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February 6, 2018 (American Thinker) – As the “Russian Collusion” story disintegrates, it takes with it any reason to rely on the Fourth Estate, which in large part assisted in Obama administration wrongdoing. It has proven to be a handmaiden of those who concocted a big lie to bring down a political opponent.  As Josephus said of Haman — Antiq., 50:2, c. 6,) “without a remark upon the almighty power, and admirable justice of the wisdom of God; not only in bringing Haman to his deserved punishment, but in trapping him in the very snare which he had laid for another, and turning a malicious invention upon the head of the inventor.” This time, it’s not only Haman — the FBI and DOJ officials involved in lying to the FISC and unmasking what they learned — but their hangers-on in the press that are trapped as well.

1. Prelude to the Devin Nunes Memo’s Release

As she so often does, Kimberley Strassel nailed it:

Kimberley Strassel‏Verified account @KimStrassel

1) I've covered politics a long time. I've never — never — seen anything approaching the desperations Ds have to keep this memo quiet. And as we know that worry about law enforcement (Snowden/Manning) is not their biggest worry, this memo must be damning to the core.

2) Have been in journalism all my life. Have never — never — seen the press corps fight so hard against transparency. Same media that after election wondered if it was out of touch with avg Americans, now ignoring the legit worries so many have about govt. accountability.

3) Every journo should be asked if they'd be fighting this hard against disclosure if it was a Bush DOJ/FBI accused of wiretapping abuses. Of course not. They'd be leading the charge to put it all out. 4th estate is supposed to enlighten the people. Not cover for govt. officials

Others took up the same tack. Notable among them was Mark Penn, a long-time Clinton pollster. He notes the shocking calls by the NY Times and Washington Post

Post for prior restraint — blocking the release of the memo House Intelligence Chairman Nunes prepared based on what witnesses told the committee and official documentation about the spying on the Trump campaign. The hypocrisy of their efforts is astonishing — these are some of the same people who argued successfully that the public was entitled to see (and then to publish) the “Pentagon Papers.” Penn observes, as we must, that the dossier is nonsense, and has been discredited — not as the press is wont to say, “unverified.”

So mainstream journalism today tells us we should see the dossier, even if it’s filled with junk, and read the Comey memos, even if they have no verification — and, yet, be prevented from reading the report of the House Intelligence Committee based on documents that it took the committee six months to pry out of the FBI and Justice Department.

I believe in the First Amendment, and I thought that mainstream media did too. I did not see it as a doctrine of convenience that applied only to documents that buttress one side but then not applied if it might conceivably help the other side. 

The effect of this, he concludes, is to keep the public seriously in the dark about what shocking things have occurred — something to remember when some of your friends and family seem to be on a different planet than you are:

So it’s a fact that six senior leaders of the FBI or Justice Department have been either reassigned or fired based on facts that have come out largely from the work of this committee and of the inspector general of the Justice Department. Yet, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is being branded almost as a lunatic. The hypocrisy here is not confined to newspaper editorial pages. We have seen a veritable news blockade on information coming out of these investigations on the front pages.

In the last Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, we read people a list of recent facts that have come out and almost all of them were unknown to the public, even when prompted. A majority did know that Comey had drafted the memo on the Clinton investigation long before the investigation was over. But most people did not know who paid for the dossier, and most had not heard about the text messages and their reference to an “insurance policy” in case Trump was elected. After hearing this information, 75 percent said it was significant and 63 percent said the FBI needs to be investigated.

2. Panic and Hypocrisy on the Left

Lacking any coherent policies, the Democrats have pinned their hopes on persuading Americans that Trump is Hitler, Stalin, a usurper and a traitor who must be impeached. Their reaction to the release of the memo underscored their fright as this last remaining hope — impeachment — slips away. A prominent voice on that end has been Congressman Adam Schiff, who claimed falsely that the memo was inaccurate. Other Dems claimed it would reveal sources and methods that would endanger national security. (It didn’t, by the way.)  The Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Web” took hard aim at Schiff:

In March of 2007, a very libertarian sort of Congressman announced that he was “deeply troubled” by what he called “abuses of authority” by the FBI in acquiring personal information on U.S. citizens. Over the years, he urged various restrictions on the ability of the executive branch to get information on Americans’ phone calls. In order “to protect privacy and increase transparency” he sought in various ways to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — the very court that approved the electronic surveillance of a Trump associate for reasons that are still not entirely clear.

Way ahead of the news, he specifically introduced the “Ending Secret Law Act” which according to a press release from his office, “would require the Attorney General to declassify significant Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) opinions, allowing Americans to know how the Court has interpreted” its legal authorities.

He said that his legislation “will help ensure we have true checks and balances when it comes to the judges who are given the responsibility of overseeing our most sensitive intelligence gathering and national security programs.”

