It was inevitable. After the Democrats failed to evict Donald Trump from office through the Mueller investigation and then the ridiculous impeachment over the Zelensky telephone call, they would have to try something else to ruin him before the November election. Rush Limbaugh was the first to predict that they’d go back to the “Russia collusion” narrative, and they have.
It began with a briefing by then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joe Maguire and one of his aides to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). The briefing, given to both Democrats and Republicans, reportedly informed them that the Russians are interfering in the 2020 election to help President Trump get reelected. In reaction, Trump gave Maguire hell and then removed him, naming one of Trump’s staunchest supporters — U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell — to serve as acting director of national intelligence while remaining in his ambassadorial post.
Grenell is a bad choice for DNI for reasons we’ll get to in a minute. The important question is what intelligence information and analysis justified this politically explosive and possibly destabilizing briefing.
When some of the HPSCI members pressed the briefers for evidence to support the claim, there was none to be had. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said he has not been informed of any intelligence that justified the claim.
Stop there for a moment. O’Brien and the HPSCI members are entitled to know what support there is for such a politically destabilizing allegation. If there were no supporting facts, what justified the briefing?
How gullible and, frankly, stupid did the intel crew have to be to represent the supposed plot to interfere as fact? Putin is a lot of things, but dumb isn’t one of them. He’d love to have Bernie or Liz or Mike or any of the fungible Dem candidates replace Trump. Putin would, if anything, be moving heaven and earth — and tons of disinformation — to make that happen. To say that helping Trump isn’t in Putin’s interests is to demonstrate a powerful command of the obvious.
The list of Democrats seeking to oppose Trump makes it impossible to believe that the Russians would like to help Trump.
First is socialist Bernie Sanders (who in 1972 said he didn’t object to being called a communist), who would wreck both our military and our economy.
The rest — Mike Bloomberg, Liz Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and Amy Klobuchar — agree with everything Bernie proposes with minor modifications. Foreign policy, military matters, and national security are all issues to which these people bring beliefs contrary to our national security. Any of them would devastate our national security and wreck our booming economy.
Various other news reports are bumping around to the effect that Maguire’s staffer, Shelby Pierson, exaggerated the claim of Russian interference to benefit Trump. That doesn’t matter. As acting DNI, Maguire had the responsibility to only present facts and credible analysis, not guesswork and exaggerations.
Make no mistake about this. The HPSCI briefing alleging Russia intends to interfere in the 2020 election in Trump’s behalf is an attempt to prevent Trump’s reelection, discredit the entire election, and start another hoax impeachment against Trump. It is precisely what Putin would want our intelligence agencies to do.
Forty-eight hours after the New York Times story on Russia helping Trump, another report appeared (this one in the Washington Post) saying that the Russians were trying to help Bernie Sanders in some undefined way. The story said that Sanders had been briefed on the alleged help.
Again, stop here. Remember that the whole “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation was launched and conducted covertly without giving Trump, his campaign, or his transition team any warning of the supposed Russian interference on his behalf in 2016. Then–FBI Director James Comey briefed Trump on some of the lurid allegations in 2017. There has been no report of any such briefing given to Trump or his campaign this year.
As a result of Maguire’s defenestration, an article in yesterday’s Washington Post reported that intelligence officials were now too scared to tell Trump the truth for fear of being fired.
It’s altogether clear that (1) either an intelligence agency or the HPSCI Democrats, led by Adam Schiff, leaked the story of the classified briefing to the New York Times, and (2) the Washington Post Sunday story was also planted by the intelligence community and (or) the Schiff crew. The New York Times and Washington Post are willing tools of the intelligence agencies and their Democrat allies in Congress.
While entirely plausible, what’s the basis for the claim that Russia is trying to help Sanders? While it’s entirely implausible, what are the facts underlying the briefing to the HPSCI that the Russians are trying to help Trump? Grenell’s first and most important task is to find out what intelligence is the basis for both claims and publish them immediately.
The CIA, NSA, and FBI will demand that he not publish the information because doing so would imperil its source (or sources) and methods of gathering intelligence. That may well be true, but there is need to balance the need for secrecy against the overwhelming public interest in disclosure. Trump can, and should, order the declassification of as much of the information as may be necessary for the public to be able to judge its credibility.
Other than his steadfast support of Trump, Grenell is a bad choice. No one can perform the duties of both acting DNI and ambassador to Germany at the same time and possibly do either at all well. To be the ambassador to Germany requires him to be in Berlin. To be acting DNI, he has to be in D.C. and around the nation and the world supervising our intelligence activities. The DNI’s job requires 24/7 attention.
Among other responsibilities, the DNI is supposed to supervise all 17 intelligence agencies and helps prepare the president’s “Daily Intelligence Briefing,” on which every president has to rely to uncover what is about to happen around the world.
Grenell has no background or experience in the intelligence world. Before becoming ambassador to Germany, he served in minor positions such as spokesman for our UN delegation. Many of the intel people — including Trump’s CIA Director Gina Haspel — will run rings around Grenell if they can, and they are very adept at doing so.
Let’s also remember that Haspel ran the overseas aspects of the FBI–CIA “Crossfire Hurricane” spy operation on Trump and his campaign for her mentor, Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan.
Grenell has already taken a good step to prevent the intel people from running around him by appointing Kashyap Patel as one of his close advisers. Patel, a former staffer to Rep. Devin Nunes, is reportedly the principal author of the “Nunes Memo” that detailed the FBI’s and CIA’s abuses of power in using false, unverified information to obtain Foreign Intelligence Act Surveillance Court warrants to spy on Carter Page, which were used to spy on Trump’s campaign. Patel’s job reportedly is to clean out the anti-Trumpers in the intelligence community.
It’s highly unlikely that Patel and Grenell will succeed in cleaning out the Augean Stable that is the intelligence community. Because Grenell is only going to be there a few months, the intel people can wait him out.
As I have written many times, Trump has a terrible relationship with the intelligence agencies, which is dangerous for our national security. He rightly blames them for the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation. They, and possibly the NSA, abused their power to so great an extent that Watergate is a Girl Scout cookie sale in comparison.
The “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign and 2017 transition relied entirely on the “Steele dossier” (a work of fiction bought and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign) and falsified applications for surveillance warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. There apparently was a conspiracy among top CIA, FBI, and other officials (including Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper) to prevent Trump from being elected and then seeking to bring about his impeachment.
Crossfire Hurricane led to the Mueller investigation, which found zero evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to affect the 2016 election.
Trump dislikes and distrusts the intelligence agencies, and they feel the same about him. The president has to have intel people he can believe in. The fact that he doesn’t — and has only now begun to replace them with those he can trust — is one of his major failures.
The Democrats aren’t interested in facts, only in ousting Trump. It’s likely that they will begin another round of impeachment “investigations” under HPSCI Chairman Adam Schiff and may even try to impeach Trump again before Election Day.
And when, as we hope, Trump is reelected, they will start it all over again unless the Republicans take control of the House and Wile E. Pelosi is no longer the Speaker.