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On April 10, Attorney General William Barr got to the heart of the Russia collusion hoax in a delicate and understated manner.
“Well, I guess—I think spying did occur, yes,” he told a congressional panel. “I think spying did occur. . . . The question was whether it was adequately predicated.”
The term “spying” is actually a euphemism for what really happened. In reality, starting an investigation to create suspicion and a fountain of leaks to frame political opponents to win an election is just the kind of thing Putin did in Russia to subvert what little democracy started to take root after the fall of the old Soviet government. In a way, framing somebody for treason is worse than treason because of the damage it does to the rule of law.
There are two competing narratives for the “predicate” for spying on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign: (1) The Papadopoulos pretext and, (2) the obvious truth. If you want to know why the Left is melting down over Barr’s “spying” comments, it’s very simple: the real “predicate” for spying on Trump is a phony intelligence report commissioned by Hillary Clinton to win an election.
But that’s not the story we’ve been fed.
The lie would be completely irrelevant except that the truth is so much more relevant. The Trump-Russia collusion hoax did not begin with a May 2016 conversation between Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and Australian diplomat and staunch Clinton ally Alexander Downer. In fact, it began with Hillary Clinton’s successful campaign dirty trick: she paid a subcontractor to draft and promote a smear disguised as intelligence to trigger an FBI investigation of her political opponent. It’s that simple. The get-Trump crowd backed into the Papadopoulos story as a pretext.
Similarly, the Mueller report pushes the Papadopoulos pretext: “Papadopoulos had suggested to a representative of that foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That information prompted the FBI on July 31, 2016, to open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.” It further told readers, “In late April 2016, Papadopoulos was told by London-based professor Joseph Mifsud, immediately after Mifsud ‘s return from a trip to Moscow, that the Russian government had obtained ‘dirt’ on candidate Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. One week later, on May 6, 2016, Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to candidate Clinton.”
The Mueller report completely glosses over several important questions in order to prop up the Papadopoulos pretext. First, it should be remembered that the emails the Russians supposedly hacked were from the DNC and Podesta, not Clinton. Papadopoulos made this point in his testimony before the House, “My recollection is that he said the Hillary Clinton emails. Not DNC, not Podesta, nothing like that.” Second, the FBI appears to have tried to plant its own evidence to justify starting the investigation.
John Solomon revealed this stunning revelation: weeks before the FBI supposedly opened an investigation into the Trump campaign for collusion, Stephen Halper, believed to be operating as an FBI informant, approached Papadopoulos with this line, “Oh, it’s great that Russia is helping you and your campaign, right George?” Solomon goes on to report that the FBI withheld Papadopoulos’s response from the FISA court, an emphatic denial, “I have no idea what the hell you are talking about…And I have nothing to do with that, so stop bothering me about it.” Solomon’s source confirmed that the FBI obtained the transcript of the Halper/Papadopoulos conversation but nevertheless withheld the exculpatory part from the FISA court in the request to spy on the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos also told Solomon that Halper had with him an attractive female companion who implied that she would have sex with Papadopoulos if he would confirm Halper’s theory.
Solomon went on to report, “’The truth is, the Papadopoulos predicate went into reversal, but rather than shut down the probe at that point, the bureau turned to other leads like Steele and Page without giving the court a full picture,’ one source said.”
Sequencing what happened in chronological order proves a useful tool for debunking the Papadopoulos pretext and other myths. That is how I disproved the conspiracy theory that Roger Stone had advance knowledge of a Wikileaks release. It was just a couple of big talkers guessing (incorrectly) about information that was already in the press. As another example, you’ve heard that Donald Trump joking about Russia releasing emails prompted the Russians to do just that. Trump made that joke on July 27, 2016. But Assange began releasing the DNC emails on July 22, 2017—five days earlier.
The FBI opened its counterintelligence probe against Trump on July 31, 2016—before it interviewed Downer about Papadopoulos. By then, the FBI had already begun receiving pieces of the Clinton-procured “dossier.” That dossier formed the basis for the all-important Carter Page surveillance. It’s ridiculous to argue that the dossier Clinton commissioned did not spark the FBI investigation. The Clinton team hired a trusted FBI informant (Christopher Steele) to prepare dummy intelligence reports which successfully triggered the FBI to launch an investigation into Trump.
Although there are literally thousands of moving parts and players in the Trump/Russia hoax, I have prepared a simple timeline below which clearly establishes what I just asserted.
March 1, 2016: Super Tuesday in the Republican Primary. Donald Trump establishes a delegate lead sufficient to make him the favorite for the nomination.
