Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The 'intelligence bombshell' that never went off



There has been considerable talk about the Jan. 5, 2017, White House gathering of conspirators hoping to unseat Donald Trump.

Two weeks later National Security Adviser Susan Rice memorialized the meeting in a memo to self that has forever turned the phrase "by the book" into a punch line.

There has been considerably less talk about the meeting or series of meeting in the White House Situation Room in early August 2016.

The primary source on these meetings is the Washington Post. The Post reported on them in a breathless, 8,000-word June 2017 article that today stands as a testament to the willing gullibility of the Post and the media in general.

As late as June 2017, the Post was still calling Russia's alleged election interference "the crime of the century, an unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American democracy."

The article opens melodramatically: "An envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried 'eyes only' instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides."

Inside the envelope, the team of Post reporters assures us, was an "intelligence bombshell." Allegedly "drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government," the report claimed that Vladimir Putin had "direct involvement" in a cyber campaign designed both to disrupt the 2016 election and to elect Donald Trump.

The report also claimed to have captured "specific instructions" on how Putin was to carry out this plot.

The report led to a series of meetings so sensitive the White House used the same protocols allegedly used during the planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid.

At first, the Post insists, only four senior security officials were allowed to attend: James Clapper, James Comey, Loretta Lynch and John Brennan, who seems to have all but dictated the article.

The Inspector General's Report lacked the clarity of the Post article, in part because Comey, when questioned, was evasive about any meetings at this time.

Comey told the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) he thought it important that "the president know the nature of the FBI's efforts," but insisted he did not provide "any specifics."

Well, hardly any specifics: Comey did implicate four individuals with, in his own words, "some association or connection to the Trump campaign."

Comey also acknowledged that Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Adviser Susan Rice were in attendance as well as Obama.

In short, Obama knew by early August 2016 that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign's possible involvement in a collusion plot.

"Gradually, the circle widened to include Vice President Biden and others," the Post reports. One of those included seems to have been the FBI's notorious Peter Strzok.

Although Strzok told the OIG "he never attended any White House briefings about Crossfire Hurricane," he certainly gave his lover Lisa Page the impression he attended an early August 2016 meeting in the White House.

Late in the day on Aug. 5, texting with Page, he quoted an unnamed bigwig, likely Brennan, as saying, "The White House is running this." Curiously, the IG Report does not mention this text.

Strzok claimed to have pushed back not because of any perceived impropriety but because the White House was intruding on FBI turf.

The Post, however, doesn't mention Strzok. John Brennan was clearly the star of an article that also included an oversized photo of the surly former CIA director.

"The intelligence on Putin was extraordinary on multiple levels," the Post gushes, "including as a feat of espionage."

The intelligence Brennan shared that proved "far more worrisome" than even Trump-Russia collusion was "the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day."

As the Post acknowledges, however, despite the Republicans' refusal to allow Homeland Security to take over the election, "there were no meltdowns in the United States' voting infrastructure on Nov. 8, no evidence of hacking-related fraud, crashing of electronic ballots or manipulation of vote counts."

There was also no collusion and still no proof that Russia hacked the DNC servers.

Four years later, unless Brennan's intelligence was some subset of the Christopher Steele's memos, it has not otherwise surfaced. No bombshell ever exploded.

A thing called "the internet" keeps articles like this permanently in play. One would think the Post would beg its readers forgiveness for misleading them so badly.

One way to atone would be for the Post to go back to its two-dozen sources and find out who attended those early August meetings and what they really talked about.

Jack Cashill's forthcoming book, "Unmasking Obama," is available for pre-order at Amazon.


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