Americans Deserve a Full Hearing on the Trump-Russia Hoax

The House Intelligence Committee closed its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, concluding there is “no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.” Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who led the committee’s probe, said his team interviewed 73 witnesses and reviewed more than 300,000 documents over the past 14 months.

But the media overlooked one damning nugget. The committee report disputes a key finding by President Obama’s intelligence team that Vladimir Putin and his regime “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.” According to Conaway, trained analysts examined the underlying documents of the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (which remain classified) and he said “the piece about Putin’s purported preference for Trump, we think, is not supported by the evidence. We disagree with them.”

Then why did the Intelligence Community make that claim? “That [IC review] started in early December and was finished in January, coinciding with an attack on the Trump presidency throughout that timeframe, and seemed to underpin that narrative that somehow Putin had more effect on the election than he should have, and delegitimize the Trump presidency,” Conaway told Tucker Carlson on Fox News. “That was a part of that narrative.”

Translation: Days before Trump’s inauguration, known political operatives—FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper—released a report with the imprimatur of the world’s most powerful intelligence apparatus to bolster the pernicious plotline that Putin helped Trump win the election and was henceforth an illegitimate president.

Considering the shameful post-election conduct by top Obama officials, including Comey and Brennan, and the possibility that Clapper leaked information to the press after he briefed Trump on the IC report, is anyone surprised? How many rats do we have to smell before we fumigate the nest? When will Americans get clear answers, and when will people publicly be held accountable for their role in propagating this ruse?

It doesn’t look like anytime soon. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is now considering a request by the House Judiciary Committee for a second special counsel to look into this mess, insisting the Justice Department is not “capable of investigating these fact patterns in a fashion likely to garner public confidence.” Sessions indicated he prefers allowing his department’s inspector general to take the lead. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday asked Sessions for a second special counsel to work with Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Pardon my French, but WTF?

Before time potentially runs out on a Republican-led Congress, GOP lawmakers must hold public hearings to expose how the Obama Administration hatched and executed the Trump-Russia election conspiracy, which the press then propagandized and weaponized. This needs to be done without delay. And it needs to happen whether or not Sessions names another special counsel.

Here’s why: For nearly two years, the nation has been consumed by what is quite possibly the biggest scam—and scandal—in American political history. The Trump-Russia hoax has monopolized news coverage, dominated the attention of the nation’s top lawmakers, and led to a costly, freewheeling investigation that is destroying people’s reputations and livelihoods without any proof yet that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump were in cahoots before November 2016. Robert Mueller’s investigation has outraged and distracted an easily outraged and distractible president, prompted the resignations of key aides, and handcuffed the federal government’s top lawyer. He is now subpoenaing Trump’s business empire for documents related to Russia and “other topics,” the New York Times reports.

But the most odious purpose of continuing to peddle and “investigate” the Trump-Russia fantasy is to obfuscate the real scandal: Top officials in the Obama Administration collaborated with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Democratic National Committee to torpedo Donald Trump’s candidacy and undermine his presidency after he won.

Thanks to investigations by the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, we know that the Obama Justice Department used a politically funded and preposterous “dossier” to win the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s approval to eavesdrop on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, just a few weeks before the election and without revealing the document was produced by the rival campaign.

The dossier was also used to plant news articles written by activist-journalists to sow public suspicion about the Trump campaign working with the Russians to influence the election’s outcome. (At least one article was then used as evidence on the FISA application for Page.) And it’s likely that the dossier and subsequent surveillance was used by Obama chiefs to justify the unmasking of Trump campaign aides in intelligence reports. Text messages between FBI officials have exposed serious political bias, and several Justice Department bigwigs have been outed for questionable political activity, media leaks, and ties to the firm that produced the dossier. Mueller’s team is compromised.

But despite all the evidence of malfeasance, Obama loyalists and apologists in the media—some who carry around mini figurines of the former president to demonstrate their fealty—have done little to demand answers about what happened.

