A newly declassified transcript calls into question the entire Crossfire Hurricane investigation: Why was it started, and why did it continue?
because it deserves to be read in full. What I like about it is that it gives an insight into the kind of thinking that was swirling around (think: toilet bowl) in the Crossfire Hurricane team. Either the top levels of the FBI were staffed by complete bozos who could not distinguish what they wanted to be true from their obligation to share relevant information with professionals who might come to a different conclusion, or ... they were totally corrupt.
Here's the short story.
The FBI had two tapes of informants talking with Papadopoulos--Stefan Halper and Jeffrey Wiseman. Of the two, Halper was not on close terms with Papadopoulos but Papadopoulos and Wiseman were (at least in Papadopoulos' mind) on quite friendly terms. Both Halper and Wiseman tried to elicit incriminating statements from Papadopoulos, concerning Trump campaign collusion with "the Russians" and involvement in the DNC "hack." Papadopoulos strenuously denied such ideas to both Halper and Wiseman. The FBI refused to accept that Papadopoulos was sincere and exculpatory and instead maintained that Papadopoulos was providing a "coached" denial--sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don't take. The FBI also refused to provide the transcript to Stu Evans at DoJ's Office of Intelligence. Evans had the job of vetting the Carter Page FISA and had serious concerns about the adequacy of the FBI's application.
Here's the FBI's reaction to the Papadopoulos - Halper recording:
While Papadopoulos’s September 2016 denials to Halper were strident and unequivocal, the IG report made clear that the Crossfire Hurricane team found them unconvincing. Case Agent 1, publicly known to be Joe Pientka, told the IG that “he and the team discounted Papadopoulos’s denials for several reasons.”
The IG report noted that Pientka said, “[T]he Crossfire Hurricane team’s assessment was that Papadopoulos’s denial to the CHS was a rehearsed response.” His “response to the direct questions seemed weird,” Pientka said, “because it ‘seemed rehearsed and almost rote.’” Papadopoulos “went from a free-flowing conversation with [Halper] to almost a canned response,” Pientka claimed.
The IG report further noted that “Case Agent 1 emailed SSA 1 and others to report that Papadopoulos ‘gave … a canned answer, which he was probably prepped to say when asked.’” According to the report, Pientka said that “it remained a topic of conversation on the Crossfire Hurricane team for days afterward whether Papadopoulos had ‘been coached by a legal team to deny’ any involvement because of the ‘noticeable change’ in ‘the tenor of the conversation.’”
Another agent likewise told the IG that “his main observation was that when Papadopoulos was pushed for answers, he seemed to have a ‘prepared statement. It sounded like a lawyer wrote it.’” When the Office of General Counsel’s Deputy General Counsel Trisha Anderson later learned of Papadopoulos’s responses while working on a letter to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, she said Papadopoulos’s statements to Halper sounded “self-serving” and “like a lawyered statement.”
These excerpts make clear that the Crossfire Hurricane team uniformly viewed Papadopoulos’s denials to Halper as contrived.
In other words, if Papadopoulos admits collusion with the Russians, Trump is guilty. If Papadopoulos denies collusion with the Russians, it's a contrived, legally coached denial of the truth. Heads the FBI wins, tails Trump loses--because Trump is the real target in all this. By the way, isn't it remarkable that all these top level FBI types have such complete confidence in their mind reading abilities? Where did they get that? And why did they think Stu Evans (whom Paul Sperry says is emerging as key in the Durham conspiracy case) wouldn't share their view? Hadn't he taken the same mind reading training?
Anyway, Cleveland neatly turns the tables by pointing out that, if Papadopoulos may have sounded stilted and even strident while talking to Halper, the tone was quite different when he was talking to Wiseman.
The conversation was friendly and uninhibited. In the midst of these off-the-cuff and cordial exchanges, Papadopoulos chatted with Source 3 about politics, the DNC hack, and Russia.
As far as Cleveland could discover, no one in the FBI claimed that Papadopoulos' denials to Wiseman were coached:
So why didn’t the Crossfire Hurricane team members consider the possibility that Papadopoulos’s denials to Source 3 were legitimate? Arguably, the team had a solid basis for discounting his denials to Halper, but the transcript of Papadopoulos’s conversation with Source 3 reveals those same justifications don’t hold. This point goes well beyond FISA abuse and calls into question the entire Crossfire Hurricane investigation: Why was it started, and why did it continue?
And why didn’t the IG report discuss how the Crossfire Hurricane team viewed Papadopoulos’s denials to Source 3? After extensively discussing the reaction of team members to Papadopoulos’s denials to Halper, the IG report is virtually silent on the impact of his continued denials.
The report merely notes that Pientka “received a document with these Papadopoulos statements included in it a few days after the October 2016 meeting,” and that Pientka told the IG that “he was familiar with this CHS meeting at the time and probably reviewed the summary of the interview containing these statements.” Yet when asked why he had not shared the statements with the Office of Intelligence or included it in the FISA renewal applications, Pientka said he “did not recall” but “the information would not have been purposely withheld … but it may have been accidentally omitted.”
The more significant query is why didn’t these denials give the Crossfire Hurricane team pause before it continued its investigation into Donald Trump? Barr is right: this doesn’t smell like a mere mistake.
And, of course, since the predication for Crossfire Hurricane--the investigation that was morphed into the Mueller Witchhunt--was supposed to have rested on Papadopoulos, why didn't Team Mueller take these considerations into account?