Saturday, November 23, 2019

McCarthy: About The "Premise" Of That Investigation ...

Commenter Cassander's prodding reminded me to read Andy McCarthy's latest article--The First Glimpse into Horowitz’s FISA-Abuse Report. I haven't got far into it, but right near the beginning McCarthy really hits the nail right on the head, skewering some of the spin that some of us have been fretting over. McCarthy addresses the business about the "premise" (or "predication") for the FBI investigation that served as the basis for the Carter Page FISA that is the main focus of the OIG FISA report--due out December 9th.

I discussed this at some length earlier today, but McCarthy gets right to the heart of the CNN spin very elegantly and pithily. It's a useful reminder of how we need to focus on key issues in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. After briefly recounting the news, the revelations about disgraced former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith's bad behavior with other people's emails, McCarthy writes:

CNN adds that some of the witnesses interviewed expect the IG’s report will “find mistakes in the FBI’s handling of the FISA process, but that those mistakes do not undermine the premise for the FBI’s investigation.” The network describes that premise as the conclusion “that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.” 
Of course, that only relates half the story — the uncontroversial half. The FBI’s full premise was that the Trump campaign was complicit in Russia’s election interference. 
What is in issue is whether there were adequate grounds for suspicion of a Trump–Russia criminal conspiracy — enough to justify the FBI and the Justice Department in taking the fraught step of investigating the incumbent administration’s political opposition during a presidential campaign, exploiting such powerful counterintelligence measures as FISA warrants, the deployment of informants, and collaboration with foreign intelligence services against Americans who worked on the Trump campaign — the kinds of investigative techniques reserved for hostile foreign powers and terrorist organizations. 
If the narrative taking shape is that there may have been some abuses but it doesn’t change the fact that Russia meddled in the election, that misses the point. The questions are: What was the FBI’s evidence — which it represented as verified information in the warrant application — that the Trump campaign was in a cyberespionage conspiracy with the Kremlin? What evidence led the Bureau and the Justice Department to allege that Carter Page — who as late as spring 2016 was apparently cooperating in a federal prosecution of Russian spies — was a willful agent of the Putin regime engaged in clandestine activities against his own country?

Where I would take issue with McCarthy, of course, is his characterization of the conclusion "that Russia interfered in the 2016 election” as "uncontroversial." Thankfully it appears that Bill Barr doesn't regard that as totally uncontroversial--otherwise John Durham wouldn't be causing all those CIA analysts to lawyer up as he interrogates them about Brennan's Intelligence Community Assessment that formed the basis for that "uncontroversial" conclusion.

This passage also highlights a major difference between what Durham is doing and what Horowitz has been doing. Horowitz had no jurisdiction to probe into the origins of Crossfire Hurricane, or the process by which the CIA came up with their Assessment. He had to accept the Assessment's conclusion as a given. Durham does have jurisdiction over the Assessment. And he's going for it. Not just the part that McCarthy, rightly, views as controversial, but the whole ball of wax.

These distinctions are what we have to keep in mind going forward, as well as in assessing the FISA reports conclusions. Barr/Durham are not bound by those conclusions, as the trajectory of their investigation shows.


  1. McCarthy blows hot and cold. He held out for the longest time re his friend or former friend, Mueller, being an honorable man and above board. It took him almost two years to figure out that Mueller was either a fraud or a beard. His views on Russian meddling are plain strange. He takes it as a given, this man for whom evidence should be the only thing that matters.

    He's a never Trumper at heart. Still, it's better to have him on our side. And yes, he is elegant and pithy here. I must confess: I simply don't understand why he takes big-time Russian meddling as a given.

    Does he know something others don't know?

    1. I think part of his problem is coming of age in the belly of the beast--Big Government, The Swamp. He appears to reflexively trust government "professionals" until beaten over the head with proof that they're wrong.

      Even in this article, toward the end, where he speaks of altering evidence as, of itself, "inevitable" and small stuff--that left me "slackjawed" as someone else said.

  2. I have tried hard to like McCarthy (to some he is a guru) and to follow his line of reasoning in his articles and in his appearances on various Fox broadcasts. This may sound like heresy, but he came very late to all of this. Sundance was already out there, before anyone else seemed to know what was going on. I had not yet discovered your blog. McCarthy seemed to have sat back, then wakened one day and, seeing what others were doing, decided that maybe something was really going on after all. And he should get involved. Write some articles, maybe a book. A speaking tour. Right up his alley, with new material. He then began to skim the investigative work done by others and use it as a basis for his own “analysis”. It showed. At least I thought so.

    He still does not come up with anything new, no fresh insights. I get bogged down reading him and listening to him speak. Ponderous.

    My opinion. Grab a little salt...

    1. You're quite right. Still, I take good writing and explanations where I can find it, and I always try to document my sources. He's very solid when it comes to explaining criminal procedure and the way prosecutors approach cases. Not so much a big picture guy.

    2. McCarthy is dead to me. I admired him for a long while. No more. If he does good work now and then, I'm glad for any insight that he gives that helps you, which in turn, leads you to help me in my understanding.

