A former FBI lawyer is being investigated for having possibly substantially altered a key document in the FBI’s application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court seeking a warrant to surveil Donald Trump adviser Carter Page in 2016, according to the twin stories run by the Post and CNN on Friday.
The decision to spy on members of Trump’s election team - adviser George Papadopoulos soon followed - signaled the beginning of the Russiagate probe into whether or not Trump and his team were being helped or directed by Moscow. When the Mueller report confirmed no such collusion existed when it was published this past spring, Attorney General William Barr began a counter-probe, seeking answers as to why the Russiagate probe went forward, despite there being no evidence at all to support it.
Serious blows have already been dealt to the credibility of the FISA application to spy on Page and the rest, but Friday’s report could be the first thread of an even greater unraveling still to come when the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on Russiagate’s origins gets published on December 9, Joe Lauria, the editor-in-chief of Consortium News, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Friday. Friday’s revelation was a leak from the report.
“I think the timing is very important. It came on the very last day of the public hearings into the Democrats’ attempt to impeach Trump,” Lauria told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou. “I’ve not been the only one to say that that impeachment was an offensive move ... by the Democrats to try to blunt what might come out of the IG report at the DoJ and the [US Attorney John] Durham investigation into the origins of Russiagate.”
“Whoever leaked this was very smart to leak it to CNN and the Washington Post and not to Fox, for example, or Judicial Watch, or some right-wing group, because then everybody would just dismiss it.”
“So, you’re at CNN and the Washington Post, and you’ve been pushing this Russiagate story for two and a half years, you went out on a limb, you’ve been embarrassed - although you tried to deny it - and now you get this story: what are you going to do? You're obviously very reluctant to publish this, but you cannot suppress this news. So, you have to put it out there, and both CNN and the Washington Post did put it out there in a way, as you said, Brian, to try to minimize this thing,” he continued.
“Now the Post, in fact, removed a paragraph from their first edition, and that initial paragraph said that this lawyer was someone who worked underneath Peter Strzok,” Lauria noted. “Peter Strzok, is of course, crucial to all of this, Strzok being the one who was involved in almost every aspect of this thing, from Hillary Clinton’s email investigation to working on the Mueller team, and then had to be removed when these texts first came out a year or two ago. And, of course, he was very, very anti-Trump … he was clearly politically biased, to the point where Mueller had to remove him from the Mueller investigation into Russiagate. So if this lawyer worked for Strzok, it’s significant.”
Lauria noted the Post initially reported this, but it was later removed. A postscript at the bottom of the article now states, “An earlier version of this story stated erroneously that the FBI employee suspected of altering a document worked beneath former Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. The employee was a low-level lawyer in the Office of General Counsel and did not report to the deputy assistant director.”
“That’s instructive. And CNN, of course, their coverage starts with the fact that the FBI lawyer is under investigation for altering the document,” Lauria said.
The second paragraph of the CNN story notes that “the situation did not sway an independent Justice Department watchdog from finding the surveillance was valid.” Lauria countered that readers have no way of testing the veracity of this claim, attributed as it is to “sources.”
Further, CNN tries to head off any potential weaponization of the story by the Trump administration by saying it’s “likely to fuel accusations … that the FBI committed wrongdoing in its investigation of connections between Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign,” effectively dismissing those claims in advance as conspiracy theories.
“This is potentially a felony, to mess around with the surveillance FISA application from the FISA court ... but the real question is, is this the only thing that’s going to come out of ... the IG’s report, and then the Durham investigation? I mean, this might just be the opening salvo. We’re seeing dueling investigations here: the impeachment on one side, and now this one from the Republicans,” the journalist noted. “This is getting as ugly and as contentious as can be.”
Lauria said there are “very high stakes, not only for this administration but for those going forward, because I think they’re setting precedents here. Every administration could come under this kind of attack: by using impeachment inquiries. And now the IG has a legitimate reason to look into the Russiagate narrative that has been debunked by Mueller himself, when he could not find any evidence of collusion.”