The former FBI agent Peter Strzok worries that Americans will never learn the full story about Trump’s relationship with Russia.
It's actually not even an interview in any traditional sense. It's more of a Trump-Hate venting session. Normally if a journalist interviews a controversial figure, the journalist will push and challenge the interview subject. Strzok is someone who was fired by the FBI after he helped launch unpredicated investigations into a presidential campaign using opposition research from the other campaign, then obtained FISA warrants that everyone who knows anything--Michael Horowitz at OIG, Bill Barr at DoJ, the FISA court judges--understands were fraudulent. He's now awaiting indictment and prosecution. In any normal world that would qualify Strzok as controversial, but not in the alternate reality inhabited by Applebaum and The Atlantic.
Well, there is the possibility that The Atlantic simply doesn't care about its reputation and is willing to sacrifice its credibility in an effort to stop what's beginning to look like a Trump re-election juggernaut.
So, instead of posing challenging, probing questions, Applebaum tosses out one debunked conspiracy theory after another. Strzok fields them, agrees, then tosses out one of his own, and so it goes--back and forth. Improbable as it would be in a normal interview, the two agree on everything, and it all comes down to: Orange Man Bad. Also Mean, because Strzok is gonna get prosecuted.
You can actually get the drift of it right from the title: ‘Who’s Putting These Ideas in His Head?’ Trump is afflicted with Wrongthink--bad ideas, ideas that no right thinking person could possibly hold. That's a dead giveaway, according to Strzok, that Trump has been "compromised" by the Russians. They're blackmailing him. Here's how that works:
[Trump] is on the campaign trail saying I have no financial relationships with Russia, while at the very same time, his lawyer Michael Cohen is in Moscow negotiating a deal for a Trump Tower, there are people who know that. Vladimir Putin knows that. As it happened, the FBI knew it. But nobody in the American public knew it. So the moment that he says it, everybody who knows about that lie has leverage over him.
Is Strzok really such a simpleton? Is this type of magical thinking really the way the FBI's CI agents operate?
You're probably saying to yourself, Wait a minute--Cohen was doing that basically on his own, remember?
Strzok has an advantage over you. He has availed himself of "public reporting." Really. That's how he knows this stuff:
Applebaum: Or why doesn’t he speak out against the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, or why hasn’t he spoken up for the democracy movement in Belarus? Do you think that there are other ways in which Trump is beholden to foreign powers?Got that? Those are two examples of Trump being blackmailed by Putin.
Strzok: It seems clear to me from public reporting that there are more.
Right. What could be more clear? Except that, if Putin really has the goods on Trump, Putin has set a pretty low price for his blackmail.
Helpfully, Applebaum leads off by sketching out Strzok's big picture of the Danger facing us as a nation:
As I read Strzok’s book, I found myself unexpectedly angry, because his narrative exposes an extraordinary failure: Despite multiple investigations by the FBI, Congress, and Mueller’s team, Americans have still never learned the full story about the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia or Trump’s own decades-long financial ties with Russia. Four years have passed since the investigation began. Many people have been convicted of crimes. Nevertheless, portions of reports produced by Mueller, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and others remain redacted. Investigations are allegedly ongoing. Details remain secret. Meanwhile, valuable FBI time and money were spent investigating which email server Hillary Clinton used—a question that, as it turned out, had no implications for U.S. security whatsoever.
Strzok himself was not exactly reassuring: He does not believe that Trump’s true relationship with Russia was ever revealed, and he now worries that it won’t ever be. It’s not clear that anyone ever followed up on the leads he had, or completed the counterintelligence investigation he began. He doesn’t say this himself, but after speaking with him I began to wonder if this is the real reason the Department of Justice broke with precedent in his case by not just firing a well-respected FBI agent but publicly discrediting him too: Strzok was getting too close to the truth.
