Politics & Policy

Welcome to the Real Russia Scandal

President Trump and Russia’s President Putin shake hands during a news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
The FBI was warned that the Steele Dossier might contain Russian disinformation.

Here’s what we know: The Obama administration opened an investigation into the Republican Party’s presidential campaign during a highly contested election predominantly using dubious evidence that was paid for by the Democratic Party — and that likely included Russian disinformation.

Catherine Herridge at CBS News, who has done notably excellent work on an issue few in the legacy media want to cover, reports that newly declassified footnotes show that the FBI relied on the DNC’s Steele dossier to secure warrants to spy on the Trump campaign, even though agents were warned multiple times that Russians had likely corrupted the evidence.

Herridge offers numerous instances, but here are just a couple:

Footnote 350 reads in part, “The (redacted) stated that it did not have high confidence in this subset of Steele’s reporting and assessed that the referenced subset was part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate US foreign relations.”

Footnote 302 is related to the FBI’s efforts to verify information contained in the Steele dossier.

“According to a document circulated among Crossfire Hurricane team members and supervisors in early October 2016, Person 1 had historical contact with persons and entities suspected of being linked to RIS (Russian Intel).”

According to CBS, the FBI also warned that one Russian source for the Steele dossier also voiced “strong support” for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Will any reporter with access to the DNC ask someone over there whether the organization had been advised that aspects of their opposition research contained Kremlin falsehoods? And if so, did they know this before they handed it to CNN or BuzzFeed et al., which breathlessly regurgitated the information as reporting?

Will someone with access ask former high-ranking Justice Department officials such as James Comey whether they were aware that the warrants obtained for eavesdropping on a presidential campaign were partisan documents contaminated with information from a foreign intelligence agency?

It should be reiterated that the FISA applications sought by the FBI were almost “entirely” predicated on the fabulist Steele dossier, according to Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Further, the agents also left out contradictory, exculpatory evidence when kicking off the spying against Carter Page. And Horowitz recently reported that, from October 2014 to September 2019, virtually every application for a FISA warrant featured “significant inaccuracies and omissions” and “fraudulent” evidence.

After Trump won the election in 2016, Obama holdovers and opponents of the president in new administration began leaking misleading snippets of the Trump–Russia investigation to a largely pliant media, which used to it fuel partisan hysteria that dominated American media coverage for three years.

All of this then sparked an open-ended independent Robert Mueller investigation that, though it failed to come back with a single indictment against anyone for criminal conspiracy with Russia during the 2016 campaign, succeeded in overwhelming our news coverage and convincing many gullible voters that the Russians had stolen the election.

Seems like there’s a huge and important story to tell here. To better understand how big, try to imagine the firestorm that would consume all of our lives if we learned that Trump’s Justice Department had knowingly relied on Russian disinformation, paid for by the RNC, to spy on the Biden campaign.

Yet, even before the coronavirus hit, just about everyone had moved on from this scandal. No one, as far as we know, has been fired or charged with a crime. Not a single media organization has explained how or why they could get the story so thoroughly and consistently wrong. And I’m not talking only about cynical partisans such as Jonathan Chait, who peddled Russia-collusion fan fiction about Trump being a Russian asset since the 1980s. What about top political reporters at major outlets whom we’re still asked to trust?

You will certainly remember the sanctimonious posturing over Russian collusion. By allowing the Russians, our most treacherous geopolitical adversary, to entangle themselves in our election process, the future of American democracy was put at stake. By allowing Vladimir Putin to unleash his Twitter troll army, we were basically handing over our democracy. A few Russian ads on Facebook spawned countless chilling stories about Putin’s preternatural ability to control your vote. Anyone exhibiting skepticism about this narrative was deemed unpatriotic.

Surely then, the possibility that Russian disinformation had found its way into the intelligence information that our government agencies used to spy on an American political campaign during an election might merit a word or two.

If not, some people might start to get the idea that the Russia-collusion hysteria wasn’t exactly authentic.

David Harsanyi is a senior writer for National Review and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun

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