by WorldTribune Staff, August 17, 2020
But will anyone go to jail?
A public records examination of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation shows a large number of falsehoods coming from the upper echelons of the bureau in Washington, D.C.
Reports of FBI misconduct hit a new high last week when Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, said a bureau witness told senators a “bunch of lies” in 2018 by defending the credibility of the Democrat-paid-for dossier authored by Christopher Steele.
That closed-door testimony was heard a year after the dossier’s main source secretly told agents that his anti-Trump claims were basically secondhand anecdotes from Moscow friends.
“Somebody needs to go to jail for this,” Graham told Fox News.
“From the top down, FBI officials have misinformed judges, independent investigators and Congress,” noted reporter Rowan Scarborough, who conducted the records review for The Washington Times.
“The pattern of duplicity is revealed in investigative reports, court files and a steady stream of declassified documents turned over to Republican lawmakers by the Trump administration’s Justice Department and the Director of National Intelligence.”
That pattern includes:
• DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report revealed that agents withheld from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act judges the fact that Carter Page, the wiretap target, worked for the CIA as an official informant from 2008 to 2013. Kevin Clinesmith, then an FBI lawyer assigned to Crossfire Hurricane, altered a CIA email that affirmed his informant status by adding the words “not a source.”
“Trying to convince a judge that Page was a Russian agent would have been complicated by disclosing that he was a trusted and official CIA source. The CIA email, if included in the last of four wiretap warrants, may also have prompted judges to ask why the FBI did not insert that fact in the previous three affidavits,” Scarborough noted.
The DOJ announced last week that U.S. Attorney John Durham has opened his first case, filing a false statement charge against Clinesmith, who has agreed to plead guilty.
⦁ FBI agents asserted to judges that Steele’s previous information as an FBI informant had been corroborated and used in criminal trials. It had not. Under FISA requirements, agents need judges to find “probable cause” to believe Page was a Russian agent. “Bucking up Steele’s past inaccurately helped agents get their coveted wiretaps,” Scarborough noted.
⦁ Steele quoted a “Source E” as saying there was a “well developed conspiracy of co-operation” between the Kremlin and President Donald Trump. The FBI presented no evidence for this other than Steele and the unknown “Source E.” At the time, and subsequently, the FBI had no evidence of this supposed conspiracy. Steele told the FBI that Source E was a “boaster” and “embellisher,” but the FBI never included that information in its Page warrant applications.
⦁ The FBI repeated to judges the dossier assertion that Page and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort worked with the Russians. Agents left out the fact that Page told the FBI’s own informant (later identified as Stefan Halper) that he had never met Manafort. Not only was this proved true, but Page also told the informant that he never met the two dossier-named Russians. The agent described as “Case Agent 1” left these denials out of his report for wiretap affidavits even though they were contained in the tape recording’s transcript.
⦁ Sen. Graham on Aug. 9 made an FBI disclosure: the talking points for secret FBI testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in early 2018. Graham said the testimony contains lies. The FBI talking points vouched for Steele’s top dossier source, Igor Danchenko, a foreign policy analyst described in news reports as both a Ukrainian and a Russian.
Graham ridiculed the presentation. He said the 2017 interviews showed the primary source relied on a group of friends, some of them drinking buddies, who had no firsthand knowledge and relied on second- and third-hand gossip. He also said the source, contrary to the talking points, said Steele embellished information he provided.
The FBI talking points, which are redacted, do not appear to touch on a follow-up interview Danchenko gave agents in March. He was much more critical of Steele, saying he told him his information was “just talk” and his sources were not worth a “grain of salt,” according to the Horowitz report.
⦁ Republican senators have accused the FBI of being dishonest about the dossier’s Russian disinformation. They did not know about this Russia angle until Richard Grenell, as acting director of national intelligence, declassified several footnotes in the Horowitz report.
Once opened to daylight, the notes showed that intelligence agencies warned the FBI in early 2017 that Russian intelligence knew of Steele’s anti-Trump project, had penetrated Danchenko’s sources and had fed them false reports about supposed criminal conduct by the campaign.
Yet this is not what the FBI told Horowitz’s team. Priestap told Horowitz that “the FBI didn’t have any indication whatsoever” in early 2017 that Russia was running a disinformation campaign through Steele. Crossfire Hurricane’s supervisory intelligence analyst told the inspector general that he had “no information … that Steele’s election reporting source network had been penetrated or compromised.”
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and a former Judiciary Committee chairman, called these statements “grossly inaccurate.”
“We are deeply troubled by the Crossfire Hurricane team’s awareness of and apparent indifference to Russian disinformation, as well as by the grossly inaccurate statements by the FBI official in charge of the investigation and its supervisory intelligence analyst,” wrote Grassley and Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in an April letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray.
⦁ Former FBI Director James Comey told Fox News anchor Bret Baier that the dossier didn’t play a pivotal role in persuading a judge to grant permission to spy on Page. “My recollection was there was a significant amount of additional material about Page and why there was probable cause to believe he was an agent of a foreign power, and the dossier was part of that, but was not all of it or a critical part of it,” said Comey, whose signature attested to two of the four Page wiretap warrants.
The Horowitz investigation later contradicted Comey. The inspector general’s report said the dossier was the critical piece of evidence for a judge to base “probable cause.” A Justice Department official had rejected the bureau’s bid to wiretap Page. That changed when the dossier and its salacious and sensational claims reached Crossfire Hurricane in September 2016.
⦁ Republicans say Comey gave different testimony on the crucial issue of whether agents who interviewed Michael Flynn on Jan. 24, 2017 thought he was lying. In secret testimony in March 2017, Comey told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that “the agents … discerned no physical indications of deception. They didn’t see any change in posture, in tone, in inflection, in eye contact. They saw nothing that indicated to them that he knew he was lying to them. … I think there is an argument to be made that he lied. It is a close one.”
In December 2018, the former FBI director testified to a House task force on Flynn, saying “There’s no doubt he was lying.”
The Justice Department cited Comey’s March 2017 testimony in its motion to Judge Emmet G. Sullivan to dismiss the case.
⦁ A new document shows the FBI disguised a meeting with Trump in New York during the 2016 campaign as a foreign-threat intelligence briefing when in fact it was a spying mission to evaluate Flynn, who also attended.
The FBI’s post-session memo, obtained by Grassley and Johnson, was labeled “Crossfire Hurricane.” The FBI agent who attended was Joe Pientka, a team member.
Pientka later told Horowitz’s investigators that he attended to assess Flynn’s “overall mannerisms. That overall mannerisms and then also there was anything specific to Russia, or anything specific to our investigation that was mentioned by him, or quite frankly we had an investigation, right. And any of the other two individuals … if they [made] any kind of admission, or overhear, whatever it was, I there to record that.”
⦁ Another newly disclosed document, notes from a strategy session before the FBI’s Jan. 24, 2017 interview with Flynn, show that FBI agents talk about how they could get Flynn to lie or be fired. In other words, up to that point he had not committed a crime and the FBI seemed to be trying to create one, his supporters say.
The government says in its motion to dismiss that when Flynn pleaded guilty “he did so without full awareness of the circumstances of the newly discovered, disclosed, or declassified information as to the FBI’s investigation of him.”