By The Hill•
Behind the scenes, some major events were set in motion last autumn that could soon change the tenor in Washington, at least as it relates to the debunked Russia collusion narrative that distracted America for nearly three years.
It was in September 2018 that President Trump told my Hill.TV colleague Buck Sexton and me that he would order the release of all classified documents showing what the FBI, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other U.S. intelligence agencies may have done wrong in the Russia probe.
About the same time, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, under then-Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), voted unanimously to send 53 nonpublic transcripts of witnesses in its Russia review to the director of national intelligence (DNI) for declassification. The transcripts were officially delivered in November.
Now, nearly a year later, neither release has happened.
To put that into perspective, it took just a couple of months in 2004 to declassify the final report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks after a presidential commission finished its work, which contained some of the nation’s most secretive intelligence revelations.
But the long wait for transparency may soon end.
The foot-dragging inside the intelligence community (IC) that occurred under now-departed DNI Dan Coats and his deputy, Sue Gordon, could halt abruptly. That’s particularly true if Trump appoints a new IC sheriff, such as former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the current ambassador to the Netherlands, or longtime national security expert Fred Fleitz.
Likewise, the president has an opportunity to speed up and organize the release of declassified information by simply creating an Office of Transparency and Accountability inside his own White House, run by a staffer empowered at the level of a formal assistant to the president. That would prevent intelligence agencies from continuing their game of public keep-away.
Nunes, who helped to unravel the Russia collusion farce, has identified five buckets of information he’d like to see released. One of those buckets, the FBI’s interview reports on Bruce Ohr’s cooperation, was released last week — not through a Trump declassification order but, rather, through litigation brought by Judicial Watch, and with heavy redactions.
My reporting, including interviews with four dozen U.S. officials over the last several months, actually identifies a much larger collection of documents — about a dozen all together — that, when declassified, would show more completely how a routine counterintelligence probe was hijacked to turn the most awesome spy powers in America against a presidential nominee in what was essentially a political dirty trick orchestrated by Democrats.
Here are the documents that have the greatest chance of rocking Washington, if declassified:
1.) Christopher Steele’s confidential human source reports at the FBI. These documents, known in bureau parlance as 1023 reports, show exactly what transpired each time Steele and his FBI handlers met in the summer and fall of 2016 to discuss his anti-Trump dossier. The big reveal, my sources say, could be the first evidence that the FBI shared sensitive information with Steele, such as the existence of the classified Crossfire Hurricane operation targeting the Trump campaign. It would be a huge discovery if the FBI fed Trump-Russia intel to Steele in the midst of an election, especially when his ultimate opposition-research client was Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The FBI has released only one or two of these reports under Freedom of Information Act lawsuits and they were 100 percent redacted. The American public deserves better.
2.) The 53 House Intel interviews. House Intelligence interviewed many key players in the Russia probe and asked the DNI to declassify those interviews nearly a year ago, after sending the transcripts for review last November. There are several big reveals, I’m told, including the first evidence that a lawyer tied to the Democratic National Committee had Russia-related contacts at the CIA.
3.) The Stefan Halper documents. It has been widely reported that European-based American academic Stefan Halper and a young assistant, Azra Turk, worked as FBI sources. We know for sure that one or both had contact with targeted Trump aides like Carter Page and George Papadopoulos at the end of the election. My sources tell me there may be other documents showing Halper continued working his way to the top of Trump’s transition and administration, eventually reaching senior advisers like Peter Navarro inside the White House in summer 2017. These documents would show what intelligence agencies worked with Halper, who directed his activity, how much he was paid and how long his contacts with Trump officials were directed by the U.S. government’s Russia probe.
4.) The October 2016 FBI email chain. This is a key document identified by Rep. Nunes and his investigators. My sources say it will show exactly what concerns the FBI knew about and discussed with DOJ about using Steele’s dossier and other evidence to support a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant targeting the Trump campaign in October 2016. If those concerns weren’t shared with FISA judges who approved the warrant, there could be major repercussions.