      I simply can't read him or National Review anymore.

  3. "Where I would take issue with McCarthy, of course, is his characterization of the conclusion 'that Russia interfered in the 2016 election” as 'uncontroversial''".

    In another comment earlier this evening, I mentioned having found Oliver Stone's recent doumentary film, Revealing Ukraine, to be most interesting and absorbing.

    In it, Stone interviews Vladimir Putin extensively about events in Ukraine and the United States' involvement in those events.

    Stone asks Putin whether Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S.election.

    Putin responds: "No".

    1. Putin's a sharp guy and his interviews show it. For the complications of Russian politics--and the wrongheadedness of much of our policy--in these Putin years, Stephen Cohen's book on the Russia Hoax is a very readable intro. The idea that Russia is simply a "dictatorship" and Putin the dictator is absurdly simplistic. And it really has been cynically used by the Left to try to play on conservative sentiment. A real disservice, put mildly, to the country.

  4. The Deep State has been trying for nearly 3 years now to lure Trump into making a fatal mistake, e.g. some act that could actually justify a real impeachment/conviction and not incur the wrath of conservative voters. And although Trump has not taken the bait or succumbed to entrapment, those efforts are still ongoing and will not likely cease.

    As such, Trump has his plate full with just being president and succeeding with his domestic and foreign policy agendas. He does not need to confront the Deep State immediately and run the risk of an unforced error in the run up to the 2020 election. His best strategy is to avoid mistakes, show strength, and win the election next year.

    Then, after November 3rd, everything changes. Trump will be in his final term and far less constrained by political leverage originating in the Congress. There is a good chance the Democrats will lose the House, but if not, they will be severely weakened and a second run at impeachment could seriously ignite a civil war, so that threat is essentially disarmed. So what happens next?

    He will be free to clean house in the Executive Branch and get rid of the Obama Fifth Columnists including rogue elements in DOJ/FBI, CIA, NSA, SoS, etc. He can push his MAGA agenda which would further undermine the Globalists and seriously constrain their profit mongering from endless war and foreign corruption. He can nominate at least one (and perhaps two) more Supreme Court justices. And Barr can finally prosecute the big fish in the coup conspiracy.

    The Deep State doesn't win by keeping Comey and Brennan out of prison. They lose by ensuring that Trump's base stays angry and shows up at the polls next year.

    1. I like a lot of what you're saying. The good news is that Trump doesn't appear to be running out of energy--he seems to feed off all this stuff that would wear down ordinary mortals. If there are to be major prosecutions--which I do expect--I think they'll begin relatively soon. But reform is necessary and, as you say, may have to wait for post election--although preparing the ground for that may well be part of his election platform and be fueled by prosecutions.

      Re the Deep State in your 1st paragraph, as I remarked to Cassander I have long believed that the DS has cynically used residual anti-Russian Cold War notions to try to force Trump--and actually Obama, to an extent--to their will. Despite drastically changed world realities. Trump understands all this, far better than most realize.

  5. There simply is no evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Without hard evidence the charge is ludicrous. The allegation is simply an invocation of Cold War 2.0 ideology. It is abstract, not concrete. Mueller offered no concrete evidence for his "sweeping interference" charges, and the IRA troll farm allegations are just plain silly and not worthy of serious discussion. On the other hand, we do know that the Hillary Campaign did interfere in the 2016 Dem primaries and then in the general election by paying for the Fusion GPS "dossier." Hillary referred to Trump as a Russian stooge several times, including at one of the debates. So it is good to hear that Durham may be questioning both parts of the predicate. As long as the evidence-free "Russia interfered" allegation stands unchallenged, the Dems and the MSM will claim that "somehow" Trump was colluding, an article of belief that tens of millions of Dems still hold dear. I think we will never be able to rein in the permanent warfare state as long as the "Because Russia" scapegoating and smokescreening option is allowed to stand.

    1. Well put. I share those sentiments (cf. comments above for shorthand version). Interesting name, btw.

  6. I'm beginning to think that Trump is an actual genius.

    There is a non-trivial chance that Nancy may push through an impeachment and the subsequent trial in the Senate could become unpredictable because of RINOs and Deep State blackmail.

    So how does Trump diffuse this potential threat?

    He pushes Nikki Haley as the next rising star in the Republican Universe.

    What does this do? Now, every Republican Senator that hopes to succeed Trump in 2024 will need to make nice with Trump in order to have any hope of capturing his voting block in the primaries. Ted Cruz has recently come out with a "more Conservative than thou" pro-Trump message and very soon we can expect the same from Rubio, Romney, and many other Senators. Brilliant!

    1. I'm willing to agree that Trump is a very stable genius, but as for your scenario: No thank you.

      As for the supposed unpredictability of a Senate trial, I recommend the view of a guy I would always be chary of disagreeing with--he's that shrewd and has that kinda track record:

      Why they won't convict Trump

    2. The Surber piece linked above is very good and highly recommended.