By Robert Romano
Whatever ongoing inquiries the FBI has into Russia’s role or lack thereof into the 2016 elections initiated during the Obama administration need to be wrapped up immediately — and publicly.
This witch hunt has gone on far enough.
Particularly, if there are no prosecutions forthcoming for supposed collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign — because there is no evidence of any crimes being committed — then the FBI needs to put this to rest now.
It’s not enough for FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to tell White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in private that these allegations, published in a recent New York Time story, were bogus — only to have that discussion turned on its head because of yet more leaks designed to make it look like the White House was somehow pressuring on the law enforcement agency to leak in its favor.
People’s reputations are being destroyed by leaks from inside the U.S. government’s national security apparatus — a deep state if you will — implicating individuals as Russian agents.
Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, recently stepped down from his National Security Advisor role largely because surveillance against the Russian ambassador, in which Flynn had had a discussion, was made available to the press — by government officials.
We can well assume at least the unmasking it was warrantless because to unmask U.S. persons netted by foreign intelligence surveillance does not require a warrant under existing rules, USSID 18. But even if there was a FISA warrant on Flynn himself from months earlier, all that would prove is that the Obama administration, the incumbent party, had been conducting active surveillance of the Trump campaign, then the opposition party.
Flynn later failed to fully disclose to the White House including Vice President Mike Pence what was discussed, a mistake he paid for with his job, but not until his civil rights had been absolutely violated. He should have never been in a position to have to explain anything, because there should have never been a news story in the first place about a perfectly legitimate conversation he had had with one of his foreign counterparts preparing for the incoming administration.
Later, it was revealed that the FBI had looked into Flynn’s conversation, and had found no crime had been committed.
Months ago, Paul Manafort was ousted as Trump’s campaign chair, seemingly because he had once provided services to the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, for his reelection campaign in 2005 — which was public knowledge — that was suddenly being reported again with a focus on corruption in Ukraine. Later he was subjected to an FBI probe — leaked to the press a week before the election — but no charges were ever brought.
Carter Page, a campaign consultant, was similarly deposed after business ties to Russia — which is no crime — became a media story. Later it was revealed the FBI had investigated those ties, a story leaked and then published in September. No charges were brought, but he lost his job.
What did they all have in common?
Besides having connections to Trump, destroying careers and the lack of any charges or even the slightest allegation from law enforcement that any crime was ever committed, plus they were all investigated by the FBI — and somehow leaked to the press — they had all been featured prominently in the dossier of lies thankfully published and discredited by Buzzfeed in January.
I write, thankfully, because if it had not been published, there might never had been any way to publicly refute some of these charges — which had been circulating among members of Congress, the FBI and the White House.
This was the same explosive memos — originally funded by Trump’s GOP rivals and then by the Democrats as opposition research — that alleged Page had traveled to Moscow in 2016 on behalf of Manafort to supposedly plot the disclosure of DNC emails on Wikileaks with Russian agents. It alleged Trump himself was a Russian agent.
It also made a critical error when it named Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as another Russian agent who allegedly had traveled to Prague in late August to meet with Russian agents to clean up the mess of Manafort and Page’s alleged involvement with Russia. There was only one problem, Cohen was at the University of Southern California with his son, an account verified by both the Atlantic and the Daily Mail. Later it was revealed some different Michael Cohen had traveled to Prague.
The critical error was this: If Trump’s Cohen had not been in Prague, indeed, had never even traveled to Prague in his life, then the conversations he supposedly had there with Russian agents mopping up the Wikileaks mess could not have possibly taken place. The only explanation was that they had all been made up. Further, it points to the very real possibility that the authors were utilizing what they believed were Trump campaign officials’ travel records — as in Page and Cohen’s case — or previous affiliations — as in Manafort’s — and filling in the blanks with garbage.
Garbage that circulated the Clinton campaign and then Congress, the FBI and the White House. Garbage that apparently was enough to launch a full-scale national security investigation and potentially even have put the Trump campaign under surveillance — an unbelievable abuse of power.
The nation has been down this road before, with one big difference. In the 1950s there actually were Soviet spies who had infiltrated the U.S. government, whether it was the Rosenbergs or Alger Hiss. Back then there were real spies, real confessions and real convictions.
Now, in perfect guilty until proven innocent manner, members of Congress have all but proposed reinstating the House Un-American Activities Committee, only this time proposing an “independent” commission to publicly examine what are actually highly classified matters. As if it would produce anything other than a very public witch hunt.
Really, the calls for a commission are just a sop for what has become crazed mob who believe Moscow won the election for Trump and therefore have penetrated the White House—in essence having conquered America without firing a shot.
Does anybody think this mob will be sated by a commission? You have not been paying attention.
In the meantime, this whole affair has been extremely damaging to U.S.-Russian relations, making the prospects of conflict between the two nuclear superpowers appear more likely. For example, in hotspots like Ukraine civil war — where prominent members of Congress like Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have called for U.S. arms to be shipped — and Syria, where the U.S. under Obama backed rebels that were opposed by the Assad regime, which was backed by Russia.
Trump’s only apparent sin was that on the campaign trail he ran on improving relations with Russia. Something that, admirably, he has stuck to even with all through the controversy, a policy that unlikely, normally adversarial sources such as The Nation magazine are now defending.
But the FBI can put this all to rest. It’s time to wrap up this investigation, for better or for worse.
Suggesting that the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations is absolute poppycock at this stage, when ongoing investigations have been leaked to the media for months — all to apparently influence the elections and then the transition. Maybe the FBI should be investigating itself or former White House officials for apparently using surveillance to spy on political opponents of the then-Obama administration and then consistently leaking the classified material it to the media for political purposes — the only apparent real crime that has been committed.
All these episodes are convincing anybody is that this agency is wielding far too much power and potentially needs to be reined in, something Democrats might be willing to take a look at given their own candidate, Hillary Clinton’s, recent run-in with the agency in 2016 — details of that investigation aside.
It’s time to put the cards on the table. This is getting out of hand. If Flynn, Page, Cohen and Manafort — and Trump himself — are all innocent, if these stories are really bogus, it’s time for the FBI to say so. And hurry up, before this madness gets us all killed.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.