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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

UPDATED: The Dog That Didn't Bark In The Mueller Dossier

Well, I was trying to come up with a clever title, and that was the best I could do. Actually, I was inspired by Margot Cleveland's interesting article today:

New Fusion GPS Info Confirms The Special Counsel Probe Was A Hit Job
The renewed focus on the Steele dossier are cementing the case that the special counsel probe served as a taxpayer-funded political hit on President Trump.

Cleveland's thesis is simple:

Today’s release of Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch’s book on the Steele dossier, “Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump,” has put the former MI6’s collection of anti-Trump memoranda back in the news. The renewed focus on the Steele dossier are cementing the case that the special counsel probe served as a taxpayer-funded political hit on President Trump and not a true investigation into Russia’s election interference.

That much--that the Mueller Witchhunt was simply a "a taxpayer-funded political hit on President Trump"--seems to me to be totally uncontroversial. It was an obvious attempt to either force Trump's resignation or remove him via impeachment. Where I take issue, however, is with the route that Cleveland takes to arrive at that conclusion. Cleveland begins with important observation, which others have also made, that:

“Not once in the 448-page tome does Mueller mention an investigation into whether Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election by feeding dossier author Christopher Steele misinformation.”

She concludes that Team Mueller, in their supposed "investigation into whether Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election," avoided examining Chris Steele's "dossier" was to avoid the possibility that Steele was "played by the Russians."

I think there's another explanation which is, if anything, even more corrupt. However, lets start at the beginning.


Was Mueller actually appointed to investigate "whether Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election"? Not really. A cursory examination of Rod Rosenstein's memo appointing Mueller reveals some pretty obvious misdirection going on. Basically, what Rosenstein wrote in his 5/17/17 memo boils down to is this:

In order to fully investigate the Russian governments efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election I'm appointing "Bob" Mueller to continue the FBI's investigation of the Trump campaign ("Crossfire Hurricane").

Don't believe that Rosenstein wrote something that so obviously jumped to the conclusion that all Establishment Washington wanted? I'll quote the exact wording from his letter:

to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, I hereby order ... Robert S. Mueller III ... to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Corney ... on March 20, 2017, including ... any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.

So there it is. Mueller was to continue the FBI's Crossfire Hurricane investigation into the Trump campaign. The validity of that investigation is taken for granted, as is the supposed lack of any foreign connection to the Clinton campaign.

What makes this openly single minded focus on Trump so remarkable is that there were early concerns both about the reliability of the Steele "dossier" as well as the possibility that the Clinton campaign had colluded with Ukraine to defeat Trump. And any time you start talking about Ukraine in an intel context, you have to consider the possibility of a Russian connection. Consider--while sources such as CNN, the BBC, and the FBI were totally aboard the Trump-Russia Collusion bandwagon from the get-go, professionals were calling for caution:

Generally, "former intelligence officers and other national-security experts" urged "skepticism and caution" but still took "the fact that the nation's top intelligence officials chose to present a summary version of the dossier to both President Obama and President-elect Trump" as an indication "that they may have had a relatively high degree of confidence that at least some of the claims therein were credible, or at least worth investigating further". [From a Vanity Fair article dated 1/11/17.] 
... 
On January 11, 2017, Newsweek published a list of "13 things that don't add up" in the dossier, writing that it was a "strange mix of the amateur and the insightful" and stating that it "contains lots of Kremlin-related gossip that could indeed be, as the author claims, from deep insiders—or equally gleaned" from Russian newspapers and blogs. Former UK ambassador to Russia Sir Tony Brenton stated that certain aspects of the dossier were inconsistent with British intelligence's understanding of how the Kremlin works, commenting: "I've seen quite a lot of intelligence on Russia, and there are some things in [the dossier] which look pretty shaky."

Those two articles were both dated before Trump's inauguration. On the same date, 1/11/17, a much more explosive article appeared in the left wing Politico--one which the anti-Trumpers have resolutely ignored:

Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire
Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.

