In this important investigative work, Sperry documents that--contrary to the fears of many--Michael Horowitz at OIG has not been simply twiddling his thumbs. Nor, by very direct implication, have Bill Barr and John Durham been idle. The investigative task Congressional investigators--and now the Barr team--faced, and continue to face, is monumental in and of itself. They have had to contend with, and are still confronted by, determined resistance from the Deep State. Sperry's article provides reassurance that we will in due course (i.e., before the 2020 elections) receive some key answers as to the overall shape of the Russia Hoax: its origins, its development, its morphing into the Mueller inquisition.
That last phrase is important in its tripartite structure: the Russia Hoax: its origins, its development, its morphing into the Mueller inquisition. These three aspects of the overall Russia Hoax can be seen, in a sense, as three acts in a drama. Let's see how that metaphor plays out, as we look at Sperry's account.
AG Barr has said he wants to "get his arms around" the origins of the Russia Hoax, and that is the task he has--at least initially--assigned to Durham. To that end, we've heard that Durham is, no doubt among other activities, talking to senior CIA and FBI officials who were associated with the document that was a key to establishing and perpetuating the Russian "meddling" narrative: the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA). Of course, this aspect of Durham's inquiry also has implications for later events, but it's very much at the origin of the Russia Hoax.
The task of Horowitz and OIG has been to get to the bottom of the fraud that was later perpetrated on the FISA court (FISC). However, Sperry's sources tell him that OIG has gone well beyond that initial task and have examined the targeting of Trump himself by Comey and, more generally, by the FBI, during the period from the election to the appointment of Mueller as Special Counsel. This is the second act, the development of the Russia Hoax from an effort to prevent Trump's election to an attempt at a coup: the removal of a sitting president for political reasons, under the pretense of legal action.
In considering these first two acts, there are several aspects that are important to keep in mind. Barr, as AG, is able to parcel out investigative tasks--within the legal and jurisdictional mandates of the groups and organizations involved. OIG, by its nature, is perhaps uniquely qualified to undertake an investigation of wrongdoing within DoJ and the FBI. Durham, on the other hand, will be better qualified--and will have the authority--to investigate those outside the jurisdiction of OIG. He will also have the legal tools to undertake tasks that are beyond the reach of OIG, but the two can coordinate their efforts.
This synergistic effect involved in the investigative work of Horowitz and Durham will hopefully feed into the third act of this drama: the morphing of the Russia Hoax into the Mueller inquisition. I describe this new act as a morphing or transformation deliberately. By the time Mueller was appointed it was well known that the Russia Hoax had failed--even though Rod Rosenstein dishonestly presented the Mueller inquisition as a continuation of the Crossfire Hurrican Russia Hoax. This is why, in another post earlier today, I quoted James Howard Kunstler's ruminations on the drama that is playing out around Mueller himself:
The entrapment operation that was the Special Counsel’s covert mission has turned out to be Mr. Mueller own personal booby-trap, ...￼
The whole affair now takes on tragic contours of Shakespearean dimensions. The Attorney General, Mr. Barr, is said to be an “old friend” of Mr. Mueller. They clashed pretty publicly after the release of Mr. Mueller’s long-awaited final report. Mr. Barr must at least be dismayed by the bad faith and deliberate deceit in his old friend’s final report, and he really has to do something about it. The entire Mueller episode smacks of prosecutorial misconduct. In retrospect, it can only be explained as a desperate act undertaken by foolishly overconfident political activists.
I agree with Kunstler. The draining of the Deep State will not be accomplished unless Barr addresses the Mueller inquisition itself: how it came about and who authorized it. We know that Mueller's deputy, Andrew Weissmann, was deeply involved in the early stages of the Russia Hoax--meeting personally with Christopher Steele before the first FISA application was even submitted to the FISC. This was an intrusion into matters that were far outside Weissmann's then duties in the Fraud Section at DoJ--suggesting that even at that early stage a legal and investigative hit team, hand picked, was being assembled against Trump. This leads to questions such as: With whom did Rod Rosenstein consult when preparing to appoint Mueller. Rod Rosenstein, Weissmann and Andrew McCabe--to name three key players consult together in this matter, and did they consult with members of the Legislative Branch?
This raises complicated constitutional issues that will undoubtedly require AG Barr's personal involvement to an unprecedented degree. We have learned that Rod Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe plotted the appointment of Mueller, and that they briefed the Congressional and Senatorial "Gang of Eight." This raises the question: To what degree was the Legislative Branch complicit in the machinations of the IC Deep State? The question is a delicate one, but it must be asked (for an eloquent presentation of that aspect, see Conrad Black's recent Mueller Is Set For Quite a Sleigh-Ride In the House). All this--everything surrounding the Mueller inquisition--constitutes the third act of the drama, and Barr will be at center stage in deciding how to deal with that.
So, with that said, let's turn to some of the specifics in Sperry's article.
