Saturday, October 10, 2020

Negative Thereness

In Everybody's Autobiography (1937) Gertrude Stein complained about her native Oakland “...what was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about it if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there.” But somebody finally supplied one—photo by Joe Sciarillo.

I need to make a confession: I'm the one who started the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. I mean, alongside Paul Krugman, Josh Marshall, CIA director John O. Brennan, and our handlers in Russian intelligence and, frankly, a whole lot of other people, most of whom aren't even aware that we had Russian handlers. If current Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe knows what he's talking about. 

I don't know what he's talking about, but just saying: Krugman's New York Times column ("Donald Trump, the Siberian Candidate") of 22 July 2016, Josh Marshall's blogpost ("Trump & Putin: Yes, It's Really a Thing") of the following day—

Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.

—and my own post on the 24th ("As a Notorious Billionaire Once Said, Just What in the Hell Is Going On") 

It's all just a little bit much. Trump has all these long-term strands of interest linking him to the Putin regime, he is in appearance financially dependent on money streams Putin controls, he endorses Putin and trash-talks NATO and Putin endorses him back (in his American outlets such as RT, where even the former MSNBC working class hero Ed Schultz is now lionizing the Donald), and his serious deviations from Republican orthodoxy—the questioning of NATO and the very specific platform recommendations on Ukraine—are keyed precisely to Putin's gratification.
I think the Trump campaign needs to provide answers to the questions this raises; I certainly think they need to release those tax returns, right away. I think we need to know, as the fellow said, "just what in the hell is going on?"

seem to have been followed up almost immediately by something (I'm trying to follow Brooke Singman/Fox News here) on the part of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, according to sources uncovered by Ratcliffe in which somebody may or may not "cite alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on 26 July of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services".

Obviously the redacted bit at top, following "We're gaining additional insight into Russian activities from...", is where they spell out the contributions of Josh, me, and Dr. K, presumably read by the wonky former secretary of state, in bringing her to the decision.

That's most of what's unredacted from pages 5 and 6 of notes taken by Director Brennan of a meeting only two days after that, on 28 July, attended by him,  POTUS Obama, Director Comey, NSA Susan Rice, and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, discovered by NSA Ratcliffe, and interpreted by him in a remarkably exotic way: as Brennan's report of information he had received from Russian intelligence sources on Hillary Clinton's decision of two days earlier:

The Obama administration obtained Russian intelligence in July 2016 with allegations against Clinton, but cautioned that the intelligence community “does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the text to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.”

According to Ratcliffe’s letter, the intelligence included the “alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016, of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisers to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.”

Somebody on station in Moscow heard a story that the Clinton campaign in the US decided on Tuesday that they were going to do this thing, and reported it to Brennan, and Brennan was so concerned that he called a meeting for Thursday to inform the president, along with whatever else was on pages 1-4 of Brennan's notes and any pages, if they exist, from 7 onwards (we don't know whether those are redacted or Ratcliffe just thinks they're irrelevant) and on Sunday (31 July) opened the Crossfire Hurricane "fusion cell" (bringing together a group of agencies under, I think, Brennan's initial direction) to investigate not the Clinton campaign but the Trump campaign because what?

I mean I may be missing something, but I'm having trouble following this. Or maybe, just maybe—hear me out here—Ratcliffe is missing something, like POTUS Obama's question immediately after Brennan's presentation, as to whether there was any evidence of collaboration between Russians and Trump campaign, to which Comey responds at considerable (redacted) length

and the evidence publicly announced that same Tuesday 26 July that the "Guccifer 2.0" persona known to have hacked the Democratic National Committee computer network from which it stole stolen thousands of emails published by WikiLeaks on the previous Friday, 22 July (the day of Krugman's column), was itself Russian intelligence, which Comey has room to have been talking about in the redacted paragraphs.

And which comes up explicitly, as it happens, in the festooning of redactions in another version of Brennan's notes (this is still the Fox story), which was sent apparently by the Crossfire Fusion Cell to the FBI a month later, 7 September:

And then also on 26 July was something the Clinton campaign did not know about, but Brennan and Comey soon would if they didn't already: when the Australian government informed the US state department of the strange story of George Papadopoulos telling High Commissioner Alexander Downer about the thousands of emails on or about Hillary Clinton that he had heard about from a Russia-connected source, which was turned over to the FBI on the Wednesday:
The FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane in July 2016 following the receipt of certain information from a Friendly Foreign Government (FFG). According to the information provided by the FFG, in May 2016, a Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos, "suggested" to an FFG official that the Trump campaign had received "some kind of suggestion" from Russia that it could assist with the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton {Trump's opponent in the presidential election) and President Barack Obama. At the time the FBI received the FFG information, the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC), which includes the FBI, was aware of Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections, including efforts to infiltrate servers and steal emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The FFG shared this information with the State Department on July 26, 2016, after the internet site Wikileaks began releasing emails hacked from computers belonging to the DNC and Clinton's campaign manager. The State Department advised the FBI of the information the next day. 
That's of course the same Wednesday when Trump made his famous request—"Russia, if you're listening"—for Clinton's deleted personal emails from the secretary of state server.

To which I would like to add just one last thing: I think there's some truth in the suggestion that a Clinton foreign policy adviser advised the candidate to suggest Russians were helping Trump in the campaign, though "vilifying Trump" wouldn't be a very accurate description of what the plan was: I'm thinking Michael McFaul or Nicholas Burns, who were out on the hustings (accurately) talking up Putin's preference for Trump on the Thursday:

“In our administration, Secretary Clinton always had a tougher line toward Putin and the Russians than other senior administration officials,” said Michael A. McFaul, an adviser on Russia who served as United States ambassador to Moscow. “It was Putin’s strong belief that we, with Clinton in the lead, were trying to meddle with his regime.”...

“What Trump said today is reckless and demonstrates he is unfit for the Oval Office,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a former top State Department official and foreign-policy adviser to Mrs. Clinton. He said that he was confident that Mrs. Clinton would strongly defend the interests of the United States and its allies against any aggression by Mr. Putin.

But Brennan didn't—duh—glean that from "Russian intelligence". He might well have gotten it from McFaul or Burns or somebody else in the shared circle and introduced it as a suggestion that US intelligence services and Obama were opening themselves up to severe criticism if they didn't pay attention.

What Ratcliffe has done here is astonishingly ballsy: he's taken primary source documents that give an accurate presentation of how Crossfire Hurricane began, as clarified in all the relevant sources (see especially Horowitz report), from the WikiLeaks dump on the 22nd through the revelations on Papadopoulos and Guccifer on the 26th, the Trump craziness on the 27th, the original fusion cell meeting on the 28th, and the official opening of the investigation on the 31st, and redacted almost all the actual information out of them, leaving a decontextualized and largely irrelevant snippet on Clinton's campaign strategy to hint at a "real story", without actually trying to tell it, that is completely nonsensical if you do try to tell it.

But he doesn't in fact know what he's talking about and there's even less reason to worry about this fragile attempt at an October surprise than about Barr's failed effort with the Durham investigation or the last-minute attempts of Lindsey Graham and Ron Johnson to stage a scandal in the Senate. There's not merely "no there there", there's a kind of negative thereness.

No comments:

Post a Comment