After Ten Years in Washington, Mark Warner Has Lost His Way

by James A. Bacon

This morning I found an email in my inbox, a fund-raising message from U.S. Senator Mark Warner calling for the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr. It saddens me to say what I’m about to say because, other than breaking his promise not to raise taxes, I thought Warner did a commendable job as Virginia’s governor. I got to know him in his run-up to the governorship and came to like him personally. He was one of the good guys. But 10 years of operating in the Washington, D.C., political/media bubble, I fear, has severely distorted his perspective.

Here’s how the fund-raising missive starts:

Last week, the Department of Justice released a long-awaited report into the origins of the Russia investigation. Contrary to what President Trump and his allies have been claiming for three years, the report found no evidence that the investigation — which exposed criminal activity by the President’s campaign manager, national security adviser, and other top aides — was influenced by political bias.

Warner’s letter — I’m sure he didn’t write it, but if it went out under his name, he bears responsibility for the contents — is not a remotely complete summary of  the Office of Inspector General‘s conclusions regarding the FISA application to survey Carter Page. Here is a main finding that the Senator cherry picks:

We concluded that [Assistant Director E.W. “Bill”] Priestap’s exercise of discretion in opening the investigation was in compliance with Department and FBI policies, and we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced his decision.

While the OIG found no documentary or testimonial evidence of bias, it did find indisputable evidence of wrong-doing that raised disturbing questions for which, the OIG said, senior FBI officials provided no satisfactory answers. The OIG had no power to issue subpoenas, and it was not within the inspector’s purview to probe FBI officials’ evasions and forgetfulness. So, if anyone is going to determine if there was bias, it has to be the U.S. Justice Department.

Warner’s letter continued:

Mr. Barr went on national television and, instead of accepting the findings of a non-partisan, two-year investigation, proceeded to attack the men and women of federal law enforcement, mislead the American people, and try to provide political cover for the President.

I’m not sure which of Barr’s statements Warner was referring to, but here’s what the AG told NBC News, which was consistent with what he said elsewhere:

In the rush to obtain and maintain FISA surveillance of Trump campaign associates, FBI officials misled the FISA court, omitted critical exculpatory facts from their filings, and suppressed or ignored information negating the reliability of their principal source,” Barr said, adding that “the malfeasance and misfeasance detailed in the Inspector General’s report reflects a clear abuse of the FISA process.

Barr has never condemned “the men and women” of federal law enforcement. He has condemned the actions of a few senior FBI officials whose abuses were highlighted in the OIG report. Here are some of the OIG’s conclusions (my highlights):

We concluded that the failures described above and this report represent serious performance failures by the supervisory and non-supervisory agents with responsibility over the FISA applications. … We identified at least 17 significant errors or omissions in the Carter Page FISA applications, and many additional errors in the Woods Procedures. These errors and omissions resulted from case agents providing wrong or incomplete information to OI and failing to flag important issues for discussion. While we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct on the part of the case agentswe also did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors or problems we identified. …

That so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI, and that FBI officials expected and would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process. … In our view, this was a failure of not only the operational team, but also of the managers and supervisors, including senior officials, in the chain of command.

The FISA court judges themselves agree that the FISA process was abused. Wrote Presiding Judge Rosemary M. Collyer:

The OIG Report … documents troubling instances in which FBI personnel provided information to NSD which was unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession. It also describes several instances in which FBI personnel withheld from NSD information in their possession which was detrimental to their case for believing that Mr. Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power. … The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable.

Warner acknowledges none of this in his fund-raising letter. Rather, he attacks Barr for “substituting partisan spin for the facts” and his “latest attempt to rewrite history.” In truth, Warner is the one who “substituting partisan spin for the facts” and “rewriting history” by totally ignoring the damning evidence in the OIG report.  The OIG has exposed the biggest scandal in FBI history since the revelations of J. Edgar Hoover’s misdeeds — perhaps bigger — and Warner has nothing to say about it.

