Politics & Policy

How the Clinton-Emails Investigation Intertwined with the Russia Probe

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question from the audience during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., October 9, 2016. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)
Obama administration officials in the DOJ and FBI saw the cases as inseparably linked.

‘Cruz just dropped out of the race. It’s going to be a Clinton Trump race. Unbelievable.”

It was a little after midnight on May 4, 2016. FBI lawyer Lisa Page was texting her paramour, FBI counterespionage agent Peter Strzok, about the most stunning development to date in the 2016 campaign: Donald Trump was now the inevitable Republican nominee. He would square off against Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ certain standard-bearer.

The race was set . . . between two major-party candidates who were both under investigation by the FBI.

In stunned response, Strzok wrote what may be the only words we need to know, the words that reflected the mindset of his agency’s leadership and of the Obama administration: “Now the pressure really starts to finish MYE.”

MYE. That’s Mid-Year Exam, the code-word the FBI had given to the Hillary Clinton emails probe.

“It sure does,” responded Page. Mind you, she was not just any FBI lawyer; she was counsel and confidant to the bureau’s No. 2 official, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

If the thousands of text messages between Ms. Page and Agent Strzok are clear on anything, they are clear on the thinking of the bureau’s top brass.

In its Trump antipathy, the media-Democrat complex has admonished us to ignore the Strzok-Page texts. FBI officials are as entitled as anyone else to their political opinions, we’re told; and if they found Trump loathsome, they were no different from half the country.

That’s the wrong way to look at it. Regardless of their politics (which, the texts show, are not as left-wing as some conservative-media hyperbole claims), these FBI officials are a window into how the Obama administration regarded the two investigations in which Strzok and Page were central players: Mid Year Exam and Trump-Russia — the latter eventually code-named “Crossfire Hurricane.”

The two investigations must not be compartmentalized. Manifestly, the FBI saw them as inseparably linked: Trump’s victory in the primaries, the opening of his path to the Oval Office, meant — first and foremost — that the Hillary investigation had to be brought to a close.

And that is because bringing it to a close was already known, by May 4, to mean closing it without charges — opening her path to the Oval Office. It was the calculation of the FBI, the Obama Justice Department, the Obama-led intelligence agencies, and the Obama White House that wrapping up MYE was essential to stopping Donald Trump.

Trump had won the nomination, so now the pressure was on to remove the cloud of felony suspicion hanging over Mrs. Clinton.

The mistake is often made — I’ve made it myself — of analyzing the tanking of the Clinton emails case in a vacuum. There are, after all, reasons unrelated to Donald Trump that explain the outcome: Obama was implicated in Clinton’s use of a non-secure email system; Obama had endorsed Clinton; many high-ranking Obama Justice Department officials stood to keep their coveted positions, and even advance, in a Hillary Clinton administration; the Obama Justice Department was hyper-political and Clinton was the Democratic nominee.

But the Clinton investigation did not happen in a vacuum. It happened in the context of Donald Trump’s gallop through the Republican primaries and, just as important, of the Obama administration’s determination to regard the Trump campaign as a Kremlin satellite.

Conveniently, the Strzok-Page text occurred in what we might call the “late spring.” As I outlined in yesterday’s column, the “late spring” is the vague timeframe former Obama-administration officials gave to the House Intelligence Committee when asked when the FBI’s then-director, James Comey, briefed the president’s National Security Council about Carter Page. An obscure Trump campaign adviser, Page was regarded as a likely clandestine Russian agent by the Obama administration, on what appears to be flimsy evidence.

So . . . let’s think this through.

By May 4, the Obama administration has already concluded that the Trump campaign is part of a Russian covert op that must be stopped — or at least has rationalized that the Trump-Russia storyline can work politically to damage the Republican candidate.

At the same time, even though MYE is not yet formally “finished,” even though key witnesses (including Clinton herself) have not been interviewed, even though essential evidence (including the laptops used to store and vet Clinton’s emails) are not yet in the FBI’s possession, Director Comey and his top aides are already drafting the exoneration speech he will give two months later, recommending against prosecution.

And everybody knows the fix is in. The Strzok-Page texts show that the pressure to schedule the Clinton interview is based on the imperative to shut down the case, not to weigh what she had to say for investigative purposes. Clinton is permitted to have her co-conspirators represent her as lawyers at her interview — in violation of federal law, professional-ethics canons, and rudimentary investigative practice — precisely because no one regards the interview as a serious law-enforcement exercise.

When Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s shameful Arizona tarmac meeting with former President Clinton becomes a scandal in late June, she tries to mitigate the damage by announcing an intention to accept whatever recommendation the FBI makes. Lisa Page spitefully texts Peter Strzok. “And yeah, it’s a real profile in couragw [sic], since she knows no charges will be brought.”

That was July 1. The very next day, the FBI does its just-for-show interview of Mrs. Clinton. Three mornings later, July 5 (at the start of the work week after Independence Day), Comey holds his press conference to announce that, of course, no charges will be brought.

To accomplish this, he effectively rewrites the classified-information statute Clinton violated; barely mentions the tens of thousands of official government business emails that she destroyed; claims without any elaboration that the FBI can see no evidence of obstruction; and omits mention of her just-concluded interview in which — among other things — she pretended not to know what the markings on classified documents meant.

On the very same day, the FBI’s legal attaché in Rome travels to London to interview Christopher Steele, who has already started to pass his sensational dossier allegations to the bureau. And with the help of CIA director John Brennan and British intelligence, the FBI is ready to run a spy — a longtime CIA source — at Carter Page in London on July 11, just as he arrives there from Moscow.

With the pressure to finish MYE in the rearview mirror, Hillary Clinton looked like a shoo-in to beat Donald Trump. By mid September, Lisa Page was saying as much at a meeting in Deputy Director McCabe’s office. But Strzok was hedging his bets: Maybe “there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

Soon, as the campaign wound down, the FBI and the Obama Justice Department were on the doormat of the FISA court, obtaining a surveillance warrant on Carter Page, substantially based on allegations in the Steele dossier — an uncorroborated Clinton-campaign opposition-research screed. Meanwhile, the FBI/CIA spy was being run at George Papadopoulos, and even seeking a role in the Trump campaign from its co-chairman, Sam Clovis.

Or maybe you think these things are unrelated . . .

NOW WATCH: ‘5 Ways the Obama DOJ & FBI Linked the Trump & Clinton Investigations’

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