[Editor’s note: Journalist Lee Smith recently spoke at the Freedom Center’s Wednesday Morning Club about his new book, The Plot Against the President. See the video and transcript below].
What first caught my attention when we started to see the noise, the different rumors seeping out about Donald Trump and some sort of strange connection to Russia, as Michael pointed out, I wrote a book called The Strong Horse, and so I looked very closely at the Arab press and how Arab governments how they put out different information, and this was precisely like that.
If you remember what happened during the Iran deal, when the Obama administration was using what a friend and colleague of mine, David Samuels, called in an article the Iran deal echo chamber, this was the same thing. They were replicating the exact same model. So I knew right away that all of this stuff about Donald Trump and Russia was nonsense, that and the fact that I grew up in New York City and I’ve heard Donald Trump’s words ringing in my ears for most of my adult life.
And there are many different things that can be said about Donald Trump, but the idea that one of the world’s biggest celebrities, that a man who was a regular on Page Six was actually somehow leading a secret life where he was in correspondence with Russians and doing bad things was preposterous.
The problem was, the distressing thing, we laugh about it, but the distressing thing was that this became, that this became this kind of operation, and it filled the public’s fear. Right? The people who injected this story — it’s a conspiracy theory — who injected this into our public sphere have done an incredible amount of damage.
I think what happens when you push a conspiracy theory into the press and into our public sphere for three years, it’s like polluting a river, but this is how we speak with each other as Americans. It’s how we make decisions, how we decide to vote. It’s how we live next door to people who don’t necessarily agree with us, but we can still speak to them. It depends on real information, real knowledge. And what’s happened is they started to poison it around the spring and summer of 2016.
After the election we started to see other aspects of this operation, especially when the intelligence community, under Barak Obama’s directions, was asked to produce an assessment, which was more nonsense, about how Vladimir Putin had directed the election, so that Donald Trump would win.
The purpose of this was to delegitimize the election. So when people talk about how the Russians interfered in the 2016 election and they flooded our election environment, the election cycle with disinformation, no, the disinformation came from the Democratic Party. It was Hillary Clinton. It was Clinton disinformation. And the people who delegitimized an election, those were Obama officials after the 2016 election.
We, right now, are living in the aftermath. These are only some of the reasons that I call this the biggest political scandal in U.S. history, the idea that American officials would work so hard to delegitimize an election, which we saw on the surface right away. These were the things that we all knew were happening.
The things that we didn’t know what were happening right then are some of the things that Congressman Nunes got to the bottom of. So going from January 2017 to March 2017, when some of you will remember when Congressman Nunes gave a short statement to the press in the bottom of the Capitol Hill Rotunda, saying, “Look, I’ve seen different things that have been going on here, and it looks as though there’s some evidence that the Trump transition officials were spied on.” And that’s really what kicks everything off, because that’s the point where Devin Nunes really becomes public enemy number one.
Now, it’s true they hate Donald Trump, but Nunes was the person on the ground who was doing all these different things. Once he does that, everyone turns on him, the press, all of the bureaucracies inside of Washington, of course, all the Democrats as well, and he had very little support from the Republicans. It wasn’t because they didn’t like him. It’s not because they didn’t trust him. They knew him. They trusted him. They admired him. They respected him. They knew he was even tempered and levelheaded, and that’s why they put people like that on that Intelligence Committee. You don’t want to put showboats on the Intelligence Committee because you’re dealing in classified information. They’re not supposed to be people who are talking to the press or who run off like madmen.
But they also understood what the environment was in March 2017, how crazy things had gotten, how bad the press was. Everyone on the Republican side was terrified. Jack Langer, who was Congressman Nunes’ Communications Director — still is — explains it very well in the book. He says … He’s referring to the then Attorney General and when he recused himself from all election-related investigations. Jack Langer says, “It’s terrible when they come after you like this. The amount of noise and pain they put you through is overwhelming and you will do anything to make it stop. But then once you get through to the other side, you realize it didn’t matter, that they will just make you hurt.”