In reviewing Warner’s press releases, I have found no indication that Virginia’s senior Senator has ever spoken out about the FBI abuses revealed by the OIG report. His response to the scandal has been extraordinary. On the one hand, Warner cannot bring himself to condemn the abuses of senior FBI officials. Instead, he finds Barr’s accurate citation of OIG findings so reprehensible that the AG should resign.

One of two things must be true. Either (1) Warner is ignorant of the OIG findings and is spouting off about a document which he has not fully read, or (2) he is deliberately cherry picking from and misrepresenting the report. Either possibility is inexcusable. The Mark Warner I see on television today is not the man I knew 16 years ago. He has become the very thing — a hyper-partisan and polarizing figure — that he accuses of Barr of being.

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35 responses to “After Ten Years in Washington, Mark Warner Has Lost His Way”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    The problem with Barr is that he is supposed to be for justice and not show any bias towards ongoing political issues. Once he has crossed that line, his role as an objective and fair arbiter of Justice is compromised.

    Barrs job is to ensure the integrity of the Dept of Justice to operate in an unbiased fashion to use reasonable cause as the criteria not the personal beliefs of the head of the agency.

    The irony here is that because the FBI DID screw up on FISA – then that becomes the justification for Barr to take over and decide who will be investigated.

    I’m no defender of the FBI with regard to FISA – they need their rear end ripped… and yes.. it’s hard to imagine the IG said no bias then clearly there was on the FISA thing.

    BUt I also don’t understand why you say the IG cannot further investigate. My understanding is that he intends to look at he other FISA warrants to see if the wrongdoing was limited to one guy on one particiuarl warrant or was it a wider practice of other investigators on other cases also.

    You’d think that Barr himself would want to have that happen but now he’s actually directing who to investigate. To me, having one guy at the top doing that is a recipe for disaster.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Unlike former Attorney General Eric Holder, who was apolitical.

      Washington, D.C. is a sewer irrespective of which political party is in control. And there are way too many agencies, government employees and contractors.

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Good for Warner. Barr is a Trump hack

    1. Can I deduce from your comment that you do not regard the documented FBI abuses as anything more than trivial, and that we essentially know all we need to know?

  3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Good reporting Jim.

    Unfortunately, Warner’s current mode of behavior has become the norm, not the exception, as is Peter’s commentary. Where will this all end, and how?

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    So Probable Cause is the basis for investigations. It’s not an opinion or personal belief. It’s a standardized criteria that everyone who is an investigator uses to justify probing into someone’s affairs for potential criminal behaviors.

    Probale Cause is not the sole purview of the top person in the agency – and for him to decide what the criteria is.

    When that happens – the whole concept becomes whatever the guy at te top says it is.

    This is the difference between a country with Rule of Law and a 3rd world country where whoever has power – decides who to investigate.

    Anyone is their right mind should question how the FBI did FISA warrants but it’s not a shock because back when they created FISA – the ACLU and others warned that it was going to be abused because it was not transparent.

    That’s not true at the Justice Dept. Who decides who is going to be investigated and by what criteria?

    Is Probable Cause a defined criteria that all people in the agency follow or is it what the guy at the top says it is according to him?

    I don’t justify nor Condemn Warner – no more or less than I would McConnell or other partisans. It’s the nature of the beast.

    but I’m betting if you asked Warner and McConnel if the head of the justice dept should re-define what probable-cause is and personally decide who will be investigated – they’d both have concerns.

    We all should. In 3rd world countries, in places like Russia and China – they “investigate” opponents then imprison them… We’re headed down that road if we don’t come to our senses.

    1. You’re slippery, Larry, I’ll give you that. You can twist and squirm and wriggle with the best of them to avoid acknowledging that the indefensible has taken place.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        That’s insulting and pejorative guy. I’m being honest. I’m trying to be fair. I acknowledged without question the improprieties of the FISA issue but I also point out that the standard criteria of investigations in non-FIsA is probable cause no matter who does it and now we’re having the head of the Justice dept setting up his own standards and deciding himself who will be investigated. Shades of J. Edgar Hoover!

        we have some real issues here. Apparently some folks believe the head of the Justice and the POTUS – SHOULD be able to decide who will be investigated.

