by Robert Romano
If Democrats want to get rid of President Donald Trump, they’re going to have to do it at the ballot box in November 2020. There is not going to be any impeachment now.
Especially after Robert Mueller’s uninspiring performance at the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. Designed to bring attention to the supposed crimes of President Donald Trump, it instead called attention to what a complete waste of time the Russia investigation Mueller eventually headed up really was for the country.
As Mueller noted in his testimony, referring to his report, “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its election interference activities. We did not address collusion, which is not a legal term; rather we focused on whether the evidence was sufficient to charge any member of the campaign with taking part in a criminal conspiracy, and there was not.”
That’s putting it mildly.
Republicans at the hearing raised an incredibly important question: If there was no conspiracy with Russia, what was the basis, then, legitimate or illegitimate, for the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory the Justice Department spent three years pursuing that Mueller ultimately debunked?
What efforts did the FBI and Mueller make to corroborate the 2016 Christopher Steele dossier that had been commissioned by Fusion GPS, Perkins Coie, the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign before they used it as the basis of several FISA warrants against Carter Page?
Mueller could not say.
In his testimony, Mueller said because it was an ongoing matter at the Justice Department he simply would not answer any questions about the origins of the investigation: “I am unable to address questions about the initial opening of the FBI’s Russia investigation which occurred months before my appointment or matters related to the so-called Steele dossier. These matters are subject of ongoing review by the department. Any questions on these topics should, therefore, be directed to the FBI or the Justice Department.”
Thank goodness the Justice Department is reviewing this. But Mueller headed up the very same investigation. He should have been able to acknowledge in the least how his team treated the Steele dossier, because we know the dossier was most certainly used by the Justice Department in the FISA warrants and the court-ordered surveillance. And it was explicit about the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory adopted by the Justice Department.
According to the dossier, Steele alleged the “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least 5 years.”
And, in 2016, Steele alleged there was “a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between [the Trump campaign] and the Russian leadership. This was managed on the Trump side by the Republican candidate’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter Page, and others as intermediaries.”
Steele defined the conspiracy: “the Russian regime had been behind the recent leak of embarrassing e-mail messages, emanating from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), to the WikiLeaks platform. The reason for using WikiLeaks was ‘plausible deniability’ and the operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team. In return the Trump team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue…”
It also accused one-time Trump lawyer of traveling to Prague in 2016 to coordinate with Russian intelligence officers.
So, in short, Trump was a Russian agent, Russia hacked the DNC and Trump and his campaign helped was the allegation. The Justice Department and intelligence agencies acted on that information in 2016 and conducted top secret court-ordered surveillance of the Trump campaign.
But, after three years, it turned out none of it was true.
The Mueller report stated, “In particular, the Office did not find evidence likely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Campaign officials such as Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page acted as agents of the Russian government — or at its direction, control or request — during the relevant time period.”
Manafort was brought up on unrelated tax and bank fraud charges. As for Cohen, per the Mueller report, “Cohen had never traveled to Prague…” And so, he very well could not have been there meeting with Russian intelligence officials. Page was not charged with anything.
So, it was all fake. The Steele dossier claimed the sources were Russian but they are not named: Source A was a “former top Russian intelligence officer”; Source B was a “senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure”; Source C was a “senior Russian financial official”; Source D was a “close associate of Trump” (golden showers source); Source E was an “ethnic Russian close associate” of Trump (golden showers source); Source F was a “female staffer of the hotel”; and source G was a “senior Kremlin official”.
Was Steele receiving Russian disinformation? Did he even have real Russian government sources? Was it all made up?
We don’ know, because Mueller would not talk about the Steele dossier that made the allegation, even though the dossier was central to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant application against the Trump campaign and included material Steele said came from Russian intelligence sources and Mueller’s express mandate was to investigate Russian interference in the U.S. electoral process. He would not say how his team had debunked it.
He would not talk about Fusion GPS, which hired Steele.
He would not talk about the mysterious Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud who approached one-time Trump campaign official George Papadopoulos with promises of Hillary Clinton emails from Russia but who has been revealed to have extensive ties to Western intelligence agencies.
The Mueller report said Papadopoulos was the origin of the investigation. But Mifsud might not have been a Russian agent either. Papadopoulos has said he was encouraged to meet Mifsud by the FBI in the first place. On Twitter on March 30, he wrote, “a woman in London, who was the FBI’s legal attaché in the U.K. … encouraged me to meet Joseph Mifsud in Rome in March 2016…” So, if Papadopoulos was the genesis of this investigation because he spoke about his meeting with Mifsud to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, but the Mifsud meeting was a sting operation against him, then the investigation had to start before he spoke to Downer.
Mueller says all these questions should now be directed to the Justice Department. Yes, let’s do that.
It is now abundantly clear based on Mueller’s (lack of) testimony that to find the answer, Attorney General Barr — whom President Trump has delegated his declassification authority to — must get to the bottom of what the heck the Justice Department and intelligence agencies were doing investigating and conducting surveillance on the opposition party in an election year. Spy agencies getting involved in politics is a mortal threat to our republican form of government.
And Mueller had no good answer for why it happened. It’s about time we found out. The lack of accountability here is appalling. It’s time to declassify this mess, Mr. Attorney General.
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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.
Photo “Mueller Time” by Charles Edward Miller. CC BY-SA 2.0.