Far from being in any way debunked, this article's account of deep ties and collusion between the Clinton campaign and the Ukrainian government has only been deepened and strengthened since the article appeared--although you might not guess that from a reading of the MSM or the Impeachment Theater fiasco. All the above was well known to the FBI and should have been well known to Rod Rosenstein before Mueller was ever appointed--just as it was well known before Trump was inaugurated. It was also well known to the entire DC political establishment--Republican as well Democrat. And they let it happen. Cleveland's contention that the whole Team Mueller episode was a taxpayer funded political hit job on Trump therefore seems impossible to deny.

Now, as I've said, the notion that Ukraine and Russia are somehow mortal enemies and, especially, that Russia has no influence within Ukraine, is no more than Deep State narrative, deployed for domestic political purposes. The continuing connections can be seen in the curious mixture of Russians and Ukrainians that keeps cropping up when the Clinton campaign is examined. For example, the episode that I keep returning--the famous Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya--features just such a mixture. Since the various players at that meeting were all connected to Fusion GPS, as was Chris Steele, might it not be the case that Steele was, indeed, "played by the Russians"? Perhaps even as Fusion GPS was colluding with the Ukrainian government figures, as we now know? Is this why Team Mueller refused to examine that possibility--lest they confirm that Steele had been "played by the Russians" and was feeding Russian disinformation into US politics, and thus exonerate Trump?

To me this explanation is both too complicated and lacks any real support. What appears to be the case is that Steele never really had any Russian "sources" or "sub-sources" worth mentioning. He attributed the information to a Russian emigre living in the UK, but the FBI interviewed that Russian before Rosenstein appointed Mueller, and found him non-credible. The simplest explanation is simply that Steele was employed by Fusion GPS because of his former MI6 credentials, to "sex up" the claims of Trump-Russia collusion which were already being floated before Steele was hired by Fusion GPS.

What that means is that Team Mueller may have avoided examining the Steele "dossier"--which had already been discredited, as disgraced former FBI Director Comey admitted before Mueller's appointment--not because they feared that Steele had been "played by the Russians" but more because they feared that it would become apparent that he had NOT been played by the Russians. That he had, perhaps with help, made it all up. And so the Mueller Dossier simply dropped the whole collusion narrative with as little mention of Steele as possible.

Why does this notion of the Russians having "played" Steele keep coming up? I believe it results from John Brennan's bogus Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA)--a true disinformation operation on the American public--that claimed as a fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. The "Steele was played" narrative is part of a last ditch effort to defend the supposed good faith of the FBI's anti-Trump operation, which some conservatives like Cleveland have unwittingly bought into. Fortunately, Bill Barr recognizes the centrality of the ICA as a cover justification for the Mueller hoax investigation--the taxpayer funded political hit on Trump, as Cleveland rightly characterizes it. The Barr/Durham focus on the ICA shows an unerring instinct for getting to the heart of the matter. Once the ICA is revealed as a hoax, the enormous conspiracy against Trump will be full exposed. No Russian interference, only US Deep State interference.

To conclude, I'll paste in from yesterday Ray McGovern's assessment of the ICA:

As for the “Intelligence Community Assessment,” the banner headline atop The New York Times on Jan. 7, 2017 set the tone for the next couple of years: “Putin Led Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Says.” During my career as a CIA analyst, as deputy national intelligence officer chairing National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs), and working on the Intelligence Production Review Board, I had not seen so shabby a piece of faux analysis as the ICA. The writers themselves seemed to be holding their noses.  They saw fit to embed in the ICA itself this derriere-covering note: “High confidence in a judgment does not imply that the assessment is a fact or a certainty; such judgments might be wrong.”  
Not a Problem 
With the help of the Establishment media, Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan,  were able to pretend that the ICA had been approved by “all 17 intelligence agencies” (as first claimed by Clinton, with Rep. Jim Himes, D-CT, repeating that canard Thursday, alas “without objection).”  Himes, too should do his homework.  The bogus “all 17 intelligence agencies” claim lasted only a few months before Clapper decided to fess up. With striking naiveté, Clapper asserted that ICA preparers were “handpicked analysts” from only the FBI, CIA and NSA. The criteria Clapper et al. used are not hard to divine. In government as in industry, when you can handpick the analysts, you can handpick the conclusions. 
Maybe a Problem After All 
“According to several current and former intelligence officers who must remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue,” as the Times says when it prints made-up stuff, there were only two “handpicked analysts.”  Clapper picked Brennan; and Brennan picked Clapper.  That would help explain the grossly subpar quality of the ICA. 
If U.S. Attorney John Durham is allowed to do his job probing the origins of Russiagate, and succeeds in getting access to the “handpicked analysts” — whether there were just two, or more — Hill’s faith in “our intelligence agencies,” may well be dented if not altogether shattered.