        I’m astounded to be honest. We’re going to end up like RUssia and China… whatever high ground we had in terms of governance is gone.

        and guy – should I call you slippery and similar?

        1. “We’re going to end up like Russia and China…”

          Yup, there are signs we are heading that way.

  5. Well as a consensus builder myself, I’ll observe there is no joy in Mudville.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    How about you lay out what you think is “slippery” – if you’re gonna sling that insult – back it up.

    Normally in investigations – you’re looking into something, an act or event that happened that was wrong or illegal and you follow the evidence to whoever was involved to identify the perpetrators, You don’t start out with who you suspect and especially so if he/she is a political opponent.

    You do not start out targeting a specific person then trying to prove they were guilty… that’s wrong..

    But NOW,the head of the Justice Dept is investigating specific people without a shred of evidence, to see what they might have done wrong with no evidence of a wrong or illegal act at the front – just a suspicion.

    Can others not see this distinction?

    If I say that Jim Bacon beats his wife – does that merit an investigation?
    If someone says they’re pretty sure Steve Haner or Larry G are engaging in illegal activities – does that justify an investigation?

    Would you have the head of the Justice Dept or the POTUS of the US setting up investigations based on suspicions?

    The FISA thing is bad – this is much worse and I’m frankly at a loss to understand why others are seemingly fine with investigations based on people – not events.

    You have to START with a potential crime that has been committed.

  7. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    Perhaps another reason for term limits in the Senate? I bet the former Warner, the one from Middleburg, would applaud the current Warner. I wonder what Harry Byrd would make of Warner and Kaine?

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    Terms Limits are called elections. For every “Warner” on the Dems side, there are at least as many GOP partisans these days also. And both sides are trying to figure out how to “un-elect” some on the other side so they can have the votes to move forward on their priorities.

    I STILL say – that as bad as the FISA issue is – and it is – that in the vein of two-wrongs the second one – having the head of the FBI or Justice or the POTUS to begin investigations into people they “suspect” of something – as opposed to launching investigations into events or would-be crimes and following the evidence to the perpetrators is far far worse. It changes who our country is.

    It alarms me that folks do not see the danger in having the people in charge start investigations into people and based on politics.

    This is what they do in countries that we have prided ourselves with Rule of Law where we do not target individuals.

    And yes – this is what happened to Carter Page – and done so by one or more people in the FBI – but is the cure to this to let the top guy in charge start doing it also? Is our “cure” to this to essentially institutionalize it.

    Is Barr deciding who to investigate more of a threat than a lower level FBI agent who went rogue?

    I’m starting to believe that a whole lot of people REALLY and fundamentally do not understand our country’s system of justice and how it differs from 3rd world and countries with despotic governance. Or perhaps I do not or am gullible to believe we are different when others believe we are no different… we do that also….

    Do we REALLY want the next POTUS – whoever he/she is or political party to basically normalize the idea that the winners, as part of what they get for winning, will be the power to investigate their political opponents?

    If you do not believe this – how would you keep it from happening, by getting rid of Warner?

  9. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “And yes – this is what happened to Carter Page – and done so by one or more people in the FBI – but is the cure to this to let the top guy in charge start doing it also? Is our “cure” to this to essentially institutionalize it.”

    Our cure is well known, but largely forgotten and ignored: We call that cure morals, ethics, and integrity. Our founders called it virtue.

    And yes, it is essential to re-institutionalize virtue (that is morals, ethics, and integrity) throughout our government, most particularly now at DOJ and FBI that became cesspools under Barack Obama, as did much else in government during the Obama administration, the IRS for example.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      This re-institution of virtue can only be achieved from the top to the bottom. That is precisely what Attorney General Barr is doing.

