Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Devin Nunes - Dan Bongino Interview

Dan Bongino's latest weekend interview, linked below, was with Rep. Devin Nunes. At nearly an hour long, the interview contains a pretty fair amount of substance. Nunes, I believe, still shies away from certain topics, but has enough to say to make the whole worth listening to. In what follows I'll focus on the issues that interested me most. Not surprisingly to regular readers, that means the origin of the Russia Hoax investigation ("predication") and possible prosecutive theories ("conspiracy"), which were both addressed at some length by Nunes.

The first thing that caught my attention was when Nunes stated that, while the whole ball of the Russia Hoax had started rolling in late 2015 to early 2016, at a certain point the conspirators "really needed the umbrella investigation." That "umbrella investigation," of course, was Crossfire Hurricane, the "enterprise CI investigation" of "four Americans" (Manafort, Flynn, Page, Papadopoulos) that Comey referred to in his Congressional testimony in March, 2017.

In evaluating Nunes' statement, it's important to understand that Nunes is very clear that the FBI began it's investigation before Crossfire Hurricane was opened. In essence, he confirms what I've long maintained, that Crossfire Hurricane was, in fact, an "umbrella" that took under it earlier investigations. Whether those investigations were preliminary or ful investigations made little difference, at least initially, because a "full" was only needed for the purpose of obtaining a FISA--otherwise, the same investigative techniques could be used. I was at pains, back when this was a hot topic, to insist that the FBI had almost certainly followed the rules by insuring that it had open case files before conducting investigative activities--they were always going to cover their behinds administratively.

But, says Nunes, at a certain point--sometime between early May and the end of July when Crossfire Hurricane was actually opened, that framework--separate investigations on each of the Trump campaign associates were no longer enough. Was there some precipitating event that led to this change of perspective? It stands to reason that there was, and I believe that we can tentatively identify that event as the action Admiral Mike Rogers of NSA took to shut down the FBI's unauthorized "about" queries of 702 material. It was at this time that Strzok complained to Lisa Page that their investigation was now restricted to what are known as "consensual" recordings--informants recording conversations with targets. This development meant that the FBI would need to get a standard FISA on an investigative subject, going through the painstaking application process, if they wanted to get a broader look inside the Trump campaign. They could no longer rely on datamining NSA records.

I believe that one point of the "umbrella" investigation was to circumvent "minimization" restrictions arising from a FISA. Those restrictions might have prevented the FBI from utilizing to the full the two hop principle, especially with regard to following communications throughout the Trump campaign. The concept of an "umbrella" or "enterprise" investigation meant that, by identifying the FISA subject--Carter Page, as it developed--as part of an enterprise within the campaign, following all communications into the campaign would not be thwarted by minimization requirements. While this might not fully compensate for the lost NSA information, it was a big help. Thus also, the push to get the FISA in place before Rogers went to the FISC with his damning report in October, 2016 (end of the fiscal year).

It's in this context that Nunes and Bongino discuss Alexander Downer's approach to George Papadopoulos. Both Nunes and Bongino are on the same page here, although Nunes isn't as forthright as Bongino (Nunes: "It's likely they," i.e., CIA, FBI, "were all in on it."). What's at issue is this. The FBI wants us to believe that they never heard about Downer's approach until days before opening Crossfire Hurricane. Bongino asserts--and Nunes appears to me to go along with this--that in fact the FBI did know about Downer's approach to Papadopoulos in May, but that at the time they thought it had been a bust. Instead, in July they resurrected the concept but doctored the reporting to look more interesting, more supportive of a "Russia" angle, of the need for an "umbrella" investigation.

The question for us, though, is: Why Papadopoulos? Why not just go with the Steele "dossier" narratives about Carter Page? Here, I think, two factors are at play. I think the FBI felt that another target inside the Trump campaign was needed to make the theory of an "enterprise" more plausible. Resurrecting and spicing up the Papadopoulos story worked for that. With the introduction of Papadopoulos they now had "four Americans", not just three, and a corroborative claimed link to the Hillary emails.

The second factor is this. At this point the FBI, I believe, still wanted to avoid relying overtly on the Steele "dossier" to justify such a major intrusion into the Trump campaign. The Papadopoulos angle allowed them to instead use the story of gaining information from a Friendly Foreign Government (FFG - and Nunes is quite humorous on this), rather than dodgy stories that could be traced to the Hillary campaign. In the end, of course, they were forced to get the FISA through the Steele "dossier" stories about Carter Page.

