The left is trying to drum up some excitement about a convoluted and barely readable Wall Street Journal “scoop” about Michael Flynn and Russia. To call this scoop a nothing-burger is probably an insult to nothing-burgers.
The story features a now deceased (he was 81 years old) GOP opposition research operative who was trying to find Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails toward the end of the 2016 election. The operative, Peter W. Smith, claimed to be working with former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in his quest to uncover the hacked emails. Smith apparently name-dropped Flynn as he was trying to recruit individuals to help him scour hacker forums.
“He said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this—if you find anything, can you let me know?’” recalled Eric York, a cybersecurity expert who, under Smith’s guidance, dug through posts on hacker forums to see if anyone had the emails.
Emails that Smith sent to recruit people to his search reviewed by the WSJ suggest he was working with Flynn. In one, Smith wrote that Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, was helping in the effort. Another included Flynn’s consulting firm Flynn Intel Group in a list of those who had joined the search party.
Flynn was a senior adviser to Trump during the campaign and is now the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation looking into whether the campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election.
Smith said he began his search for the missing emails over Labor Day weekend in 2016. About two weeks later, PJ Media reported that according to multiple sources, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had access to tens of thousands of Hillary Clinton’s documents on the Deep Web. These documents came to become known as “the Russian files.”
One or more American whistleblowers recently informed the Intelligence Committees that the files taken by the unknown hackers are available at specific locations in the Deep Web.
Getting them did not involve hacking Russians or anyone else, but rather locating the images that the files left behind while the unknown hackers moved them through the Deep Web. When Clinton associates thought they were deleting her files, they may not have realized that files leave images even in the Deep Web when moved by hackers.
A preliminary review of the files indicated that they contain unclassified as well as potentially classified information, including one document relating to Benghazi that probably should have been highly classified and comes from one of Hillary Clinton’s private computers.
Mr. Smith told the Wall Street Journal that he and his colleagues found five groups of hackers who claimed to have Clinton’s deleted emails, including two groups he determined were Russians.
“We knew the people who had these were probably around the Russian government,” Mr. Smith said.
Smith told the WSJ, after seeing a sample of emails from the hackers he wasn’t sure of their veracity so he didn’t want to leak them himself, “We told all the groups to give them to WikiLeaks,” he said. (WikiLeaks has never published those emails or even claimed to have them).
A Trump campaign official told the WSJ that Smith did not work for the campaign, and said that if Flynn had coordinated with him in any way, “it would have been in his capacity as a private individual.” The White House had no comment.
When he was interviewed by the paper Smith concurred with the campaign, explaining that he worked independently and wasn’t part of the Trump campaign. Smith died in the middle of May, six-week before the Journal posted the article, and ten days after he was interviewed by the paper.
So, to summarize: Michael Flynn may or may not have been part of a wild goose chase trying to find Hillary’s deleted 33,000 emails. But if he was, it would hardly be surprising. That is the type of oppo-research one would expect to see under those circumstances. Note: the actual hacking had already taken place, and there’s no evidence that anyone in the Trump camp had anything to do with that. As it turned out, Smith apparently couldn’t be sure of the authenticity of the emails he saw, so he told the assorted hackers to give them to WikiLeaks, which never published them.
If that is the extent of Team Trump’s “collusion with the Russians,” it’s pretty weak sauce.
The real scandal in the story (if true) is that the Russians may have hacked into Clinton’s private server and were in possession of 33,000 illegally deleted emails. This would have made her vulnerable to blackmail had she become president, as PJ Media reported back in September:
A congressional source who has met with a whistleblower commented that “even a Hillary supporter should want the public to know what foreigners took from her private servers, especially if it is damaging to her. Otherwise the candidate could be blackmailed by a foreign power.”
The Democrats know this. Yet they tried to paint Michael Flynn as blackmailable because he wasn’t 100 percent candid with Vice President Pence about his (entirely proper) phone conversation with the Russian ambassador. Such nonsense.
You know what another big scandal would be? If a political party used a well-financed Democrat oppo-research group to fake-up an intelligence file smearing a Republican candidate — and then got the FBI and CIA involved with investigating the candidate based on those false findings. That would be quite something.
By most media accounts, it was the Fusion GPS document that jumpstarted talk among the CIA, FBI, and Obama White House that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia and aided the Russian government’s efforts to undercut faith in U.S. institutions and the election. In other words, the document accomplished exactly what Russia apparently set out to do. The point lost by most reporters and Congress? That the document was paid for by Democrats and produced by an American firm run by Democrats that is now refusing to cooperate with congressional investigators.
Congressional committees have thus far found no evidence of Russian collusion by the Trump campaign. By the day, as more and more Democrats are revealed to have had the same interactions with Russian officials that Republicans had—Sen. Claire McCaskill is but the latest—the story increasingly shows itself as the fairy tale many thought it to be.
It appears the one part of this scandal worth investigating, but not being investigated yet, is the one where many of the answers may lie: the role Fusion GPS played, who paid the firm for the discredited dossier, and how it ended up in the hands of the Obama administration.
That is the bombshell story the mainstream media is not anxious to tell.