Witch Hunt or Mole Hunt? The Times Bombshell Could Blow Up Both Sides

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the recent disclosure that the FBI opened an investigation into whether President Donald Trump was working for Russia after his firing of former FBI Director James Comey. In reading the story, it struck me that the emerging picture from early 2017 looks increasingly like a study in cognitive bias. Indeed, it raises a rather intriguing possibility that both sides may feed each other in reaching the wrong conclusions.

Here is the column:

The New York Times has published another bombshell with a story that President Trump was named as a possible national security threat in a counterintelligence operation that was launched after his inauguration.

If true, this is likely the only time in history that the FBI has investigated whether a sitting president was either a knowing or unknowing agent of a foreign power. However, the real benefit of the investigative story may not be the original suspicion, but rather how it could explain the course that both sides have taken into our current quagmire. What if there were no collusion or conspiracy but simple cognitive bias on both sides, where the actions of one seemed to confirm precisely the suspicions of the other?

There are now two possibilities. The first of those is that Trump really was some “manchurian candidate” placed in the Oval Office by Russia and controlled from afar by Vladimir Putin. Many are unlikely to ever accept any other possibility, though the New York Times story does not suggest that this counterintelligence operation found any basis for the original allegation. Indeed, the problem arose when part of the operation was made public. Such inquiries are usually completed and never disclosed. In this case, various forces led to a partial disclosure that Trump associates were investigated and that Trump himself might have been compromised.

Now to the more intriguing theory that is more consistent with known facts. We have a clear picture of what the two sides saw at the start of the Trump administration. At the FBI, investigators, including then director James Comey, actively considered the unthinkable possibility that the president was controlled by Russia. At the White House, Trump believed that his associates and campaign had been placed under investigation by federal officials with close ties to Democratic figures. What happened next could be a lesson in cognitive bias, and it could indeed explain a lot.

At the start of the Trump administration, the FBI has a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and opposition research firm Fusion GPS, alleging a myriad of suspicious financial and personal connections between Trump and Russia. It also had an investigation into the Russia connections of Trump adviser Carter Page. There was Trump encouraging Russia to locate the hacked emails of Hillary Clinton and some evidence of Russia internet trolling and hacking operations. There also was the curious refusal of Trump to criticize Russia, an anomaly within Republican politics.

Soon after the inauguration, Trump started to counterpunch against what he saw as a deep state conspiracy. He asked Comey if he would be loyal and to go easy on resigned national security adviser Michael Flynn. He eventually fired Comey. He lashed out on social media against the FBI. He said in an interview that he had the Russia investigation in mind when he fired Comey. He met with Russians the very next day in the Oval Office and told the diplomats, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That is taken of.”

No charges were ever brought against Page, who appears to have been pursuing business interests in Russia. Moreover, investigative journalist Michael Isikoff, who broke the dossier story, admitted recently, “When you actually get into the details of the Steele dossier, the specific allegations, we have not seen the evidence to support them, and, in fact, there is good grounds to think that some of the more sensational allegations will never be proven and are likely false.” Even the New York Times bombshell now reports that “no evidence has emerged publicly that Trump was “secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.”

However, the FBI back then did not know all of that. From the perspective of the counterintelligence operation, every one of those moves confirmed the concern that Trump may have been working for Russian interests. They understandably began an investigation into whether Trump was acting not erratically but by design to conceal his Russian influence.

Now go back to the same period after the inauguration. Trump had just won an unwinnable election against the establishment. He had expected much of the government to be hostile to his administration. He soon learned that the FBI secretly investigated some of his aides. Then the dossier story hit. The Clinton campaign first denied funding the dossier but later admitted that it funded the effort at a considerable expense, with the money hidden as legal costs by its lawyer and his firm.

From the perspective of Trump, it all fit pattern of a deep state conspiracy of Clinton operatives and establishment officials. Soon, Trump witnessed events that confirmed his suspicions. Key FBI officials like Andrew McCabehad Democratic connections and his wife, Jill McCabe, received roughly $700,000 from a close Clinton ally and the Virginia Democratic Party in her campaign for the state legislature. Then emails surfaced, showing sentiments of clear bias against Trump from relevant figures like McCabe and lead FBI investigator Peter Strzok, including discussion of “insurance policies” against his election and resistance against his administration.

Trump also learned that the dossier was given to the FBI by the wife of Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who worked closely with former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Nellie Ohr was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Everything that Trump was seeing confirmed the theory of a conspiracy of Democratic operatives and deep state figures against his administration.

The result is two separate narratives that fed off the actions of each other. There likely was bias in the initial assumptions, with a willingness at the FBI to believe Trump would be a tool of the Russians, and a willingness by Trump to believe the FBI would be a tool of the Clintons. Every move and countermove confirmed each bias. Trump continued to denounce what he saw as a conspiracy. The FBI continued to investigate his obstructive attitude. One side saw a witch hunt where the other saw a mole hunt.

Of course, neither side can accept at this point that they may have been wrong about the other side. In economics that is called path dependence. So much has been built on the Republican and Democratic sides on these original assumptions that it is impossible to now deconstruct from those narratives. In other words, there may have been no Russian mole and no deep state conspiracy. Moreover, the motivations may not have been to obstruct either the Trump administration or the Russia investigation. Instead, this could all prove to be the greatest, most costly example of cognitive bias in history, and now no one in this story wants to admit it.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

264 thoughts on “Witch Hunt or Mole Hunt? The Times Bombshell Could Blow Up Both Sides”

        1. perhas you don’t get what happened. May was a fake Brexiteer. Her lame deal’s demise is welcome. the EU will agree to better terms as deadline comes. she or somebody better just needs to hold out for it.

          mostly it’s just london and the foreigners, and the financial interests, who are against the Brexit, and want a lame phony deal that does not serve the UK’s best interests

          there is a split between the urban admins and the hoi polloi in the countryside in britain. now that is indeed like America

        2. David: “And what of PM May’s unprecedented defeat?”
          Diane: “A harbinger for America.”

          May was not true to her word and wasn’t looking out for the working citizens of Britain. It’s not a harbinger for America. Trump’s election was based on exactly that and it preceded this vote against May.

          This something you need to learn. Who is government supposed to be for? The citizens. Life. Liberty and Property are foreign to your type of ideology.