So it was Congressman Nunes and Jack Langer and a handful of other people. One of them, Kash Patel, who was his lead investigator, the way he puts it is, “If it weren’t for eight people, no one ever would have known what had happened.” And this was Congressman Nunes and his team, and they called their investigation of the investigators Objective Medusa. And they went about … Their job was, as they saw it, to find out what happened, then to get that information to the American public in a legal manner, not like Adam Schiff, for instance, leaking information to the press. They were dealing with classified intelligence, and so they had to find a way to get it to the American public in a as timely a way as possible and legally.
One of the things that they learned … And this is going to take me into where we’re going next, what’s happening next. One of the things that they learned, their first … Some of you, I believe, have read the book, so you’ll know. One of the first things they found was that the Clinton campaign had paid for this dossier of ridiculous allegations that Trump and his team were Russian spies, and they said, “Well, I mean, this is so insane. It’s nutty. Now that everyone knows — right? — that the Clinton campaign paid for it, now no one can continue to believe this. We can put this aside and move on to other things.” This was October 2017.
What they found was that it continued. The entire operation continued. In some ways, it was getting worse. The next time that they thought their whole fight, as they put it, was to get across the 50-yard line to get enough information to the American public, not just Republicans, but Independents as well, to explain to people what happened, to push through all of that noise that the Democrats and their partners in the press and their partners, the rogue officials in the intelligence community were making, to push past that and to tell the truth.
The next time this happened most spectacularly was in February 2018, when the House Republicans produced what is now known as the Nunes Memo, when they described how this document, paid for by an opposing presidential campaign, was used to secure a warrant to spy on the other campaign.
I just want to point out something very important here that we often forget, that we talk about the bad things, as we should, that the FBI and the DOJ did, the bad things they did and the people who should pay for this. One of the things that we often [ally] that we often omit from this is this was all done to benefit someone. They didn’t just do this to exercise power and to show they could abuse their power and spy on Americans. They did this to benefit Hillary Clinton. Again, this is one of the things that makes it so insanely destructive, that the FBI was used as an instrument and the different programs that are intended to keep Americans safe from terrorism were used to benefit Hillary Clinton.
When they produced their memo in February 2018, they thought, again, that this was going to show everyone that, at this point, well, you have to realize this is nonsense. This is very bad what they did, and, now, let’s move on and get the bad guys and put America back in order. Again, that didn’t happen.
What happened instead was in the lead-up to that memo, Congressman Nunes and his family were subjected to death threats. Of course, there were vicious attacks in the press on the entire Nunes team. In the aftermath, no one said … or they got Republicans onboard. Republicans understood, at that point, that the congressman was telling the truth, that he was gathering information, gathering evidence, and they were very careful, because they knew at any time if they made a mistake, as he said often, if they made a mistake, they’d get knocked. They’d go all the way back to zero. So it was very important for them to be right every step along the way.
They were right, and so the Republicans, then, the people who were worried before, they all understood, after the memo, that this was a win for the Republicans. It was not yet a win for the rest of the country, because a lot of the rest of the country was still believing the nonsense, the noise coming from the other side.
The good thing about having all of the Republicans on side, in terms of party politics, was when it came time for the impeachment proceedings, which we saw unfold this fall and winter, all of the Republican House Members knew what was going on. They saw it was nonsense. That was because Congressman Nunes and his team had brought them along, explained what was happening, explained it was an operation. None of these things were real. None of these things were true. This was part of a Third-World style information operation targeting not just the president — and this is very important, I think — targeting not just the president, but American institutions, American principles.
If you look at what happened here, the essential nature of the operation was to tie the press to the intelligence services. In the Third World, in the Arab States, the two most important ministries, as they call them, are the Ministry of Information, which controls the press, and also the Ministry of the Interior. The United States is the only place that has a Department of the Interior or a Ministry of the Interior, which is not in control of all the spy services. In the Arab States, that’s what the Ministry of the Interior is. Every operation there is coordinated between these two ministries, Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Information. This is what happened here. This is what the collusion narrative was. It was the press and it was intelligence officials pushing this. It’s an extremely bad thing.
