Barack Obama’s spy chiefs never believed that Donald Trump was a Russian spy. The Trump-Russia collusion narrative originated as a diversionary tactic in the event emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server went public. FBI Headquarters attached itself to the project, devoting manpower and resources to investigating Trump, when the Bureau learned that foreign intelligence services had her correspondence.
U.S. Attorney John Durham’s nearly two-year-long investigation into the origins of the FBI’s probe of the 2016 Trump campaign is, according to news reports, making “excellent progress” and expanding. The shape of the case has been clear for some time, as I reported in my 2019 book, “The Plot Against the President”: the Clinton campaign was worried about the candidate’s emails going public. The decision to protect her could not possibly be made by mid-level FBI field agents and lawyers but only by senior U.S. officials.
This week a former senior intelligence official in the Obama administration confirmed to me that in the lead-up to the 2016 election, elements of the U.S. intelligence community informed the FBI that the Democratic candidate’s emails had been compromised. “They concluded that there were approximately 30,000 emails in the possession of foreign entities,” said the former Obama official. “The FBI was provided with digital copies of some of the emails and then evaluated them, determining their veracity and identifying what sensitive issues were being addressed. The FBI had been informed of this prior to James Comey’s press conference exonerating Clinton.”
With this new information, it is clear that the FBI ran a two-part cover-up on behalf of Clinton. The first part was the year-long investigation into her use of a private server, called “Midyear Exam,” which began July 10, 2015, and would inevitably exculpate her. Obama’s Justice Department was never going to indict his chosen successor.
The second part, “Crossfire Hurricane,” was designed to deflect attention from the contents of her emails in the event they leaked—the American secrets or corrupt Clinton Foundation deals they might disclose—by fabricating another issue: Trump was in league with the Russians, who leaked the emails on his behalf. After Trump’s election, collusion became a weapon to bludgeon the president with over the next four years. “It is my understanding,” says the former Obama intelligence official, “that the FBI still has Clinton’s emails, unless they have made them disappear.”
The two parts of the FBI’s Clinton cover-up meshed seamlessly. On July 5, 2016, the same day that Comey cleared the former secretary of state of charges of mishandling classified information, Clinton campaign contractor Christopher Steele first pushed Trump-Russia collusion reports to FBI agent Michael Gaeta.
The FBI seemed to have become aware several months earlier that her emails had been compromised and was already planning the second leg of its cover-up before it had concluded the first. On May 4, FBI agent Peter Strzok texted FBI lawyer Lisa Page “Now the pressure really starts to finish [Midyear Exam].” Page texted back: “It sure does.”
I asked the former Obama official why the FBI’s interests dovetailed with those of the Clinton campaign. Was the Bureau concerned that its counterintelligence mission would be tarnished with Clinton’s emails in possession of a foreign spy service? “They were on Team Hillary,” says the former Obama official. “They didn’t care about their mission. According to John Brennan’s handwritten notes, Russia knew what the Clinton campaign was doing with its Russia collusion plan. The FBI must have also known Russia knew and went ahead with it anyway. And then Brennan used it as the basis of the January 2017 intelligence community assessment, even though the Russians knew it was based on a fabrication.”
Government documents further substantiate the assessment that the purpose of Crossfire Hurricane was to defend against the potential release of Clinton’s emails and protect her candidacy.
In an Aug. 20, 2016 interview with Carter Page documented in the DOJ’s inspector general’s report, the FBI’s confidential human source Stefan Halper probed the Trump aide to find out if the “Trump campaign could access information that might have been obtained by the Russians.” When Page asked if he was referring to Clinton’s “‘33 thousand’ emails,” Halper replied, “the Russians have all that don’t they?” Page said he didn’t know.
Halper was the source FBI lawyer Lisa Page was referring to in her July 2018 congressional testimony. When asked about the text exchange between her and Strzok regarding an “insurance policy,” she told House members the Crossfire Hurricane team was debating whether or not to “burn sources.” She explained the thinking was that if Trump “is not going to be President, then we don’t need to burn longstanding sources.”
Had the FBI been truly concerned Trump was a Russian asset, his chances of electoral success would have been irrelevant in deciding the course of the investigation. The FBI’s concern rather was to protect Clinton’s candidacy—did they need an “insurance policy” in addition to Steele’s reports to ascertain whether her opponent’s campaign had access to the correspondence a foreign spy service lifted from Clinton’s unsecured server?
In light of this information, it’s hard not to question the Justice Department’s decisions to delay until after the November election the investigation of Crossfire Hurricane and announcement of an investigation of Hunter Biden. Were senior U.S. law enforcement officials once again protecting the campaign of their preferred candidate?
Lee Smith is the author of the recently published book, “The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President.”