In December 2018, a well-regarded left-leaning think tank published a 4,500-word defense of the Steele dossier, the document central to the government’s charge that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with the Kremlin to influence the outcome of the presidential election.
Lawfare, a project of the Brookings Institution, defended the dossier as “a collection of raw intelligence” that was similar to forms used by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to transcribe information obtained by witnesses.
“The dossier holds up well over time, and none of it, to our knowledge, has been disproven,” wrote Chuck Rosenberg and Sarah Grant in a judgment that did not hold up well over time. “The Mueller investigation has clearly produced public records that confirm pieces of the dossier. And even where the details are not exact, the general thrust of Steele’s reporting seems credible in light of what we now know about extensive contacts between numerous individuals associated with the Trump campaign and Russian government officials.”
That column was just one of hundreds of collusion propaganda articles disguised as think pieces from a respectable Washington, D.C. public policy center. With the distinguished imprimatur of the Brookings Institution, articles would quickly permeate the media—both social and traditional—to legitimize the concocted Russian collusion storyline.
For example, prior to the April 2019 release of the Mueller report, Lawfare published a lengthy primer advising the press on how to handle the long-awaited document. The column, authored by Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare’s editor-in-chief, implored the media “not to screw up” its coverage.
Wittes also is a BFF of James Comey, the disgraced former FBI director and chief architect of the collusion hoax. (Comey is a contributor to Lawfare.) Wittes was the anonymous source for a May 2017 New York Times article that disclosed details of Comey’s private dinners with the president prior to his firing. It was part of the Beltway spin to buttress Mueller’s appointment and subsequent two-year persecution of Team Trump; Mueller’s gang of partisan prosecutors, however, could not find evidence of collusion despite Lawfare’s nonstop assurances that such proof existed.
It’s safe to say that Lawfare acted as the Adam Schiff of the blogosphere, juicing the media with pseudo-legalese about any collusion-related case. “The Wall Begins to Crumble,” shouted a July 2017 column on the infamous Trump Tower meeting. “Such stuff can crumble the mortar of the strongest walls—and the ‘no collusion’ wall was never a strong one to begin with,” Wittes wrote.
But pimping for Comey’s collusion fairy tale also involved smearing officials attempting to expose his malfeasance. Lawfare has targeted Attorney General William Barr and Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) among others.
“The central irony of the memo prepared by House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes, we now know, is that it tried to deceive the American people in precisely the same way that it falsely accused the FBI of deceiving the FISA Court,” wrote David Kris in February 2018. “The Nunes memo was dishonest. And if it is allowed to stand, we risk significant collateral damage to essential elements of our democracy.”
Nunes’ memo, however, was proven to be correct. (Kris later was appointed by the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to offer guidance on how to clean up the FISA process. LOL.)
Lawfare contributors such as Wittes and Susan Hennessey often were cited in news coverage as collusion “experts,” earning hits on cable news and retweets by their fellow #TheResistance soldiers: Hennessey is a CNN national security analyst.
“In the Trump era, [Lawfare] has at once lost its cachet in the highest echelons of government and become relevant to a far larger audience as the writers train their expertise on the biggest controversies of the new presidency,” cooed the New York Times magazine in 2017. “Lawfare contributors still have deep ties throughout the national-security and foreign-service career ranks, and many posts reflect their shared concerns about Trump and his team.”
But Brookings appears to have had a bigger investment in perpetuating the collusion hoax than just gaining new-found fame and respect for its contributors. Documents related to a defamation case against Christopher Steele show that the Democratic political operative was in cahoots with Strobe Talbott, the then-president of Brookings, in 2016 to get the dossier to all the right people.
According to reporting by the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross, Talbott, a longtime Clinton loyalist, called Steele in August 2016 to inquire about his Trump dirt-digging project. They connected again a few days before the election. “Steele telephone[s] Talbott on 2nd or 3rd November 2016, and Talbott asks for copies of the memoranda to discuss with John Kerry and other officials at the State Department,” court documents revealed.
Steele followed up with Talbott days later. “Dear Strobe, I know this is not straight forward but we need to discuss the package we delivered to you the other week, and sooner the better,” Steele texted Talbott on November 12, 2016. “What you thought of it, what you did with it, how we (both) should handle it and the issue it highlights going forward etc.”
It’s unknown what Talbott did with the dossier next. As Ross pointed out, Fiona Hill, Trump’s onetime Russia advisor and later an impeachment witness, testified that Talbott showed her a copy of the dossier in January 2017; Hill was a director at Brookings at the time. (Talbott left Brookings in October 2017.)
Nunes, for his part, wants more information about Brookings’ connections with Steele and its role in peddling the Russian collusion fiction.
“We now see direct links between the Brookings [Institution] leadership and the creation, possibly, of the Steele dossier,” Nunes told Fox Business News’ Maria Bartiromo this week. “I think there are real questions that need to be answered here about what on earth was the president of Brookings doing texting back and forth to Steele? They’ve got a lot to answer for.” Nunes explained that for the past four years, Lawfare has “defended the dirty cops.”
But Lawfare—and Brookings—did more than that. The organization helped perpetrate one of the biggest frauds in political history on the American people. They misled the country, attempted to destroy an elected president, manipulated news coverage, and defamed innocent people in the process while covering up the real scandal. Just like every other accomplice in Obamagate, it’s long past time for answers—and accountability.