Thursday, February 8, 2018

Or did Steele fire the FBI?

Image via Graeme Shimmin.

According to the Nunes memo, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, hired in summer 2016 to help Fusion GPS out in its (now Democrat-funded) investigation of Trump's Russia connections, after taking his findings to the FBI, lost the Bureau's confidence when he went to various journalistic outlets as well, and they "terminated" him, which sounded pretty odd, because I hadn't heard any suggestion that they'd given him a job in the first place.

But a new story by Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman in the Washington Post quotes Steele as saying he was in fact in "talks" with the FBI about doing some contract work with them, but broke off at the end of October 2016, when James Comey announced on the 28th that he was reviving the investigation of the private email server Hillary Clinton had used as secretary of state, which he had seemed to be publicly ending the previous July, after giving him the impression that every detail of their ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign must be concealed from the public, because
Bureau officials repeatedly told him they were extremely cautious about taking actions that could be viewed publicly as influencing an election, associates said.
In other words, he began thinking, as many of us out here in the audience began thinking, that forces within the FBI might be acting to take it in a pro-Trump direction, as we've already heard from the House Intelligence Committee hearing with Glenn Simpson—
“Chris was concerned that something was happening at the FBI that we didn’t understand, and that there may be some political maneuvering or improper influence,” Simpson told the House committee, adding that “we were very concerned that the information that we had about the Russians trying to interfere in the election was going to be covered up.”
—and broke off from the Bureau, turning to David Corn of Mother Jones (he'd already spoken to journalists at the Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Yahoo, but only on background, except for some not obviously Trump-related material on Carter Page's July visit to Russia that he agreed to Michael Isikoff writing up for Yahoo in late September). The day Corn published his story, October 31, the FBI seemed to justify Steele's worry with a startlingly disingenuous statement on the state of their investigations into the Trump campaign:
Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.
Although they certainly had information at this point that at least two campaign workers, Papadopoulos and Page, had been brought into discussions of some kind of relevant emails with Russian agents, and were surely aware of interactions of many Trump campaign workers, including Page, and not forgetting Senator Sessions, with Sergey Kislyak at the Republican convention in Cleveland. It would have been just as true, and much more honest, to say "law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found an unusual history of contacts between Trump campaign workers and agents of the Russian government but no conclusive explanation of their significance or relation, if any, to the hacking into Democratic emails." And much more in keeping with Comey's oft-stated sacred principles, and more honest still, if they'd said nothing at all.

While it took them until November 6 to announce that they had "found no criminal wrongdoing" and "not changed our conclusions" about Hillary Clinton, reinforcing Comey's evident view that they had found wrongdoing, but not chargeable wrongdoing, just "extreme carelessness", as, we now know, Peter Strzok had said as a preferred alternative to Comey's first idea of "gross negligence", Comey evidently not realizing that that would be falsely accusing her of a crime. I'm still not accusing Comey of directly favoring Trump either, or should I say his behavior "was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump", but I have to say in the end I can't stand the kind of piss-ass punctilio obsession with the etiquette over the reality in Comey's attitude toward Clinton, whose email server did no harm whatever and was extremely unlikely to do any harm (even as the official server she was supposed to be using was repeatedly hacked), while his own errors have landed us with President Dice-Clay over there. Show some humility.

Also, turns out that Peter Strzok ("Outbox") and Lisa Page ("Inbox") were big fans of Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks, respectively.

These people are all dead to me. Anyway, that Post story is very clarifying. Also, Steele was right.

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