  1. If you wrote that piece as comedy then you hit the mark, otherwise maybe if you took off the horse blinders and blindfold you would somehow make sense….

    1. It’s too terrible to be true for Turley. But at least Turley has reached the bargaining stage of the grieving process (sort of). Offering to go “halfsies” on the “cognitive bias” and the “path dependency.” That’s progress–a little.

      The rest of them will never leave the denial stage.

  2. WOW…just wow. I fail to see why when there is a Democrat President when he wakes up in the morning the republicans yell impeach and he is a tyrant and some kind of socialist that needs to be locked up, but when a republican president is in power they yell the president can’t be indicted or charged because when a president does it, it’s not illegal.

    1. i was never for impeaching obama. he won the election, and, once I was convinced he was an american citizen by birth, that is, by a preponderance of the evidence, I figured let him be. of course, he was some kind of socialist but as some people don’t seem to understand, nearly every american politician is some kind of socialist, and it’s always a question of degree.

      what was obnoxious about obama, race baiting, essentially, actually ended up a lot less badly than I expected. so that was a relief.

      obama was a peace candidate and in that he failed, but, he could have failed worse. at least the war with iran did not materialize.

      let’s talk about what is socialism?

      socialism implies a willingness to put society’s interests before those of private interests, and to enact that in law, at least, to the extent that it helps society more than it harms it. in that respect, I too am a socialist.

      if it means constantly taxing and regulating the hell out of private business to support a lame and parasitically bureaucracy, no way am I a socialist.

      Donald Trump is a socialist in the sense that he’s trying to cut back some of the financial interests offshoring, globalization, and free trade swindles, in favor of the national society. Good for the Donald!

      1. “to the extent that it helps society more than it harms it. in that respect, I too am a socialist.”

        Who makes the determination “it helps society more than it harms it”. Many cultural norms developed over the millenia frequently based on trial and error. You have to be careful with statements like that.

        1. yes that’s right, norms that should be respected like the institution of private property. the Soviets tossed that in the garbage bin and quickly had to retrench in the “New Economic Program” and tolerate private enterprise so their economy did not totally collapse

          but at the most basic level, all crime is a restriction of private activity in the interests of society; and all taxation is confiscation on some level, again in the interests of society. degree is always important but at the base of it, this is the basic equation

          ayn rand and liberterians have spent a lot of effort into defining the nonagression princple and so forth as some kind of theoretical acid test for one thing or another when it comes to crime or regulation. i am not saying that is not worthwhile but it tends toward ideological hairsplitting which does not advance much worthwhile

          the liberterian thinker over decades that has retained his value for me is Richard Epstein of Univ of Chicago law school. he probably does not call himself a liberterian but his thinking on economic regulation and laws in terms of social utility versus economic costs of restricting private initiative is very sound and well thought out

          1. did you know the ancient Spartans banned the use of silver and gold for money? they only allowed iron ingots. this was explicitly to prevent greed from harming society, but, ironically, we have learned over time that money can be made out of things without obvious value besides gold and silver, like paper, fiat money if you will, and that works just as well if not better than specie.

            the ancient Spartans were smarter than they get credit for

            1. “we have learned over time that money can be made out of things without obvious value>>>”

              The fact that the Spartans banned the use of siver and gold and used iron meant they already recognized fiat currency. Are you saying we reinvented fiat money?

          2. “Richard Epstein of Univ of Chicago law school”.

            I believe his audio blog at Hoover lists him as a libertarian. He is a smart fellow.

            I was commenting on your phrase “to the extent that it helps society more than it harms it. in that respect, I too am a socialist.” which actually goes along with some of the things you say that I disagree with. In essence what you said were a bunch of generalities that were meaningless but you wanted to hype the term socialist.

  3. A real news outlet speaks on the crimes of the NYT and FBI
    Gone are facts when it comes to the American press. Nod to Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward to start us on this dark path

    “How About Some Russia Facts? – WSJ
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-about-some-russia-facts-11547511733
    The Editorial Board
    “Another Trump-Russia “scoop,” another bout of feverish media speculation. That’s the essence of the New York Times story on Friday that the FBI opened a criminal inquiry into President Trump after he fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017.

    The story told us nothing new about the Trump-Russia relationship, though it did confirm that senior officials in the FBI were in need of adult supervision. Think about the implications of this one for a minute: Senior FBI officials decided to investigate Mr. Trump because the President had fired their boss, which any President has the constitutional authority to do. This ought to be shocking—not least to civil libertarians and Democrats who profess to be horrified by the legacy of J. Edgar Hoover.

    “This reinforces the view that the Comey FBI was a force answering to no one but its own righteousness. The same unconstrained impulses led to its mistakes and excesses regarding Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is the reason Mr. Comey deserved to be fired, though Mr. Trump should have done it on his first day as President, as we advised him to do.

    The FBI probe of Mr. Trump quickly became part of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, which began within days. Some 20 months later we’re still waiting for Mr. Mueller to reveal what if anything happened between the President and Russia. Sans facts, the media used the Times report as a peg to reprise the various and sundry Trump-Russia connections that so far add up to pencil dots without a collusion narrative.

    Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, assured CNN on Sunday that whether Mr. Trump acted as a Russian agent is the “defining” question of Mr. Mueller’s probe. Well, could we please get an answer so we don’t have to listen to Mr. Warner repeat the same question for another year of Sundays?

    Mr. Warner and Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr have spent two years and produced hardly anything at all beyond Mr. Warner’s presence on the Sunday shows. What the American people deserve, after all of the innuendo and accusations, are the facts of what these investigations have found.

    The endless investigations are one more reason for Mr. Trump to declassify the Justice and FBI documents related to 2016 and put them on the public record.”

  4. If it weren’t for cognitive bias, this blog would have withered away long ago. Appealing to that bias is what fuels the movement of people away from using critical-thinking in their decision-making process.

    For instance, it’s a logical fallacy to conclude justice is being provided because the Justice Department is/is not doing something. All of our government agencies are animated by people that have the same nature in them as those not employed by the government. And our system of checks and balances exist specifically because cognitive bias will put pressure on these servants to defy their oath.

    Cognitive bias is ripping this country apart and our divided house won’t stand if we cannot unite on what justice truly is.

        1. Really David?

          Do you not believe in the equal right of freedom of speech? Think of all those conservatives prevented from speaking by leftists.

          How about a leftist administration that used the IRS to target conservative groups?

