That is in effect what the Republicans and Trump are calling the FBI and DOJ. The motive behind their allegations is painfully obvious; we will look into it below.
Totally independent of any on-going investigation, Washington politics and contemporary personalities, is there anything to the charge of barnstorming incompetence in the FBI and DOJ?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Unfortunately, because their embroilment in little kid “Confidential Magazine” titillation stories could very well turn out to be what allows Trump to walk free after the Mueller investigation ends.
* * *
I will never know who put it there.
But there it was.
Somebody must have used a ruler; the placement in the middle of my desk in the governor´s office was perfect. I couldn´t have missed it if I tried.
The report was from the governor´s Organized Crime Commission. The director was a retired FBI agent.
My duties for the governor centered on the legislature, not the Crime Commission. Somebody obviously wanted me to see the report anyway. I suspect he or she slipped the dossier to me knowing perfectly well what I would think.
I locked the door.
This is what was in the TOP SECRET report:
An informant was sitting in the bar at the county race track, recording conversations. Bourbon and Gatorade-fueled whispers; hot and steamy sex stories; backyard fence nodding and winking; bonkers innuendos; wild/wilder/wildest speculations; puerile jokes; idle chit chat.
Pure bullshit -- all of it.
The only organized crime was that one highly-disorganized, elderly-FBI agent was on the state payroll to collect and record crap. By now you figured something out: on top of everything else, he was a double-dipper.
I fired off a memo to the governor. I don´t believe it! What barnstorming idiocy. Please, give the taxpayers a break and get that jerk out of here!
Watching the Nunes memo affair unfold, the scurrilous racetrack crap incident from decades ago came roaring back. It was accompanied by this thought:
“Confidential Magazine” ... my god … absolutely nothing has changed.
* * *
In case you are from Mars or were in a coma, here is what happened last week:
The Nunes memo is a four-page memorandum written by Republican staff members of U.S. Representative Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Over objections from the intelligence community, with Trump´s approval the memo was declassified and released to the public on February 2, 2018.
Formally titled "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation," it alleges that the FBI "may have relied on politically motivated or questionable sources" to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant in the early phases of the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. We will get to those sources in a moment. A FISA warrant is what is needed to legally spy on a United States citizen suspected of violating national security.
The Republican/Trump/Nunes position was succinctly summarized by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. "The DOJ and FBI spied on American citizens associated with the Trump campaign based on the unverified claims made in a dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC. This is repugnant on every possible level."
The Democrats allege the Nunes Memo is simply an attempt by Trump and the Republicans to discredit the FBI and DOJ. The ultimate aim is to derail the Robert Mueller investigation of possible Russian/Trump collusion in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Ranking Democratic Intelligence member Adam Schiff gave the ante-Nunes Memo position. By releasing the Memo, he charged the Intelligence Committee “voted to put the president’s personal interests, perhaps their own political interests, above the national interests…I think we have crossed a deeply regrettable line in this committee.”
Regular readers of our blog know our position: Trump/Russian collusion may or may not have occurred. However,
(i) If it did occur, it did not determine the 2016 presidential election outcome. (See our post of January 10, 2017, "Why Hillary Lost. ´The Big Surprise´ -- Not The Russians -- Did It."
(ii) The entire Trump/Russian collusion issue is now a side show distracting from what needs to be featured center ring. To wit:
(iii) Donald Trump committed treason in aiding and abetting the enemy – 4,000 ISIS fighters and their family members –to escape in a U.S.-escorted convoy from the Syrian city of Raqqa which was surrounded by U.S. forces and their allies. (See our post of December 1, 2017, "Donald Trump: Je T´Accuse").
Let´s return to the Nunes memo affair.
* * *
The corner stone of the Memo was cited above, i.e., that the FBI “may have relied on politically motivated or questionable sources” to undertake its legal investigation of Trump/Russian collusion.
Answer: primarily what is called the Trump-Russia Dossier. It consists of 16 memos written June-December 2016 by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The Steele memos were published on Buzzfeed. Among other things, they alleged there was "an extensive conspiracy between Trump´s campaign and Kremlin"; that Russia has damaging information about Trump´s business interests; and that Russia had filmed Trump with prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow during the Miss Universe pageant in 2013.
Christopher Steele had been posted at the British embassy in Moscow. He left MI6 and now runs a private consultancy firm in London. The sources of information for his Trump/Russian collusion memos were said to be contacts in the Russian secret service.
We will explore shortly why the Steele memos are “questionable.” For now, why are the memos said to be “politically motivated”?