5.) Page/Papadopoulos exculpatory statements. Another of Nunes’s five buckets, these documents purport to show what the two Trump aides were recorded telling undercover assets or captured in intercepts insisting on their innocence. Papadopoulos told me he told an FBI undercover source in September 2016 that the Trump campaign was not trying to obtain hacked Clinton documents from Russia and considered doing so to be treason. If he made that statement with the FBI monitoring, and it was not disclosed to the FISA court, it could be another case of FBI or DOJ misconduct.
6.) The ‘Gang of Eight’ briefing materials. These were a series of classified briefings and briefing books the FBI and DOJ provided key leaders in Congress in the summer of 2018 that identify shortcomings in the Russia collusion narrative. Of all the documents congressional leaders were shown, this is most frequently cited to me in private as having changed the minds of lawmakers who weren’t initially convinced of FISA abuses or FBI irregularities.
7.) The Steele spreadsheet. I wrote recently that the FBI kept a spreadsheet on the accuracy and reliability of every claim in the Steele dossier. According to my sources, it showed as much as 90 percent of the claims could not be corroborated, were debunked or turned out to be open-source internet rumors. Given Steele’s own effort to leak intel in his dossier to the media before Election Day, the public deserves to see the FBI’s final analysis of his credibility. A document I reviewed recently showed the FBI described Steele’s information as only “minimally corroborated” and the bureau’s confidence in him as “medium.”
8.) The Steele interview. It has been reported, and confirmed, that the DOJ’s inspector general interviewed the former British intelligence operative for as long as 16 hours about his contacts with the FBI while working with Clinton’s opposition research firm, Fusion GPS. It is clear from documents already forced into the public view by lawsuits that Steele admitted in the fall of 2016 that he was desperate to defeat Trump, had a political deadline to make his dirt public, was working for the DNC/Clinton campaign and was leaking to the news media. If he told that to the FBI and it wasn’t disclosed to the FISA court, there could be serious repercussions.
9.) The redacted sections of the third FISA renewal application. This was the last of four FISA warrants targeting the Trump campaign; it was renewed in June 2017 after special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe had started and signed by then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. It is the one FISA application that House Republicans have repeatedly asked to be released, and I’m told the big reveal in the currently redacted sections of the application is that it contained both misleading information and evidence of intrusive tactics used by the U.S. government to infiltrate Trump’s orbit.
10.) Records of allies’ assistance. Multiple sources have said a handful of U.S. allies overseas — possibly Great Britain, Australia and Italy — were asked to assist FBI efforts to check on Trump connections to Russia. Members of Congress have searched recently for some key contact documents with British intelligence. My sources say these documents might help explain Attorney General William Barr’s recent comments that “the use of foreign intelligence capabilities and counterintelligence capabilities against an American political campaign, to me, is unprecedented and it’s a serious red line that’s been crossed.”
Column: Why impeachment isn't going away
Trump supporters are right to feel vindication after Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress. At times the special counsel seemed unfamiliar with the contents of his own report. He came across as aloof and confused and often unable to answer both Democratic and Republican questions to the lawmakers’ satisfaction. The same media figures that began the day saying Mueller’s appearance might be the game changer ended up calling it a flop. “Democrats now have one option to end Trump’s presidency,” read the headline of Dan Balz’s analysis in the Washington Post. “The 2020 election.” Trump, as always, put it more memorably: “TRUTH IS A FORCE OF NATURE!”
The real truth is Mueller’s testimony was never going to interrupt preexisting trends. Support for impeachment has been stable for a year at around 40 percent in the Fox News poll of registered voters. Fox asks, “Do you think President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, or not?” In June 2018, 39 percent of respondents answered yes. Last week, 42 percent said the same. Opposition to impeachment has hovered around 50 percent during all this time. When the most recent Fox News poll asked if Mueller’s testimony might cause voters to change how they felt about Trump, only 8 percent said there was a strong chance of that happening. Forty-nine percent said not at all.
