The most important aspect of Baker's testimony today, which Rep. Jim Jordan characterized as "pretty explosive", appears to have been the new information that Baker provided about the sourcing for the FISA application. To this point it has been assumed that the probable cause for the FISA application largely rested on the so-called Steele "dossier"--both Comey and McCabe have confirmed that. However, today Baker told Congress that there was another source as well. Per Fox News:
"During the time that the FBI was putting -- that DOJ and FBI were putting together the FISA (surveillance warrant) during the time prior to the election -- there was another source giving information directly to the FBI, which we found the source to be pretty explosive," said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
Meadows and Jordan would not elaborate on the source, or answer questions about whether the source was a reporter. They did stress that the source who provided information to the FBI’s Russia case was not previously known to congressional investigators.
Presumably the reason this source was previously unknown is because all information about the source was contained in the redacted portions of the application when it was released. Fox News seems to have only inquired into the possibility that a reporter was in direct contact with the FBI. That's possible, of course, but another possibility remains that the source was a representative of a foreign government. The declassification of the redacted portions of the FISA application is currently on hold, at least partially due to appeals from foreign governments (UK and Australia). The bottom line, one way or the other, appears to be that what was "explosive" about Baker's testimony was not the nature of the information provided by this new source but the actual identity of the source. Thus, while this revelation likely doesn't alter the relative importance of the dossier to the FISA application, which McCabe has termed "crucial," it may shed light on the overall scope of the Russia Hoax.
So we have something to look forward to when the FISA application is fully declassified.
ADDENDUM: In an interview with The Hill Rep. Mark Meadows stated:
"There's a strong suggestion that confidential human sources actually taped members within the Trump campaign," Meadows told Hill.TV's Krystal Ball and Ned Ryun on "Rising."
"There is strong suggestions in that, with some of the text messages, emails, and so forth who was involved, that extraordinary measures were used to surveil," he continued.
This is an aspect of the Russian Hoax operation that I've taken for granted all along, for the simple reason that such recording is much easier to justify legally than an actual FISA. Cf. A Guide To Spygate, Informants, FISA and Crossfire Hurricane: The How and Why.
UPDATE: John Solomon reported late last night that Baker told the House that he met with a lawyer from Perkins Coie--who represented both the DNC and Fusion GPS--only "weeks before the 2016 election." That would have been in the period when the FBI and DoJ were feverishly preparing the FISA application, which was approved on October 21, 2016. Solomon offers no details on the conversation between Baker and the lawyer from Perkins Coie. The appearance of collusion between the Democrat party, the Hillary Campaign (with its opposition research proxy, Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson), and the FBI is strong.
MAJOR UPDATE: As stated below in a comment, the Perkins Coie lawyer for the DNC who met with James Baker in the runup to the Carter Page FISA application has been identified, and is now said to have been the previously unidentified source. His name is Michael Sussman. The implications are, as Jim Jordan said last night, "explosive."
You can read up on Michael Sussman's background at his Perkins Coie page: Michael Sussman. Obviously I'll be reading up on Sussman and may need to devote a separate blog post to him. Two initial observations--no, make that three:
In a Hillary Clinton administration the sky would have been the limit for Sussman--or close to it.
And just as the sky might have been the limit for Sussman in a Hillary administration, so too his patronage would have been invaluable to those with career ambitions above their then current positions. James Comey certainly comes to mind as one who would wish to ingratiate himself with Sussman.
No doubt investigators are, even as I type, feverishly reviewing phone records to sort out his contacts. From my previous standpoint, I'd be very interested to learn what contact he had with the various operators surrounding the famous Trump Tower meeting. That he would have been in regular contact with Glenn Simpson is a given, but how about some of the others? Bruce Ohr? Andrew Weissmann? Edward Lieberman--that seems a high probability. Why not Comey personally, or even Mueller? And who exactly were his principle contacts with the Clinton campaign? The list goes on.
FURTHER UPDATE: Catherine Herridge of Fox News has provided additional reporting that gets into the nature of the "information" provided by Michael Sussman to the FBI. According to Herridge's reporting,
[Baker] said Perkins Coie lawyer Michael Sussmann initiated contact with him and provided documents as well as computer storage devices on Russian hacking. The sources said Baker described the contact as unusual and the “only time it happened.”
If you've read Sussman's bio (link above) you'll know that Sussman's legal practice focuses on privacy and cybersecurity. Democrat politics--representing the DNC and Democrat opposition research outfits like Fusion GPS--is more or less a sidelight. That said, it's unsurprising that a cyberlaw expert like Sussman should have documents ready at hand, both in paper and digital form, on Russian hacking activities. That information is, for purposes of a FISA application, simply background information and doesn't begin to rise to the level of probable cause. No FISC judge should approve a FISA application that, in effect, states: some Russians, sometimes with state support and sometimes as individuals, are known to engage in hacking activities; these named US persons (Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, etc.) have had contacts with Russians; therefore, please grant our application for FISA coverage of these persons. Probable cause requires that a demonstration be made that it is more likely than not that the named US persons are actually engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of a given foreign power (Russia, in this case).