          “MADISON, Wis.—Dozens of conservative organizations are receiving late Christmas presents years after the IRS handed them a lump of coal.

          The federal government in recent days has been issuing settlement checks to 100 right-of-center groups wrongfully targeted for their political beliefs under the Obama administration’s Internal Revenue Service, according to an attorney for the firm that represented plaintiffs in NorCal v. United States.”

          How much more proof do you need?

          1. Obama not on the left side. He was over there tipping the ship of state to the right much of the time.

            1. David you probably have a problem putting the right shoe on the right foot.

              Alternatively you need to read the Constitution and a little history. Most of Obama’s actions leaned left or towards his friends.

      1. Allan,
        I’ve come to the conclusion that using terms like Left and Right; Liberal or Conservative, etc. is a trap. To use your sentence as an example; the best way to label those that abuse the law would be Lawfarists.

        Justice is incongruous with the Lawfarist ideology.

        This is a good description of those we are really at war with:

        … lawfare is about more than just delegitimizing a state’s right to defend itself; it is about the abuse of the law and our judicial systems to undermine the very principles they stands for: the rule of law, the sanctity of innocent human life, and the right to free speech. Lawfare is not something in which persons engage in the pursuit of justice; it is a negative undertaking and must be defined as such to have any real meaning. Otherwise, we risk diluting the phenomenon and feeding the inability to distinguish between what is the correct application of the law, on the one hand, and what is lawfare, on the other. Because that is the essence of the issue here, how do we distinguish between that which constitutes a constructive, legitimate legal battle (even if the legal battle is against us and inconvenient) from that which is a counterproductive perversion of the law, which should be allocated no precedent? The delineation is not as simple as some may like to make it; that is, that lawsuits against terrorists are good, and legal actions against the U.S. and Israel are bad. Now, the question is not “who is the target”, but “what is the intention” behind the legal action: is it to pursue justice, to apply the law in the interests of freedom and democracy, or is the intent to undermine the system of laws being manipulated?[1
        Lawfare Project Director Brooke Goldstein

        1. “I’ve come to the conclusion that using terms like Left and Right; Liberal or Conservative, etc. is a trap.”

          Olly, without question you are correct. The left along with the media and academia distort the dictionary so one cannot rely on those words except as a way of quickly imparting an idea. In reality it is easy to prove that fascism and Nazism are more traits of the left than the right. In fact we have at least one left winger on this list who is likely a Stalinist.

          I know Brooke from when she first started Lawfare. I think she may be one of those whose 501 C 3 was withheld by the Obama administration. I am not sure but I think there is a plan on Amazon that gives a tiny percentage of donations to a group of your choice and I think she is on that plan. You could sign up and help her in that fashion.

      2. i think that would depend on what you mean by justice and what you mean by left.

        first justice usually means one of two things. material factors like money and distribution of wealth on the one hand; and legal process on another. left and right differ in fundamental conceptions of what is justice in the first place.

        One essential dynamic of the left over 2 centuries is that it is always about some faction of society pitted against another, and rarely about the nation as a whole. so it’s the bourgeoisie against the aristocracy, then proletarians against capitalists etc. the notion of justice was always just about material factors.

        by contrast the idea of justice for the right, was more encompassing of other social values than just material prosperity and distribution of wealth.

        the right going back to pre revolutionary times, has had as its one consistent virtue, from age to age, an explicit concern for the welfare of the nation as a whole and unifying society in that national interest.

        by contrast the left has come to reject the nation as a legitimate norm in the first place. that is along with the family and religion and ethnicity and even now gender.

        in this way, the right can find a positive continuity with the right of the past, by focusing on the national welfare and bringing people together instead of constant conflict and one form of social revolution after another.

        justice as an individual phenomenon related to legal process is a different matter. I would say America is a very just society where legal process is concerned. i do not know if it is the most just but I know most are worse by far. and over 2 centuries American concepts of justice in terms of legal process mostly have been a pretty uniform ideal between our socalled left and right such that it almost defines us as one of the more common aspects of our shared social and political culture.

        by contrast other nations, especially outside the West, do not have the same norms for legal process related justice at all, and there is a lot wider range between their versions of left and right.

        1. Anything that requires a specific perspective leaves out an alternative perspective. Therefore words like justice are meaningless.

          In our society we have a form of legal justice. If the law is followed then we accept that legal justice has been obtained. However, this justice is based on the Constitution and then the Constitutions of the various states. At least the federal Constitution exists to protect the rights of the individual and the individual states. If the Constitutions are not rigerously followed then IMO there can be no individual legal justice.

          1. our norms of justice emerge from English norms. these were chronicled in Blackstone

            http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/blackstone.asp

            these existed before all the states and all the states had them as common law before the federal USA was chartered. it is our common cultural heritage as English-speaking peoples and for those of us blessed with even a drop of Anglo Saxon blood, we can take special pride in it as well.

            the constitutions as such were emergent from existing English norms of justice, going way back not just to Parliament or the Magna Carta but even to ancient Roman law, the classical foundations thereof, and the customary laws of the Germanic peoples

            We are blessed to have this cultural fusion as our immediate social and legal framework!

            1. …And French norms. Look at Louisiana though we base our system predominantly on English norms and common law.

              “the constitutions as such were emergent from existing English norms”

              We had an advantage. We had no King on our shores and a vast expanse of land where individuals developed as individuals.

  5. I am going to ignore posts signed “Anonymous”. Choose a handle if not brave enough to use your name.

    1. You are free to ignore what you choose.

      I did choose a handle – I signed in with FB (and then Twitter), Turley’s pages failed to link and assigned me anonymous

      1. dhlii, whether you post with or without your name most of the times your postings are clearly attributable to you. Sometimes the name gets wiped out or one might be posting on a page that is a private window without even knowing it. Consider David’s ignoring your post a perk.

  6. Using the term witch-hunt when………..Trump campaign manager; Guilty..Trump personal lawyer;Guilty..Trump deputy campaign manager; Guilty..Trump National Security Advisor; Guilty..Trump foreign policy advisor; Guilty….so using that term just does not ring true. But if it makes you feel better to lie to yourself then it must be true to you.

    1. Fishy:
      Using the term witch-hunt when………..Trump campaign manager; Guilty..Trump personal lawyer;Guilty..Trump deputy campaign manager; Guilty..Trump National Security Advisor; Guilty..Trump foreign policy advisor; Guilty….so using that term just does not ring true. ”
      ***********************
      The actual phrase is “guilt by association.” We don’t do that here. Think more 1930s Germany.