  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    I don’t care if their name is Barr or J. Edgar Hoover or whoever – when they start investigation PEOPLE rather than crimes – we have become what other 3rd world countries are.

    that’s NOT “virtue” – it’s the loss of what our Country was founded on that was different from countries without rule of law – We were founded as a Country of Laws – not individuals who decide what the law is or should be in their own mind which is exactly what J. Edgar degenerated into when he started targeting people he thought – should be investigated.

    We do not make our leaders – the chief investigators – or we have become what other 3rd world countries are.

    1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
      Peter Galuszka

      When the mueller report was to be released, starr came with a partisan nothing to see here, folks. In fact there were about 10 points that were criminal. Now the right is trying to deflect trumps horrendous conduct with the fbi. What’s next ? Hillary’s emails? Revisit benghazi?

      1. So OIG Horowitz is part of “the right”? Judge Collyer is part of “the right”?

        I agree that Trump is a bull in a china shop and has done many reckless, stupid things. Obviously, you’re unprepared to admit that anyone on your side of the partisan divide has done anything wrong.

      2. djrippert Avatar

        Here we go again … “But, but, but – Trump”

  11. djrippert Avatar

    The star chamber of the FISA court is a national disgrace. Some would say we have to give up our rights in order to secure our safety and the FISA court is a reasonable compromise. I agree with Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” However, just for the sake of argument, let’s say that the FISA court is a reasonable compromise of our essential freedoms. Is there any other process in the US government that requires more integrity and honesty than secret warrants issued in secrecy by a secret court? And in the case of the party in power using FISA warrants against the other party during an active campaign – is there any other situation that requires more forthrightness and putting “all cards on the table”?

    For all the blabbermouths on the left who spent the last 3+ years accusing Trump of treason – this is treason (The crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government). Faking a FISA warrant application to spy on the opposition during an election is an attempt to overthrow the government.

    Remember when all the lefties broke out in gales of laughter and torrents of derision when Trump claimed the Obama Administration “wiretapped” his campaign? Guess what …

    As for Mark Warner prevaricating – why would anybody be surprised?

  12. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Very well and accurately stated.

    And, you can be sure that this assault on our liberty and system of constitutional government will continue, using an unrelenting myriad of weapons (like Impeachment, executive order, PC, riot and Social Justice), unless we actively and vigorously oppose and stop it.

    This starts with calling this ongoing weaponizing of our politics by name for what it is. Like Jim did with Mark Warner’s deeply dishonest “letter” that is an embarrassment to Warner’s office, his reputation, and his legacy.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      “Paul Vocker Knew the Meaning of Public Service

      …That was one of Vocker’s big themes. He felt that our government is only as good as the people who believe in its institutions and dedicate themselves to the higher ideals of service,

      … Volker’s dedication to service will remain part of his lecacy … the legions of disciples he leaves behind.”

      See Michael A. Whitehouse, Lewes Del. in Letters to Editor in weekend Wall Street Journal, Dec. 21/22, 2019.

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Above I said “And, you can be sure that this assault on our liberty and system of constitutional government will continue, using an unrelenting myriad of weapons…”

      As predicted, this is just in:

      “The lawyer for House Judiciary Committee Democrats revealed in a Monday court filing that there is a possibility lawmakers could pursue even more articles of impeachment against President Trump — despite having already adopted two of them last week following a grueling, historic and bitterly partisan debate.

      The prospect of additional articles — while perhaps unlikely — was floated as part of a court battle over Democrats’ bid to compel testimony from former White House Counsel Don McGahn. …”


  13. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    Ben Franklin had something to say about virtue and liberty.

    “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power.”

    Poor Richards Almanac. The book that keeps giving since 1732.

  14. Jane Twitmyer Avatar
    Jane Twitmyer

    I have tried really hard to understand how withholding Congressionally appropriated tax monies to induce an ally, in need of those monies, to cast aspersions on a political rival is anything but criminal and impeachable.