Sperry begins by posing the question: "Why did former FBI Director James Comey refuse to say publicly what he was telling President Trump in private -- that Trump was not the target of an ongoing probe?" And the answer is straightforward:
Sources tell RealClearInvestigations that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz will soon file a report with evidence indicating that ... Comey was essentially “running a covert operation against” the president
This covert operation began even before Trump was inaugurated. The overall strategy appears to have been plotted at the infamous January 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting that included Comey, Obama, Joe Biden, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and National Intelligence Director James Clapper. The strategy was implemented immediately with Comey's provocative briefing of Trump the very next day regarding the most outrageous fictions in the Steele dossier. This was quite possibly an early attempt to intimidate Trump into withdrawing even before the inauguration.
Why, then, did Comey repeatedly deny to Trump that he was being targeted? In a sense Comey was only speaking the truth--the plotters had to that point never dared to open an investigation on Trump himself, despite the allegations in the Steele dossier. They knew that, in Peter Strzok's words, there was "no there there":
[F]ormer FBI counterintelligence agent and lawyer Mark Wauck said, the FBI lacked legal grounds to treat Trump as a suspect. “They had no probable cause against Trump himself for ‘collusion’ or espionage,” he said. “They were scrambling to come up with anything to hang a hat on, but had found nothing.”
But that doesn't mean that Trump wasn't the real target:
Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy ... said that just because the president’s name was not put on a file or a surveillance warrant does not mean the Comey FBI was not investigating him. “They were hoping to surveil him incidentally, and they were trying to make a case on him,” McCarthy said. “The real reason Comey did not want to repeat publicly the assurances he made to Trump privately is that these assurances were misleading. The FBI strung Trump along, telling him he was not a suspect while structuring the investigation in accordance with the reality that Trump was the main subject."
"Make no mistake,” McCarthy added, “the investigation was always about Donald Trump, from Day One."
Yes, it was all about Trump, about removing him as President, and Comey wasn't about to say anything for public consumption that could be interpreted as revealing the reality that there was "no there there."
This reality included concrete steps. For example, each time Comey met with Trump--a total of nine times--he memorialized those conversations and routed them to the case file (presumably Crossfire Hurricane), even though Trump wasn't formally a subject. He also leaked those notes to unauthorized outsiders, because the real object was to force Trump out, not necessarily to make a case. And yet, right up to the day Comey was fired, the FBI under his direction was flailing about trying to come up with something, anything, that would serve that purpose, "anything to hang a hat on," knowing full well that there was nothing:
McCabe’s former aide Page admitted in her closed-door congressional interview that, at the time her boss ordered the investigations, they couldn't connect Trump to the Russia conspiracy, and that “it still existed in the scope of possibility that there would be literally nothing” there.
This was literally an investigation in search of a crime--or a pressure point, by which to force a presidential resignation. A coup, by any other name.
But perhaps Sperry's most explosive revelation is that Comey had FBI and DoJ personnel within the White House's National Security Council who were spying on Trump and reporting back to Comey--and later Mueller--as recently as last year:
At the same time Comey was personally scrutinizing the president during meetings in the White House and phone conversations from the FBI, he had an agent inside the White House working on the Russia investigation, where he reported back to FBI headquarters about Trump and his aides, according to officials familiar with the matter. The agent, Anthony Ferrante, who specialized in cyber crime, left the White House around the same time Comey was fired and soon joined a security consulting firm, where he contracted with BuzzFeed to lead the news site's efforts to verify the Steele dossier, in connection with a defamation lawsuit.
“Between the election and April 2017, when Ferrante finally left the White House, the Trump NSC division supervisor was not allowed to get rid of Ferrante,” he added, "and Ferrante continued working — in direct conflict with the no-contact policy between the White House and the Department of Justice.”
Another FBI official, Jordan Rae Kelly, who worked closely with Mueller when he headed the bureau, replaced Ferrante upon his White House exit (though she signed security logs for him to continue entering the White House as a visitor while he was working for BuzzFeed). Kelly left the White House last year and joined Ferrante at FTI Consulting.
Working with Comey liaison Ferrante at the NSC in early 2017 was another Obama holdover — Tashina Gauhar, who remains a top national security adviser at the Justice Department.
In January 2017, Gauhar assisted former acting Attorney General Sally Yates in the Flynn investigation. Later, she helped Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resist, initially, Trump’s order to fire Comey. Gauhar also took copious notes during her meetings with White House lawyers, which were cited by Mueller in the section of his report dealing with obstruction of justice.
There's much, much more detail--the full article has to be read to get the full impact of what's being described--the inner workings of the most outrageous political scandal in American history. Obviously Sperry isn't naming his sources, but what comes through clearly--and to that extent reassuringly--is just how busy IG Horowitz and his investigators have been:
The IG’s report, which is expected to be released in early September, will shine new light on the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, given that Horowitz and his team have examined more than 1 million records and conducted more than 100 interviews, including sit-downs with Comey and other current and former FBI and Justice Department personnel.
But there's much more work to be done. Sperry has constructed a remarkable picture of Comey's central role in the operation of the Russia Hoax and it's development. What remains to be answered is: During all this activity, to whom was Comey reporting? I for one don't accept that Comey was out on this coup limb all on his own.