With each new wave of revelations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s conduct during the 2016 presidential campaign and the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency is painted as ever more nefarious – and with good reason. Newly declassified FBI communications between disgraced counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and others confirm what had already been suspected. The Bureau was well aware that the discredited so-called Steele dossier was being used to influence the media – and, thus, the American people – against Trump. Additionally, the late John McCain, a former failed Republican presidential candidate who hated Trump and everything he stood for, shopped that dossier of lies to the media.
The latest batch of declassified text messages revealed that Crossfire Hurricane was set in motion earlier than the Justice Department had claimed. That fact also means that the purported predication upon which the operation rested was also an illusion.
John Durham, the federal prosecutor, now heading a special counsel probe of the matter, is attempting to define exactly that: what justification was there to target the Trump campaign? It had been claimed that a tip from a foreign diplomat led the FBI to believe that an individual connected to the president’s campaign was attempting to establish a secret channel of communication with Russian officials.
DOJ Claim In Doubt
The DOJ and Strzok himself maintain that Crossfire Hurricane was opened on July 31 of 2016, but, in a July 28 text message to then-FBI attorney Lisa Page, Strzok referred to “our open CI [counterintelligence] investigations relating to Trump’s Russia connections.” Though Strzok himself has since denied that the counterintelligence operation was underway prior to July 31, his message to Page appears unambiguous. When, three days prior, he referred to Crossfire Hurricane as an “open” investigation, there seems to be little room for doubt. It is still not clear when the operation began, who set it in motion, and why.
It had already been suspected that McCain was mixed up in the conspiracy to derail Donald Trump’s White House bid, though the senator himself had denied it. That suspicion is no longer in doubt. In another text to Page, Strzok wrote: “Also Carl Bernstein (yes that Carl) called OPA, said he got a “dossier” from McCain.”
Carl Bernstein, of course, is the journalist of Watergate fame. The OPA is the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.
When a government agency gets caught doing something it shouldn’t be doing, there’s always room for innocent explanation, just as there is in every walk of life. Human beings aren’t perfect. They make mistakes, and, at times, they use poor judgment. At some point, though, the mistakes and apparent errors in judgment become so frequent that claims of innocence can no longer be taken seriously. And so it is with Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI operation that was intended to bring down Donald Trump’s presidential campaign – and then, after he won the 2016 election – bring down his presidency.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.