Attorney General William P. Barr is wasting no time in getting to the bottom of the origins of the Russian-Trump campaign collusion investigation. He is reported to have selected John H. Durham, the United States Attorney in Connecticut, to serve as the lead prosecutor for this purpose. Mr. Durham (pictured above) will be investigating the circumstances surrounding the FBI’s decision to open its sham “counter-intelligence” probe in the first place. This probe in turn led to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which concluded that there was no conspiracy or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians after nearly two years of fruitless searching for non-existent evidence and the expenditure of millions of dollars. The Attorney General is following through on the pledge he made during his congressional testimony last month to examine “the genesis and the conduct” of the F.B.I. inquiry and what he characterized as “spying on a political campaign.” He added, “To the extent there were any issues at the F.B.I., I do not view it as a problem that is endemic to the F.B.I. I think there was probably failure among a group of leaders there at the upper echelon.”
The current FBI Director, Christopher A. Wray, defended his agency and rejected the use of the term “spying” to describe its investigative activities, including surveillance. But this is more of a difference in semantics than substance. Thesaurus listed surveillance as its first synonym for the word “spying.” The substance of Mr. Durham’s investigation will involve the appropriateness of the FBI’s covert activities involving the Trump campaign, whatever label is used to describe them, and its reliance on the infamous Christopher Steele dossier in obtaining Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report dismissed the Steele dossier as “unverified.” Former FBI Director James Comey himself had called the dossier “salacious and unverified” only months after his FBI and the Justice Department had relied on the dossier in applying to the FISA court on October 16, 2016 for the first surveillance warrant. The first application, with the oxymoronic heading “Verified Application,” represented that the FBI had assessed “Source #1” (i.e., former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele) to be “reliable.” It said the FBI was “unaware of any derogatory information pertaining to Source #1.” Yet, the FBI knew this was not true months before it signed off on the first FISA application. Then-senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, whose wife worked for the outfit Fusion GPS that had hired Steele to obtain dirt on Donald Trump, testified to congressional investigators last year about his briefings to senior FBI and Justice Department officials during the summer of 2016. These briefings occurred several months before the first FISA application. Mr. Ohr had told these officials about his direct contacts with Steele, during which Steele expressed political bias and animus towards Mr. Trump. Mr. Ohr also had discussed with the officials his understanding that Steele was working on opposition research connected to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. None of that specific information was included in the first FISA application for a surveillance warrant or the subsequent applications for renewals.
Mr. Durham clearly has his work cut out for himself and any team that he assembles to investigate the apparent wrong-doing at the upper echelons of the FBI and the Justice Department. Fortunately, he has the right experience and credibility for the job. He conducted special investigations during the administrations of both parties, including of the alleged torture of terrorism suspects during the Bush administration, which Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder asked him to further pursue. Although President Trump chose Mr. Durham as his nominee for the U.S. Attorney position, Mr. Durham has a long-standing reputation that the Washington Post once described “as apolitical.” The Senate confirmed his nomination unanimously in 2018. Connecticut’s two Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, had recommended Mr. Durham for the Connecticut U.S. Attorney post, stating at the time that “John Durham has earned immense respect as a no-nonsense, fierce, and fair prosecutor.” Senator Blumenthal is now complaining that the Durham investigation is “a politically motivated distraction” that “threatens to sully his reputation as a straight-shooting, serious, smart prosecutor. It’s a waste of his talent.” Blumenthal’s broadside against the Durham investigation even before it gets going in earnest is a lame attempt to put Mr. Durham in a no-win situation.
Mr. Durham’s work will build on the findings of the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, who is expected to issue his report shortly. The inspector general has been looking into the Justice Department’s and the FBI’s “compliance with legal requirements, and with applicable Justice Department and FBI policies and procedures, in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person,” presumably Carter Page. Mr. Horowitz has also been examining what the Justice Department and FBI knew “at the time the applications were filed from or about an alleged FBI confidential source” (presumably Christopher Steele and his unverified dossier).
Attorney General Barr’s decision to launch a full-fledged investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Russia-Trump campaign collusion probe fiasco has taken on new urgency in light of recent reporting by The Hill’s contributor John Solomon. Mr. Solomon has revealed new information about what the FBI knew or should have known regarding Steele’s partisan agenda that goes beyond the Ohr testimony mentioned above. According to Mr. Solomon’s May 9th report, “Newly unearthed memos show a high-ranking government official who met with Steele in October 2016 determined some of the Donald Trump dirt that Steele was simultaneously digging up for the FBI and for Hillary Clinton’s campaign was inaccurate, and likely leaked to the media.” He cited a memo and hand-written notes that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec had prepared around the same time as her meeting with Steele.
Mr. Solomon reported in another of his articles two days earlier that these materials in which Ms. Kavalec described her October 11, 2016 meeting with Christopher Steele show the true partisan motive behind the Steele dossier. According to Mr. Solomon’s description of what Ms. Kavalec wrote about the meeting, “the Hillary Clinton campaign-funded British intelligence operative admitted that his research was political and facing an Election Day deadline.” The unverified dossier was used only 10 days later by the FBI and Justice Department in justification of the first application for the FISA surveillance warrant. They continued to use the dossier as justification for renewing the warrant three more times.
Moreover, Ms. Kavalec cast serious doubt on Steele’s motives in notes that Mr. Solomon was able to see and for which he provided a link. She described Steele’s comments about his contacts with the media and his claim that he was “managing” four priorities — “Client needs, FBI, WashPo/NYT, source protection.” Steele’s direct client for the Trump dossier project was Fusion GPS, the firm that in turn was being paid to find dirt on Mr. Trump by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
We do not know for sure to whom at the FBI, if anyone, Ms. Kavalec communicated her observations regarding her meeting with Steele. Curiously, the first FISA application itself said that the “status” of the “target,” Carter Page, was “determined in or about October 2016 from information provided by the U.S. Department of State.” Ms. Kavalec worked for the State Department, met with Steele on October 10, 2016 and shortly thereafter passed on “information” she thought might be useful in an e-mail dated October 13, 2016 to government officials. Those government officials’ names were redacted.
Mr. Solomon has reported that Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and ranking member of its Subcommittee on Government Operations, said “he had confirmed with U.S. officials that Kavalec’s memo was forwarded to the FBI in the Oct. 13, 2016, email.” Perhaps that explains why the FBI has been going to great lengths to keep the contents of Ms. Kavalec’s memo as secret as possible once its existence became publicly known as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation by Citizens United. The FBI retroactively applied the classified label of “secret” to the memo on April 25, 2019 and redacted large portions. The FBI does not want the public to view the entire memo for more than two decades. It inserted a note to declassify on 12/31/2041!
The Democrats and their hate-Trump friends in the media are doing everything they can to discredit Attorney General Barr’s reputation because they are afraid of what his investigation into the origins of the Russian collusion hoax will turn up. He did well in choosing the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut, John H. Durham, to lead the investigation. After all, Connecticut’s two Democrat senators have vouched for his reputation as “a no-nonsense, fierce, and fair prosecutor.” Then again, Senator Blumenthal is already setting up Mr. Durham as another fall guy, along with Attorney General Barr, if his findings are damaging to the anti-Trump cause. Blumenthal, like his Democrat colleagues, have proven time and again that their willingness to trash a public servant’s reputation for partisan reasons knows no bounds. They are shameless hypocrites.