During the Watergate investigation, Republicans wanted the Select Committee chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin (D-NC) to expand the scope of its inquiry to alleged Democratic skulduggery during the 1964 and 1968 elections. Ervin warned that such a diversion would be “as foolish as the man who went bear hunting and stopped to chase rabbits.”
The key difference between 1972 and 2018 is that the GOP-controlled Congress is directing the hunt for wrongdoing by a Republican president. On Jan. 9, 2018, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) reiterated Sen. Ervin’s sentiment on the Senate floor, chastising Republicans for sending the Trump-Russia investigation down rabbit holes. It’s the theme for this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline Update.
Grassley Revealed, Again
Last week’s Update — the “Complicit GOP Edition” — saw Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) joining with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in a public relations ploy, namely, referring former MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele to the FBI for criminal investigation. It was a publicity stunt because the referral related to alleged misstatements that Steele had made to…the FBI! And it was based on information that the Senate Judiciary Committee had received from… the FBI!
In June 2016, Fusion’s Glenn Simpson hired Steele to investigate Trump’s connections to Russia. On Aug. 22, 2017, the staff attorneys on Grassley’s committee interviewed Simpson. Shortly thereafter, Grassley said he’d hold a committee vote on whether to release the transcript, but he never did.
On Jan 9, 2018, Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) released the transcript unilaterally, revealing why Grassley and other Trump defenders wanted to suppress it. The questions from attorneys working for the Republicans on Grassley’s committee reflect a desperate attempt to gain Simpson’s support for two false GOP narratives. One Republican talking point is that Russia paid for the creation of the Steele dossier. Another is that the dossier was the genesis of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation. Simpson’s answers destroyed both. Even so, two days after Feinstein released the transcript, Trump tweeted the lies again.
Grassley’s constituents want to know why he’s protecting Trump.
More Detail On Hacks
Beyond rebutting two key GOP diversionary talking points, Simpson worsened Trump’s Russia plight. Using the Trump-Russia Timeline provides context for the newest entries:
— March 19, 2016: Russians hack the email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta and obtain at least 50,000 emails.
— But until April 29, 2016, the DNC itself didn’t realize that its computer system had been hacked. Go to the Timeline and click on George Papadopoulos to see that three days earlier Russians had told Papadopoulos that they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton — thousands of stolen emails — and wanted to help Trump win the election. In mid-May, Papadopoulos tells an Australian diplomat about the Russian “dirt” on Clinton, and the information makes its way to the FBI.
— June 12, 2016: The DNC tries to get ahead of the hacking story, only to find that Julian Assange says his organization, WikiLeaks, possesses Clinton emails “pending publication.” (In January 2017, the US intelligence community reports its unanimous conclusion that Russia used WikiLeans to disseminate the stolen DNC emails. Even more revealing, go to the Timeline, click on Julian Assange, and see the intersections among Assange, Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, and Cambridge Analytica — where Steve Bannon had previously been a vice president.)
— Meanwhile in June 2016, Fusion GPS — originally retained by Republicans investigating then-candidate Trump — hires Christopher Steele to dig more deeply into Trump’s Russia connection. (For more go to the Timeline and click on Christopher Steele.)
— By early July 2016, according to Simpson, Steele believes that he has discovered an ongoing criminal conspiracy — what Simpson later tells Grassley’s staff is a “crime in progress.” Specifically, Russia seeks to divide the Western alliance by cultivating Trump as a presidential candidate. Even worse, the Russians have compromising material on Trump. Steele contacts the FBI’s Rome field office about what he views as a grave US national security threat.
— In September 2016, according to Simpson, the FBI tells Steele that it has Trump-Russia intelligence from a human source inside the Trump organization. Now the FBI wants to see what Steele has compiled on Trump-Russia.
Another Crime In Progress?
That takes us to the Update entries concerning a story in The New York Times on Oct. 31, 2016 — a “Halloween surprise” that becomes central to Steele’s subsequent actions.
— Oct. 25-26, 2016: Trump campaign adviser Rudy Giuliani speaks publicly about an upcoming “surprise.”