Views of President Trump are cast iron. Mueller might have overturned this equilibrium by offering new evidence incriminating Trump or by saying definitively that Trump obstructed justice. He did neither. Nor was he going to. It was clear from his May press conference that Mueller did not want to appear before Congress and that he had said all he was willing to say in his report. The negotiations over his testimony that stretched into midsummer, the sudden delay of his testimony by a week, and the addition of his chief of staff as counsel further indicated his reluctance as well as his lack of assurance before the cameras. The presence on the committee of Republicans hostile to Mueller’s investigation and to his findings meant that the hearing would not be entirely favorable to Democrats. Sure enough, Mueller’s performance was a disappointment.
But President Trump and Republicans would be wrong to assume that the Democrats’ drive to impeachment has ended. The will to overturn the 2016 election never depended on Mueller. He was merely the most likely instrument of Trump’s undoing. Democrats have called for impeachment since Trump’s inaugural. What they have lacked is the means. Maxine Waters raised the idea in February 2017, months before Trump fired James Comey and set in motion the train of events culminating in Mueller’s appointment as special counsel. Tom Steyer launched Need to Impeach in October 2017, a year and a half before Mueller filed his report. Last January, on the first evening of the House Democratic majority, Rashida Tlaib declared her intention to “impeach this m—f—r.”
The impeachment resolution the House voted on last week had nothing to do with Mueller or his report. It found Trump guilty “of high misdemeanors” and “unfit to be president” because of his “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.” The measure didn’t even pretend to have a relationship with actual criminal or civil law. It received 95 votes nonetheless, all Democrats, including the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The same man who, after Mueller’s belly flop, argued before the Democratic Caucus that he has enough material to begin impeachment right now. Mueller’s testimony might not increase the number of House Democrats for impeachment from less than half (40 percent) to a majority. But it’s not as if that percentage is about to decrease, either.
Democrats overwhelmingly support impeachment. Forty percent of adults in the most recent Economist/YouGov survey say Congress should try to impeach President Trump. That number rises to 70 percent among Democrats. It is no wonder why. Trump is a one-man rebuke of progressivism, of political correctness, of a humanitarianism that does not recognize citizenship or national borders. Since 2016 an entire media-political infrastructure has been built to push the messages that Trump’s election was illegitimate, Trump’s actions in and out of office are criminal, and Trump ought to be excised from the government as quickly as possible. Even if Mueller and his report fade from view—and there is no guarantee they will—the president’s adversaries will continue to search for the annihilating angel who will deliver them from Donald Trump.
Why? Because the impeachment debate is not about what Trump has done, is doing, or might do. It is about whether he and the social forces he represents are entitled to rule.
While the press portrayed Hope Hicks’s silence as all-inclusive, in reality she testified at length and in detail about all aspects of Trump’s presidential campaign.
Following the Thursday release of the transcript from Hope Hicks’s testimony before the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee, the media quickly concentrated on the questions Trump’s former communications director refused to answer. But while the press portrayed Hicks’s silence as all-inclusive, in reality Hicks testified at length and in detail about all aspects of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And that testimony established yet again that the Russia collusion narrative was a hoax.
One theme of Democrats’ questioning of Hicks concerned the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians. Several times Hicks confirmed the lack of contacts between top Trump campaign members and Russia.
“I’m telling you,” Hicks testified, “I wasn’t aware in the campaign of any contacts with Russian officials.” Later, when asked again what, if any, communications and contacts there were between the Trump campaign and Russian or Russian officials, Hicks noted that during the campaign she wasn’t aware of any but later learned of insignificant contacts, such as Jeff Sessions meeting the Russian ambassador at a foreign policy speech.
Hicks further testified that a Russian official’s post-election comment that Russia was “in constant communication or constant contact with members of Trump’s inner circle throughout the campaign,” “was not true.” “I’m not aware of anybody that regularly interacted with Mr. Trump that was a decisionmaker that advised him on a frequent basis that had, ‘regular contacts’ with any Russian officials,” Hicks stressed.