UPDATE: Woops! My bad! It turns out that the notion that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election has been "debunked." I know this, now, because:

Pompeo suggests debunked Ukraine election meddling theory should be probed
Jonathan Landay 
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday suggested that Ukraine should be investigated over allegations that it interfered in the 2016 election, a debunked theory advanced by President Donald Trump that witnesses told the congressional impeachment inquiry was spread by Russian spy agencies. 
Pompeo was asked at a news conference if the United States should probe accusations of Ukrainian election meddling that Trump’s fellow Republicans have raised in the Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives probe into whether Trump abused his power for domestic political gain. 
“Any time there is information that indicates that any time any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right but a duty to make sure that we chase that down,” Pompeo replied without naming Ukraine. He added that even a suggestion of interference should be probed. 
Pompeo said that in his first administration post of CIA director, the agency used “every tool of American power” to deal with efforts by many countries and groups to “undermine American democracy.” He did not identify any of those entities. 
His comments contrasted with his own endorsement of a 2017 U.S. intelligence community assessment that Russia pursued an influence operation of theft and dissemination of Democratic Party documents, fake news and other means to benefit Trump over his 2016 Democratic foe, Hillary Clinton. Russia denies interfering. 
...
Witnesses at the House Intelligence Committee hearings have testified that the allegation of Ukrainian election interference was spread by Russia. 
“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” said Fiona Hill, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who served as the top Russia expert at the White House. 
She said that Trump’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, tried to disabuse Trump early in his term of the notion of Ukrainian interference. Bossert in September called it “a completely debunked” conspiracy theory.

38 comments:

  1. I always considered Hag Ohr the true author of the Steel Dossier.

    Rob S

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    1. I'm open to a collaborative effort although Steele does increasingly appear to be mostly a front man. OTOH, would Ohr have been so stupid as think there was a Russian consulate in Miami?

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    2. "would Ohr have been so stupid"

      Sidney Blumenthal or Cody Shearer might well have been...

      In any event we simply don't yet know who wrote the Dossier...Steele? Ohr? Blumenthal? Simpson? Jacobs? Shearer? Another person? Or persons?

      All we do know is that basically nothing in the Dossier has been verified. It was...all...made...up.

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    3. Except for small words--the copula, definite and indefinite articles, etc.

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  2. ‘James 8. Corney’, does this mean something? It is from your first pull quote.

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    1. Yes it does. It means that the text version generated from a pdf misread "B" as "8". I've corrected it. Thanks.

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  3. I think that when Rod Rosenstein became the acting Attorney General in this matter, he was rather ignorant about Crossfire Hurricane and believed what he was told. In particular, he believed that FBI counter-intelligence had solid proof that Russian Intelligence was meddling in the US election and organized a treasonous "enterprise" within Donald Trump's campaign staff.

    Furthermore, Rosenstein believed that Trump was either a witting member of that "enterprise" or was somehow compromised or controlled by Russian Intelligence.

    Slowly but surely, Rosenstein came to understand that this story essentially was a fiction. By this point, however, he lacked the gumption to terminate the Mueller Investigation. Rosenstein had to let that investigation play itself out. Only when William Barr took over the DOJ was Rosenstein able to take effective action to cooperate in the termination of the investigation.

    -----

    I have the impression that the evil genius in DOJ/FBI was Andrew McCabe. He was collaborating with the CIA's John Brennan to concoct the fiction.

    In retrospect, the donation of campaign money to McCabe's wife was a significant event. McCabe was being rewarded for the key role that he was playing.

