Dispatch October 9, 2019

Barr’s Conspiracy Witch Hunt: Why It Would Have Been Malpractice For the FBI Not to Have Investigated Trump And Russia.

Attorney General Bill Barr and US Attorney John Durham are traveling around the world seeking to prove Trump’s conspiracy theories that the Russia investigation was some sort of deep state plot to undermine Trump. But given the incredible number of alarms bells that were set off in 2016, it would have been negligent for the FBI not to have begun the Russia investigation.

There were multiple, separate warnings to the US from allied intelligence agencies about Trump’s ties to Russia during the campaign:

  • The UK first warned US officials in late 2015: As early as late 2015, British officials informed US officials about interactions between Trump associates and suspected Russian agents.
  • More allies passed on similar warning from late 2015-summer 2016: Between late 2015 and summer 2016, German, Estonian, Polish, Dutch, and French officials reportedly passed similar information to US officials about contacts between the Trump team and Russia.
  • Australia issued the warning that launched the investigation in July 2016: Australia warned US officials about a May 2016 conversation their top diplomat to the UK had with a drunken Trump campaign advisor named George Papadopoulos, where he told the Australian envoy that that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. According to the Mueller report, it was this report that launched the official FBI investigation.

A deluge of known Russia-connected figures joined the campaign around the same time:

  • Michael Flynn joined the campaign as Trump’s national security advisor in February 2016. Just two months earlier, Flynn was sitting next to Putin at the RT Gala in Moscow, at which he was paid $45,000 to speak.
  • Carter Page joined the campaign as a foreign policy aide in March 2016. Russian spies had already attempted to recruit Page years before he worked for Trump, and during the campaign, in July 2016, he went to Moscow to give a pro-Russia speech.
  • Paul Manafort joined the campaign on March 28, 2016. Manafort, who would eventually become campaign chairman, had spent years working for pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs and eventually pleaded guilty to various crimes, some connected to his work in Ukraine, including conspiracy against the US and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Manafort also brought on board his deputy from his pro-Russian consulting work, Rick Gates.

The election was under attack, and this needed to be investigated:

  • The DNC had been hacked by Russian government operatives, which the public and therefore certainly the FBI were made aware of by June 14, 2016, through multiple news reports.
  • WikiLeaks began releasing emails that had been hacked by Russia from the DNC on July 22, 2016.
  • As the Republican nominee, Trump received an intelligence briefing in August warning that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would probably try to spy on his campaign. The intelligence and law enforcement communities were clearly concerned about Russian interference.

During the campaign, Trump was up front about wanting Russia’s help, and was pursuing a major business deal in Moscow—all of which would have been major red flags, considering America was in the midst of a Russian attack.

  • During the campaign, Trump was pursuing a Trump Tower Moscow deal, and although the Trump team first claimed that negotiations for the project stopped in January 2016, Michael Cohen reached out to the Kremlin for assistance that same month.
  • Trump lied about his pursuit of the Trump Tower Moscow deal. Although the Trump team first claimed that Trump Tower Moscow negotiations had ended six months prior, it was later revealed that the deal was ongoing throughout at least June 2016. Throughout the entire campaign, Trump claimed he had “nothing to do with Russia,” although according to Cohen, Trump “knew of and directed the Trump-Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it.”
  • After it was publicly known that Russia was attacking the U.S. political system, Trump asked Russia for help. On July 27, 2016, well after it was public knowledge that Russia had attacked the DNC, Trump asked Russia to interfere in the election on his behalf, saying “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

With all of this happening in such a short period of time, it would have been unthinkable for the FBI and intelligence agencies not to have investigated Trump’s interactions with Russia. And even so, it wasn’t until after Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey and invited the Russian foreign minister into the Oval Office to laugh about getting the pressure of the Russia investigation “taken off” him that the FBI opened an investigation into Trump himself, seeking to determine “whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.” If anything, the FBI was too slow and hesitant to pursue a politically charged investigation.