The advantage for Congressman Nunes of having seen how slowly this works, of how bad things are and how slowly it goes, how long it takes, what you have to do to explain things to people is that now you will see him on TV and he will say, “It’s been one yard and a cloud of dust the entire time.” The football analogy. He knows that everyone would like … we would all like to see an open field run that, and at the end, when you get to the end zone, the other side, the bad guys are all thrown in orange jumpsuits and marched away to prison. (Applause) (Laughter)
That’s not going to happen like that. I believe, as I spoke with some people beforehand, I am optimistic in the medium term. I have no particular inside on this, no inside information. What I’m going on is what Attorney General Barr has said when he’s looking at important movement towards the late spring, which makes sense, if you think about it, that these things would have to happen before moving to the conventions, certainly before elections.
People are deeply frustrated. I know I spoke with some people here who are deeply frustrated, because we’ve been watching this, and this has been going on … I mean, we are … This is March. I mean, we are four months after they started targeting people like, you know, Carter Page, General Michael Flynn, and all of these people are still hurting. I mean, General Flynn is … I mean, his name has been dragged through the mud. What they’ve done to him is a terrible, despicable thing, and we would all like to see four years on something happen, and we’d like to see it happen very quickly.
The reason it’s not going to happen that quickly is not just because it’s hard to make different cases, and if you want, when we get into questions and answers, I’ll explain some of that, but these guys are fighting. I mean, they’re animals, and you’ve heard, I’m sure, former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, and before that, I believe, the late Andrew Breitbart say things like, “If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you’re sadly mistaken.”
That’s where we are right now. This is not a future thing. It’s not hypothetical. Someday your country may call upon you to fight for your country. This is the fight. This is what it looks like. This is one of the reasons why it’s taking so long. Right. They’re building cases, but look, in the meantime, U.S. Attorney John Durham, they’re doing interviews. They’re building cases. We can talk later about the kinds of things they’re likely to be looking at.
The big thing is the other side is fighting in every possible way, whether they’re using the press, whether they’re finding different ways to try to cover up what they did, whether they’re fighting new operations … One of the most upsetting things is regardless of the confidence we may have in the Attorney General and U.S. Attorney Durham, in the meantime, they impeach the president of the United States. I mean, this was an operation as well. This was not a real thing, a real impeachment. It was part of an operation.
And if it feels like we’re two steps behind — And when I say “we,” I don’t mean to get entirely partisan, but if it feels like the people who understand what the law should be, that there should not be a two-tier system of justice, yes, for those of us who believe there should be one justice system for all Americans, it’s insane. It’s horribly frustrating to feel like we’re two steps behind. The reason is because we’re two steps behind, and because the other side is fighting.
So I think this is one of the things that I’ve tried to explain to people. I know it’s deeply frustrating. You can only imagine what it’s like for people like Congressman Nunes and his team to be looking at this and like, you know, we know what happened. We know who should be held responsible, and we want them to pay. In the medium term, I’m confident that will happen.
The long-term trend is something else. And that’s why I say that this fight will go on for a very long time. The fight, in some ways, has been going on long before we recognized it. In a sense, we’re lucky, in a sense, fortunate that this has come to the surface, so we know … have a better idea of what we’re looking at, what the battle ahead looks like, who’s on which side and what different methods and tactics they’re using to advance their very narrow interests and very dangerous game.
So I’m going to move, I think, to take your questions, and just whatever things about the, you know, about the original operation, where we are now. Let’s go ahead.
FEMALE: Could you comment on, as far as Justice Department and how much … I always wonder how many people are there supporting him and does he have a lack of personnel to actually work on the cases that wouldn’t be thwarting what he’s trying to do. In other words, he’s got his own mini-deep state working for and against …
LEE SMITH: Right.
FEMALE: … his potential prosecutions.
LEE SMITH: My sense, and I think we can look and we can see how close he’s been to … We know that he traveled with John Durham to Italy at least. So that tells us a couple of things. It tells us that he trusts Mr. Durham, but it also tells us he probably doesn’t trust a lot of the other people in the Justice Department, at least not on this case, right? They’re doing a number of different things, but on this case, yes, this is very … I think it’s a very narrow circle, and a lot of the people who work with Mr. Durham are in Connecticut. So, yeah, this is not something they want to run through the, you know, through the main Justice Department right now.