    This old lady still remembers well that history class at Smith whose final exam was a penny taped to our paper. Trump is putting our system of ‘power dispersed’ in jeopardy, a system that recognized how power can corrupt.

  15. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: the bull in the China shop

    I just want to point out that the leader of the free world can – with words – cause people to die – either on purpose like with Seals hunting down someone or not intentionally by ordering troops into a location or dozens of other ways.

    And this the SAME guy shooting his mouth off on Twitter every day.

    Words matter.

    Anyone who thinks he just talks “bad” needs their head examined.

    in terms of the FBI “wiretapping” Trump. Is that true?

    If it is there needs to be full accountability for it.

    If not, there needs to be accountability for te leader of the free world – being an Ass to the rest of the world …

    in terms of “deep state” or “coup” or other

    If there actually is a “deep state” – and I do not discount it out of hand but I suspect there are folks in Govt that are not Trump supporters. If ANY of them take any actions counter to their duty and work requirement – they need to be fired – period.

    But you do not fix this by putting a Chief Investigator in charge of the agency where he can decide WHO he is going to investigate whether there is any evidence or not. If we go down this road – at some point, the other side will take control – and is this REALLY the kind of govt that you want – that whoever gets elected then sends investigators to the opponents?

    I cannot believe people are supporting this concept.

  16. Terry Carter Avatar
    Terry Carter

    From an occasional lurker:
    I see this argument concerning Mark Warner as being constructed in a vacuum. I’d like to pump in a bit of oxygen. I agree with you that the OIG may have “exposed the biggest scandal in FBI history since the revelations of J. Edgar Hoover’s misdeeds – perhaps bigger……” But the scandal is much bigger than the one you lay out, and at the same time knocks it down.

    Yes, what happened to Carter Page, and some of the other examples detailed by OIG Horowitz, was inexcusable. Scarily so. But with FISA it is more than likely that these abuses were not unique. It seems they resulted from a combination of flawed design in the FISA application process itself and natural human tendencies played out in the FBI bureaucracy. FISA of 1978 in the context of post-9/11 fear and urgency and the FBI working in the cloak of total darkness…….what could possibly go wrong?

    Libertarians certainly recognize the problems, at least the ones who care as much about the 4th amendment as they do economic liberty. I recommend a careful reading of the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez in a recent NYTimes op-ed addressing implications of the Horowitz report, in which Sanchez goes into significant detail on the flawed rules in the “Woods Procedures” for various layers of review within the FBI on FISA applications.
    In that process: “Nobody was revisiting early assumptions to see whether they still held up in the face of new data.” That seems to be what happened with the Carter Page investigation going off the rails, and if so, Sanchez writes, “it’s an explanation that has little to do with partisan politics at its heart.”

    Sanchez believes that it was confirmation bias, not political bias, at work in the Page fiasco and the investigation generally. (Via Horowitz, he answers the “what about Strzok” and the FBI lawyer who doctored an email questions.) I certainly have some confirmation biases, and I expect you do, too.
    While I believe Carter Page was seriously harmed in all of this, I can’t push away my understanding that more than once before these FISA application his contacts with Russia had been investigated, including under FISA, and for good reason. And nothing can cause me to forget that he is a very peculiar man, to the point of being a doofus, which is a technical term and a significant factor in the minds of both spy recruiters and those investigating spies.

    Of course, Bill Barr jumped all over this, and you quote him at length in his criticism of the FBI, which, like yours of Warner, looks at this matter in a vacuum and thus as being unique – what lawyers like to call sui generis – and elides the problematic history of FISA and its pertinence here.