— Oct 28: FBI Director James Comey announces the FBI’s renewed interest in Clinton’s emails. Commenting on the news, Giuliani says he’s heard from FBI agents that there was a “revolution” going on inside the FBI” about Comey’s closing of the Clinton investigation in July, and Comey was “feeling the pressure.”
— Oct. 31: The New York Times publishes a story that the FBI had investigated Trump and, essentially, found no connection to Russia. According to Simpson, Steele finds the Times report an unpleasant “Halloween surprise.” He worries that someone is manipulating the FBI for political purposes. It appears to him that FBI insiders may be feeding false information to the Times, and the Times is running with it. Steele concludes that the FBI is no longer a reliable actor in getting to the truth about Trump-Russia. So he stops talking to the FBI about his findings.
Who inside the FBI was feeding Giuliani? Who was feeding false information to the Times about the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation? If there is a scandal to be found in the FBI relating to the 2016 election, it may well involve surreptitious efforts of rogue agents wanting Trump to win — not current GOP diversions relating to Hillary Clinton’s email server or “Uranium One.”
Democracy At Work
Meanwhile, Sen. Grassley’s town hall visit to what he thought would be a friendly, conservative rural county in Iowa gave him an unwelcome taste of democracy:
“I think you’re protecting the president and protecting his game about shifting the attention away from Russia,” a 72-year-old constituent told him.
It’s getting hotter in the rabbit holes.
Other nuggets appear this week’s Trump-Russia Timeline updates. Here’s the complete list:
SEPTEMBER 2015: Anti-Trump Republicans Hire Fusion GPS To Investigate Trump
SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER 2015: FBI Notifies DNC of Possible Russian Hacking (revision of previous entry)
NOVEMBER 2015: FBI Again Tells DNC About Russian Hacking
MARCH 19, 2016: Russians Hack Podesta’s Email
APRIL 29, 2016: DNC Notices Suspicious Computer Activity (revision of previous entry)
MAY 2016: Fusion GPS’s Republican Funders Bow Out
MAY-JUNE 2016: Fusion Hires Christopher Steele
JUNE 12, 2016: WikiLeaks Has Clinton Emails; DNC Tries To Get Ahead Of Hacking Story
EARLY JULY 2016: Steele Contacts FBI About His Trump Findings
MID-TO-LATE SEPTEMBER 2016: “A Crime In Progress…”
OCT. 25-26, 2016: Giuliani Discusses Coming “Surprise”
OCT. 28, 2016: Comey Announces FBI Is Investigating New Clinton Emails; Giuliani Speaks About FBI “Revolution” (revision of previous entry)
OCT. 31, 2016: NYT Story Sours Steele on FBI
AUG. 22, 2017: Simpson Appears Before Senate Judiciary Committee Attorneys (revision of previous entry)
EARLY NOVEMBER 2017: Mueller Adds Veteran Cyber Prosecutor To Team
DEC. 29, 2017: Trump Grants Deutsche Bank Waiver On Penalty
JAN. 3, 2018: Trump’s Selects Interim US Attorney With Deutsche Bank Connection
JAN. 5, 2018: Interim US Attorney Chooses Former Deutsche Bank General Counsel As Deputy
JAN. 9, 2018: Feinstein Releases Fusion GPS Transcript
JAN. 9, 2018: Cohen Sues Fusion GPS and BuzzFeed
JAN. 9, 2018: Sen. Whitehouse Blasts GOP Investigations
JAN. 10, 2018: Trump Tweets
JAN. 10, 2018: Trump Waffles On Mueller Interview
JAN. 10, 2018: Deripaska Sues Manafort and Gates
JAN. 11, 2018: Trump Tweets
JAN 11, 2018: Trump To WSJ: Russia Investigation Is A Hoax
JAN. 12, 2018: Mueller Seeks May 14 Trial Date For Manafort
JAN. 12, 2018: Grassley Under Fire At Town Hall Meeting
JAN. 12, 2018: Will Pence Testify?