Thursday, May 17, 2018

Donald Trump's FBI Strategy

The unsurprisingly underplayed "Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Seret Origins of the Trump Investigation" by the New York Times' Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, and Nichoas Fandos reveals

Within hours of opening an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in the summer of 2016, the F.B.I. dispatched a pair of agents to London on a mission so secretive that all but a handful of officials were kept in the dark.

Their assignment, which has not been previously reported, was to meet the Australian ambassador, who had evidence that one of Donald J. Trump’s advisers knew in advance about Russian election meddling. After tense deliberations between Washington and Canberra, top Australian officials broke with diplomatic protocol and allowed the ambassador, Alexander Downer, to sit for an F.B.I. interview to describe his meeting with the campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos.

The agents summarized their highly unusual interview and sent word to Washington on Aug. 2, 2016, two days after the investigation was opened. Their report helped provide the foundation for a case that, a year ago Thursday, became the special counsel investigation. But at the time, a small group of F.B.I. officials knew it by its code name: Crossfire Hurricane.

Not only did agents in that case fall back to their typical policy of silence, but interviews with a dozen current and former government officials and a review of documents show that the F.B.I. was even more circumspect in that case than has been previously known. Many of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

Agents considered, then rejected, interviewing key Trump associates, which might have sped up the investigation but risked revealing the existence of the case. Top officials quickly became convinced that they would not solve the case before Election Day, which made them only more hesitant to act. When agents did take bold investigative steps, like interviewing the ambassador, they were shrouded in secrecy.

Fearful of leaks, they kept details from political appointees across the street at the Justice Department. Peter Strzok, a senior F.B.I. agent, explained in a text that Justice Department officials would find it too “tasty” to resist sharing. “I’m not worried about our side,” he wrote.

Yes, yes. That is the same "Peter S." whom President Trump pressed Attorney General Sessions to fire because he was considered disloyal to the Administration.   The efforts of the agency Donald Trump considers his mortal enemy appeared to pay off as

Only about five Justice Department officials knew the full scope of the case, officials said, not the dozen or more who might normally be briefed on a major national security case.

The facts, had they surfaced, might have devastated the Trump campaign: Mr. Trump’s future national security adviser was under investigation, as was his campaign chairman. One adviser appeared to have Russian intelligence contacts. Another was suspected of being a Russian agent himself.

In the Clinton case, Mr. Comey has said he erred on the side of transparency. But in the face of questions from Congress about the Trump campaign, the F.B.I. declined to tip its hand. And when The New York Times tried to assess the state of the investigation in October 2016, law enforcement officials cautioned against drawing any conclusions, resulting in a story that significantly played down the case.

That "transparency" thing doesn't fly, Mr. Comey.  Transparency is (as Comey stated)

In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here. 

Transparency is not (also as he stated)

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

Even more clearly, "transparency" is not announcing nine days before the election that the bureau is
reopening investigation into the Clinton emails, only to announce a few days later that there is no there there, once the political damage was done.

That damage probably included turning the election.  Comey's decision to be "transparent" about investigating Hillary Clinton while being opaque about investigation Trump was unjustified with probable horrific consequences yet unseen. Nonetheless, it was understandable because

underpinning both cases was one political calculation: that Mrs. Clinton would win and Mr. Trump would lose. Agents feared being seen as withholding information or going too easy on her. And they worried that any overt actions against Mr. Trump’s campaign would only reinforce his claims that the election was being rigged against him.

It was widely accepted during the campaign that Trump's obsession with claiming the election was "rigged" against him was an effort to deligitimize the expected victory of his opponent. However, we have since learned there was an additional reason: to intimidate law enforcement. If  Comey had indicated there was an active investigation into the Trump campaign- or even that there was insufficient evidence evidence to charge Hillary Clinton with a crime, full stop- Trump would have claimed that as proof the election was rigged.

Trump's protestations also reinforced the assumption that he would lose, thereby reassuring Comey, Strzok and others at the FBI that their tilt toward the Republican and against Clinton would not come back to haunt them.

And so ironically, an investigation which yielded no charges was trumped up by the FBI and the media.  And one which- probably far from over- has now led to five guilty pleas and indictments of seventeen other individuals was shoved into the background, stomped upon, and lit on fire.

Donald Trump might be ignorant, uninformed, or as his tweets indicate, barely literate (actually, no maybe about it).  But he isn't stupid, and he played Jim Comey's FBI to the hilt.

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