    Furthermore, McCabe soon was supposed to become the US Attorney General after Hillary Clinton became President.

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    1. I think your assessment of Rosenstein may well be generally correct. My reservation is that, as a lawyer who had worked at a very high level and had first hand knowledge of the Uranium One case, he should have known better than to turn the dogs loose on Trump alone. When did he realize how far over his head he was? Was it when OIG investigated him re the FISA that he signed? I'm not sure of the timeline there. We could find out soon.

      Re McCabe, he never would have been AG--he lacked the credentials (despite the law degree). He may have hoped that Comey would move on and he could become D, or maybe top guy at some other prestigious agency. Maybe replace Clapper, something like that. Was he the evil genius at the FBI? How did Comey play into this? Interesting questions that we may soon know a lot more about. My sense is that Comey didn't just let McCabe run things, but that he did try to insulate himself.

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    2. McCabe, he never would have been AG--he lacked the credentials (despite the law degree). He may have hoped that Comey would move on and he could become D, or maybe top guy at some other prestigious agency. Maybe replace Clapper, something like that.

      I think you are right about that.

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    3. Mike -- FWIW, I'm inclined to agree w you re Rosey...among other things it leads to a plausible explanation how he survived Trump's anger and why Barr went to his going away party at DOJ...

      Also, if you are right about McCabe, where in your judgment does that leave Comey in the constellation? Did McCabe try to exclude him from the Brennan plotting?

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    4. I fully admit this is just my, at best, semi-informed opinion that could easily be dead wrong, but if Rosenstein just blindly accepted assumptions and conclusions he was fed by others, I say it was a wholly willful blindness. And if he was in over his head, it was only in a moral and ethical sense, as there's just no way he wouldn't realize he couldn't properly do his job without first understanding - before taking actions like appointing a Special Counsel - the entire story from the very beginning. Lastly, there's no way a person of his prosecutorial experience could’ve asked the DOJ & FBI the hard questions necessary to achieve this understanding without seeing crystal clearly that things didn't add up.

      Maybe it’s just because of how much of a raging anti-Rosentein partisan I am, but I just refuse to let him even a little off the hook by thinking he was maybe just some bumbling buffoon, or anything at all along those lines. Much more likely I think is the old story of, if he didn’t know, it’s because he didn’t ask, and if he didn’t ask, it’s because he didn’t want to know.

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    5. Brad, I agree with you. It was his duty and obligation to be fully informed. The step he took--appointing a special counsel--was too consequential for less than a searching inquiry on his part that would have required McCabe and anyone else involved to put themselves on the line and make it possible for RR to undo his decision if they were untruthful.

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    6. Brad and Mark --

      Yes and yes.

      But...Insider Washington was consumed with TDS when Trump fired Comey and Rosey hired Mueller. I make no excuses for Rosey but would argue that he must have flip-flopped big time to have survived.

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    7. Absolutely - he's a "survivor" if nothing else.

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  4. This comment is somewhat off-topic.

    One supposed proof that Russian Intelligence hacked the DNC server is that Russian Intelligence had hacked some Ukrainian military equipment -- artillery or some such -- by the same hacking method.

    It turned out that the Ukrainian military equipment had not been hacked by that method.

    Never mind whether or not that is true. An essential point in this situation is that CrowdStrike apparently was prepared to prove, if necessary, that the DNC server and the Ukrainian military equipment had been hacked by the same method, which was developed and used by Russian Intelligence.

    Suppose there is some truth in that. If so, then CrowdStrike had been allowed to study the hacking of Ukrainian military equipment.

    Now suppose that there is NO truth in that. If so, then some key Ukrainian officials were willing to confirm, if necessary, that the hacking of the military equipment had been done by that method.

    In either case, there is a Ukrainian element in CrowdStrike's story that the DNC server was hacked by Russian Intelligence.

    When President Trump was talking with President Zelinsky, Trump mentioned that someone in Ukraine had the CrowdStrike server -- or something like that.

    I wonder if Trump's remark in that conversation was referring not to the DNC server, but rather to some other server in Ukraine that CrowdStrike used in its "proof" that the DNC server had been hacked by Russian Intelligence.

