has been mostly and eerily silent for almost four years about where it ran aground. A fair analysis might be that the former president—once a constitutional law professor—is a smart man who waited until the evidence was out and then concluded it hadn’t added up to the collusion he and the rest of the nation had feared.
Not so Hillary Clinton. She referred to Donald Trump as a “puppet” of Putin, both before and after the 2016 election. Less than a year ago she was still maintaining the Russian government had compromising information on President Trump, and she expanded her conspiracy theory to allege that U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and 2016 Green Party nominee Jill Stein were Russian assets or otherwise working for the benefit of Putin. Her close confidants, former campaign aides, and allies at the Center for American Progress and the Democracy Integrity Project have all been strident voices promoting the conspiracy and even the Steele dossier.
Solving the mystery of why Clinton keeps this up in the absence of any real evidence is much less important than getting to the bottom of the gold and silver medal entries on this list.
However, one of the accused, Tulsi Gabbard, has her own theory to explain it. Responding to Clinton’s accusation, the Hawaiian congresswoman shot back on Twitter, calling Clinton “the queen of the warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.”
Recent developments may shed further light on Clinton’s involvement. On September 29, 2020, the Senate Judiciary Committee posted a declassified assessment that “Russian intelligence analysis [was] alleging that U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump,” possibly to “distract the public from her use of a private mail server.” Of course, the reliability of the Russian analysis is unknown at present.