Hicks, who had previously worked for the Trump organization, also testified that she was not aware of any financial ties between Russia and the Trump Organization during the campaign. Nor did Hicks have any knowledge of any “foreign government providing cash or any other thing of value to Mr. Trump during the campaign,” or of any conversations during the campaign about Trump traveling to Russia (other than for the Miss Universe Pageant), or meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Hicks further told the committee that she only “became aware that the Russian government was attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections” when the story hit the press.
Democrats on the committee nonetheless pushed the Russia collusion narrative by attempting to portray an email Hicks received from the editor-in-chief of the Russian internet newspaper Vzglyad as evidence of a Russian conspiracy. Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse flipped to the much-referenced Robert Mueller report to read the special counsel’s finding that “one day earlier the publication’s founder and former Russian parliamentarian Konstantin Rykov had registered two Russian websites, Trump2016.ru and DonaldTrump2016.ru.”
But Neguse’s attempt to implicate the Trump campaign in Russia’s online efforts to interfere in the election failed badly. “I don’t recall receiving the interview request,” Hicks noted, “I received hundreds of interview requests, sometimes daily.” Because Trump had no intention of participating in the interview, Hicks explained, she was not concerned about the identity of the outlet, and hadn’t even realized until after the fact that the email had come from a Russian.
Concerning the WikiLeaks hacks, Hicks made clear that the only discussion the campaign had was “speculation about if there would be more emails or information released, but that was prompted by things in the media,” and it wasn’t with certainty that more leaks would happen, but “with speculation and skepticism.”
“No,” Hicks stressed, Trump did not talk about WikiLeaks or the hack, nor did anybody else in the campaign, other than what was discussed in the public domain. Hicks also testified that during the campaign she had heard nothing about Roger Stone and his supposed relationship with WikiLeaks or its founder Julian Assange, or about WikiLeaks’ “divulgence of information about the emails of Hillary Clinton and Mr. Podesta,” beyond media coverage.
In short, Hicks stated that during the campaign, Trump never indicated that he knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks was responsible for the Democratic National Committee hacks or that he had knowledge that additional information would be released. Hicks also confirmed that before the election she had not been told that anyone at the Trump campaign had been offered information about Hillary Clinton.
The Trump Tower meeting was another focus of committee questions: Hicks told the committee that she did not know about the Trump Tower meeting or Donald Trump Jr.’s emails about that meeting until after Trump was elected president. She had also never heard “any discussion from any Trump Organization employee or Mr. Trump about an ongoing effort to pursue a potential Trump Tower Moscow at that time,” another thread weaved into the Russia collusion hoax.
Hick’s responses during last week’s hearing also provided fresh insight into Trump’s behind-the-scenes response to news of Russian interference. Hicks noted that the campaign only “became aware that the Russian government was attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections” when the story hit the press. The president’s former confidant added that any conversations she was privy to during the campaign concerning Russia interference in the election mirrored what Trump said publicly.
Then, when asked what specifically Trump said during the campaign about public reports that his team was coordinating with Russia, Hicks relayed that Trump called it “nonsense.” Trump believed that the Russia collusion conspiracy “was something that the Clinton campaign had made up to deflect from the information that they viewed as harmful to their candidate, to their campaign,” Hicks explained.
Hicks also testified that she agreed with his assessment and that the “unsubstantiated claims that [the Trump campaign] were coordinating with Russia was an attempt to distract and deflect.” The former communications director added that the Trump campaign obviously knew there was no collusion, but admitted that had she been working instead for the Clinton campaign, she “probably would have taken a similar strategy.” Hicks further noted that, whether the Russia collusion hoax was being peddled by the “Clinton campaign or speculated about in the media,” her discussions with candidate Trump focused on how to respond to the false claims.
Hicks also shared details of her conversation with Trump following his late-July 2016 off-the-cuff remark: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Hicks explained that she informed Trump that “some in the media had taken the expression quite literally, and that they were concerned he was encouraging foreign governments to, you know, locate those emails, and that that was obviously something that the media felt was extremely inappropriate and demanded a response from Mr. Trump and the campaign as to what exactly he meant by that.”