But this still leaves us asking, Why does Nunes believe that the conspirators "really needed the umbrella investigation"? The need for a FISA is part of the answer, but there may be another part. While Nunes doesn't directly tie the two together, I believe the answer may lie in an event that Lee Smith covers--and to which Nunes directly refers--in his book, The Plot Against The President (92-94). The event was an extraordinary meeting of Congressional leaders called by Obama regarding a supposed Russia threat to the election. Simply having an FBI investigation regarding a big Russian intrusion into the Trump campaign was, I believe, a key part of this ploy. Smith writes:

On September 8, Comey, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and Obama's homeland security advisor, Lisa Monaco, summoned congressional leaders for an unusual briefing. Obama had sent them, reportedly to urge a "show of solidarity and bipartisan unity" against Russian interference in the election.
"They pulled us into the House Intelligence Committee room for an all-hands briefing," Nunes recalls. "They called it a Gang of Twelve meeting, which was out of the ordinary." 
"... There had never been a Gang of Twelve meeting before. They were trying to create a stir." 
The subject of the meeting was Russia and what the intelligence agencies said they were picking up about Russian efforts to shape the upcoming presidential election. However, they provided no details. 
"They had no evidence of anything," Nunes said. ... 
Comey and the others were trying to light a fuse. "They were trying to create the impression that there had been a major occurrence and the Russians were behind it," Nunes says. "They were trying to coerce Congress to come out with a joint statement of some kind: the Russians were up to something. And they orchestrated a bigger group--'Gang of Twelve'--to increase the likelihood of leaks." 
Obama's intelligence chiefs succeeded in getting more leaks, but the Republicans refused to produce a joint letter. They weren't taking the bait.
"Comey and the others wanted to create a panic," Nunes says, "but I knew that something wasn't on the up-and-up. McConnell knew it was a setup. And Ryan knew it was a setup. I remember the Speaker talking to McConnell's people, asking what the hell are they doing?" 
With Comey, Johnson, Monaco, and Brennan laundering the Trump-Russia story through Congress, Obama's intelligence community had merged with Clinton operatives.

Obviously, Comey couldn't go into a meeting of that sort with nothing but individual investigations on a handful of Trump associates--the first thing the Republicans would ask would be: Have you done a defensive briefing with Trump? The enterprise "umbrella" investigation provided the bigger buzz and the cover they needed.

Notice in all this, that although Nunes says in the interview that the meeting was to trick the Republicans and get them "to legitimize the shenanigans that were well under way by then," on the surface there would be nothing overtly illegal or criminal. This is where the conspiracy prosecutive theory comes in.

Toward the end of the interview Bongino tries to get Nunes to speculate about likely subjects of prosecution coming from the Barr/Durham investigation. Nunes obviously doesn't want to go into that realm of speculation too deeply--understandably. Instead, he discusses the likely prosecutive theory, which he (like me) sees as based on conspiracy charges. He stresses that most of the individual actions that they've been discussing aren't crimes in and of themselves. Rather, they're the types of things that can be passed off as "mistakes were made." Nunes gets it that that's what all those regulations--including the FISA ones--accomplish: immunization of officials from prosecution. However, he argues, if there is an overall conspiracy that has an illicit motive, those seemingly innocent acts will become criminal if they were done in furtherance of the conspiracy. And he provides examples of the types of conspiracies he has in mind: conspiring to abuse your power, to infringe on civil liberties, to manipulate intelligence for political purposes. To which I would add: conspiring to defraud the government of honest services.

From this standpoint Nunes makes a highly suggestive remark. We've heard over and over that Durham is looking into the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA), and especially whether Brennan improperly tried to shape its conclusions and whether Brennan lied about that. Nunes clearly views the ICA as an integral part of an overall conspiracy, and he refers to it as "Obama's dossier." Think about where that theory could take Durham!

So that's what I focused on during the interview. However, I got a kick out of some of what Nunes related about other aspects, especially about Robert "Bob" Mueller. Nunes obviously thinks Mueller was basically a figurehead, but ponder what Nunes says.

First, he states that by late January or early February, 2017, "We [the congressional committees] had everything on Russia that the Deep State had. They didn't withhold anything. There was nothing about Russia!" In other words, it was a hoax, and it was well known to be so by January/February 2017. That, says Nunes, leads to the joke:

So, Mueller gets there [his new special counsel office] on day one and asks the guys, Alright, where are all these Russians we've been chasing around? And they say, Sorry, Bob, we don't have any Russians.