    Ah, Bill Barr. He was seen by many on both sides of the great political divide created and fed by the rise of and increasingly huge volume of disinformation (another, but related topic) as a responsible grownup coming in to calm and guide a volatile and often dangerous president. Harrumph.
    Some of us, especially those of us who were reporters covering the DOJ in the early 90s, recall that he made one of the greatest political scandals in U.S. history go away – Iran Contra. Just weeks before Caspar Weinberger was to be tried for lying to Congress, then-Attorney General Barr publicly stated that “People in the Iran-Contra affair have been treated very unfairly. People in this Iran-Contra matter have been prosecuted for the kind of conduct that would not have been considered criminal or prosecutable by the Justice Department.”

    Say wha? I’d say jury tampering by the attorney general of the United States.
    Soon after, Barr persuaded Bush the Elder to pardon not just Weinberger, but a half-dozen of various miscreants in the Reagan Administration so as to make the whole thing – part and parcel – disappear in a poof.

    The same Barr was back in the same janitorial business last April when he spun the hell out of Mueller’s report weeks before we got to see the report itself. He knows the disinformation game as well as Putin and Fox News do. Mueller – reserved, conservative, cautious to a tectonic fault – put in writing and in public that Barr’s memo to Congress on this “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the Mueller report.

    But the spin cycle was finished and everything was out of the dryer, folded and put away before Mueller’s report even came out. And Mueller stayed in his self-imposed lane.

    More recently we saw Barr use John Durham to do the same damned thing. It appears that Barr persuaded (or, if you will, cajoled, wheedled, browbeat) Durham to issue a statement so highly unusual as to be unthinkable to most who have worked in high-level DOJ: “Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”

    Boom, Boom, KaBoom, as Maynard G. Krebs used to say.

    Never mind that Horowitz then stated that Durham had told him the disagreement simply concerned whether the FBI should have opened a “preliminary investigation” rather than a “full investigation” into Trump campaign activities in 2016. Apparently, the FBI did little more in its “full” version than would have been called for in the “preliminary” one.

    It was a bureaucratic splitting of hairs that Barr fashioned into a full and glorious mane, calling Horowitz’s work “very flimsy,” among other criticisms, in that same NBC interview you quote at length. It was conducted by Pete Williams, who displayed all the journalistic verve, tenacity and doggedness of someone sitting on the divan among “Fox and Friends.”

    That was enough to snuff the impact of the Horowitz report until……well, I expect even Barr isn’t sure yet of his second act in this caper. But once again he stole the news cycle, or a goodly piece of it, and kept’em confused and dis-informed.

    And then there’s Barr’s traipsing around Europe recently playing FBI agent, trying to convince high-level folks in various countries that they should believe him, not their own lyin’ eyes and ears. ……..

    Oh, never mind. There’s just too much out there to see.

    I happen to think the greatest scandal in DOJ history has been unfolding right in front of us, out in the open, which apparently is the purest way to hide things in this age of disinformation.

    I think Mark Warner knows all of this.

    1. Thank you, TC, for a long-winded post every word of which was a pleasure to read. Mark Warner may well have delegated too much of the wordsmithing in the fundraising message that initiated this post; and nobody here is excusing the FISA process, let alone the FBI’s abuse of it. But Bill Barr has served the “Imperial Presidency,” the Dark Lord of the magic kingdom, far longer than most in Congress today. Mark Warner remembers this history personally; he has a solid understanding of the reasons why Barr should resign — though of course Barr won’t go voluntarily. Obstruction of Congress is his mission and in The Donald he has found a willing partner. My hope is that the President’s total rejection of accountability finally become intolerable to the federal judiciary, even to the Federalist Society’s nominees, and that the Court’s eventual rebuke leaves no wiggle-room for the President’s Executive agencies, even for Bill Barr’s Judiciary, to avoid Congressional oversight and its subpoena process.

  17. Terry, you’re right, the FISA abuses need to be viewed in a larger context. You provide some of that context. There is plenty more context that should be considered. Personally, I believe that tugging on the string of the FISA abuses will bring many more abuses to light. But I could be wrong. We’ll just have to wait and see what else surfaces.