So, maybe Mueller and Weissmann were in on the coverup, they were part of the fix for Trump to ensure he wouldn't be impeached? That must be why they never followed out Strzok's great leads! In fact, Applebaum actually does suggest that something funny was going on with Mueller's failure to fully explore "Donald Trump’s multiple Russian connections, going back three decades." And Strzok, of course, agrees. He wants us to believe that anyone who knew a Russian three decades ago should have his life turned inside out, because ... counterintelligence! No, really. He faults Mueller for only looking at ties to the Russian government and not just, hey, Russian people, Russian businessmen. Because Trump has these funny ideas. It must be blackmail.
Oh, and about that wasted of valuable FBI time that was spent investigating which server Hillary's emails were on. Applebaum quotes from Strzok's book:
“If Clinton’s email had been housed on a State Department system, it would have been less secure and probably much more vulnerable to hacking than it was on her private server.”
Yeah, I'll bet David Petraeus wishes he thought of that one!
But let me offer some examples of things that somehow don't get covered in this interview. In fact, these are words and phrases that don't appear even once in the interview.
That's right. Not mentioned once--despite the fact that Applebaum and Strzok do an elaborate dance around the Chris Steele issue. Get a load of this:
Applebaum: Let me ask you about one very confusing element of this story, namely the dossier provided by the British former agent Christopher Steele. You have said many times that this dossier was not the reason you opened the investigation into the Trump campaign. By the time it emerged, the investigation had already begun, based on other kinds of stories, including that of the Australian high commissioner in London, who heard George Papadopoulos bragging about his links to Russia in a wine bar. But what impact did the Steele report have on your investigation?Got that? We're supposed to believe that the Trump investigation was based on that really reliable story the FBI got from Aussie "diplomat" Alex Downer. Never mind what what Mifsud said, nor the documentable fact that Papadopoulos had no Russian connections. We're supposed to believe, at this late date in the ongoing Russia Hoax, that this transparent subterfuge was good enough to open a full counterintelligence investigation on a presidential campaign. The only confusing thing, according to Applebaum, is that some people have this crazy idea that the Steele dossier had something to do with opening the investigation.
Strzok: The Steele report was a problem for the investigation, because it sent people off on a series of wild-goose chases. ...
The report was very typical of information that the FBI often receives. It comes from several sources, including some suspect sources. Some of it is bullshit, and some of it is rumor, and some of it is disinformation. From our perspective, some of it was a distraction: It didn’t talk about George Papadopoulos, or much about Paul Manafort or Michael Flynn, or all the things going on in the social-media environment, and these were the things we were focused on. There was a lot about Carter Page, who in the end made up, I think, seven pages of Mueller's whole report. Carter Page was a tiny little slice of this whole huge host of activity.
Carter Page was just "a tiny little slice"? Four FISA warrants later? All of which were based on the hoax Steele dossier obtained from the Clinton campaign--two of which followed on the Danchenko interview that debunked Steele's entire hoax dossier. That was some distraction--and some "tiny little slice"!
"No there there."
Nope, Applebaum doesn't go there, not even hinting that Strzok had expressed a belief that there was "no there there" in the Trump investigation. So he doesn't get to take credit: See! I toldja! I said there was "no there there," and "Bob" Mueller has just proven that I was right!
Which leads to "no collusion."
Finally, we get to what Strzok believes--without any pushback or second guessing from Applebaum--was "an egregious miscarriage of justice." Yes, he's referring to "the Department of Justice ... walking back [Michael Flynn's] guilty plea". You might think that Applebaum would ask Strzok why the FBI thought it was appropriate to question the National Security Adviser about routine conversations with a foreign ambassador, but you'd be wrong. She doesn't go there.
And what better way to close out this charade of an interview, than to once again propagate the big lie about "sanctions." In fact, Flynn had not discussed the "sanctions" but rather the "retaliatory" expulsion of Russian diplomats from the US. Flynn had simply urged the Russians to keep things within normal bounds and not to escalate.
All in all, pathetic.
However, for an excellent takedown of Strzok and the Atlantic in connection with the latest hoax, let me recommend: Peter Strzok Promotes Debunked Atlantic Story Against Trump, But Gets Dropped on His Head by the White House.