I’m going to let Mike … I’ll just … Okay. Thanks. Hi.
FEMALE: You talked about Hillary Clinton and, of course, I think most everyone would agree that she is really the root of all evil — (laughter) — in all of this. I mean, the woman corrupts anything and anybody who is close to her.
My question is is that there’s one name that I really haven’t heard too much of that I think is her consigliere, Sidney [Blumenfeld]. Have you done any research on him and …
LEE SMITH: Well, yeah, he’s in the book, and he tried to stop …
FEMALE: Okay. I haven’t read the book yet. So …
LEE SMITH: Yeah. But he tried to stop publication of the book or different parts of it. So why?
LEE SMITH: Well, yeah, there are people who believe that this may have started with him. Right? That it may have been his idea to do this whole Russia thing. But, look, there are a lot of components to this. This wasn’t … One of the first questions I know I had was, “So who’s the mastermind? Who figured this whole thing out?” I don’t think it actually worked like that. I think there are a lot of different currents that came together in different ways.
The intelligence community was targeting Michael Flynn for their own reasons. The Department of Justice was targeting Paul Manafort for their own reasons, too. Right? The Manafort thing is very important, because if you look at the different people who had done work in Ukraine while Manafort was there, and they tried to hang it all on Manafort, included another Clinton consigliere who is John Podesta. Right? John Podesta’s brother, Tony, was in Ukraine as well. So there are a lot of different trends that come together, and we don’t know exactly how they all combined, and we may never know that.
But when you’re talking about why haven’t people … There are a lot of people who are looking at Sidney Blumenthal and what he did, what his role in this may have been. But here’s the big thing that I tried to … that I used to keep this in context, the fact that even the press fell into this whole thing about Donald Trump being a Russian spy, I mean, it’s nonsense, but you can say, you can … “Well, politics is nasty and whatever.” You can throw something at someone and lie about them. That happens all the time in politics. What makes this different is is that not that they got the press to smear someone, not that there was a smear campaign, but that they used active intelligence officials and active programs for that purpose. That’s what makes this really, really bad. Right?
And what makes it even much worse than Watergate is the same thing. Remember the Nixon spies were caught in the DNC trying to … they wanted to bug different officials. None of these people were active officials at that point, right? Some of them had come from the CIA. Right now, we’re talking about people, when we’re talking about Peter Strzok or Lisa Page or Andrew McCabe or all the rest of these people who are now being named in different reports and are referred to in the Inspector General’s Report, these are all serving officials. This is what makes it really bad.
MALE: Did someone here have a … Okay. Right here, and then we’ll go to Lisa and then back around.
MALE: So I know you talked about this scam has a lot of different buckets, and it’s probably 10 different ones.
LEE SMITH: That’s a good way to put it, yeah.
MALE: I mean, yeah, and there’s the FISA issues, and I think the two-fold with the FISA issues in terms of, for me, in terms of what I [got] into it was the FISA database about query abuse, and the audit that Admiral Mike Rogers did in about April of 2016, and where he shut down all the about queries. And it took about a … Then he went to the FISA Court in October, which coincided with the warrant that Carter Page, you know, the warrant that they ended up getting on Carter Page.
Collyer, the FISC Judge, put out a report in 2017 which outlines it, you know. And they still have the four FBI contractors that they were using to basically go in, you know, to go into these bases, databases and get the information out of. I actually think a lot of that stuff is … the Steele Dossier or a lot of that information is relative to the Steele Dossier.
But can you talk about Mike Rogers and how he fits into this and what his … He’s been very quiet, and he’s right in the middle of all of this. And there’s that scenario where he goes up to Trump Tower a few weeks after the election and then, you know, coincidentally, they move out of Trump Tower.
LEE SMITH: I … I … Yeah.
MALE: Just … I don’t know if you could talk a little bit about Mike Rogers’ involvement.
