Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Trump, Declassification, Leverage

I think interested observers are now in a position to put the whole Russia Hoax in some sort of global perspective--quite literally, as we'll see, in important respects. Recent posts by bloggers who write from widely varying perspectives give us the ability to discern the current state of play.

Let's start with the domestic front of the Russia Hoax. Sundance at Conservative Tree House has an excellent post up: President Trump and DAG Rod Rosenstein – “No Collusion”, No Immediate Worries … The overall theme is one that's dear to sundance's heart: leverage. The state of play is this. Congressional investigation has progressed to the point that it's clear beyond cavil that the entire Russia narrative is, in fact, a hoax and a fraud--both on the American people in general but also on our legal system. Which is to say, that real criminal liability exists for the key players who developed the plot against Trump. John Solomon summarizes what Congress has discovered in succinct fashion:

There is now a concrete storyline backed by irrefutable evidence: The FBI allowed itself to take political opposition research created by one party to defeat another in an election, treated it like actionable intelligence, presented it to the court as substantiated, and then used it to justify spying on an adviser for the campaign of that party's duly chosen nominee for president in the final days of a presidential election.
And when, nine months later, the FBI could not prove the allegation of collusion between Trump and Russia, unverified evidence was leaked to the media to try to sustain public support for a continued investigation.

But sundance spells out very specifically where the greatest risk--and therefore the greatest leverage--lies:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein created the special counsel under fraudulent pretense.  That origination material (Ohr 302’s, FISA pages, origination EC, and Page/Strzok messages) is now a risk to the Deputy AG.

Of course there are many other players in this tale, in addition to Rosenstein, who are at serious risk, but from the perspective of leverage Rosenstein is the key because he created the Special Counsel part of the hoax, and because--as a result of AG Sessions' recusal--he (Rosenstein) remains in charge of the Special Counsel operation: Mueller reports to him. Rosenstein can exercise as much or as little control over Mueller as he wants. Trump's threat of declassification of the "origination material," exposing Rosenstein's role in approving the Special Counsel fraud, gives Trump complete leverage over Rosenstein and therefore over Mueller. Trump's leverage ensures that Rosenstein will very much want to restrain Mueller. And if Rosenstein wants to restrain Mueller, Mueller will be restrained. Which may explain why we are now seeing key members of Mueller's team leaving the team and returning to their old jobs. The importance of this is lies in the fact that, up till now, Mueller has posed the greatest threat to the Trump administration, the greatest annoyance. That threat is now defanged for the immediate future. If Mueller steps out of line, boom! Declassification. By putting declassification on temporary hold, Trump maintains his leverage. And Congress continues to investigate and slowly reveal the truth.

But the benefits of this leverage via threat-of-declassification strategy extend well beyond the Russia Hoax to other very practical political matters. I believe we saw this at play in the Kavanaugh nomination battle. Rod Rosenstein, as DAG, directly supervises the FBI Director Christopher Wray. To say that the FBI acted with alacrity and efficiency in exposing the machinations behind the accusations leveled at Kavanaugh would be an understatement. But consider: sundance himself was distinctly alarmist during the Kavanaugh hearings, alleging a plot of Deep State FBI/DoJ insiders to torpedo the nomination. As we've seen, however, exactly the opposite occurred. There was no foot dragging, no fumbling. The FBI leapt to Kavanaugh's defense, and I attribute that--at least in part--to Trump's leverage over DoJ/FBI through Rosenstein.

How will this play out for the midterm elections? Will Trump at some point declassify that crucial "origination material" for use against the Democrats? While Trump stressed that his hold on declassification didn't change his commitment for transparency sooner rather than later, I believe that the Kavanaugh nomination has given Trump and his newly committed GOP allies the issue they needed for the midterms. Polling has repeatedly shown that Supreme Court nominations are a hot button issue for Republican voters, and it has the advantage of being readily comprehensible. Trump used his leverage to get his nominee confirmed while energizing "normals" for the midterms. After the midterm elections, however, declassification might well play a significant role in the runup to the 2020 presidential election.

Let's turn to that global perspective now.