    For example, suppose ...

    * there is some Ukrainian computer server that governs some artillery system

    * this server actually or just supposedly was hacked by Russian Intelligence

    * CrowdStrike was allowed to study and tinker with that artillery server and thus to identify Russian Intelligence as the hacker

    * CrowdStrike then found that the Ukrainian military server and the DNC server was hacked by the same method.

    If the situation were something like that, then Trump might have been asking Zelensky to get possession of that Ukrainian server so that it can be studied by Dunham's team.

    This Ukrainian military server might even be a "CrowdStrike server" that CrowdStrike placed in Ukraine and used there as a decoy to attract and study Russian hacking.

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    1. I wonder if a CrowdStrike employee has snitched insider information to Dunham's investigation.

      Trump's remark to Zelinsky about some CrowdStrike server in Ukraine indicates to me that there is some important CrowdStrike-Ukraine element in this story that is not known to the public but is known to Trump.

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    2. Very interesting, Mike. We know that Trump speaks imprecisely at times, as in: "wiretap." So a confusion of this sort seems very possible. The idea that Ukrainian interference in our elections is somehow more acceptable than Russian interference is about as loony as it gets. I can easily see Ukraine coming to an intel understanding with Russia as regards the US. The failure to absolutely get to the bottom of the Ukraine angle is insanity.

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    3. That would be great. So much going on, I'm sure.

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    4. Wow, that's a really interesting angle. It would fill in a lot of blanks about what Trump was talking about and, as far as I can see, it requires few if any logical or factual jumps at all. I'd like to say I'm surprised no one else has put it out there, but sadly I'm not.

      (BTW, I thought that Crowdstrike was shown for sure to be wrong in that Ukraine artillery hacking thing. For example, this ZeroHedge piece: bit.ly/2DiKNUG )

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  5. And how Fusion GPS "made it all up" almost certainly involved its role as a "contractor" the FBI gave access to 702 queries into the NSA meta-database.

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    1. Very possible. For example, the mistake about Cohen in Prague probably came from Nellie Ohr searching the 702 material.

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    2. Wait, when was Fusion GPS given access to an NSA database?

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    3. Not certain because of time scale, but according to FISC report could have been as long ago as 2012, or conceivably earlier. Or could have been as late as 2015 or so.

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    4. Bruce Ohr probably fed a lot of information to his wife Nellie, the so-called “Russia expert”, who was said to be the researcher for the Fusion GPS dossier. Steele was said to have been the one who pulled it together and did much of the writing of the dossier.

      I have no source for that. It was probably CTH some time ago.

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    5. The unlawful 2015 and 2016 searches of the NSA and FBI databases were being *intentionally conducted* by people within the FBI and DOJ-NSD, and by *outside contractors* like Fusion-GPS and Crowdstrike. It was political opposition research.

      The extracted raw intelligence, was political opposition research being conducted by Fusion-GPS per their contracts with political campaigns. After taking the Clinton contract Fusion then funneled the search results to Christopher Steele.

      Christopher Steele then washed the FBI database raw intelligence, repackaged it into segments within his "dossier" and then passed it back to the small group inside the FBI. (Peter Strzok). Ergo the FISA(702) extracts were laundered.

      The NSA FISA(702) compliance officer noticed the uptick in "about queries" being used to search the NSA/FBI databases. The compliance officer reported the increased activity to NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers.

      Early in 2016 Mike Rogers ordered a top-to-bottom audit of search logs to determine who was abusing the NSA/FBI database.


      More here:

      https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/985215354866667520.html

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  6. As is made evident by the ongoing Schiff impeachment inquiry, an active coup attempt is still underway and lots of Deep State coup conspirators are still employed within the Executive Branch and also as part of Congress. Trump is handcuffed in dealing directly with these miscreants because the Deep State wants him to lure him into making a mistake that they can leverage into an impeachable offense. And the coup attempts won't end until someone pays a significant price for treachery and criminality.