Instead of chasing down Christopher Steele or Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson or Peter Strzok or Susan Rice, reporters are chasing down Florida grandmothers who attended Trump campaign rallies. With the exception of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and writers Andrew McCarthy and Sara Carter, very little in-depth coverage has been given to this scandal. Traditional news outlets have been complicit from the very beginning in raising the temperature of the Trump-Russia fever dream and continue to give the Obama administration cover, just like they did during the Benghazi terrorist scandal and IRS targeting scandal.

Congress should not allow it to happen again.

Perhaps the Senate should convene a select committee, but whatever the format is, it needs to happen fast. Democrats are hoping the clock runs out on the Republican majority in Congress; if that occurs, we’ll never get the truth about what happened at the Obama White House and Justice Department in the months before and after the November 2016 election.

The roster of potential witnesses is long. Here is my personal short-list:

  • Christopher Steele: The ex-British spy was the author of the dossier. Without his handiwork, there is no Trump-Russia chimera. Since it’s possible Steele was paid by the FBI—i.e., American tax dollars—and is now the subject of a criminal referral, he has some explaining to do. How did he collect the information contained in the dossier? What was his relationship with the FBI? What led to his termination as a source by the FBI? Was he paid by anyone associated with the Russian government?
  • Glenn Simpson: The Fusion GPS principal should explain publicly how he came in contact with the FBI, what his firm’s relationship was with the agency, and if he leveraged FBI contacts to pitch news stories to the media. Most important, Simpson should explain his connection to Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who famously met with Donald Trump, Jr. in June 2016. Simpson met with Veselnitskaya before and after her Trump Tower meeting. Why? Since this meeting is major grist for the Trump-Russia rumor mill and Trump, Jr. has been questioned about the brief encounter, it’s imperative that Simpson explain his role in possibly setting up the president’s son to meet with the Russian lawyer.
  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz: This is where the story began: The alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s email system by Russian operatives. Yet Schultz, the DNC chief at the time, refused to turn over the server to the FBI for inspection. Why? Since mid-2016, the media and the anti-Trump mob have relied on a dubious report from a private cybersecurity company with ties to the same law firm that retained Fusion GPS.  Plenty of questions here.
  • James Comey, John Brennan, James Clapper: This triumvirate should explain the specific intelligence that led them to conclude that Putin influenced the election in favor of Donald Trump. Also, they should justify why they purportedly “unmasked” Americans in classified reports and defend leaks of classified information to the media. The three also should be scolded harshly for their unprofessional and provocative politicking over the past year. It is inexcusable.
  • Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr, James Baker: Answer everything. Defend the texts, the politicking, the leaking, the connection between Ohr, a top DOJ official, and his wife, a Fusion GPS employee. And tell us who at the top was giving the orders. (Attorney General Jeff Sessions is now considering a recommendation to fire McCabe based on an internal investigation.)
  • Carter Page: The target of the Obama administration’s secret spy mission should talk about how this has impacted his personal and professional life. Despite being surveilled for suspicious activity for a year, Carter is a free man, giving interviews and suing news organizations for defamation. Worst foreign agent ever.
  • Shailagh Murray: Murray was Obama’s senior communications advisor when all this went down. Murray’s husband, Neil King, worked with Glenn Simpson at the Wall Street Journal. After the election, King went to work for Fusion GPS. Was Murray the conduit between the White House, Fusion GPS and the media? How much of Fusion’s bidding in the press was Murray doing in the summer and fall of 2016?

I think that’s a good start.

Of course, there are plenty of other folks that Americans should hear from: Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and John Kerry. The FISC judges. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Perhaps the publishers of the Washington Post and the New York Times and owners of CNN to answer for their egregious, prodigious reporting on the Trump-Russia scheme, and how their coverage may have aided the attempted political annihilation of a sitting president and fueled one of the most destructive political environments in U.S. history.

Years from now, perhaps an enterprising researcher will develop a model to evaluate how much time and money was diverted away from serious issues to focus on what now appears to be a colossal hoax unrivaled in the annals of U.S. presidential campaigns. But for now, we are mired in a nonstop loop of leaks, accusations, tweets, indictments, opinion columns, and cable news tirades all serving as a collective life-support system to keep alive the anti-Trump mob’s singular hope of taking down the man it despises.

Americans are exhausted. We are angry. We deserve answers. So, Congress, get to work. And don’t screw it up.

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Photo credit: Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images

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