LEE SMITH: Sure. I mean, it’s not a part of it that I’ve looked at extensively. I’ll say what I do know, which is that I think that some of the stories that have circulated about Admiral Rogers are probably overstating the case on his behalf. People have made him out to be … I’m sure he’s a very decent guy in lots of ways, and that’s my understanding. But I’m not sure if he pulled off anything heroic in that particular period. I think that the real contribution that … or his real act of heroism, my understanding is that when they came out with that intelligence community assessment, Rogers just said, “No.” He said, “We have moderate confidence, not high confidence.” Right.
The entire thing was a political hit job. Right? And so Rogers kind of signaled that by saying “moderate confidence,” right? There were three other people who were part of the operation who were saying, “Go along with us.” He said, “No,” or only this far. So that’s how I understand it. And a lot of that we’re not going to get a lot more visibility, not right now, to the Rogers thing.
But you talk about the Collyer thing, right? Okay. So she wrote what we understand is an important report, though very heavily redacted, but look at what she did right after that IG Report came out. Now, I know that Congressman Nunes around February 2018, he told them, he notified that FISA Court, said, “You guys have problems here.” I believe they notified them at least twice. They were quiet. They said nothing. Right? So even after the IG Report comes out to show how badly they were abused, they say nothing.
Do you know what got them in action this time? It appears that when Nunes started saying stuff like, “We’re going to dismantle this FISA Court,” that’s when they leapt up to start to defend themselves. So there’s still a lot of pieces in here that we’re just getting a little more insight, and some of it’s going to happen very slowly. So we’re talking about that period before the Carter Page warrant. A lot of the way it’s been represented now seems to be not entirely accurate, again, because we’re missing so many pieces from this.
MALE: [Well, I mean, you have the four contractors that, you know, you can guess who those four contractors are.]
LEE SMITH: A lot of those guesses, from my understanding, have not been correct. I don’t know. I just heard different … Like, “Yeah, that’s probably not what it is.”
LEE SMITH: Right.
MALE: (Inaudible), so people need to take a look at it, but it kind of fell on deaf ears. I mean, there was something, 80 to 90 percent of the [queries] were people fraudulent. They weren’t [legal].
LEE SMITH: There’s no doubt that there was a lot of bad stuff going on in the Obama administration, right? This is something … That’s the big message. That’s the big takeaway, and that led to this, you know, what we have. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on with the Obama officials.
MALE: We’re going to try to get a couple more …
LEE SMITH: Thanks …
FEMALE: Okay. I’ve never had …
LEE SMITH: And if you could just tell me … I don’t have a clock. So just tell me how you … Okay.
FEMALE: I’ve never had to make a list for things I need to ask you.
LEE SMITH: Okay. (Laughter)
FEMALE: The president has always complained that, you know, he puts it in better terms, but that Jeff Sessions really did a terrible thing by doing what he did and set the ball rolling. What do you think of that? And was Rod Rosenstein in on it by picking Mueller?
LEE SMITH: Yeah. Okay.
FEMALE: And what is the insurance policy that the two love birds were talking about?
LEE SMITH: Yeah. Okay.
FEMALE: What’s Comey’s role in all this …
LEE SMITH: (Laughter) All right. Okay …
FEMALE: … and what happened on the tarmac …
LEE SMITH: Okay. Okay.
FEMALE: … and Christopher Wray, what is wrong with him?
LEE SMITH: Okay. That’s a lot. Those are all good. Yeah, what Sessions did wasn’t the worst thing that anyone did, but it was bad, you know. And Sessions was actually … I think even before he was sworn in he was suggesting that he was going to recuse himself from the Russian investigation, and, right, he should have told Trump.
From my understanding, Jeff Sessions is … I mean, I write about this a bit in the book. He’s a very decent man, but he didn’t understand what was going on. Look, there are still people, Republicans, who still don’t understand what’s going on.