  18. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “While I believe Carter Page was seriously harmed in all of this, I can’t push away my understanding that more than once before these FISA application his contacts with Russia had been investigated, including under FISA, and for good reason. And nothing can cause me to forget that he is a very peculiar man, to the point of being a doofus, which is a technical term and a significant factor in the minds of both spy recruiters and those investigating spies.”

    This Terry Carter statement that of a shallow man, lacking all seriousness, and who is also a gratuitous smear merchant.

  19. Carter Page does come across as something of a doofus. But he was a doofus who had been cooperating with the FBI (either the FBI or the CIA, I can’t remember which) in a separate and previous investigation against Russians. This fact was known to authorities. The failure to disclose the fact in the FISA application was not only wrong, it calls into question the state of mind of the FBI agents in charge of the application. In all probability, they never saw Page as a security threat of any kind. Leading credence to this idea is that no charges were ever filed against him. Indeed, there is precious little evidence even to suggest that the FBI seriously investigated him.

    When, then, obtain the FISA warrant? Perhaps what the FBI really wanted was access to his communications — in effect, he was a means by which they could surveille the Trump campaign.

    Or oerhaps FBI figures involved in the case wanted the FISA warrant so they could leak to the media that a Trump campaign figure was under investigation. Given the fact that senior FBI officials were leaking systematically and strategically to the media, it is foolishness to deny that political motives were not involved.

  20. Terry Carter Avatar
    Terry Carter

    There are some big leaps of faith in your reasoning. Horowitz did not find a conscientiously applied program (dentifrice or no) by “senior FBI officials” “leaking systematically and strategically to the media.” He found some lower-level rogue activity, particularly by one lawyer who doctored an email, and faults higher-ups for these things slipping through. Again, FBI line agents and lawyers had developed a culture of working in the comfort of darkness on FISA applications well before 2016.

    Other than Steele probably leaking about the Steele Dossier, as well as leaks by now-felon and former Senate staffer James Wolfe, I’m curious about and would like to read more on any possible systematic and strategic leaks by, or ordered by, senior FBI officials. I don’t think such is to be found, but maybe you can direct me to it. Then I could do my own assessment of whether it concerned a political hit against Trump, or maybe just the FBI doing some CYA. Then I could know for sure whether I’m foolish for not yet seeing any political animus.

    Carter Page was wronged. Agreed. But, despite his CIA connection (his activity really ended in 2011) his ongoing odd contacts with known Russian intelligence operatives was plenty enough reason to open an investigation – though not an excuse for later excesses by the FBI which, again, hasn’t panned out as a political hit job on Trump.

    Please note that the IG Horowitz did recently address FBI leaks that had an obvious political aim. He talked about the group of FBI agents in the New York office who were passionately anti-Hillary and likely gave Rudy Giuliani the inside info on Anthony Weiner and the laptop.

    That conveniently prompted the nation’s self-appointed Prig-in-Chief James Comey, in his own bit of CYA, to announce just days before the election that the Hillary investigation was on again. That was enough, probably, to swing the election to Trump. Now, that was some effective politically targeted leaking.

    And Horowitz said recently that his investigation of the matter is difficult in part because evidence apparently went missing. What’s up with WhatsApp and its disappearing messages?

    Surely in the run-up to the election the FBI was freaked out by what they started finding out about Russia and contacts with the Trump campaign and, yes, possible collusion. BTW, my reading of the Mueller Report indicates that Trump Jr. was let off that hook because he was too ignorant to know he was engaging in an illegal act.

    Amazing fact: no one at the FBI, including Strozk, weaponized all of that via leaks. In fact, the investigation(s) had been moved to FBI HQ out of concern for the sensitivity due a presidential campaign. And that, by the way, was done by the senior FBI officials.

    1. “Horowitz did not find a conscientiously applied program (dentifrice or no) by “senior FBI officials” “leaking systematically and strategically to the media.”