His name is Adam Schiff, and he is now the ranking member on House Intelligence. But oddly he doesn’t seem to want to take credit for his early concern for civil liberties.

Some on the left are continuing this line. Others, predictably, have changed their tune now that it’s been released: now, it’s a nothingburger.

It isn’t.

Adam Schiff, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, among seemingly dozens of Democrats, not to mention half the mainstream media, had been warning us for days that the release of the memo authored by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee would place our national security at grave risk.  “Sources and methods” would be revealed.

Now that we have seen the memo, it's clear that was an absolutely bald-faced lie of the most obvious sort.  Nothing in it impacts national security in the slightest.  There's no mention whatsoever of any “sources and methods.” [snip]

So what was up here below the surface?  It can't just be the “evil party” trying to live up to its nickname, although that certainly happened.

It seems this particular lie was a last line of defense — for now — against a coming potential Armageddon for their party.  This memo, bad as it is, is apparently only the first of many, a small percentage of what is to come.  And the Democrats know it.  Fear is operative. Maybe panic.  An entire weltanschauung is under threat, jobs, friends, self-image, who knows what. If this goes on much longer and much more comes out, some Democrats — not apparatchik Schiff, needless to say, but others — might have to face reality and say something.

3. The Nunes Memo

The whining that releasing the memo would reveal sources and methods, thereby endangering national security, proved as false as all the other claims about the memo. “The details of Friday’s memo also rebut most of the criticisms of its release. The details betray no intelligence sources and methods. As to the claim that the release tarnishes the FBI and FISA court, exposing abuses is the essence of accountability in a democracy.” 

Here’s the memo in easy to read format.

Here’s the short form version.

The NRO zeroed in on the dossier:

The Obama Justice Department and the FBI used the unverified Steele dossier to convince a federal court to issue a warrant authorizing surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser [Carter Page]. Confirmation came in the much-anticipated memorandum released today by the Republican-controlled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The memo states that the Obama administration concealed from the court that the dossier was commissioned and paid for by the political campaign of Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Nor was the court informed that the dossier’s author, former British spy Christopher Steele, told a senior Justice Department official that he was “desperate” to prevent Trump from being elected president. Moreover, despite presenting dossier information as probable cause on four separate occasions — for the initial FISA warrant in October 2016, and three times in the ensuing months — the FBI failed to verify the dossier’s explosive allegations and failed to inform the court that its efforts to corroborate the allegations had been unavailing. Indeed, the memo relates that the government once presented a news story to the court as corroboration for Steele’s claims, apparently unaware that Steele himself was the source for the news story. The dossier was a compilation of Steele’s reports, based on anonymous Russian sources. His informants provided information based on accounts that were multiple levels of hearsay removed from the events they purported to describe. The FISA court warrant targeted Carter Page, who had volunteered to serve as a Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser. The memo relates that the warrant was originally issued on October 21, 2016, and re-authorized three times thereafter. Under FISA, warrants targeting American citizens lapse after 90 days. If you’re keeping score that means a warrant based on claims that Trump was corruptly aligned with the Kremlin was renewed twice after Donald Trump became president. According to the committee testimony of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, the information in the dossier was necessary to the probable-cause showing required to justify issuance of a FISA warrant. That is, the warrant would not have been issued without the dossier information. 

The pretext for the warrants was that an obscure minor figure in the campaign, Carter Page, was an alleged agent of Russia. Michael “Spikey” Isikoff, who got it from Steele, first floated that claim on Yahoo. It was that story that the FBI absurdly offered up to the Court as corroboration for their suspicions. Steele then peddled the story to David Corn of Mother Jones, and when the FBI found out, they fired Steele as an agency informant. (Isikoff and Corn might be familiar to readers as the promoters of the fairytale that Valerie Plame was a covert agent whose identity had been revealed out of vengeance against her husband for telling tales about Iraq.) In any event, after years of surveillance and providing cover for the unprecedented snooping by the FBI and DOJ, Page has never been charged with espionage or criminal activity at all. He has sued Yahoo and the Huffington Post for slander.

Why was Page selected? The FBI apparently had him under observation since 2013 and it was clear he was neither a Russian agent nor any danger of becoming one. In fact, he was a businessman who frequently traveled to Russia and may even have been an FBI asset who in 2013 helped them nab a Russian agent Victor Podobny. Byron York offers up a rationale: “Put it all together, and Page was the easiest guy to go after. Plus, the wiretap would allow the FBI not just to listen to Page's phone calls but to read his emails, not only going forward from the date of the warrant, but going backward for as long as Page had kept them. If Page truly were the beating heart of a Trump-Russia conspiracy, then there would likely be email evidence the FBI could use.”