    It's clear that Durham is not yet ready to strike so Trump is now using other means to hit back and the results are beginning to pay off. He stopped the endless war in Syria, which was a direct groin kick at Soros. He turned the tables on the Deep State and lured Spencer into committing career suicide. And the only tangible output from the Ukrainegate debacle is that it outed and defanged several Obama deep cover Fifth Columnists. Best of all, Trump's tweets have the effect of pushing the Democrat presidential candidates further to the Left, which dooms the eventual nominee in swing states. Not too bad considering that the entire DC political and media edifice is aligned against him.

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    1. Probably no one cares, but since you mention endless war, my latest peak-cynicism take on the pro-endless war crowd is that for a lot of them - particularly those who are aligned with the Democrats and who would normally be reflexively against U.S. as world policeman - it's just one more arm of the anti-U.S. Cloward-Piven strategy: in this particular case, to stretch us thin in every way, divide us at home in every way, weaken us in every way. At a minimum, the fact it does stretch us thin and politically divide us is seen by many as more feature than bug, or so it seems to me.

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  7. I never bought the speculation that Steele was "played" by the Russians with disinformation. Frankly, were it actually Russian disinformation, I'd expect a better effort.

    I agree that the 'disinformation' narrative is a late entry to shore up a "good faith effort" on behalf of the FBI--but to me that makes the FBI look even more incompetent, i.e. it's easy to disorient and sidetrack the world's most fearsome investigative agency with BS. In other words, the FBI was "played" right along with Steele.

    Steele's dossier with 30+ sources (employed or close to the Kremlin and/or Putin) suggests Steele was running a counter-intelligence service rivaling that of a Western power. And seemingly preposterous for someone who hadn't been in Russia in nearly two decades.

    Robust intelligence has always amounted to quality of the information, not quantity of sources.

    It struck me as a fictional narrative with some chickenfeed supplied to give the appearance of truthiness.

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    1. FBI was not played. The are seditious suspects/perpetrators/actors in collusion with other government officials/agencies and foreign powers.

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    2. Lee Smith's new book makes the best argument I've seen against the Russian disinfo theory, but I'd say that "Frankly, were it actually Russian disinformation, I'd expect a better effort" is very close in 2nd place and has the added bonus of extreme, and commendable, concision.

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    3. Yes. For example, the Russians would know whether or not they had a consulate in Miami.

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  8. Trump was purposely neutered of an AG that could have taken action by these truly disgusting anti-Americans.

    Even with all this against the Democrats, I find that the NeverTrump Republicans to be far worse.

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  9. Please clarify: are you being sarcastic when you say you now know that the allegation of Ukraine meddling has been debunked?

    I thought it was a given because a politico article reported it back in 2017.

    Forgive me if I'm being dense, but this is kinda important and I want to be clear on it.

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    1. Yes, I was being sarcastic, and in the original pre-UPDATE section of the blog there is a link to the never "debunked" Politico article. As well as to the existence of massive corroboration of the supposedly "debunked theory". The "" were intended to indicate sarcasm.

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  10. Landay.

    Nuff said.

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  11. Fiona Hill was one who believed Steele might have been played by the Russians. Fed disinformation. From an article by John Solomon on Steele’s other business (other than doing the dossier on DJT), that of providing information he got from American sources to “other interested parties”.

    Fiona Hill, a recent impeachment witness and a former top Russia expert on the National Security Council, suggested to lawmakers in a deposition recently that Steele’s dual role as government insider/informer and private intelligence provider left him vulnerable to Russian disinformation when he wrote his dossier.

    “He was constantly trying to drum up business,” Hill testified when asked about her own contacts from time to time with the former British intelligence agent.

    She said that when she read Steele’s anti-Trump dossier in January 2017 she instantly feared it might be disinformation fed to Steele by the Russians because he previously had done spy work for MI6.

    “That is when I expressed the misgivings and concern that he could have been played,” Hill testified.

    She added: “The Russians would have an axe to grind against him given the job he had previously. And if he started going back through his old contacts and asking about that, that would be a perfect opportunity for people to feed him some kind of misinformation.”


    https://johnsolomonreports.com/steele-distributed-other-dossier-reports-including-one-to-an-oligarchs-lawyer/

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