        1. Tom, I was wrong the other day when I said my software had registered ‘shrill’ in your voice. I did a print-out of the data and examined it more closely.

          Your written voice registers as ‘Outraged’. The clean cut family man in polo shirt and dress slacks howling outrage at liberal views. It’s the ‘Liberals are suffering from mental illness’ thing.

          Anyone who says international borders and municipal policies are under the same heading is coming from ‘Outrage’. It’s that, “Shut your mouth and get outta here”, tone. “We’re not gonna take your sass!”.

          Tom, you are basically an updated version of the Marx Brother foil.

          In every Marx Brothers movie there’s a scene where the boys are crashing an exclusive event. Invariably some fuddy-duddy confronts them. “What is the meaning of this?? Who are these ruffians?? I won’t have this nonsense. Throw them out immediately!”.

          That’s ‘you’, Tom. You’re the 21st Century counterpart to the Marx Brothers foil. To every liberal commenting on this thread.

          1. As much confidence as I have in your Tinseltown Diagnostic Software, I think it, and you, are off the mark here.
            Do you still oppose Trump’s nomination of Robin Wright as the new U.N. Ambassador?
            You are the 21st Century version of Axis Sally, Tokyo Rose, and Hanoi Hannah.
            But you have reinforced the image of the typical Hollywood flake.
            I find liars like you irksome, but “outrage” is an inaccurate reading of
            of my “voice”, which you claim to have analyzed
            You might see if it registers contempt for sanctimonious liars like you.

          2. i am like a fat old bald marlon brando in a black shirt sitting half obscured in darkness plotting wicked things

              1. but i am also fat and old and have fell deeds of wickedness in my heart. i also used to be really handsome before i got fat and old, like brando. lol

    2. FW

      Manafort – Campaign manager for a day – Guilty of a horribly badly prosecuted case of tax evasion – entirely a debate about whether money he paid himself is a gift or a loan – gifts are taxable loans are not. He is rotting in jail for failing to produce acceptable loan paperwork.

      Is Manafort skeezy – absolutely – Pick any major political player of that type – Ploufe, Axelrod, Rove, Podesta, point an SC at them, and you are certain to find something.

      What is self evident from the pleas you cite is that if an SC had ever been pointed at Clinton she and her entire organization would be jailed for centuries.
      Clinton and Co lied all over the place – under oath before congress, in court filings, They destroyed evidence, they obstructed justice.

      Trump and company are angels compared to Clinton.

      Papadoulis – who the Hell is he – no one knows. Trump never met him – no one did. What did he do ? Talked with a professor from England who near certain was an MI6 asset.
      Regardless if Mifsud is a russian operative – then the US CIA and FBI and british MI6 were penetrated at high levels long before Papadolis.

      Further the entire ACTUAL papdoulis story is that Mifsud was Dangling emails from Clintons Basement server – not from the DNC. Everybody wanted (and still wants) those.
      Trying to find them is NOT a crime. Even Downer’s testimony about Papadoulis confirms this.

      Papadoulis’s crime ? Mis-remembering the dates of some emails. If that is enough to jail people – AGAIN all Clintons minions should be in for decades.

      Flynn ? So McCabe who has a personal axe to grind with Flynn (and should have been removed from all matters related to Flynn) sets him up.

      Flynn DOES NOT LIE – according to both Strzok and the other unnamed agent who interviews him AND later according to Comey much later – after the original 302’s DISAPPEAR, and Mueller as he has a long history of doing is trying to destroy make him compose, then suddenly we get new 302’s that claim he failed to tell the FBI that sanctions were discussed.

      Flynn was told this was a security procedure review, not an interview. They were discussing a highly classified conversation – which someone at the FBI or DOJ ultimately leaked.
      Which Flynn had no basis for knowing that his interviewers were even allowed to know about. Do you understand that FBI Agents – even ones with Top Secret Clearances – do not get to decide for themselves what they need to know ?

      We have had Clapper openly and admitted lie to congress – wrongly claiming they had no need to know, regardless, you should be aware that in handling classified information you are obligated to tell others ONLY what they actually need to know.

      Cohen – wow a skeezy Lawyer !!! Do you want a list, there is Clinton’s fixer Jordan – but Oh Cohen was represented by another Clinton Fixer Lanny Davis. There is Marc Elias,
      You can not swing a dead cat without finding a lawyer that should be in jail.

      And Cohen’s crime – more tax evasion, associated with his taxi business that had nothing to do with Trump.
      Oh and that claiming he is guilty of the non crime of securing a non-disclosure – do you understand every FEC chair since the mid 90’s has gone on record saying THAT IS NOT A CRIME.

      So who is it that is lying to themselves ?

      BTW in everything above – where is the “russian collusion” garbage ?

  7. What a white-wash! If the story were only as you recalled it, perhaps this would fly BUT many have compiled long lists of Trump’s questionable behaviors especially with regard to Putin and Russian oligarchs. You didn’t even mention them…. At worst you consider Trump “erratic,” when it’s clear he’s been corrupt to the bone for most of his life.

    1. I think taking $140M from the same russians you are negotiating a uranium deal with is pretty sketchy. I think taking millions from russians for fast track access to the state department is questionable. I think sealing and stalling an investigation into Russian efforts to corrupt US businesses until after you get congressional approval on the U1 and after an election is pretty dubious. I think taking half a mill from Russian oligarchs for a speach smells hinky, I think your campaign manager having tens of millions invested in russian company is highly suspicious. I think cavorting with FSB and GRU agents to get dirt on a political opponent is pretty skeezy,

      All of these were done by the Clintons, their Chronies, and the Obama administration – and they are just the tip of the iceberg.

    2. You are entitled to vote based on whatever you beleive about the candidates.

      But we investigate real crimes. The 4th amendment requires that government must have probable cause – that a crime has been committed AND probable cause that the person of whom they are demanding anything, has information about that crime. Absent that evidence – and to this day there remains nothing beyond the dark hopes and wishes of the left, there is very little that any investigation may do.

      We do not engage the awful power of government to investigate someone based on whim – but that is what was done.

      The distinction between Obama and Nixon – is that Hoover and the CIA said NO to Nixon.