Justin Raimondo at has a blog up that complements sundance's "leverage" perspective quite nicely: The Final Truth of Russia-gate: As the hoax unravels, the real story of “foreign collusion” comes out. Raimondo focuses on the role of foreign "allies" in the plot against Trump. As on the domestic front, there were multiple players: Australia, Ukraine, Estonia, Israel. But the key player was undoubtedly the UK. Without massive intelligence involvement by the UK the entire Russia Hoax would likely never have gotten off the ground. In this passage Raimondo encapsulates that involvement sufficiently for our purposes (much more could be said):

This entire episode has Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s fingerprints all over it. Steele’s key role is plain enough: here was a British spook who was not only hired by the Clinton campaign to dig up dirt on Trump but was unusually passionate about his work – almost as if he’d have done it for free. And then there was the earliest approach to the Trump campaign, made by Cambridge professor and longtime spook Stefan Halper to Carter Page. And then there’s the mysterious alleged “link” to Russian intelligence, Professor Joseph Mifsud, whose murky British-based thinktank managed to operate openly despite later claims it was a Russian covert operation.
It was Mifsud who orchestrated the Russia-gate hoax, first suggesting that the Russians had Hillary Clinton’s emails, and then disappearing into thin air as soon as the story he had planted percolated into plain view. Some “Russian agent”!

Leverage, anyone? Declassification would expose all these foreign governments and their intelligence services as meddlers in American politics, but the heaviest hit by far would be against the UK and its Australian poodle. And so we learn that "key allies" "begged" Trump not to declassify that "origination material." (Cf. What Are Our 'Allies' Afraid Of?) Raimondo notes:

Trump’s decision to walk back his announcement that the key Russia-gate intelligence would be declassified tells us almost as much as if he’d tweeted it out, unredacted.

Yes, Trump smoked them out, got them begging for mercy, as reported by the major media in all too transparent detail. Trump ends up with all the leverage he needs over "Her Majesty's Government" for as long as that leverage is useful. And that will play out in the fields of trade and foreign policy.

Well played, Mr. President!


  1. The public still knows practically nothing about the CIA's involvement in the RussiaGate hoax.

    I speculate that the CIA might have begun to investigate Donald Trump soon after 2012, when he raised a stink about Barack Obama's birth certificate. John Brennan became the CIA Director in March 2013 (after the downfall of David Patraeus).

    Brennan seems to be a CIA Director who would become obsessed with investigating Trump's international businesses. Trump's Miss Universe contest took place in Moscow in November 2013.

    November 2013 was also when the Euromaidan protests began in Kiev against Ukraine's pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych. The Obama Administration supported those protests in order to cause trouble for Russia.

    In this stew, Brennan perhaps began trying to develop evidence against Trump -- that Trump was involved in Russian corruption, that Trump was being blackmailed by Russian Intelligence, that Trump was colluding with Vladimir Putin, and so forth and so on.

    In order to avenge Trump's birth-certificate accusations, Brennan was assembling evidence against Trump in case Trump ever did go into politics. Then, when Trump did announce his presidential candidacy in August 2015, Brennan intensified the CIA's efforts to find evidence against Trump.

    During the last half of 2015 and first months of 2016, Brennan's main idea was that Trump was being blackmailed by Russian Intelligence. Brennan felt confident that the US Intelligence Community would be able to collect convincing evidence along those lines and would be able to leak it eventually in order to sink Trump politically.

    However, that evidence never was found. Therefore Brennan shifted to an alternative main idea, which was that Trump was involved with Russia in Hillary Clinton's e-mail problems.

  2. Mike, the particulars will remain speculative for the time being, but I think you're on to something very important. This is something I've long wondered about, along the following lines.

    Mike Rogers instituted a four or five month audit of who was accessing 702 material and why. He did that in March/April 2016, and the audit stretched back into December, 2015. We're told that that was basically an arbitrary cutoff, presumably because Rogers didn't want to waste time, wanted to get the audit done. One must believe that he had good reason to start the audit in the first place, and to be in a hurry to get it done in the second place. Maybe his reason was to safeguard the integrity of a national election?

    Therefore, there's no reason to suppose that the abuse of 702 didn't stretch back--at a minimum--months further. August 2015 is a nice, rational cutoff, but who knows? I've been told repeatedly that Trump was the potential candidate that the Dems feared pretty much all along, so ...

    And of course, in addition to the use of 702 there would be the human intel gathering.