March 6, 2016: Papadopoulos is asked to join the Trump campaign as an adviser on foreign policy issues.
March 16, 2016: Wikileaks launches a searchable database of Clinton emails obtained legally through a FOIA request.
March 22, 2016: The Washington Post announces Papadopoulos is a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
March of 2016: Papadopoulos met “the Professor” in Italy in mid-March 2016.
April of 2016: The Observer reports, “Panama Papers Reveal Clinton’s Kremlin Connections.” The article recounts how the Panama papers tie the Podesta group to Russian money laundering operations. This very possibly is the “dirt” to which Mifsud referred 19 days later in the conversation with Papadopoulos. Perkins Coie retained Fusion GPS to begin working on the Trump/Russia project. Also in this same timeframe, Perkins Coie hired CrowdStrike, the firm that concluded Russia hacked the DNC servers. On April 26, “the Professor” (likely Mifsud) boasted to Papadopoulos that Moscow was in possession of juicy “dirt” on Hillary.” Mifsud reportedly introduced Papadopoulos via email to Ivan Timofeev, who works for a think tank close to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mifsud would later insist he had no contacts with the Russian Government itself, only a few academic figures, Timofeev being one such figure.
May 10, 2016: Papadopoulos had drinks with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer in Kensington Wine Rooms. Downer is a staunch Clinton ally. Downer was accompanied by a companion, Erika Thompson, who Papadopoulos later claimed was a member of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. Papadopoulos said the Russians might use some damaging material they had on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos is not alleged to have mentioned emails.
June 3, 2016: Donald Trump Jr. is approached by Rob Goldstone to set up what is now known as the infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting in which two Fusion GPS-associated Russians (Rinat Akhmetshin and Natalia Veselnitskaya) would meet with Donald Trump Jr. Fusion GPS claims it was a coincidence that it met with one of these Russians before and after the Trump Tower meeting. Fusion GPS also exchanged emails with the other Russian. Fusion GPS even supplied the materials and handouts for the meeting in question.
June 12, 2016: Julian Assange, of Wikileaks, announces plans to release a new batch of Clinton emails.
June 15, 2016: Crowdstrike publishes, “Bears in the Midst,” claiming to have evidence that the Russians hacked the DNC server. The claim remains in dispute to this day.
July 5, 2016: Steele went to his London office to meet with an FBI agent with whom he had an existing relationship to provide some of the early reports that would later form the dossier. This is also the day that Comey exonerates Clinton so the FBI can pivot to investigate Trump.
July 11 or 12, 2016: Halper unsuccessfully attempts to get Papadopoulos to say that the Trump campaign is working with Russia.
July 22, 2016: Wikileaks begins releasing emails from the Democratic National Committee.
July 27, 2016: Donald Trump jokes that Russia should release emails Clinton deliberately destroyed. He’s referring to the emails from her private server, not the DNC emails.
July 31, 2016: According to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence minority report, the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.
August 2, 2016: FBI agents summarize an interview with Downer in which he recounts the May meeting with Papadopoulos.
February 2017: Mifsud meets with FBI to give his account of the Papadopoulos interactions.
November 1, 2017: Mifsud gives an interview to an Italian news agency. He claims the following: “I strongly deny any discussion of mine about secrets concerning Hillary Clinton. I swear it on my daughter. I don’t know anyone belonging to the Russian government: the only Russian I know is Ivan Timofeev, director of the think tank “Russian International affairs council.”
The Mueller team’s transparent attempt to distract from Clinton’s role in the origination of the Russia hoax reminds us that Jeannie Rhee, Clinton’s former attorney, worked on the Papadopoulos case for the Special Counsel. If the Mueller team is successful in convincing America that the hoax began as some kind of accident or miscommunication, it will have succeeded in derailing the assignment of accountability to law enforcement officials who played an indispensable role in Clinton’s political operation.
It feels like these dirty tricks are getting bigger and bolder. In 2018, the Democrats reprised the Russia hoax by using a sophisticated tech company to frame the Russians for interfering in the election for the open Alabama Senate seat. Was that the first time Democrats framed the Russians for election interference? Maybe not. The sheer scale and success of the Trump/Russia collusion hoax leads one to wonder whether we are entering a new normal in American politics in which law enforcement will make common cause with political allies to take down their opponents. Actually, the Justice Department’s interference in politics is nothing new (see here, here, and here).. It just gets bolder and bolder as our public servants inch closer to becoming our masters. The only question is whether it’s already too late to restore Constitutional control over the Justice Department. Because if we don’t, we will eventually have an American Putin.
Photo credit: Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images