Originally, an opposition research firm commissioned the memos from Steele for an anti-Trump Super PAC. I suspect the PAC was Republican because after Trump won the Republican primaries, the research firm was hired by an anonymous Democratic Party supporter.
What gave the Steele memos any credibility in the first place?
A two-page summary of the memos was attached to a secret briefing on Russian election hacking submitted by the CIA, FBI and NSA to President Obama and president-elect Trump early in January 2016. The CIA included the summary because it was convinced that, given Steele´s solid professional reputation in the eyes of his MI6 employers, the allegations were credible. The existence and substance of the memos was subsequently "mysteriously" leaked publicly; NBC and CNN led the way.
Trump denied the memos´ veracity in a January 11 press conference: "I think it's a disgrace that information would be let out. I saw the information; I read the information outside of that meeting. It's all fake news. It's phony stuff. It didn't happen."
Russian President Vladimir Putin attacked the memos as "utter nonsense" made up by people who are "worse than prostitutes." He called Steele "some runaway crook from the MI6." He said the motive for leaking the memos was "to undermine the legitimacy of [Donald Trump]."
All of which leaves us where?
* * *
I hate to tell you boys and girls of the CIA, FBI and DOJ about this great big thing out there called life, but obviously somebody has to do it.
(1) There is a Steele I and a Steele II. Economic circumstances account for the difference.
Steele I was a MI6 agent working for the British government.
Steele II is a private consultant working for money.
Steele II was contracted to dig up dirt on Donald Trump. I don´t know how things work on Mars, but there is no way on earth that Steele was going to report back that he could not find anything. And so …
A bevy of unsubstantiated allegations was born; the he-said-that-she-said; unabashed, unabridged crawdading, i.e., ambiguous nonsense of maybe-this-maybe-that, on-the-one- hand-on-the-other. Steele´s memos were topped off by a red hot and throbbing sex escapade report that would have made "Confidential Magazine" editors blush with envy.
I read the Steele memos. They exhibit the same barnstorming hush-hush tattler idiocy I saw decades ago in the TOP SECRET governor´s Organized Crime Commission report.
Steele I´s good reputation has nothing to do with Steele II. Owing to his changed economic situation, the latter was a different guy -- an operator out there hustling a buck. Get it, CIA? FBI? DOJ?
CIA, FBI, DOJ, I know you think I am wrong. You don´t make the Steele I/Steele II distinction because you can´t: you have no analysis. You only have information. More to follow.
Why am I so convinced that you, the FBI, CIA and DOJ, are professional amateurs?
(2) The way you presented the summary of the Steele memos to President Obama and President-Elect Trump speaks volumes ...
For readers who have never worked for a chief executive, I need to explain something. If you want to get in to see governors and presidents, the proper way to do it is to spell out precisely why you want an appointment. You cannot tell a president you want to see him to discuss climate warming and then in the meeting switch to corruption in Iraq. Sticking to the agenda is the professional approach; it is also common sense because chief executives´ time is limited.
True, chief executives are used to abrupt switches of topics in conversations with ordinary citizens; the executives don´t get mad because it happens all the time -- the citizens do not know better. Top government employees, on the other hand, are expected to not interject off-the-wall themes. When they do, I can tell you from experience that a chief executive always has one and the same instantaneous reaction: ambushed...
Appending the two-page summary of the Steele memos to a presidential briefing on Russian hacking was, to put it mildly, amateurish. Obama and VP Joe Biden had the proper reaction to the appendix: so what, exactly, in hell am I supposed to do with this?
Trump, on the other hand, understandably hit the ceiling. He had been called to a meeting to discuss one thing and was subjected to a Lieutenant-Columbo, oh -- by the way switcharoo. Ambushed.
(3) CIA, FBI, DOJ: you are neck-deep in the quicksand of your own garbage. You do not know the difference between facts -- a tangible, put-it-in-my-hand video of Trump with prostitutes -- and opinion, hearsay, bad jokes, i.e., somebody said that somebody said that Trump was with prostitutes.
Your confusion of Steele I, the MI6 agent, with Steele II, the have-gun-will travel operator, is at the bottom of the Steele memo affair. On a deeper level, the affair reflects your substitution of information for knowledge – of mistaking description for analysis.
(4). FBI, DOJ, CIA et al, I submit the real purpose of your secret briefing of Obama and Trump on Russian hacking was not a briefing. It was to housebreak the in-coming president, Donald Trump.
Better play ball, pal. We got secret stuff on you and your affairs, both business and private.