LEE SMITH: Right? Well, Romney, he’s a different case. I’m talking about people who are … You know, I’m talking about people who are decent and they want to believe, “No, we need a solid …” Oh, I didn’t mean that. I mean, I’m happy to say he’s not decent. I think he’s a clown. Right? He’s a sinister clown, but I didn’t mean to … I want to say that, I’ll say it directly.
So, yeah, what Sessions did was bad, but he didn’t understand what was happening. As I said, Jack Langer, Congressman Nunes’ Communications Director, when they come after you, it’s terrible, and you’ll do anything you can to make it stop.
Rosenstein, yeah, there’s a lot of debate whether he was a good guy or a bad guy. He’s just a bureaucrat, you know. That’s all. He wasn’t …
LEE SMITH: What?
LEE SMITH: I mean, I don’t know whether he was pushed into … I mean, you know, it appears that a lot of the FBI guys, like McCabe, might have pointed him in that direction. Look, I’m not defending Rosenstein. He’s not … He’s not James Comey. He’s not Andrew McCabe. Those are the guys we know did some bad things.
Rosenstein was just a bureaucrat who was blowing with the wind. Whichever way it looked like it was going, he, you know, the path of least resistance. So when William Barr is now the Attorney General, he says, “You are not resigning yet. You are going to help me clean up the mess that you contributed to making. So you’re going to stand right behind me when I read out the Mueller Report stuff,” and so that’s what he did.
I’m trying to think of what other things I can go through quickly. I don’t know much about the … I can’t answer … That is something, a very specific thing. The president, most everyone else have that wrong. Right? If you look in my book, I talk about the people who talk about the insurance policy, right? It’s not a general coup operation. It’s something very specific. It’s not been declassified yet. So we don’t know yet, right? But it’s something very specific, and the congressman talks about it in the book. It’s like, well, something we want the American public to know about. It’s not out yet. What it was, they explain, generally, it was how they used whether or not to use a source to get different things to ensure that they got the warrant to spy.
Christopher Wray. What was your … I’m trying to go as quickly as …
LEE SMITH: That is a big bureaucracy. I’m not defending it. I think all these people should go in there and clean these places out. I’m just telling you the kinds of people who tend to get these jobs and the kinds of things they tend to do.
Is Wray a good guy or a bad guy? He’s not a great guy, obviously, you know, and I’m someone, I don’t … You know, I’m sure we have lots of fantastic, great FBI agents around the country, including Washington, but I’m a little surprised that more of them haven’t come forward voluntarily and said, “Well, we need to clean this up and get rid of these guys and, you know, firm up our reputation again or else the American public isn’t going to trust us, certainly not Republicans or Conservatives.” But they haven’t done it. Should Christopher Wray be forcing the issue? Yeah, I think so, definitely.
MALE: Okay. We’re going to try to do two more.
LEE SMITH: Okay.
FEMALE: Well, thank you for the great work you’re doing.
LEE SMITH: Thank you. That’s very kind.
FEMALE: I still have to read the book.
LEE SMITH: All right.
FEMALE: I guess my question really is to you as a journalist. Over the years, you know, I’ve always read the news. It’s been very frustrating, over the past 13 years especially, to see the crumbling of the business model of …
LEE SMITH: Yeah.
FEMALE: … journalism. And I’m wondering when the story comes out? How are we going to get it really out with the media that we have right now?
LEE SMITH: There’s no way to get it out.
FEMALE: But then do you have any hope for the future …
LEE SMITH: No.
FEMALE: … or what … the restructuring of? (Laughter) Because it really is a question of …
LEE SMITH: It’s really important.
LEE SMITH: Well, here’s the silver lining. I actually write in the book about … I explain what happened to the press, because it is a function of the financial model, how that broke and who were the kind of people, who are the kinds of people now who enlist in the press corps and what are the things they want and what does it look like, and the fact that it moved from New York to Washington. So I hope you will read it and check that out.
The silver lining, one of the things that we found out, that I found out directly is the … on Twitter, as terrible as Twitter is in many, many ways, one of the things I found out, the number of people on Twitter who have followed this story. Some of them were very helpful to me finding different documents, explaining different documents.