That naturally leads Bongino to ask, Then what was Mueller doing all that time? Unfortunately, Nunes gets sidetracked and never really gets into that. However, the real question should be: If you knew that, and the FBI knew that, then what was Rod Rosenstein doing appointing a Special Counsel to investigate "the Russians"? That boy's got some 'splainin' to do!


  1. Thanks for another great review and analysis. I just don't know if I can wait six months or whatever for this Durham stuff to start dropping - it's killin' me!

    Keeping with the predication theme, here's part of a sort of long-ish (sorry!) thread from Stephen McIntyre today that I think makes some very read-worthy points ( ):

    1/ Since Horowitz Report, there has been considerable too-smug satisfaction by Dems and FBI supporters that Horowitz found that, given low bar, opening of Crossfire Hurricane was adequately predicated by rumor that Russians made suggestion to someone on Trump team that they would

    2/ release information damaging to Clinton in order to assist Trump campaign. Nearly all commentary has been directed at question of sufficiency. But there's another angle. There's been much frustration at Democrats apparently doing exactly what they accuse Trump campaign of.

    3/ To get past mere frustration, try formatting the concern in terms of whether the FBI had adequate predication for a counter-intelligence investigation of Hillary campaign connection with Russians. And then see what, if anything, Horowitz had to say about issue.

    4/ By early 2017 (at latest), FBI had reason to believe that Russians had been passing information to the Hillary campaign that was damaging to Trump, using Steele and Perkins Coie as witting or unwitting conduits.

    5/ Every element of the supposed predicate for Crossfire Hurricane was met much more convincingly by the Steele-Perkins Coie operation for passing information from Russians to the Hillary campaign.

    6/ Ironically, while FBI was searching high, low and FISA for communication of damaging information from Russians to Trump campaign (while not discovering such nexus), such communications were taking place under their nose to Hillary campaign thru Steele and Perkins Coie.


    19/ With a full-blown counterintelligence operation into the Steele-Perkins Coie conduit between Russians and DNC, the FBI would have had access to all of Steele's communications and could have quickly determined the validity of each and every supposed sub-source and whether

    20/ the Hillary campaign was simply being played by disinformation from "Russians" - be they Russian state, Khodorkovsky or other opponents or even Ukrainian opponents of Russian state.

    21/ FBI's failure to open a counter-intelligence investigation into Steele-Perkins Coie conduit between Russians and Hillary campaign has led to ludicrous situation where, three years later, the provenance of false statements in Steele dossier remain unknown. It is entirely

    22/ possible that fabrications originated with Steele or Fusion GPS and not with "Russians" - we simply don't know. But had FBI done its job, this would have been known long ago.

    23/ Nor is it good enough for Horowitz to say that it was "outside the scope" of his investigation to consider whether a counter-intelligence investigation into communications between Russians and Hillary campaign was predicated. Once he became aware of issue, he should either have

    24/ incorporated it into his study, asked for an expansion of his terms of reference or recommended an additional study to be undertaken immediately.


    For the sake of the Republic, we just have to eventually root out all the details of this whole Fusion-Steele-Clinton-Dossier BS. It’s just too much and too important for all of us citizens not to know what really happened, and it’ll remain a festering and DIVISIVE sore until we do. (And Boris Johnson seriously owes us some cooperation here, FWIW, especially squeezing Steele and everyone else who knows anything over there.)

    1. It's very clever as a thought experiment. I agree that based on those allegations you might well get a FISA on Hillary--directly, because you have her own lawyers involved with the guy who supposedly connects to Russia and they're paying the guy with her money. However, ...

      I think it's more probable that the whole thing was a scam and that the Steele "info" was made up. That doesn't change the above--just sayin'.

      Also, Horowitz can't investigate outside DoJ, so the investigation McIntyre wants should be conducted by Durham--as hopefully is happening.

      I agree that this whole thing is rather nerve wracking. But consider this. I assume that Barr had a pretty good idea of the shape of the whole thing before he took the job--no matter what he says publicly. The guy's got connections out the wazoo. So how big an ego--professionally speaking--do you think he has to come into that situation with so much on the line? He's gotta have a degree of self confidence that you and I can't really relate to.

