May 11, 2018

WALL STREET JOURNAL: About That FBI ‘Source:’ Did the Bureau engage in outright spying against the 2016 Trump campaign?

The Department of Justice lost its latest battle with Congress Thursday when it allowed House Intelligence Committee members to view classified documents about a top-secret intelligence source that was part of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. Even without official confirmation of that source’s name, the news so far holds some stunning implications.

Among them is that the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation outright hid critical information from a congressional investigation. In a Thursday press conference, Speaker Paul Ryan bluntly noted that Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’s request for details on this secret source was “wholly appropriate,” “completely within the scope” of the committee’s long-running FBI investigation, and “something that probably should have been answered a while ago.” Translation: The department knew full well it should have turned this material over to congressional investigators last year, but instead deliberately concealed it.

House investigators nonetheless sniffed out a name, and Mr. Nunes in recent weeks issued a letter and a subpoena demanding more details. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s response was to double down—accusing the House of “extortion” and delivering a speech in which he claimed that “declining to open the FBI’s files to review” is a constitutional “duty.” Justice asked the White House to back its stonewall. And it even began spinning that daddy of all superspook arguments—that revealing any detail about this particular asset could result in “loss of human lives.”

This is desperation, and it strongly suggests that whatever is in these files is going to prove very uncomfortable to the FBI.

The bureau already has some explaining to do. Thanks to the Washington Post’s unnamed law-enforcement leakers, we know Mr. Nunes’s request deals with a “top secret intelligence source” of the FBI and CIA, who is a U.S. citizen and who was involved in the Russia collusion probe. When government agencies refer to sources, they mean people who appear to be average citizens but use their profession or contacts to spy for the agency. Ergo, we might take this to mean that the FBI secretly had a person on the payroll who used his or her non-FBI credentials to interact in some capacity with the Trump campaign.

This would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting. It would also be a major escalation from the electronic surveillance we already knew about, which was bad enough. Obama political appointees rampantly “unmasked” Trump campaign officials to monitor their conversations, while the FBI played dirty with its surveillance warrant against Carter Page, failing to tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that its supporting information came from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Now we find it may have also been rolling out human intelligence, John Le Carré style, to infiltrate the Trump campaign.

Which would lead to another big question for the FBI: When? The bureau has been doggedly sticking with its story that a tip in July 2016 about the drunken ramblings of George Papadopoulos launched its counterintelligence probe. Still, the players in this affair—the FBI, former Director Jim Comey, the Steele dossier authors—have been suspiciously vague on the key moments leading up to that launch date. When precisely was the Steele dossier delivered to the FBI? When precisely did the Papadopoulos information come in?

And to the point, when precisely was this human source operating? Because if it was prior to that infamous Papadopoulos tip, then the FBI isn’t being straight.

I don’t think the FBI is being straight. I’m speculating, of course, but I think it’s going to turn out that they were spying on Trump from surprisingly early on, and that they didn’t expect him to win, and that when he did win, the Russian “collusion” thing was hyped up as a smokescreen.

Flashback, March 2017: “Hypothesis: The spying-on-Trump thing is worse than we even imagine, and once it was clear Hillary had lost and it would inevitably come out, the Trump/Russia collusion talking point was created as a distraction.”

Plus: “But if they thought Hillary was sure to win, why bother spying on Trump? A sinister reason: To prosecute him — for something, anything they could discover — after he lost, so as to properly cow Hillary’s opposition. That might be true, but on the other hand, LBJ spied on Goldwater when his win was assured, and Nixon did the same vs. McGovern. Why would unthreatened incumbents spy on opponents they expect to lose? Maybe they do it for the same reason a dog licks himself: Because he can.”

Still just a hypothesis, but one that seems increasingly likely to be true. And if it is, the sinister reason also seems more likely to be true.

More: “Glenn Simpson, founder of the Fusion GPS research firm that hired former British agent Christopher Steele, told investigators that the FBI had shared the existence of ‘a human source from inside the Trump Organization’ in a September 2016 meeting with Steele.” (Bumped).

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