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With the continued and accelerated unraveling of the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, the search continues for the very first threads that, when pulled, began the process of its disintegration.
In retrospect, it’s a miracle the hoax didn’t work. Some powerful forces converged: the Department of Justice, the FBI, virtually every outlet in the legacy news media, billionaires, academia, even Hollywood and late-night comedians. I can remember distinctly a sinking feeling in late spring 2017 as the stories piled up while nothing and nobody seemed to stand in the way of the effort to reverse the 2016 election.
There were three principle plotlines advanced to reverse the election. The first was the Hillary Clinton campaign’s brazen effort to sway the Electoral College. The campaign pushed initially for an “intelligence briefing” of the electors that we can reasonably suspect would have included the now-disproven dossier. Clinton’s allies also engaged in a comprehensive campaign to harass electors by inundating with them thousands of emails, phone calls, and videos. Death threats were reported. This plot failed when an anonymous bureaucrat balked at declassifying the dossier’s contents in December 2016. Even so, two electors representing hundreds of thousands of votes did indeed succumb to the pressure.
The second plotline was the 25th Amendment plot between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe. That effort went as far as identifying two members of the cabinet as potential co-conspirators and making plans secretly to record audio of the president meant to recruit the remaining cabinet members to present a motion for Congress to remove the president for mental incompetency. That plot appears to have been abandoned when the deputy attorney general appointed a special counsel a few days later.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller constituted the third plotline. Mueller’s team appears quickly to have recognized that the Russia collusion case was a hoax and instead embarked on a strategy to harass the president and pressure witnesses using harsh tactics and threats. It was obvious even to a presiding federal judge that Mueller had more interest in getting a witness to “compose” than to “sing.”
At the same time, Mueller’s team made some very provocative moves that appeared intended to tempt Trump into interfering with or firing the special counsel. In particular, Mueller’s assistant and Rod Rosenstein reportedly engineered the outrageous raid on the office of Trump’s private attorney, Michael Cohen.
The Mueller plot to remove Trump eventually failed because Trump resisted the temptation to fire the special counsel, which would have elicited comparisons to Richard Nixon and the “Saturday Night Massacre,” leading perhaps to charges of obstruction of justice. And, in spite of overwhelming heavy-handed tactics, the special counsel failed to score any significant witness “flips” that could overcome the absence of actual evidence. After a few months, the Mueller probe had to contend with an unraveling narrative that was the very pretext for the investigation.
The Counter-Resistance Fights Back
Within the vast bowels of the government, there remained a small counter-resistance, a group of bureaucrats who suspected the truth about the Trump-Russia collusion narrative. A few key facts began to shake loose and suddenly information requests and subpoenas from Congress seemed particularly well-targeted. Three stories in particular emerged in fall 2017 to unravel the tapestry of the hoax.
The House deserves credit for the first thread: The discovery of the source of funding of the dossier. On October 21, 2017, the House Intelligence Committee filed a motion in court demanding the bank records of Fusion GPS to find out who paid for the Trump-Russia dossier. Rather than let the committee break the news, the insiders leaked their own version of the story. October 24, 2017, the Washington Post broke the story that the Clinton campaign paid for the research that led to the Russia dossier.
The House gets credit for the second thread as well. On August 24, 2017, committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), issued a subpoena to the FBI and the Justice Department to produce any and all documents relating to their relationship with former British spy Christopher Steele and his so-called dossier on Trump.
As with the previous thread, the cornered deep state bureaucrats leaked the response to the press before complying with the legal process so they could manage the initial spin to the public. On December 12, 2017, the Wall Street Journal introduced America to Justice Department attorney Bruce Ohr and revealed how Ohr met secretly with Steele. This story eventually led to the revelation that Clinton campaign money was used to hire Ohr’s wife and that Ohr promoted his wife’s research to the FBI in violation of, well, a ton of rules.
Democrats Get More Than They Bargained For
The third thread, however, has perhaps the most interesting origin story: the revelations of the text messages between now disgraced FBI counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page.
It began with a Democratic congressman demanding the Justice Department inspector general look into claims of bias at the FBI during the Clinton email scandal. The results were not what the congressman hoped.
On December 2, 2017, the New York Times broke the story that Mueller removed Strzok from his team as a result of biased text messages. According to the story, Mueller “removed a top FBI agent this summer from his investigation into Russian election meddling after the Justice Department’s inspector general began examining whether the agent had sent text messages that expressed anti-Trump political views, according to three people briefed on the matter.”
The Times story added: “The inspector general’s office at the Justice Department said that as part of a larger inquiry it was conducting into how the FBI had handled investigations related to the 2016 election.” The story further noted that the Inspector General “announced the beginning of the investigation in January” of 2017.
That thread, tracing backward in time, relates to this announcement:
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today that, in response to requests from numerous Chairmen and Ranking Members of Congressional oversight committees, various organizations, and members of the public, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will initiate a review of allegations regarding certain actions by the Department of Justice (Department) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in advance of the 2016 election.
My research identified two letters that may have been the genesis for the inspector general’s investigation that turned up the Strzok-Page texts. The first is a letter dated November 2, 2016 from Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), an unsung hero of the Trump-Russia collusion hoax counter-resistance. The second is this letter from Representatives Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), ranking Democrats on the House Oversight and Judiciary committees (respectively).
Thus, the discovery of the Strzok-Page text messages appears to trace back to a demand by Democrats to look into whether the FBI and Justice Department interfered in the 2016 election. Spoiler alert: they did—and we’re all so grateful to Cummings and Conyers for helping Americans uncover the fact.
Photo Credit: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images