Posted by Curt on 16 May, 2019 at 8:28 am. 3 comments already!


A bombshell comment, but perhaps more flash than impact. In an interview with Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff, former FBI general counsel James Baker says that a sharp disagreement arose within the bureau over how to brief president-elect Donald Trump on the Christopher Steele dossier. Some, including then-director James Comey, wanted to assure Trump that he was not a target of the investigation over worries that the briefing might look like a J. Edgar Hoover-esque attempt at “blackmailing” the incoming president. Baker said he disagreed, because in his mind Trump was still a subject of the investigation (via Twitchy):

Senior FBI officials were concerned then director James Comey would appear to be blackmailing then President-elect Trump – using tactics notoriously associated with J.Edgar Hoover – when he attended a fateful Jan. 6, 2017, meeting at which he informed the real estate magnate about allegations he had consorted with prostitutes in Moscow, according to Jim Baker, the bureau’s chief counsel at the time.

“We were quite worried about the Hoover analogies, and we were determined not to have such a disaster happen on our watch,” said Jim Baker, then the FBI’s top lawyer in an interview with the Yahoo News podcast Skullduggery. But he and Comey determined the bureau had an obligation to tell Trump of the uncorroborated allegations because “the press has it; it’s about to come out. You should be alerted to that fact.”

The argument led Comey to a middle-ground approach with Trump that backfired spectacularly, according to Baker:

As Baker saw it, Trump was clearly a “subject” of the investigation because, as head of his own campaign, he was among those whose activities were being examined by the FBI.

But Comey thought explaining that distinction to the president-elect would have been “too confusing.” It would have been “hard to understand, be misinterpreted and he just didn’t think it was the right thing to do,” Baker said about Comey’s view about what to say.

In the end, Comey told Trump he was not under investigation—a comment that came back to haunt Comey when he later refused to say the same thing publicly, a key factor that led to Trump’s decision to fire him.

That certainly puts a new gloss on Trump’s decision to fire Comey. After having Comey backtrack, it might very well have looked to Trump that Comey had ulterior motives for the dossier briefing — and perhaps suspected the bureau of leaking it in the first place. That certainly would appear Hooveresque to the person most impacted by it, even though it may not have happened that way in reality.

Baker insists that it didn’t. This isn’t an admission, although it could read that way. It’s a defense of the FBI from Baker, a declaration that they were sensitive to perception all along when it came to the dossier and the investigation. Unfortunately, it’s as effective a defense as Baker’s assertion in the same interview that they weren’t taking Steele’s dossier literally, even though they relied on a literal interpretation to get a succession of FISA warrants on Carter Page:

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