      All the idiotic “feelings” of the left or FBI agents of Comey, Brennenan, etc ARE NOT justification for an investigation.

      1. Just a whim? Better check the guilty pleas. But you just keep believing your reality that you yourself have done.

  8. POTUS wanted to know everything the “intelligence community,” AKA the “deep state,” was doing to fabricate nonexistent Russian “collusion” in order to damage candidate and President Trump, an egregious and treasonous abuse of power.

    POTUS, just coincidentally, had Samantha Power, UN, and John Brennan, CIA, “unmask” hundreds of political adversaries during Obama’s last days as president and during a presidential election.
    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Co-conspirators in the Obama Coup D’etat in America, the most prodigious scandal and abuse of power in American political history:

    Sessions, Rosenstein, Mueller/Team, Comey, McCabe, Strozk, Page, Kadzic, Yates, Baker, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Priestap, Kortan,
    Campbell, Steele, Simpson, Joseph Mifsud, Stefan “The Walrus” Halper, Kerry, Hillary, Huma, Mills, Brennan, Clapper, Farkas, Power, Lynch, Rice, Jarrett, Obama et al.
    __________________________

    Peter Strzok to Lisa Page, “We’ll stop it.”

    Lisa Page to Peter Strzok, “POTUS wants to know everything we are doing.”

    Lisa Page to Congress, “The texts mean what the texts say.”
    _____________________________________________________________

    Lisa Page: “potus wants to know everything we are doing”

    “Both Strzok and Page indicated that the request from then-President Barack Obama to be informed about an investigation centered on Russian interference, where “we” referred broadly to the intelligence community.”

    – WaPo
    ______

    Lisa Page indicated that the texts mean what the texts say.

    Rep. John Ratcliff, R-Texas, told reporters that Page has been more cooperative than Strzok in her interview, offering lawmakers “plausible answers” and “plausible explanations.”

    “In many cases, she admits that the text messages mean exactly what they say, as opposed to Agent Strzok, who thinks that we’ve all misinterpreted his own words on any text message that might be negative,” Ratcliff told reporters.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Samantha Power Sought to Unmask Americans on a Daily Basis

    “Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was ‘unmasking’ at such a rapid pace in the final months of the Obama administration that she averaged more than one request for every working day in 2016 – and even sought information in the days leading up to President Trump’s inauguration, multiple sources close to the matter told Fox News.

    Two sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, said the requests to identify Americans whose names surfaced in foreign intelligence reporting, known as unmasking, exceeded 260 last year. One source indicated this occurred in the final days of the Obama White House.

    The details emerged ahead of an expected appearance by Power next month on Capitol Hill. She is one of several Obama administration officials facing congressional scrutiny for their role in seeking the identities of Trump associates in intelligence reports – but the interest in her actions is particularly high.

    OBAMA OFFICIAL MADE ‘HUNDREDS OF UNMASKING REQUESTS,’ GOP CHAIRMAN SAYS

    In a July 27 letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said the committee had learned “that one official, whose position had no apparent intelligence-related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests during the final year of the Obama Administration.”

    The “official” is widely reported to be Power.

    During a public congressional hearing earlier this year, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina pressed former CIA director John Brennan on unmasking, without mentioning Power by name.

    Gowdy: Do you recall any U.S. ambassadors asking that names be unmasked?

    Brennan: I don’t know. Maybe it’s ringing a vague bell but I’m not — I could not answer with any confidence.

    Gowdy continued, asking: On either January 19 or up till noon on January 20, did you make any unmasking requests?

    Brennan: I do not believe I did.

    Gowdy: So you did not make any requests on the last day that you were employed?

    Brennan: No, I was not in the agency on the last day I was employed.

    Brennan later corrected the record, confirming he was at CIA headquarters on January 20. “I went there to collect some final personal materials as well as to pay my last respects to a memorial wall. But I was there for a brief period of time and just to take care of some final — final things that were important to me,” Brennan said.”

    – Bret Baier, Catherine Herridge,

  9. TRUMPERS PAY ATTENTION:

    TURLEY’S CHOICE OF WORDS ARE ‘NOT’ REASSURING

    This paragraph stands out for unusual bluntness. Which leaves us to wonder about Turley’s intentions. Possibly the professor overlooked this paragraph when editing the column. Or possibly he meant to use simplistic terms. In either event said paragraph portrays Trump as a ham-fisted buffoon!

    “Soon after the inauguration, Trump started to counterpunch against what he saw as a deep state conspiracy. He asked Comey if he would be loyal and to go easy on resigned national security adviser Michael Flynn. He eventually fired Comey. He lashed out on social media against the FBI. He said in an interview that he had the Russia investigation in mind when he fired Comey. He met with Russians the very next day in the Oval Office and told the diplomats, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That is taken of.”
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    This sentence in particular incriminates Trump: “He asked Comey if he would be loyal and to go easy on resigned national security adviser Michael Flynn”.

    Trump had no business whatsoever summoning James Comey to discuss Michael Flynn. On the surface this sentence describes ‘Obstruction of Justice’. No lawyer could interpret it as anything else.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    Obstruction of Justice rings in these three sentences: “He eventually fired Comey. He lashed out on social media against the FBI. He said in an interview that he had the Russia investigation in mind when he fired Comey”.

    Again Trump is seen as a ham-fisted buffoon; letting the world know he is trying to thwart an investigation. Would an innocent president, with good intentions, take these three steps?

    A wise politician, new to the White House, would scarcely want to advertise the scandal engulfing him. Don’t ‘protest too much’ would be the proper course. But Trump does just the opposite; squealing like a pig!
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    This passage, more than any, paints Donald Trump as a total jackass: “He met with Russians the very next day in the Oval Office and told the diplomats, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That is taken of.”

    One hardly has to note how terrible this sounds. Trump is under suspicion for colluding with Russia. So he invites the Russian Ambassador to The Oval Office. And there, with TV cameras rolling, Trump assures said Ambassador James Comey is gone!

    What in God’s name was Trump thinking then?? No wonder a Special Counsel was appointed after that. How could a Special Counsel ‘not’ be appointed?? Never has a president staged such an incriminating spectacle. Even the Russian Ambassador looked uncomfortable. As if to wonder, “How stupid is this guy?”
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    Again, this one paragraph tells the whole story. Donald Trump never should have gotten the office of President.

