by ED MORRISSEY
What did Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Loretta Lynch, and James Comey know about Russia-collusion — and when did they know it? John Durham dropped a bombshell in his testimony today at House Oversight, which will go on for at least a couple of hours or more, but this part wasn’t the bombshell. In his special-counsel report, Durham had already revealed that CIA Director John Brennan briefed these four in August 2016 that Hillary Clinton planned to paint Donald Trump as linked to Russian intelligence, presumably to shift attention away from her own e-mail scandal.
That briefing resulted in a “referral memorandum,” and one of its recipients was then-FBI director James Comey. Oversight chair Jim Jordan asks Durham whether Comey ever bothered to share that with the agents assigned to the newly launched Operation Crossfire Hurricane or ever presented to the FISA court when applications were made for domestic surveillance of Trump campaign officials. Nope, Durham says, and explains how he found that out:
JORDAN: "Did [Comey] share it with the agents…working the Crossfire Hurricane case?!"
JORDAN: "Can you tell the committee what happened when you took that referral memo, and shared it with one of those agents?"
DURHAM: "He indicated he had never seen it before.… pic.twitter.com/sBYBCHLkuk
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) June 21, 2023
Let me expand the truncated transcript on Durham’s recollection:
JORDAN: Can you tell the committee what happened when you took that referral memo, and shared it with one of those agents?
DURHAM: We interviewed the first supervisor on the Crossfire investigation, the operational person. We showed him the intelligence information. He indicated he had never seen it before. He immediately became emotional, and got up and left the room with his lawyer, spent some time in the hallway, came back.
JORDAN: He was ticked off, wasn’t he? He was ticked off because this was something he should have had as an agent on the case. This was important information that the director of the FBI kept from the people doing the investigation.
DURHAM: The information was kept from them.
In other words, the director of the FBI knowingly withheld evidence pertinent to an FBI investigation. That resulted not just in errors made by the agents conducting the investigation that might have resulted ending what turned out to be a witch hunt, but also contributed to misrepresentations to the FISA court about the nature of the evidence they used to conduct surveillance on Trump campaign figures.
For that sequence, let’s turn to the report filed in 2019 by Inspector General Michael Horowitz. The executive summary offers a concise review of what transpired, and more importantly, when:
We determined that the Crossfire Hurricane team’s receipt of Steele’s election reporting on September 19, 2016 played a central and essential role in the FBI’s and Department’s decision to seek the FISA order. As noted above, when the team first sought to pursue a FISA order for Page in August 2016, a decision was made by OGC, OI, or both that more information was needed to support a probable cause finding that Page was an agent of a foreign power. As a result, FBI OGC ceased discussions with OI about a Page FISA order at that time.
On September 19, 2016, the same day that the Crossfire Hurricane team first received Steele’s election reporting, the team contacted FBI OGC again about seeking a FISA order for Page and specifically focused on Steele’s reporting in drafting the FI SA request. Two days later, on September 21, the FBI OGC Unit Chief contacted the NSD OI Unit Chief to advise him that the FBI believed it was ready to submit a formal FISA request to OI relating to Page. Almost immediately thereafter, OI assigned an attorney (OI Attorney) to begin preparation of the application.
By September 19-21 2016, the Brennan briefing and referral memorandum was almost a month old. Comey already knew that Hillary Clinton had signed off on this attempt at a dirty trick. By keeping that information to himself, he kept agents in the dark regarding the credibility of the material, although they had their own suspicions (Horowitz, page 259):
According to FBI officials, and as represented to 01 at the time of the first application, the Crossfire Hurricane team was told by Steele that he had been hired by Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson to perform his election-related work, was advised by Steele that Fusion GPS had been retained by an unnamed law firm, and had not been informed by Steele of the motivation of Fusion GPS. Additionally, as we discuss in Chapter Four, the FBI assumed, but did not know at the time of the first application, that Steele was conducting opposition research. As described in Chapter Five, McCabe told us that he thought he had heard by the time of the first application that Simpson had been working first for a Republican and then later for a Democrat. However, McCabe also told the OIG that his memory on the timing of events is not always reliable. Other FBI officials told us that the team did not know who hired Simpson until after the first FISA application. We were told by Evans that the use of the term “speculates” in the footnote was intended to convey that even though the FBI did not know at the time the identity of Simpson’s and the U.S. law firm’s ultimate client, the FBI believed it was likely that it was someone who was seeking political opposition research against candidate Trump.
Comey knew it, but made sure the agents assigned to the case did not. So did Obama, Lynch, and Biden. And yet all of these officeholders lied publicly about the nature of the rumors and innuendo consistently for months. Obama himself ramped up his rhetoric about Russian interference in the weeks following this briefing, which certainly seems as though Brennan’s briefing resulted more in a political campaign strategy than in concern over the security of American elections.