While SWC largely leaves the focus of the Durham investigation as something for the reader to infer, that focus should become apparent very quickly. As I've maintained, the original Crossfire Hurricane (CH) investigation--CH before Team Mueller--is basically small potatoes as compared to the concerted effort of to force Trump from office by hook or by crook. That, of course, is what Team Mueller was all about. I'm not discounting the criminality of what took place beginning in the summer of 2016 up to Trump's inauguration, nor the Flynn setup, but Team Mueller marked the point at which all the resources of the FBI and DoJ could be openly marshalled against Trump. There was no longer a need to hide what was going on. The coup forces were protected from effective counterattack under the color of law. This is why Barr and Durham are so focused on Team Mueller, as I've long maintained.
Thus, SWC begins his article by basically pointing out that Weissmann's entire focus was on Trump. If there was a conspiracy--and there was--Trump was at the heart of it:
“Mr. Weissmann, when did you stop violating the civil rights of members of the Trump campaign?”
That might be the first question Attorney General Barr could ask Andrew Weissmann if given the chance to inquire about his role as “Mueller’s Pit Bull” in the Special Counsel’s Office.
Andrew Weissmann had one goal in mind, finding a way to indict or otherwise drive Donald Trump from office.
The problem facing Durham has been: How to assemble a case that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt? And this same statement shows what Durham needs to be prove. If Weissmann's goal was to drive Trump from office, any conspiracy indictment will need to show that the goal was undertaken without a sufficient basis, i.e., without predication. That, essentially is where Kevin Clinesmith--disgraced former FBI lawyer and, now, confessed felon--comes in. Clinesmith was present at the beginning of CH and he remained a player on Team Mueller during its crucial period. Which is why his cooperation is important to Durham but a mortal threat to Weissmann:
On June 19, 2017, Clinesmith altered the wording of an email received by him from another intelligence agency and then forwarded the altered email to a “Supervisory Special Agent” (SSA) of the FBI. The changes made by Clinesmith resulted in the SSA’s mistaken belief regarding Carter Page’s status with that other agency, and as a result, the SSA’s affidavit to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was inaccurate due to Clinesmith’s alteration.
[Team Mueller] clearly understood [Clinesmith's] vulnerability once William Barr was appointed Attorney General, given what they knew the IG report on Four FISAs would disclose about Clinesmith and the altered email. They knew he was going to be prosecuted for altering the email. They knew the Page FISA had been illegitimate going back to the original application. They knew Barr would run that subject to ground, and Clinesmith would be compelled to talk.
Team Mueller knew this was the lay of the land as soon as Barr was nominated.
The central problem for any conspiracy investigation is to gain access to the thinking of the conspirators--to develop evidence of their conspiratorial intent. This task is all the more difficult in the Durham investigation because the Team Mueller members will claim that they were acting on the basis of official authorization:
Complicating Durham’s investigation is the fact that the various actors involved will all profess they were simply conducting a criminal investigation. They will claim that all the actions taken by them in the course of conducting that investigation were legitimate law enforcement inquiries.
What Durham needs, therefore, is evidence that the intent behind the seemingly legitimate conduct of a criminal investigation was actually directed toward fulfillment of an illegal conspiracy. In this case, as I've maintained, that conspiracy would have one or both of two possible aims: 1) to defraud the government of honest services--honest investigative and prosecutorial services, misusing the official authorities of the FBI and DoJ for political ends--and 2) to use those official authorities to deprive targeted persons of their civil rights. This is where Clinesmith comes in. If he was privy to consultations of Team Mueller's inner circle--even on a second hand basis--he may be able to explain what decisions were made by which persons and perhaps shed light on motivations. That knowledge may offer Durham critical investigative leads. The information Clinesmith provides may not itself be a smoking gun--this is a step by step process.
Crucially, Clinesmith himself may actually think it was all legitimate but, again, he doesn't know everything that Durham knows. Evidence of intent can be built on circumstantial evidence--not just direct statements of intent.
The problem for Weissmann and Team Mueller, of course, is that neither do they know either what Clinesmith has told Durham or what other evidence Durham may have gathered from other sources. What has Durham gleaned from Rod Rosenstein, from Joe Pientka, from James Baker, and others of whom we may be unaware?
Now, just as Durham's investigation is a step by step process, so too was CH--and the importance of Clinesmith is that he was present for every step from the initiation of CH through the initiation of Team Mueller. As I've emphasized time and again, predication is key to all this, because a lack of predication offers a window into the intent of the investigators and prosecutors. What I mean is simply this: The investigators and prosecutors at the FBI and DoJ are smart people. They understand predication, and they understand when it's not present. If they nevertheless launch a highly aggressive and narrowly targeted investigation, knowing that the investigation lacks predication, then we can surmise that they had improper motives, improper intent. Criminal intent.
We've had a glimpse of at least some of the early CH documents, and it's patent nonsense. There's no getting around that. Clinesmith was there:
Since [Clinesmith] was on the ground at the beginning of CH in August 2016, and knowing that the details of the investigation and operations underway were “closely held,” he was likely privy to the thinking of those involved in those early days when everyone was animated by a “WTF?” attitude when it came to the allegations involving Candidate Trump and Russia.
The early days of CH are where a lot of corners were cut, including the eventual reliance on the Steele “dossier” which the FBI could not itself verify. All they had was Steele’s word that his sourcing was solid, and the allegations of the “dossier” were based in fact. Discussions among the FBI team on how to deal with Steele’s information – and how to describe Steele to the FISC – would be very interesting to Durham and his investigators since we know that a decent amount of obfuscation was employed in the initial application. Whose idea was that and why?
All of that is very bad for a number of people at the top levels of the FBI. The problem for Weissmann is that the bogus "predication" underlying CH is the same bogus "predication" underlying the entire Team Mueller operation. And Clinesmith was "on the ground" for that, too!
What Weissman fears is that Clinesmith can tell Durham what was said to him by the SCO prosecutors. Durham now has a first-person account into the machinations of the SCO in the crucial first few weeks and months when the thinking and planning were taking place with respect to digging out the evidence to prove the Trump-Russia collusion that they were convinced had to exist.
The "collusion that they were convinced had to exist"? That's not a conspiracy, not if they were convinced of the righteousness of what they were doing. I say: The collusion they were convinced they could fake to a sufficient degree to force Trump from office. That IS a conspiracy!
What did Clinesmith tell [the Durham investigators] about problems that had developed with the sourcing behind the allegations in Steel’s memos? The third Page FISA extension took place on the SCO’s watch? Did members of the SCO play a substantive role in approving the application for the third extension? How much did they know about the problems? Did anyone offer a rationalization for pressing forward with the third extension? Did anyone voice an objection, privately or publicly?
The same pattern of questions can be put to Clinesmith about every aspect of his involvement in the continuing investigation during the eight months he worked with the SCO.
But, as SWC notes in discussing the mechanics of the plea deal, those horses (cows?) are long out of the barn. It's not a question of Clinesmith "stopping snitching." He's gone and done it. The question is, What has Durham gained from it? Wouldn't we all like to know!