    1. “On the surface this sentence (to Comey) describes ‘ Obstruction of Justice’. No lawyer could interpret it as anything else”.
      That conversation with Comey was 2 years ago. If “no lawyer could interpret it as anything” other than ‘obstruction of justice’, where are the charges against Trump and/ or the Article of Impeachment based on those statements?
      If this is indeed a “slam-dunk” case of obstruction, why the delay?

          1. Peter Shill fancies that when a Republican office holder fires and employee for cause it’s ‘obstruction of justice’.

            1. TIA x 2:

              It’s not obstruction of justice for the POTUS to execute any power enumerated by Article II to him. Those actions are per se legal. To manage the Executive Branch is an enumerated power under Article II. Why do people have such trouble with that concept.

              Art. II, Sec. 1: The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America ….

              Myers v. United States, 272 U.S. 52, 53 (1926) (“The President is empowered by the Constitution to remove any executive officer appointed by him by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and this power is not subject in its exercise to the assent of the Senate, nor can it be made so by an act of Congress.”)

          1. Indeed, Fishwings!

            I just posted this on Turley’s other thread regarding the Barr hearings. This is one excerpt from WaPo coverage.

            BARR SUGGESTS MUELLER’S LONG-AWAITED REPORT MIGHT NOT BE MADE PUBLIC

            In a back-and-forth with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Barr threw cold water on the notion that Mueller’s report might be made public.

            “As the rules stand now, the rules I think say the special counsel will prepare a summary report on any prosecutive or declination decisions, and that shall be confidential and be treated as any other declination or prosecutive material within the department,” Barr said.

            Declination memos are written by Justice Department officials when they decline to file charges against individuals, essentially ending an investigation. Those memos are held very closely inside the government and not released to the public. By comparing any Mueller report to a declination memo or a prosecution memo, Barr’s answer suggested the long-awaited report from the special counsel may not see the light of day.

            Besides that report, Barr said, the attorney general is “responsible for notifying and reporting certain information upon the conclusion to the investigation.”

            “My goal and intent,” he insisted, “is to get as much information out as I can.”

            Hirono also criticized him for not promising to follow any recommendation of Justice Department ethics officials, who may review whether Barr should recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

            “I am not going to surrender the responsibilities of the attorney general to get the title, I don’t need the title,” Barr said.

            “You have it within your power to follow the ethics advice of your own department and you’re telling us you’re not going to,” Hirono said.

            Edited from: “Barr Fields Questions On Mueller Probe, Independence From Trump At Attorney General Confirmation Hearings”

            Today’s WASHINGTON POST

            1. yeah the last thing they want to do is let people know why some people get off the hook and some don’t. now that would really be compromising sources and methods and a longer term screw up for them than letting any trump thing go one way or another.

              but i would love to see it

            2. “I am not going to surrender the responsibilities of the attorney general to get the title, I don’t need the title,” Barr said.”

              Peter is so used to lying that he can’t stand the truth.

          2. So what ? I fully expect that Mueller will write a whiny self serving report that delivers nothing but hints at more. One way or the other whatever he writes will come out.
            Regardless, it will say nothing we do not already know.

            1. Fascinating. Mueller can’t tell the commenter above anything that the commenter above doesn’t already know. Truly fascinating. It really makes one wonder exactly what the commenter above does already know.

              For instance, does the commenter above already know the identity of the foreign owned bank that filed a sealed appeal to a subpoena from Mueller’s grand jury for documents related to Mueller’s investigation involving actions taken by that foreign-owned bank outside the US that have already had an effect upon the US???

              If the commenter above already knows that information, then what else does the commenter above already know that the rest of are not allowed to know under penalty of law???

        1. its not. see this is why they did the counterintelligence op against him. those don’t have to result in indictments or not, like regular criminal ones do. those can linger on for decades like in the old J Edgar days when they were chasing around commies..

          really bad stuff. bring back the Church reforms already

          https://theintercept.com/2019/01/14/the-fbis-investigation-of-trump-as-a-national-security-threat-is-itself-a-serious-danger-but-j-edgar-hoover-pioneered-the-tactic/

        2. So you want to bet that nearly every reporter on the planet has been scooped by Mueller, who has kept everything completely secret, for years – despite the fact that his investigation leaks like a sieve,. That no one on a grandjury has talked to the press or anyone else, that the myriads of witnesses have not talked ?

          The fact that you are dark enough to hope that Mueller knows something evil that is self evidently not true speaks volumes about your own poor charcter.

          The only secret cards Mueller is holding is how he spins himself out of the whole he is in.

          Mueller will culminate a long long long carreer full of botched and bullied cases – like Richard Jewel, like The Anthrax letters, Like the FBI labs corruption, Like the burying of U1,

          We now have the special counsel destroying evidence. The only Crimes commited here are by those doing the investigating.

          1. oh dont forget the botched Hells Angels rico prosecution or the failure to supervise and punish sufficiently the Boston FBI office that “handled” or more properly said, was handled by, Whitey Bulger

            oh and WMDs in Iraq. wow Meuller what a goof. but, maybe his final report will at least be fair, let’s hope, however freakishly the whole thing has meandered along so far

      1. It is not even good enough to be a dead bang loser case.

        You can not obstruct justice by doing what you are constitutionally permitted to do.

        You can not convert a legal act into an illegal one based on your guesses about the intentions of the actor.

        I would further note that what is increasingly self evident is that Trump and the targets of this mess “obstructed INJUSTICE” which is not a crime.
        The Trump Russia investigation itself near certainly is abuse of power under color of authority.

    2. You can not convert your imaginings of the motivations of others into a crime.

      If Walking your dog is legal, walking your dog angrily is legal.

      Your argument is garbage. If Trump had the power to fire comey for no reason at all – which he did, then he had the power to fire him for any reason at all.

      Further bother to learn the facts.

      We now know that from Dec 2015 the DOJ FBI and CIA at Obama’s direction instigated a criminal investigation of a political opponent with ZERO actual evidence – to this day there is no evidence. That investigation violated all the DOJ guidlines. That investigation was corrupt from the start. It was no different from what Nixon dreamed he should be allowed to do.

      So Does Trump have legitimate cause for firing ALL OF THEM based on the BOGUS Russia investigation ? ABSOLUTETLY

      If you are the FBI director and you are swearing warrants against a presidential candidates advisors based on information that was supplied to you by that candidates political opponent – that you beleive to be false OR that you have failed to verify (and both were true), then absolutely you should be fired – FOR THE RUSSIA INVESTIGATION.