The memo discloses a sordid tale of “state corruption,” says Mark Steyn.

In the “national security” sphere, the entire system is ex parte. Carter Page, the peripheral Trump campaign volunteer who was the target of the surveillance, was not represented in court. In fact, he did not even know he was on “trial”. A year and a half after he attracted the attentions of Deputy Director McCabe and his chums, Mr. Page has not been charged with a single crime, never mind (to be old-fashioned about these things) convicted of one. Indeed, the only reason he is even aware that he is/was under 24/7 surveillance by the panopticon state is because McCabe's FBI found it politic to leak that fact to the newspapers — via the coy disclosure that he briefly came under FISA surveillance as “Male-1” five years earlier.

Mr. Page has committed no crime and been charged with none, but is routinely spoken of in the press as if he has been. In it is interesting to contrast his treatment with, say, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), whom the Department of Justice designated as “unindicted co-conspirators” in a major terrorism-funding case, but which designation is apparently no obstacle to their continued respectability in the media, their invitations to speak at small-town libraries, churches and schools (for example, a CAIR operative will be spreading the word at Firelands College in Huron, Ohio next month), and even their influence upon Robert Mueller's FBI. [snip]

The DoJ/FBI did not “inform the tribunal of all material facts” but misled the judge, seriously, on fundamental matters necessary to “enable the tribunal to make an informed decision”. They misled him/her as to the nature of the document, its provenance, its credibility, the motivations of its author, and his financial ties to the Clinton camp. They did, however, argue that the dossier had been independently “corroborated” by a September 2016 story in Yahoo News — even though that Yahoo story came from the same guy who authored the dossier: in effect, the Government got its surveillance warrant by arguing that its fake-news dossier from Christopher Steele had been independently corroborated by a fake-news story from Christopher Steele. Either the FBI is exceedingly stupid, which would be disturbing, given their lavish budget. Or the same tight group of FBI/DoJ officials knew very well what they were doing in presenting such drivel to the FISA court.

They're really the two choices here: either “the world's premier law enforcement agency” was manipulated by one freaky Brit spook, or “the world's premier law enforcement agency” conspired with the freaky Brit spook to manipulate the judge.

How serious was the misuse of the FISA procedure? So serious, to my mind, that Congress must interrogate the judges involved and find out how the Court allowed itself to be so misled. Perhaps the law needs to be revised.

Streetwise Professor compares the actions of the DOJ and FBI officials to Russian Siloviki (security forces who came to power in Russia).  

There is a constitutional crisis, he argues — though it’s not, as Leon Panetta and other Democrats claimed, caused by the memo having been made public.

Disclosing information about the misbehavior of executive branch officials does not represent a Constitutional crisis: if anything, it is the misbehavior of those officials during a presidential election that raise the issue of such a crisis.

Some of the reporting and commentary on this issue has been utterly incredible (in many senses of the word).  For example, Trump overruled current-FBI director Wray’s objection to releasing the memo.  The WaPo framed this as “Trump defies Wray.” Um, who the hell works for whom? If there is defiance going on, it is Wray’s going public with his objections to the actions of his Constitutional superior.  Wray should have raised his objections in private to Trump, and if overruled (as he was, in the event), kept his mouth shut in public, or resigned — and then kept his mouth shut. To lobby publicly (and disingenuously, by raising national security concerns) in an attempt to pressure his superior into doing something is beyond the pale.

Or should be, anyways. But one thing that this entire sordid episode has demonstrated is that the bureaucracy generally, and the intelligence and federal law enforcement agencies in particular, consider themselves an independent power, a co-equal — superior actually — branch of government, the Constitution be damned. Trump is deemed the usurper.  Indeed, it is clear that many senior members of the FBI, DOJ, and the intelligence community considered it their right to intervene in the election in order to prevent Trump’s election, and failing that, to kneecap his presidency. And virtually all of the political class in the US is on their side. This is the real Constitutional crisis.

You should view this as a Constitutional danger regardless of your partisan leanings. For ask yourself: would you like the same to be done to your guy (or gal)?

It is also disgustingly ironic that in a fervid controversy about the alleged intervention of the Russian siloviki into an American election reveals that high-ranking American officials in control of the vast powers of US law enforcement and intelligence used siloviki methods (including most likely disinformation planted by Russian siloviki!) in an attempt to influence an American election and then to cripple the winner of that election when their original plotting failed.

4. Upcoming

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is about to release his report on Steele, the FBI, and the dossier. 

The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General is about to release his report on the FBI and DOJ handling of the Clinton investigation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has referred the allegations about the DOJ and FBI officials to the Inspector General for further investigation

This article first appeared on American Thinker and is re-published with permission of the author.