      That’s my point: Horowitz did NOT examine the issue of leaks. Horowitz was very restricted in what he could examine. He found no evidence regarding bias in written documents or testimony to the OIG. But it was not his purview to ask whether (a) the refusal to correct errors made in the original FISA application, or (b) the fact that senior FBI officials were leaking to the press constituted strong circumstantial evidence of bias.

      For a detailed accounting of the leaks — who, what, where, when — consult Lee Smith’s book, “The Plot Against the President.” The leaking was pervasive. Where do you think the hundreds of New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN “scoops” came from? McCabe, you might recall, was fired from the FBI for lying to Congress about his role in leaking to the media.

  21. Terry Carter Avatar
    Terry Carter

    OK, I’ll bite. You’ve directed me to the Devin Nunes theory of the Deep State conspiracy and we clearly now stand on perches on either side of the great National Divide. (I assume I am a member of the Deep State, after a long career in the mainstream media.)

    Lee Smith’s book apparently gained zero traction/notice/reviews beyond far-right wing publications. I happen to believe that there are enough equal-opportunity bloodhounds in the more mainstream press that surely any nuggets of provable and pertinent facts and conclusions proffered by Lee Smith would find their ways into the mainstream. A good story is a good story, no matter whose ox is jeopardized.

    In counterpoint, I’d refer to (the Washington Post’s two-time Pulitzer winner) Greg Miller’s book “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy,” published by HarperCollins. It doesn’t offer any scoops, but weaves together unassailable facts – without the breathless passion and leaps of faith I’ve seen in Lee Smith’s work — for a very clear story.

    I found Smith a bit dodgier in his writing that lead up to his recent book. Just one example: the infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, where Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort met with Russian operatives, and had the expectation of getting dirt on Hillary.

    Smith wrote in 2018 (and I expect a version of this is also in his latest book) that a “growing body of evidence indicates that the meeting may have been a setup” by Clinton’s people. Rather than Occam’s Razor, Smith wielded the blunt bow of a container ship. Smith wrote that it was part of a “broad effort to tarnish the Trump campaign involving Hillary Clinton operatives.”

    I think you and I should be able to agree on one thing here: That one of us has been misguided by a dynamic that is the biggest story of the 21st Century: the ease, pervasiveness and effectiveness of propaganda in the digital, social-media age, which turned upside down A.J. Liebling’s adage that “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” Most of us now have one.

    With the advent of fax machines I concluded that authoritarianism would in due time be finished. With the advent of the internet I concluded that it was imminent. Wrong. Bad information beats good. Thus I believe that Vlad is winning. And I expect you feel that way about the Deep State.

    I hope that truth will out, as I’m sure you do.

    1. Terry, we agree on this: We hope the truth will out. We may not like it when we see it, we may not acknowledge it when we see it, but hopefully it will come out.

      Back to Lee Smith’s book… Smith may have engaged in some unsupported speculation in places — like the infamous Trump Tower meeting being a set-up. His theory is no more implausible than most of the Trump-Russia collusion stuff we saw, but a responsible journalist should acknowledge that his speculation is just that… speculation.

      There is no gainsaying the massive amount of leaking that occurred and that Smith documented. Almost every NYTimes, Washington Post, and CNN “blockbuster” scoop was based upon anonymous sources from the “deep state” (or whatever you want to call it). The level of leaking was unprecedented in American political history. We know know who many of those leakers were — Comey, McCabe, Rosenstein, the list goes on. Now that we know their identities and we know much more about the context they were working within, we can go back to the stories they were peddling and comprehend their intentions in a way that we could not at the time.

      As for your suggestions that journalistic bloodhounds in the mainstream might dig into the leaking phenomenon… That’s asking the mainstream media to investigate itself. MSM reporters and editors were eager and active beneficiaries of the leaks. What are they going to do — turn around and burn their sources? And admit that they helped perpetrate one of the biggest false conspiracy theories in the history of the country? Haha! Not bloody likely!

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