The proper reaction on the part of any judge in such a case should be, first, to laugh out loud and, second, to warn the DoJ and FBI officials who brought the application that they should never attempt to perpetrate such an outrage again and that all future applications by them will be scrutinized with extra care and a skeptical eye. We are left, as Andy McCarthy has persuasively argued, with the likelihood that Andrew McCabe was telling the truth when he testified to the House that it was the "dossier" material that was "crucial" to the FISA application. That fact is left unchanged by the revelations about Sussman.
Nevertheless, there is significance in Sussman's approach to the FBI, even if his background information didn't really contribute anything to the probable cause for a FISA application. As I stated above, Sussman's approach to the FBI occurred at a point in time, September 2016, when the FBI would have been fully engaged in preparing the FISA application--which was approved on October 21, 2016. While necessarily speculative, Sussman's approach to the FBI suggests that he, perhaps through Glenn Simpson's operation at Fusion GPS (which included Chris Steele, of course, but also Bruce Ohr at DoJ), had been made aware that the FBI was in the process of working up a FISA application. The idea that Sussman simply stopped by to provide Baker with interesting material on Russian hacking and engaged in no form of advocacy strains credulity--after all, it was Sussman in the first place who commissioned the "dossier" on behalf of the Clinton campaign. At a minimum, this appearance of possible collusion between the FBI and the Clinton campaign for the purpose of initiating or forwarding investigation of the Trump campaign demands close scrutiny.
Look at it this way. Sussman's political connections undoubtedly gained him access to the very highest levels of the FBI. If you or I walked in to the FBI to inform them that Russians were engaged in hacking, we'd have been politely informed that the FBI is well aware of that and, equally politely but firmly, shown the door. Now, you might say, Sussman had as a client the DNC--an organization that claimed to have been hacked by the Russians. Surely that would be reason for James Baker to pay more attention to what Sussman had to say than he might pay to the complaints of others. But Sussman's client, the DNC, had refused to give the FBI access to their compromised (or so they claimed) server. That refusal was surely on the advice of counsel--Sussman--and it was Sussman who put the DNC in touch with Crowdstrike to "investigate" the server. Why then, except for Sussman's political connections, should Baker have given him the time of day, when Sussman's real motive was clearly not to assist with a past crime but to urge the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign? The obvious answer is that the thing that got Sussman through Baker's door was his political clout. Would a lawyer for the Trump campaign have been afforded the same courtesy? One might well doubt that.
AND MORE dots are being connected. Chuck Ross at The Daily Caller leads the way and Jeff Carlson does an excellent job fleshing out some of the details. As I said earlier, Sussman's visit to Baker couldn't possibly have been a simple document dump of background on Russian hacking. It turns out, to no one's surprise, that Sussman was simultaneously planting false information (fake news?) with both the FBI and various media outlets, almost certainly in coordination with Fusion GPS's active measures operation.
In a report issued by Devin Nunes' HPSCI on Russian active measures, dated in March 22, 2018, we read about a source who met with Baker, and we now know that source was Sussman. The footnote in which this passage appears is over half redacted, but includes this, in partially unredacted form:
“In September 2016 [Sussman] shared similar information in a one-on-one meeting with FBI General Counsel James Baker. HPSCI, Executive Session of [redacted], Dec. 18, 2017. Around the same time as his meeting with FBI, [Sussman] shared the information with journalists, [redacted] of Slate, who published an article at the end of October. HPSCI, Executive Session of [redacted] Dec. 18, 2017; [redacted] “Was a Trump Server Communicating With Russia?” Slate, Oct. 31, 2016. Candidate Clinton promoted the [redacted] article to her social media followers the same day it was published.”
That Slate article, of course, was the notorious fake news that Russia's Alfa Bank was in a "sustained relationship" with the Trump organization and that the traffic between Alfa and a mysterious server in Trump Tower somehow "appeared to follow the contours of political happenings in the United States. 'At election-related moments, the traffic peaked.'”
This story has long since been totally debunked. The server in question was owned by a company named Cendyn and was used for email marketing for hotels and resorts. Interestingly, however, the Slate article links this fake news with the initiation of the FBI's CI investigation into Trump's supposed ties to Russia. That investigation was initiated on 7/31/16, not long after Sussman met with Baker ("mid-June") regarding the supposed hack of the DNC server. So, what we're left with is that the FBI, at some point prior to the end of July, was fed a cock and bull story about Alfa Bank and a server in Trump Tower--this story was presumably brought forward by Sussman. The same story was repeated (as confirmed by the HPSCI report) by Sussman in September when he visited Baker, and was also fed to Slate by Sussman. The same day that the article appeared, Hillary Clinton began promoting it on social media. The fake news story was quickly debunked, but garnered lots of publicity and fed the Russia Hoax narrative that has continued to this day in one form or another--most notably the reprehensible activities of Team Mueller.
Thus we see that Sussman leveraged his reputation as a cyber security law expert to spread disinformation against the Trump campaign, in coordination with Fusion GPS. And this episode almost certainly only scratches the surface of Sussman's activities, as he is know to have had many other contacts with members of the liberal anti-Trump journalistic class.