We are three years into the biggest political scandal in American history and former President Barack Obama has yet to be asked about his role in orchestrating the international subterfuge that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with the Kremlin to rig the 2016 presidential election.
Not one journalist has posed a single question to Obama about what officials in his White House knew—or when they knew it—despite multiple ongoing investigations by the Justice Department and on Capitol Hill. The more than decade-long media swoon for the 44th president continues unabated.
But Attorney General William Barr might do the work that the news media refuses to do.
In an interview with Fox News host Bill Hemmer on Friday, Barr indicated his office is looking into “some very strange developments” that occurred between the election and Inauguration Day.
One of these events, Barr told Hemmer, was the meeting on January 6, 2017 between President-elect Trump, his transition team, and Obama’s top intelligence chiefs, including former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers.
One question that Barr and his team should press is why did President Obama, in a meeting the day before, apparently give his blessing for the FBI director to warn the incoming president about the most outlandish accusation contained in the Steele dossier, one that remains unproven to this day. And it could lead to more questions about the handling of the dossier in the Obama White House weeks before Donald Trump was sworn in as president.
On January 5, 2017, Comey and Clapper met with Obama and his senior team—including National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Vice President Joe Biden and deputy Attorney General Sally Yates—in the Oval Office. The ostensible purpose of the meeting was to review the newly drafted intelligence community report that claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in the 2016 election to “denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electibility and potential presidency.” The assessment also concluded that Putin had a “clear preference” for Trump.
But another agenda was in the works: Concocting the plan to tell Trump the following day that the Russians had proof he engaged in perverse sexual behavior while visiting that country a few years prior.
The “salacious” material, as Comey would later call it, makes up a good chunk of the first installment of the Steele dossier, a collection of unsubstantiated allegations produced by Christopher Steele, a political operative paid by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign to smear Donald Trump. (Here it’s important to note that Obama’s political action committee paid Perkins Coie, the law firm that was used as a pass-through for Fusion GPS’ opposition research, nearly $800,000 in 2016.)
As Comey explained in a December 2018 interview with MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace, Clapper told Obama about their plan to present the juicy news to Trump on January 6 at Trump Tower in New York. “There’s some additional material that is of a difficult nature and we’ve decided that we have to brief the incoming president about it,” Clapper told Obama, according to Comey. “It involves sexual allegations, an allegation he was involved with prostitutes in Moscow, that images of that were captured by the Russians so they’d be in a position to coerce the new president and we think we have to tell the incoming president.”
Clapper was referencing Steele’s wild claim that the Russians had “kompromat,” or compromising material, that could be used to extort Trump. Steele alleged that Trump had rented a suite at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton in 2013 and hired “prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him,” and that recordings of the kinkiness were in the hands of the Russians.
When Obama asked who would tell Trump about the so-called “pee tape,” Clapper pointed to Comey and said, “Jim is gonna do it.”
President Obama then turned to Comey and reportedly raised and lowered both eyebrows, “like a Groucho Marx thing.” Comey said he then “heard in his head, ‘you poor bastard.’” (Comey hears lots of imaginary conversations in his head.) Comey also describes this interaction, although somewhat differently, in his book.
Now think about this. At that time, the United States faced real security threats from around the world, including Iran and North Korea, and the war in Syria was causing an international refugee crisis. ISIS-linked terrorists had just murdered a dozen people at a Christmas festival in Berlin; Comey’s agency had issued a warning a few days before Christmas about possible ISIS terrorist attacks on American churches.
Further, Comey’s FBI had been investigating four of Trump’s campaign associates—including his incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn—since the previous summer amid suspicions they were conspiring with Russia to throw the election to Trump.
But instead of Obama’s team discussing how to prep the incoming president on any of these matters and acting in the best interest of the country, they plotted how Comey could intentionally rattle Trump with a preposterous charge of sexual deviancy made by a British operative who had been hired by Trump’s political enemies.
And “No Drama Obama” let him.
Comey’s—and perhaps Obama’s—mission would soon be accomplished. Details of that meeting were immediately leaked to CNN, which aired an explosive story on January 10, 2017 that top intelligence officials warned the president-elect that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information” about Trump. (Barr also said in the Fox News interview that he is investigating leaks to the media related to the briefing.)
Why did the sitting president give the green light to his FBI director to alarm the incoming president with bogus tales of Russian prostitutes and golden showers? After all, this had nothing to do with a pending investigation or a legitimate national security threat. (This could also pose a legal problem for Susan Rice. In a February 2018 letter to Congress, Rice’s lawyer said, “there was no discussion of Christopher Steele or the Steele dossier” in that meeting.)
So, why didn’t Obama stop Comey?
Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, might have revealed the reason in a press briefing the day after the CNN story aired and BuzzFeed posted the dossier in full.
“The president-elect and his team are suggesting that the accusations that are being made are totally unfounded, that there’s no basis for them,” Earnest told the White House press corps on January 11, 2017. “This president has been in a situation in which he has been criticized in an utterly false, baseless way. And I’m, of course, referring to the president’s birthplace. There were a wide variety of the president’s critics who were suggesting and propagating conspiracy theories that somehow the president wasn’t born in the United States.”
Trump was a prolific peddler of the claim that Obama wasn’t born in the United States.
Is there a possibility that the January 6, 2017 ambush by Comey was Obama’s revenge for Trump’s “birther” comments? Is there a possibility that the entire Trump-Russia election collusion hoax was meant as payback for Trump? Will any journalists bother to ask?
Probably not. But it appears that William Barr, thankfully, just might.
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