Of course, any chief executive worth his salt would smile, then dump the blackmailer on the first street corner. Which is why when pressed, DOJ et al, you say ... well, actually ... ah, it´s not us that has the information; it´s the Russians.
A video? Really? Where is it? When pressed further, you say, gosh, you know ... oh my ... in the end, those memos are only allegations, nothing more. But the man who wrote them is credible...
Amazing. Here you acknowledge (without being aware of it) you wasted President Obama´s and President-Elect Trump´s time with pure allegations submitted by a "credible source," Steele I, who no longer existed. To repeat, owing to life circumstances, Steele II, who purportedly wrote the memos, is a different guy. CIA, FBI, DOJ, Hillary Clinton, whoever: Steele knew how to mirror you, cater to you and your "Confidential" fantasies. That´s about it. His strategy for living is as old as the hills: feed their projections; then feed your bank account.
(5) Something in the Steele memos caught my eye. "TRUMP campaign insider reports recent DNC email leaks were aimed at switching SANDERS (protest) voters away from CLINTON and over to TRUMP."
The Russians, too, were said to be engaged in a Sanders-to-Trump conversion effort. "SENIOR KREMLIN FIGURE OUTLINES EVOLVING RUSSIAN TACTICS IN PRO-TRUMP, ANTI-CLINTON CAMPAIGN ... Educated youth to be targeted as protest (against CLINTON) and swing vote in attempt to turn them over to TRUMP."
Incredible. Run that one by your friendly neighborhood 13 year old; he or she will be happy to set you straight. Any attempt to convert Sanders supporters to Trump would be an abject waste of time and resources. Sanders supporters are NOT swing voters; they are -- for Trump at any rate -- hostile voters. If you know what you are doing in campaigns, hostile voters are the LAST group – not the FIRST -- to be approached.
Our post “Why Hillary Lost” explained at length a practical strategy for Trump to pursue: overload Sanders supporters with cognitive dissonance -- contradictory thoughts, conflicting emotions -- so that they would stay home. That is exactly what happened -- not as the outcome of any deliberate strategy by Trump or the Russians, but because of circumstances beyond their comprehension or control. Those circumstances in a nutshell: Hillary failed to consolidate her Democratic base.
Stayed home: as our post showed, abstention by Obama 2012/Sanders 2016 supporters in three states was what won the presidency for Trump. By all reports, Trump and the Russians were dumbfounded on election night precisely because they are not sophisticated in campaign methods that create cognitive dissonance in the opponent's camp. Indeed, instilling cognitive dissonance does not exist in their vocabulary, much less in their campaign toolbox. (As they read these words, they are still not sure what I am talking about.)
The reported attempt to switch Sanders supporters to Trump leaves us with three options:
(i) The Steele memos told the truth, in which case both the Trump camp and the Russians are wildly ignorant of the most rudimentary campaign principles and practices.
(ii) The memos did not tell the truth. They were dreamed up by Steele or somebody else (see below) who are babes in the woods of campaign land.
(iii) Both of the above.
(6) CIA, FBI, DOJ: We noted above that you have been caught in your own “Confidential Magazine” garbage. In an effort to get you to clean up -- to start focusing on the real world instead of barfly hearsay and teenage-machine-age babble, in brief: crap -- I offer the following case study:
Here´s a juicy tidbit from the Steele memos which is right up the alley of "Confidential Magazine":
"According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP´S (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite in the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and Mrs. OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ´golden showers´ (urination) show in front of him."
FBI, DOJ, CIA, et al: if I were Trump and were innocent, I would sue you so hard you wouldn´t come down in 50 years. That way, intelligence officers throughout the land would be put on notice: if in a secret report you engage in shameless rumor-mongering, you risk being tossed under a bus if the report is leaked publicly.
Sidebar: A Trump lawsuit is a nonstarter because oligarchs like Trump define power exclusively in terms of leverage. To wit:
At the start of January, National Intelligence Director James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and the intelligence community at large were undoubtedly rubbing their hands in glee, figuring they had leverage over Trump by possessing Steele´s secret, damning information.
But things took a nasty turn ...
Because it was so grotesque and unsubstantiated, Steele´s secret stuff went puff, evaporated when exposed to the full light of day. Trump now holds an ace: he COULD turn his defamers into accusers in open court -- something the intelligence community cannot tolerate. However, blackmail stories about golden showers and a threat of megabucks lawsuits work only if NOT exercised; once they are put into action and become known, the leverage they create is gone.