      You are not immune from firing for doing something stupid, corrupt and criminal, because the person who is going to fire you is the one you are improperly investigating.

      Your argument is complete and total crap. You are essentially arguing that any AG or FBI director who manufactures any ludicrous allegation against any sitting president is immune to firing for as long as they can continue that investigation – even though there never was a basis to investigate in the first place.

      What is increasingly self evident is the systemic corruption of the obama administration.

      Please tell me why that conduct is not FAR WORSE than watergate ?

      If you can not do so – then I suggest Trump order the DOJ/FBI to conduct open ended investigations into every democrat running against him on whatever flimsy basis they want and continue until they find something – or forever whichever comes first.

      Right and wrong are not dictated by your feelings about who wears the white hat. They are not driven by presumptively good or bad intentions.

      Even god judges our acts not our intentions.

    3. “This passage, more than any, paints Donald Trump as a total jackass: ”

      Peter, this posting of yours paints you as a total jackass. It is easy to put phrases together out of context and neglect all the other information involved. That is what you do. You will even find a NYSlimes article that you like but go to the Internet to find a headline about the article that is even less truthful. That is your nature. Not bright, but able to lie anytime and anyplace

  10. I think Turley is too generous to the FBI’s side.
    The FBI had little to nothing in reasons to investigate Trump, yet they did it anyway; any apologist claim that the FBI was just doing their job, is belied by all the other nefarious actions it id in parallel to the direct investigation of Trump.
    It is clear that they simply did not politically like him, and saw a horror in his being elected, and they used everything within their power, legal or not, to de-throne him. If they post hoc did find some Russian collusion then to them all the better, but they didn’t need that to put all their resources against him, that could do nothing but dirty him up for the public and their handlers. The FBI’s actions harken back to a more barbaric time in American history, where the FBI was in control of blatant apparatchiks like Edward J. Hoover, who attacked politically disfavored people to find dirt on them and likewise extort and destroy them.
    It appears to have been actually a Deep-State project from the get-go, we are finding out more and more as time goes on.

    1. actually the nature of the FBI as a sort of kgb style political police is an integral part of their culture. i am not saying they are bad for that, it’s probably impossible to have any sort of top cop agency which does not end up that way

      1. it’s probably impossible to have any sort of top cop agency which does not end up that way

        Take your meds.

      1. Hoover died a month or so before the Watergate break- in.
        I’ve often wondered what Hoover would have done had he lived to be at the helm for the next couple of years; would he have tried to bury the Watergate issue, or gone forward with a genuine investigation?

    2. everybody even close to DC is scared poopless by the FBI

      i have heard some of my relatives quake in their boots about them and they are absolutely squeaky clean. just proximity to the Swamp makes people afraid of the Swamp Praetorians

      out here in the hinterlands a lot of the FBI are really decent and normal folks

  11. I don’t think Trump is working for the Russians….from what I’ve seen of him, Trump only works for Trump. My guess is that anything that favours the Russians is being done to eventually help him & Trump Org. And that, on its face, is bad enough.

    1. Liam,…
      I think you’re right……but if Mueller uncovers W-2 forms and/ or 1099s showing Trump on the Kremlin payroll😧, he’s screwed.😉

    2. Bad or good – you get to put in your .02 with your vote. Unless there is an actual criminal act – the FBI has no role. It is not their job do determine if Trump is too close or two far from Russia. It is not their job to investigate ANY president.

    3. Liam at the present time American and Trump’s interests are aligned.

      Hillary’s interests never seemed to be aligned with American interests.

      Don’t get confused.

  12. Hey Turley,
    This article is riddled with errors. Most people are reasonable Turley. They’re not going to enter the Manchurian candidate world of fantasy land.
    And most reasonable Americans don’t have blind faith in the F.B.I. What did you think of the investigation of Elvis — a supposed national security threat? Or John Lennon? Were they understandable in your mealy-mouthed world? I’ve got more investigations for you if you like.
    And what kind of legal term is cognitive bias and how does that justify F.B.I. activity?

  13. There may be a lot more to this than cognitive bias. The NYTimes story did not say there was an investigation of Trump. It said there was an “investigation”. If, as I suspect, some deep-state FBI rogues were doing this on Agency time, using agency equipment, there may never be an official record of it. It may have been kept secret from the Attorney General. If so, that would be grounds for immediate dismissal. Or worse. But the article also implied that its findings were “folded in” to Mueller’s probe. That opens the question of whether it included evidence that Mueller uses in his report. Even if Mueller obtained such evidence independently later on, it may have been compromised as the unlawful “fruit” that cannot be considered under the Fourth amendment.

  14. New Gallup poll on how Americans view Trump’s performance as president: 37% approve, 59% disapprove. Right wing echo chambers might want to address this and spin it out of existence…before the election next year….and good luck.

    1. Only 3 of the 25 recent polls show Trump as low as 37%.
      3 or more show him at 44-45% .
      — (Source, 538).
      Rather than cherry-picking either end of the ranges, I pay more attention to the 538 composite of all of the major polls.
      That is currently at 40.8%, at seems to consistently hold at about that level.

  15. This is indeed a first, the FBI investigating its own boss as a “Possible agent.” Ridiculous and very dangerous! This represents massive insubordination of the FBI directed against the winner of the election and thus the American people. Very troubling!

    1. Did you notice how it reached the FBI with independent sources that were the same and sources in the FBI related to one of the primary sources. How come the initial intelligence reports didn’t originate lower down like they usually do where the material would have likely been looked at as garbage. Instead things avoided a lot of hands. Was this problem initially something else evolving into some type of coverup by the former administration? How come certain names pop up over and over again and at least one of those names if from the CIA? How come two of the individuals “entrapped” were done so by the same person?

      There are too many unanswered questions about the actions prior to Trump ever being involved in running for President. Too many questions about what certain agencies were doing long before Trump. Too many questions about how people were targetted and then unmasked. The relationships between of the people involved is just too close.

      1. ha ha yes good observation. the “source” matters and the higher the source in terms of social importance the more seriously the FBI takes it.

        the issue is not credibility– it is social proof. That’s a dynamic of all law enforcement however and not special to fbi

        overall, it’s clear this was a perilous and nearly treasonous venture for the FBI to initiate a saboteur style “counterintelligence investigation” against a newly elected president.

        it’s major abuse of power by the FBI and every Trump voter should be outraged that they have been trying so hard to cancel our votes.