    2. I don't think Barr re-occupying the AG office at this time implies an oversized ego. It might simply indicate disgust with the egocentric & criminal Comey/Mueller/Obama gang who disgraced the DOJ.

    3. That's not the point. The point is that Barr knew what he was getting into and was confident in his ability to handle it. Nobody sets himself up for failure.

    4. "That's not the point. The point is that Barr knew what he was getting into and was confident in his ability to handle it. Nobody sets himself up for failure."

      I agree with this comment.

  2. Yeah, I agree all the way around - on Barr and what must be his self-confidence especially. And I do feel good about getting to the bottom of things, especially assuming a Trump reelection. (Barr's laughing at Comey's "7 layers below me" comments was a great sign, I thought.)

    Also, McIntyre actually left a final piece to that thread agreeing with you on things being made up:

    25/ as a closing comment, while Steele's claim that sources for his disinformation were Russian ought to be sufficient for counter-intelligence investigation, my own guess is that actual "sources" were US and UK fabrications falsely attributed to Russia.

    1. Yeah, I think that's exactly it. Which makes it all the more beastly. Not sure exactly what word describes the Dems.

    2. Don't forget the suggestion of a few weeks ago (I forget who exactly made it) that portions of the Steele Dossier attributed to one or another 'Russian' actually sprang from the fertile imagination of one...Stefan Halper.

      I mean, Halper was being paid handsomely and it was only reasonable that he be asked to deliver some work product.

    3. What describes Democrats? "Lust for power over others."

  3. I think that Alexander Downer recorded his wine-bar conversation with George Papadopoulos. The recording was not transcribed, but a written summary was written by a subordinate (Erika Thompson). Papadopoulos did not say anything incriminating, and the written summary did not claim that he did so.

    This happened in early May 2016.

    Then, in late 2016, the FBI urgently needed a "tipping point" to open an investigation of the Trump campaign staff. The solution was for Downer to review the written summary and to proclaim that it had failed to include Papadopoulos's incriminating statements. Downer wrote an addendum, and that served as the FBI's needed "tipping point".

    Downer's addendum was a rush job, following the WikiLeaks release of DNC e-mails on Friday, July 22. Downer wrote his addendum during the weekend of July 23-24 and hand-delivered it to the US Embassy in London on Monday, July 25, 2016.


    The Horowitz report quoted only a few sentences from Downer's document. I assume that the entire document still is secret because John Durham wants it kept secret for now.

    1. Yes, your explanation fits in well with what Bongino and Nunes are saying.

  4. In early September 2016, the Trump-hating leaders of the US Intelligence Community were afraid of an "October Surprise" happening shortly before Election Day.

    Those USIC leaders were preparing the groundwork to dismiss such an October Surprise as a Russian dirty trick.

    The October Surprise did not happen. The big surprise was that Donald Trump won the election fair and square.

    The Trump-hating USIC leaders proceeded to use their manufactured anti-Russia hysteria to "prove" anyway that Trump had won because of secret help from Russia.

    1. Also makes sense--if they feared something that Assange might release.

  5. I remember reading the Steele dossier way back when, and having doubts because he cites 30+ sources (double counting?), which made out Steele (who had his cover blown two decades ago, and hadn't been to Russia since) to be running a large counter-intelligence operation inside Russia--unbeknownst to the Kremlin? Right.

    At best, Steele is colluding with Russians to interfere in a US election, at worst, he's being played with disinformation by the Kremlin.

    And if it's all fabricated, then the FBI/DOJ have really been played. It would be hard for anyone to swallow that explanation--so you're left with partisan motivation, which screams out from every quarter.

  6. Still waiting to find out how the Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016 fits in. That is a key event that happened between the Downer/Papad operation and Crossfire Hurricane's start.

    1. I still see that as a Fusion coordinated op against Trump, trying to set up a quid pro quo for fictitious "Russian" help. I still suspect connections to DoJ and FBI.

  7. I find the timestamp issue (US timezone) that you linked to regarding the supposed hacking of a DNC server very interesting. It adds to the likelihood that Bill Binney is correct. Why wouldn't the DNC allow the FBI to examine its server for traces of Russian hacking? Very suspicious.

    It fits with the whole pattern of deception.

    Let me be the first to say an early Merry Christmas!!!

    1. Yes, Merry Christmas to everyone! I have a Christmas post ready to go.

      I think Binney is right. And the mere fact that the FBI didn't demand the server as evidence of a crime stinks to high heaven.