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:
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:
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.