Hicks stated that, “both from Trump’s remark and her discussion with him after,” she understood the comment as a joke. When pushed about what Trump had said, Hicks conveyed that he noted “it was intended as a light-hearted comment.”
In practice, however, Trump took concerns about Russia’s meddling seriously, Hicks explained. For instance, according to Hicks, after the media began questioning Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, Trump, not realizing Manafort’s close relationship with Richard Gates, asked Gates to keep an eye on Manafort.
Trump questioned some of Manafort’s “past work with other foreign governments, foreign campaigns,” and stressed that “none of that would be appropriate to be ongoing during his service with the Trump campaign,” Hicks elaborated. He also asked Gates to let him know “if anything led him to believe that was ongoing.”
When, following Trump’s election, then-President Barack Obama raised questions about Michael Flynn to Trump, Hicks explained that warning tainted Trump’s view of Flynn going forward. Trump “was a bit bewildered that, you know, of all the things that the two of them could have been discussing,” it was Flynn that came up. (This detail also raises the question of Obama’s motivation and his efforts to sour the president-elect’s relationship with Flynn.)
Hicks’ testimony also negated several other Democratic and media talking points on Russia interference and collusion. While Democrats attempted to portray Trump as unperturbed by Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, Hicks countered, “I think he was concerned, but I think he was simultaneously concerned that folks with a political agenda were going to weaponize that assessment to try to undermine the legitimacy of this election.”
She similarly exposed how the media misrepresented information to further the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, when Rep. Ted Lieu attempted to do the same during the hearing.
“In 2008, Donald Trump, Jr., was quoted as saying ‘In terms of high-end product influx into the U.S., Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,’” Lieu quoted to Hicks. Hicks acknowledged that she had spoken with Trump Jr., about this statement, but only to ensure “the media wasn’t misrepresenting the remark or presenting it in any misleading way.”
“And how was the media mischaracterizing Donald Trump, Jr.’s remarks?” Lieu quizzed. The media “made it seem like there was Russian money coming into the Trump Organization in a way that was inappropriate or somehow sinister,” when Trump Jr., was merely “describing the kinds of clientele that were purchasing luxury apartments, both in New York City, Chicago, and in South Florida.”
“They’re a luxury, globally recognized real estate company,” Hick explained, so “it would be odd if [the Trump Organization] weren’t selling to people just because they’re affiliated with Russia.”
By the end of her nearly eight hours of testimony last week, Hicks obliterated many of the Russia-collusion talking points pushed by Democrats and the media for the last three years, even more expertly than Mueller did in his special counsel report. As one Democrat noted during the hearing, Hicks was “with [Trump] every day,” during both the primary and general election. She would have known had the campaign colluded with Russia.
Yet her testimony made clear there was no Russia strategy, significant contact, collaboration, or collusion, which is why when Hicks was asked whether she thought the president “might be angry about [her] testifying before Congress today,” her ready reply punctuated her significant—but unreported—testimony: “I think the president knows that I would tell the truth, and the truth is there was no collusion. And I’m happy to say that as many times as is necessary today.”
By Newt Gingrich • Fox News
The collusion lie will go down in history as one of the strangest distortions of reality to dominate the American political scene. For more than two years, the national establishment and news media were fixated on a “truth” that turned out to be false.
In some ways, this national psychosis is reminiscent of the popular madness that would run through medieval societies from time to time. Think of the flagellants going from city to city beating themselves to exorcise their sins. Think of the madness that surrounded Friar Girolamo Savonarola when he ruled Florence from 1494 to 1498.
In our own country, think of the hysteria of the Salem witchcraft trials in 1692 and 1693, when more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft. Fourteen women and five men were found guilty and hanged. A sixth man was pressed to death with stones.
On Oct. 30, 1938, Orson Welles terrified millions of Americans with Continue reading