Ever since the impeachment bandwagon got rolling in September, anything said in defense of President Trump is automatically dismissed by Democrats and their media allies as either (a) “Republican talking points,” (b) “Russian propaganda” or (c) a “conspiracy theory.” The self-evident purpose of this rhetoric is to delegitimize the president’s defenders as either dishonest partisans, agents of a foreign enemy, or purveyors of paranoid delusions. It is impermissible, by the rules of the game as played on CNN and in other “mainstream” media outlets, to ask whether or not such accusations are more properly directed at Democrats. Are they never guilty of partisanship? Didn’t Democrats spend three years promoting a “collusion” conspiracy theory? And why is it that Russia is the only foreign power whose influence deserves our vigilance?
The near-universal loathing of Trump in the New York/D.C. media axis has made it difficult to get a fair hearing for the evidence that points to the role of the so-called “deep state” in creating the circumstances that have led us to this impeachment circus. With few exceptions — notable among them Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone — journalists on the left have completely abandoned their traditional skepticism toward our national security apparatus and the foreign-policy elites in Washington. Some of us are old enough to remember the 1970s and ’80s, when left-leaning media sought to expose the shadowy machinations of the State Department, the CIA, and the FBI. Now that opposition to Trump has become the media’s idée fixe, however, every journalist is expected to celebrate former FBI Director James Comey’s honesty and patriotism, and none of them seem interested in asking questions about why former CIA Director John Brennan’s fingerprints seem to be everywhere on the effort to destroy Trump.
Go back to January 2017. In a now-declassified “assessment” issued two weeks before Trump was inaugurated, U.S. intelligence agencies declared, “Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order.… We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.” This is the basis of the “Russian collusion” narrative in a nutshell, but Robert Mueller’s investigation found no evidence that Trump’s campaign was complicit in any such conspiracy. More importantly, however, notice the presumptions smuggled into this intelligence-community document:
Nearly 63 million Americans voted for Trump, and all these voters were, according to the expert analysts at our intelligence agencies, basically stooges of Putin’s “influence campaign.” Such an insulting interpretation, clearly implying that there could be no patriotic reason for any American to vote against Hillary, was the real basis for the FBI’s surveillance of the Trump campaign. Anyone who tries to discover where this bizarre belief started will eventually notice the role of John Brennan in manufacturing the “Russian collusion” hoax.
Consider this: Carter Page, the Trump campaign aide who was the target of surveillance authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), was actually a CIA asset. Brennan obviously should have known Page had worked for his agency, but did not prevent the FBI from seeking surveillance of Page on the basis of the phony “Steele dossier.” Even though a CIA liaison had informed the FBI of Page’s agency connection, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz determined that an FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, altered a document in a FISA warrant renewal application to say the exact opposite. The most troubling question about this is why, out of all the aides and advisers working on Trump’s 2016 campaign, the one targeted for FBI wiretapping just happened to have a CIA connection. Was this a random coincidence? Doesn’t it suggest the possibility that someone inside the CIA was trying to play a double game?
Horowitz identified 17 errors in the FISA process, and Brennan has insisted that these were innocent mistakes by “overly aggressive” FBI agents. “Well clearly, there were mistakes made based on the inspector general’s reports,” Brennan told MSNBC last week. “And I know that a lot of people attribute it to either to incompetence or politicization. Well, I might just attribute it to, these were FBI agents who were doing their level best to try to prevent Russia interference in the election.” Why would the FBI believe that spying on Carter Page — a CIA asset — might “prevent Russian interference”? Nobody at MSNBC bothered to ask Brennan that question, nor was he asked why Russia’s effort to influence U.S. politics was so much more concerning than similar efforts by other countries. Isn’t China also hostile to “the US-led liberal democratic order”? Is there no evidence of China influencing our political process? Oh, but wait — China wasn’t against Hillary Clinton, so never mind. As our own George Neumayr has argued (“The Case for Indicting John Brennan,” October 24), Brennan was clearly trying to help Clinton win the 2016 election, “in effect auditioning” to continue as CIA chief by leaking news of the Russia investigation.
Speaking of news, it was reported last week that U.S. Attorney John Durham “is examining the role former CIA director John Brennan played in the early stages of the Russian investigation.” Durham was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to find out if any crimes were committed in the effort to frame Trump as a Putin puppet. And what did Brennan do that might be of interest to Durham? A very interesting Twitter thread last week called attention to questions that Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy asked Comey in a May hearing of the House Oversight Committee. Comey was asked about his own emails, which said Brennan insisted that unverified allegations from the Steele dossier be included in the U.S. intelligence assessment. Yet Brennan testified under oath before the House Intelligence Committee that the CIA did not rely on the Steele dossier and that he himself didn’t know that the dossier had been commissioned by the Clinton campaign. The dossier “wasn’t part of the corpus of intelligence information that we had,” Brennan testified. “It was not in any way used as a basis for the Intelligence Community Assessment that was done.”
Did Brennan commit perjury? It would be difficult to prove that the former CIA director deliberately lied to Congress, as Brennan could always claim he was merely mistaken in his memory or that Comey was incorrect in his assertion that Brennan was pushing for inclusion of Steele dossier material in the intelligence assessment. Still, the finger of blame is now pointing directly at Brennan, and it is not a conspiracy theory to suspect that the former CIA chief was working hand-in-glove with the Clinton campaign to smear Trump as a Russian agent.
This all goes back to what Trump’s supporters have referred to as the “deep state,” i.e., the permanent bureaucracy of officials in Washington who deem themselves entitled to shape policy without regard for the preferences the American people express at the ballot box. The 63 million Americans who voted for Trump were voting to change U.S. policy, and the operatives of the “deep state” (including Brennan, Comey, and others) were against that change. Seeing the U.S. as the leader of a “liberal democratic order” in world affairs, these bureaucrats have definite ideas about what that order should look like and how the U.S. should lead it. In 2016, they all supported Hillary Clinton’s election — and lost.
Having failed to prevent Trump’s election, the “deep state” is now supporting the impeachment of Trump. “Ukrainegate” is really just a variation on the debunked Russian “collusion” narrative, and the same people who promoted the Steele dossier are now telling us Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” in a July phone call to Volodomyr Zelensky. Because no one seriously believes the Senate will vote to remove Trump from office, what was the point of Nancy Pelosi ramming this impeachment through the House? Isn’t this just a distraction intended to divert our attention away from revelations of how the Obama administration spied on Trump’s 2016 campaign?
John Brennan is on the payroll of NBC News as a “senior national security and intelligence analyst,” which means that no one in the media (certainly none of his NBC colleagues) will ask him tough questions about his role in all this. But the American people ought to be asking: What did John Brennan know, and when did he know it?