        Here’s the proof the the Deep State conspiracy right there.

    2. He didn’t win the Election. That’s part of the issue…..the Election was finnagled with….plus he lost in numbers in a BIG way. This is fact. It is the Elephant in the room. Taking a dump on the American rug…..

      1. The Constitution and the Electoral College say that he did win the election.
        To claim otherwise is Donkey-Poop.

      2. Yes he did win the election. This is a constitutional republic. The rules for elections are in the constitution.
        If you do not like them – change them.

        There is no “finnagling”.

        While the Russia claim is garbage – lets pretend it is not. Lets say that Putin spent $1T on the election – that is 6% of Russias entire GDP and LESS than Clinton spent.

        What did Putin putin purportedly spend that money on ? Hacking voting machines ? Nope. Threatening people with violence if they did not vote for Trump ? Nope.

        The entire ludicrously stupid claim is that Russia did the same thing that John Oliver, the Guardian, and myriads of other foreigners and US citizens do all the time – he tried to PERSUADE people

        So what is wrong with that ? Are only the people you like allowed to try to persuade voters ? Can we silence the Guardian ? John Oliver ? Planned Parenthood ? Because we do not like them or what they might say ?

        I think at this point the claim is that Russian’s spent about 1M on the US election – about half on each candidate.
        Clinton spent 1600 times that, Trump spent 800 times that .

        Do you honestly beleive that Trump would take enormous political risk to get such tiny aide from Russia, when he could have sat on his ass for 4 minutes and shit $1M in the interest on his wealth and put that into the election ?

        Further do you honestly beleive that Manafort, Flynn, Papadoulis, Stone, Corsi, Page, Cohen managed to broker some kind of arrangement with Russia and leave absolutely no evidence ?

      3. Let’s here how the election was finagled? We here all these stories and then get a big let down when we find no proof is available and the story wasn’t true. That seems to come from this alias a lot.

    3. The FBI investigating the president is a constitutional impossibility.
      Investigating the president is the responsibility of congress – not FBI.

      ALL FEDERAL EXECUTIVE POWER is vested constitutionally in the president – the FBI has ZERO power that is not delegated to it by the president.

  16. The problem which people have on the Hill is that they won’t take the pill. The Hill is DC. The pill is to cure constipation. One problem with the constipation is that the people on the Hill all think that their itShay don’t stink. Being on a Hill makes them above others in the country. Comey, Muller, Rosenwhatshis name and others are all a bit too high on The Hill.
    Trump is living in DC when he is not at Mar A Lago but he is not part of that mindset, body bowl movement bunch.
    What we know is that it is now wrong to “speak” or communicate with any Russian. We know that Hillary was corrupt. We know that the media is flying on fake wings. The New York Times no longer publishes all the news that is fit to print. There is no single piece of election rant which tilted the electorate in favor of Trump and certainly none created or put forth by some Russians. Was it money which Russians poured into the election? Was it some phony set of facts in favor of Trump over Hillary? Where those facts bought by voters and did it change their vote? We do not see any talk on the media of how voters were changed. Voters liked The Donald. He spoke in English.

    There is so much BS out there in the media and in Congress about the so called collusion that we all need to puke.

  17. “Report: Russia ‘Dossier’ Based on 10-Year-Old Wall Street Journal Articles

    21 Dec 2017
    Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS
    AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
    Lee Smith of Tablet magazine has traced the origins of the Russia “dossier” — the Democrat-funded opposition research project that may have laid the foundations for the ongoing Russia investigation — to several Wall Street Journal articles that appeared in print a decade ago.

    Smith’s article, “Did President Obama Read the ‘Steele Dossier’ in the White House Last August?”, suggests that the information compiled by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, with funding from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, could have been repackaged as genuine U.S. government intelligence and presented to President Barack Obama on that basis as his administration began investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Smith recounts how the “dossier” likely prompted the surveillance and investigation of aides to Donald Trump by the Obama administration, and efforts to delegitimize the incoming administration.

    He notes:

    [I]f a sitting president used the instruments of state, including the intelligence community, to disseminate and legitimize a piece of paid opposition research in order to first obtain warrants to spy on the other party’s campaign, and then to de-legitimize the results of an election once the other party’s candidate won, we’re looking at a scandal that dwarfs Watergate—a story not about a bad man in the White House, but about the subversion of key security institutions that are charged with protecting core elements of our democratic process while operating largely in the shadows.

    But the real news in Smith’s well-researched article is that the information compiled by Fusion GPS in the dossier might have relied heavily on earlier reporting done by the firm’s founder about Russian lobbying in the U.S.

    Smith writes:

    A Tablet investigation using public sources to trace the evolution of the now-famous dossier suggests that central elements of the Russiagate scandal emerged not from the British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s top-secret “sources” in the Russian government—which are unlikely to exist separate from Russian government control—but from a series of stories that Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and his wife Mary Jacoby co-wrote for The Wall Street Journal well before Fusion GPS existed, and Donald Trump was simply another loud-mouthed Manhattan real estate millionaire.

    Simpson and Jacoby co-wrote a Journal article in April 2007, “How Lobbyists Help Ex-Soviets Woo Washington.” In it, Smith notes, they identified Paul Manafort as a key player in introducing Russians to Beltway circles. They kept reporting on him over the years. When Manafort was hired to manage the Trump campaign, Simpson — by now running Fusion GPS — made him a focus of his research, and knew enough background information to build a plausible case.

    Smith points out that Fusion GPS had few sources within Russia. Nellie Ohr, who also worked with Fusion GPS and happened to be married to a senior official in Obama’s Department of Justice, had not lived in Russia for decades. on the Even former Christopher Steele, the former British spy who was hired to work on the dossier, probably had few good contacts. Simpson’s earlier Journal reporting was probably his best resource. And the CIA and FBI probably had few better sources: as Smith points out, their intelligence on Russia was terrible.

    So the entire Russia investigation may not be based on actual intelligence at all, but on reporting that is ten years out of date. Manafort’s enduring Russia ties certainly provided fodder for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but the overall theory that Russia may have colluded with the Trump campaign is looking shoddier than ever.

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