Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general of the United States, did not know very much at all about the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane counterintelligence operation, it seems. At least, this is what Ms. Yates would have the American people believe, if her August 5 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee is anything to go by. One would have thought that the most politically sensitive and consequential federal investigation in modern U.S. history would have been handled with considerably more caution and attention to detail – but this was not the case, apparently.
Yates did not know that the centerpiece of the FBI’s predication for spying on individuals associated with then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team – the infamous “Steele dossier” – was nothing more than gossip and assumption. She did not know that the man who compiled the dossier, Christopher Steele, was being paid through a Washington, D.C. research firm by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Yates was also unaware that Steele had admitted to a Justice Department official that he was “desperate” to ensure that Trump would not become president.
Yates also did not know that an FBI affidavit for a FISA warrant was riddled with errors and omissions. She was not aware that anyone at the DOJ or the FBI harbored any animus toward the incoming president.
Yates’ Ill-Concealed Political Bias
The former Obama administration official was unable to hide her own political bias, though. Pressed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on whether she agreed with the findings of the special counsel, that a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians could not be proven, Yates hedged. She was clearly unable to bring herself to admit that no such collusion had occurred, and Sen. Graham was clearly irritated with her reluctance to do so. She also refused to acknowledge that obstruction of justice by the president could not be proven as rising to the level of a criminal act.
On the other hand, Yates was quite adamant that no part of the FBI’s surveillance of Trump campaign associates was driven by any political bias whatsoever and that the president and his campaign staff had not been treated any differently than any other candidate or government official would have been treated.
As with everyone else who dislikes this president, Yates deftly moves the goalposts when it comes to judging Trump’s words and deeds against the words and deeds of others. While she considers the findings of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz absolute and beyond question, the former Justice Department number two takes a different attitude toward Robert Mueller’s conclusions.
Having investigated the FBI’s execution of Crossfire Hurricane – the operation to uncover links between the Russians and the Trump campaign – Horowitz failed to establish conclusive, documented evidence that political bias had influenced the decisions and actions of senior FBI officials. For Yates, that was good enough. Case closed. And yet, the I.G.’s findings certainly do leave room for doubt. His report clearly states that political bias was evident and that there remains a concern that Bureau officials were influenced by that bias – he was simply unable to nail down proof that political partisanship played a role in the decision-making.
On the other hand, Yates sees the special counsel report in a different light, as do all those who oppose the current president. For Yates, the fact that Mueller failed to uncover evidence of a conspiracy involving the Trump campaign and the Russians does not mean that the conspiracy did not occur.
James Comey Went “Rogue”
What, then, was Yates willing to concede, regarding the FBI’s flouting of rules and protocols. Its utter failure to corroborate allegations against Trump contained in the Steele dossier, and its decision to withhold exculpatory information from a FISA court? She conceded that the Bureau skirted certain protocols and made a number of errors. Moreover, she concurred that Sen. Graham’s use of the word “rogue” to describe former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the investigation of Michael Flynn was accurate.
Plausible deniability is a concept well-known in political and national security circles. What former Obama administration officials are practicing is more like implausible deniability. A mountain of evidence exists that FBI and DOJ officials, with the knowledge and approval of the Obama White House, sought to fabricate an active relationship between Russian officials and President Trump’s campaign. Considerable evidence has been revealed that the FBI targeted Michael Flynn, set him up to “lie” to their agents and coerced him, through Mueller’s special counsel, to plead guilty to lying.
Yet, nobody at Justice was aware that anything untoward had happened and nobody was responsible. It is nothing more than pure coincidence that everybody involved in the operation targeting the Trump campaign harbored disdain for the man who was to become president. It was merely a matter of carelessness and oversight that the FISA court received incomplete and inaccurate information. This is what we are supposed to believe.
Sen. Graham intends to press on with his investigation into these matters. Hopefully, at some point, those involved in this stupendous political scandal will learn what Democrats have for nearly four years been telling the president: No one is above the law.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.