So what we see here is we see an example of an American public that not only wants information, but also produces information. This is a great thing. So that hasn’t changed. We still have an American public that wants and needs to know things, and that is just wants [to hear] the truth. Doesn’t have to hear that Donald Trump is the most, you know, is the greatest guy ever. Just needs to know what happened. So that’s a good thing, and that’s something to build from.
But the actual structures of the press now, no. As I said, these are finished, right? There will be a place known as The New York Times for who knows how long, but once you have produced and defended a conspiracy theory, right? I mean, you can’t go on, right? Eventually, there will even be people, MSNBC viewers, CNN viewers, (inaudible), “Oh, wow, they lied to us about that.” Right? I mean, it’s not going to be a public rebellion, but they’ll know that it’s just entertainment. It’s nonsense. It’s not news. So for the institutions that we’ve had, these brand names that we’ve known for so long, no, they’re done.
MALE: Okay. Apologies to those … This is going to have to be the last question.
MALE: A yes and a no question, and then …
LEE SMITH: Okay.
MALE: … [I’d like to] follow up. First thing, given … Three years ago, I would have said there’s no deep state. Now that we know there is a deep state, do you think the Republican side could actually leverage the deep state or does the deep state only work for the Democrats?
LEE SMITH: Oh. Yeah, that’s interesting. Well, you know, I mean, no, I mean, the deep state is a partisan … it’s a part … or it’s a bipartisan project, right? So when you hear people say, “Hey, Andrew McCabe is a lifelong Republican.” Okay. Right, you know. “And Jennifer Rubin is the most popular Conservative columnist in all of America,” right?
So the different things that people are talking about, the former ways that the country used to be divided in terms of party no longer really exist, which is kind of exciting, actually, right? So what are the different ways that Americans identify themselves? How do they get along? If you’re talking about … If by Republican, you mean … If by Republican you mean like the people in this room or the people …
MALE: Donald Trump.
LEE SMITH: … like Donald Trump, no, because the people who tend to go into bureaucracies, right? When Republicans, even old-style Republicans, say, “Well, Republicans, the party of small government.” How many people from the party of small government say, “But I want to go into government,” all right? It’s just not usually what happens.
MALE: And then reforming the FISA …
LEE SMITH: Uh-huh.
MALE: … what impact would it have on the security of our country against terrorism? Because that’s what it was designed for.
LEE SMITH: Right. Yeah, but, you know, I mean, we spied on terrorists before there was a FISA, right? I mean, the problem that people have with it is it’s not the instruments themselves. I mean, that’s the statutory authority that they have to do that with.
There are people who argue … I recommend very strongly the work of a man named Angelo Codevilla. Mr. Codevilla was kind enough to — a real honor — to blurb my book. Now, he’s written very interestingly about FISA. He wrote an article a couple of weeks ago called, “Abolish the CIA and FISA.” I recommend that article very strongly. Also did an interview in Tablet Magazine, where I write, where he talks about the different arguments and debates over FISA in the ’70s.
So one of the arguments that I make about people like Comey and Brennan, McCabe, you hear them, whether they’re on Twitter or whether they’re on TV, and they talk about what great patriots they are, what marvelous Americans they are. They defend the (inaudible). All of these people across the board have made Americans more vulnerable. By using these programs designed to defend us from terrorism, they have made us more vulnerable.
What we’ll have to do in the meantime is figure out how to be able to use different programs, technology to keep us safe. One of the characters in the book, Congressman Nunes’ lead investigator, Kash Patel, always says, I think, I quote him on this, “Yeah, I’m very pro-FISA, and it’ll help me catch terrorists.”
Again, the actual ability to listen in on people, that won’t be … the technology won’t be lost. Under what laws, I think that has to change, after we’ve seen … and House Republicans are very upset. I think they’re going to put up a fight over this over the next couple of weeks.
Michael, is that …
MALE: I think that’s it. We’ll sign books. And thank you, Lee.
LEE SMITH: Well, thank you. I just want to say again, thank you so much. It’s really a pleasure to see you and speak with you. And I’ll, you know, I’ll just be signing books out there. Thanks. (Applause)