There you have it, FBI et al: your certain victory, your power, your control over Trump was reduced to a draw by the lack of investigative professionalism of the Steele memos.
(7) Frankly, the whole Steele affair smacks of a Russian chess move: "The Setup."
Let´s assume for the moment that Steele told the truth -- that he in fact spoke with Russian secret police officials and didn´t simply sit at home and write the memos off the top of his head, then laugh all the way to the bank. Now, what is to prevent those officials from getting together and dreaming up a collection of phony Trump stories, knowing they would be overheard and eventually explode to the everlasting humiliation of the CIA, FBI, and DOJ who ran with them?
If "The Setup" is what in fact happened, Steele II was conned, used, dumped. Also taken in were the opposition research firm that hired him; the Republican SUPER PAC for which the firm originally worked; the subsequent Democrat Party big shot who hired the firm; and finally the CIA, FBI and DOJ.
In 1994 I studied Russian at the Moscow State Linguistic University. The place was loaded with ex-KGB agents. Over the months I came to know them, saw how they thought, did things. Frankly, "The Setup" is my number one hypothesis. The hustler from London got hustled by the Russian secret service; the man on the make was made, had.
In the end, there is no reason to think that Steele was different from the FBI, DOJ, CIA agents who believed him: clumsy, naive.
(8) Did Steele, an Englishman, really write the memos or did somebody else? I lived over a year in London. The memos attributed to Steele consist entirely of American spellings as well as idiomatic expressions, e.g., the "scandal has legs." Keep this in mind, dear reader: the entire credibility -- as tenuous as it may be -- of the memos rests on the fact that SUPPOSEDLY a respected former English intelligence officer wrote them. If he didn´t, ah ... well ...
If Steele didn´t write the memos, who did? If somebody other than Steele was the author, the simple fact that he or she overlooked the British language factor is the telltale heart of a professional amateur. I´ll go ahead and string the beads: the FBI, CIA and DOJ are packed to the gills with such people.
I conclude this discussion with the following CNN report made in February 2017. It was obviously planted by U.S. intelligence agencies:
Washington. For the first time, US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent.
None of the newly learned information relates to the salacious allegations in the dossier. Rather it relates to conversations between foreign nationals. The dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals.
Sources would not confirm which specific conversations were intercepted or the content of those discussions due to the classified nature of US intelligence collection programs. But the intercepts do confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier, according to the officials.
The corroboration, based on intercepted communications, has given US intelligence and law enforcement "greater confidence" in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier as they continue to actively investigate its contents, these sources say.
FBI, CIA, DOJ: you still don´t get it. Nowhere do you explore the possibility that the meetings and conversations among Russians did indeed take place; however, they were following a script to mislead you. To illustrate the point: terrorists in Syria and Iraq may have held "secret" conversations about "secret" reunions, knowing full good and well their conversations were bugged. The United States then bombs the terrorist meeting site only to discover ... they bombed a wedding. The terrorists sit on a hill, watch the fireworks, laughing.
Boys and girls of the intelligence community: merely because you don´t know the difference between facts and statements – between reality and he-said-that-she-said crap -- does not mean we the American public -- which you so ardently disdain -- are naïve like you. You need to do only one thing to convince us of the veracity of the Steele memos: hand over the video of Trump with prostitutes in Moscow.
In your latest maneuvering to find a hammer to hold over Trump, you openly deny you have the video; however, you say you have corroboration of "some" of the Steele memos, thereby insinuating the Trump/whore romp took place. We will call that quaint maneuver what it is: guilt by transubstantiation.
To repeat: to clear yourselves of "Confidential Magazine" scandal mongering -- "the Russians won the election for trump" -- all you have to do is hand over the video.
The video: where is it?
Finally, FBI, CIA, DOJ: There is something else you can do to establish credibility. You claim you have corroborated some -- not all -- of the items in the Steele memos. Now, what items did you find that were incorrect/false? Go ahead -- make a list of the Steele memo errors, then publish it. Until you do, your "corroboration" statement is to be rejected out of hand.
Otherwise stated: for once, tell the WHOLE truth.
* * *
I hope that as a result of the Nunes Memo affair, the entire rumor-mongering superstructure erected by the intelligence community comes crashing down.
Tragically, one way for that to happen would be for Trump to walk free after the Mueller investigation ends. Freed on technicalities, that is to say, because of their hair-brained "Confidential Magazine" methodology, his pursuers would be drained of credibility.
I also hope that Trump is impeached. Russian collusion is not the issue.
By letting ISIS leave Raqqa, Trump committed treason.