Posted by Curt on 24 August, 2020 at 5:51 pm. 1 comment.



Carter Page was a CIA asset, not a Russian spy, and the FBI knew it early on but plowed ahead with its fantasy anyway.

Author’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series.

Tanswer the question posed in last Tuesday’s column, Yes, Kevin Clinesmith did plead guilty Wednesday. Sort of.

Well, maybe it was a smidge better than “sort of.” After all, it did happen in a federal-district-court proceeding (via videoconference) on Wednesday. And Judge James Boasberg did accept the plea after eliciting it in accordance with settled criminal-law rules. Sentencing is scheduled for December 10. So it’s official.

But I’m sticking with “sort of.” If Clinesmith’s guilty plea is legally adequate, it is barely so. And neither a judge nor a prosecutor is required to accept an allocution sliced so fine. In “admitting” guilt, Clinesmith ended up taking the position that I hoped the judge, and especially the Justice Department, would not abide, in essence: Okay, maybe I committed the crime of making a false statement, but to be clear, I thought the statement was true when I made it, and I certainly never intended to deceive anyone.


I don’t mean to make you dizzy, but in my view, Clinesmith is lying about lying. His strategy is worth close study because it encapsulates the mendaciousness and malevolence of both “Crossfire Hurricane” (the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation) and the “collusion” never-enders who continue to defend it. A defendant’s lying about lying does not necessarily make a false-statement guilty plea infirm as a matter of law. The bar is not high. Still, his story is ridiculous, in a way that is easy to grasp once it’s placed in context.

So let’s place it in context.

‘Page Is a Russian Spy’ — the FBI Plants Its Feet on a Fantasy

Our point of reference is spring 2017.

While indignantly denying news stories portraying him as a clandestine agent of Russian, Carter Page asserts that, actually, he’s been an informant for a U.S. intelligence agency. FBI officials should know that Page is telling the truth. They have already heard the same thing from the CIA and from Page himself.

The CIA told the bureau ten months earlier, in a memo dated August 17, 2016 (i.e., two months before the FBI sought the first FISA warrant against Page). Page had been a CIA source who provided information about Russians. Page told the bureau about at least some of this work during voluntary interviews in 2009 and 2013, during the period when the CIA had authorized Page for “operational contact” with Russians. The FBI, meanwhile, actually used information from Page in a prosecution of Russian spies. (See my 2018 column, discussing of United States v. Buryakov.)

And it’s not as if the CIA’s acknowledgment of Page’s informant status was the only exculpatory fact the FBI knew. Not by a long shot. Page was pleading with the FBI director to sit down with the bureau and explain himself, as he had done on other occasions over the years. More to the point, in August 2016 (again, two months before the first FISA warrant to permit spying on Page), Page had credibly insisted to a covert FBI informant, Stefan Halper, that key allegations about Page (derived from the bogus Steele dosser) were false: Page did not even know Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, let alone act as Manafort’s intermediary in a Trump–Russia espionage conspiracy; and Page had not recently met in Moscow with Putin-regime heavyweights Igor Sechin and Igor Divyekin.

Thus, (a) Page had not done the very things that led the FBI to accuse him of being an active anti-American spy, and (b) Page’s prior contacts with Russians, on which the bureau further rationalized its overwrought suspicions, overlapped with Page’s years as a CIA operative. Weeks before the FBI and the Obama Justice Department first applied for a FISA warrant on the theory that Page was a spy for the Kremlin, the FBI team conducting the investigation had information showing the theory was untenable.

Yet the bureau chose to plant its feet on the daft theory anyway. Apologists for the bureau and the Obama administration would now have you believe that this is because a single one of the FBI’s crack counterintelligence agents, Stephen Somma, dropped the ball — that he alone knew Page was a CIA informant, but held out on his chain-of-command. Really? If they dropped as many balls in Times Square as Somma did — purportedly without anyone noticing, in one the most significant investigations in the FBI’s history — we’d have New Year’s once a week.

The fact is, top officials were drinking the “Donald Trump must be colluding with Russia” Kool-Aid, so the story was too good to check. And once the farcical Steele dossier grabbed the investigators’ attention in late summer 2016, the bureau was off to the races, framing Page as a key cog in the Trump campaign’s “conspiracy of cooperation” with the Kremlin.

But that was autumn 2016. Now, remember, we’re in late spring of 2017. At this point, the FBI has been monitoring Page for over eight months. The Page-is-a-Russian-spy theory is in tatters. The surveillance turns up nothing. Halper has nothing. Steele’s dossier, a shoddy product on its face, is now a hot, steaming mess. Not only is it uncorroborated and unverifiable; Steele himself is dismissing it as “raw” information that needed to be investigated, and his “primary subsource,” Igor Danchenko, has discredited it as fiction and rumormongering.

But alas, the FBI is dug in. This was not just office banter. The bureau had taken the claim that Page was a spy to court. It was the linchpin of the hypothesis that the Trump campaign was a Kremlin influence operation. This theory, bereft of supporting evidence and resistant to exculpatory evidence, had the imprimatur of FBI headquarters. By June 2017, in conjunction with the Justice Department, the FBI had made this claim under oath to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), three times: a first application in October 2016, and renewal applications in January and April 2017. Each time, based on the FBI’s representations, the FISC issued a 90-day surveillance warrant against Page.

Disclosure Would Mean Epic Humiliation

The warrant issued by the FISC on April 7 was due to expire in early July. By mid June, then, the bureau was well into its preparations to submit yet another renewal application.

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