“Crossfire Hurricane” — the melodramatic code name for the FBI/CIA spy operation on candidate Trump and his early presidency — was run for the FBI by then-FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, Special Agent Peter Strzok, and a few others.
Then-CIA director John Brennan ran it for the CIA. Brennan had to have help, but who was it? A lot of evidence points to the CIA’s then-chief of station in London in 2016-2017, and now the Director of Central Intelligence, Gina Haspel.
President Trump claimed that the FBI and CIA’s spying on his campaign and early presidency was treason. Attorney General William Barr said that, legally, it wasn’t.
Barr is correct. But note well that he didn’t say that crimes other than treason weren’t committed. On Friday, Barr said that since he became attorney general he had been asking why the counter-intelligence investigation was begun and hasn’t yet gotten a satisfactory answer.
The criminal investigation being conducted for Barr by U.S. Attorney John Durham is aimed at the intelligence community. As I wrote last week Trump’s recent executive order, which requires the intelligence agencies to cooperate with Barr and gives Barr the power to declassify anything he chooses, was probably necessitated by the stonewalling by the CIA and the NSA that Durham had already encountered.
There is every reason for the CIA to stonewall. Its current director, Gina Haspel, must have played a major role in conducting the CIA/FBI spy op on Trump.
One result of last week’s column was that one of my intelligence sources — a longtime veteran of the U.S. intelligence community — reappeared after about a year of silence. This person reminded me that he/she tried — unsuccessfully — to warn the White House against Haspel’s nomination to be DCI because of her longstanding close ties to Obama’s CIA chief, John Brennan.
Many people who objected to Haspel’s confirmation, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), based their objections on the fact that Haspel had run a CIA site in Thailand in which terrorist suspects were reportedly waterboarded. The waterboarding charge was sufficient to get the Senate — and apparently the White House — to overlook the real problem with her: the fact that, as Paul once implied in a tweet, Haspel is Brennan’s acolyte and protégé.
Brennan was — and still is — a hyper-partisan anti-Trumper. He was a relentless promoter of the Steele dossier allegations against Trump. Either he or James Comey (the two are disputing which) insisted on including information from the Steele dossier in the Intelligence Community Assessment of January 2017, which said that the intelligence community had agreed that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Trump. We know that Brennan has lied to Congress on a host of topics, including events surrounding the spy op on Trump’s campaign and presidency.
Haspel’s longstanding loyalty to Brennan ranks her among the two or three worst personnel choices made by President Trump.
Her loyalty to Brennan is more than a little relevant to Durham’s investigation because, as noted above, Haspel was the CIA’s Chief of Station (COS) in London from 2014-2017. It was during the latter two years of her tenure there when all of the FBI/CIA spying operation on Trump and his campaign occurred.
I’m told that the most-coveted job in all of the CIA (second only to the directorship) is the COS-London job. Before her tenure there in 2014-2017, Haspel had already had that job from 2008 to 2011. It’s very unusual for anyone to have it twice. Brennan probably gave Haspel her second stint there as a reward for her loyalty.
COS-London sits in on weekly meetings of the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) for the purpose of exchanging top-secret intelligence information. The JIC is made up of the heads of all the UK intelligence agencies ranging from MI6 to GCHQ, the UK’s equivalent of our National Security Agency.
During her 2008-2011 stint, Haspel would have made many close friends among the UK intelligence community. Those ties would have been renewed during her 2014-2017 time in the COS-London job.
During Haspel’s later time as COS-London, much of the action on CIA/FBI spy op on Trump took place in London.
The New York Times reported on May 16, 2018 that within hours of opening the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia, two FBI agents were dispatched to London to interview Australian Ambassador Alexander Downer about his meeting with Trump advisor George Papadopoulos. One of those agents was Peter Strzok, the anti-Trump FBI agent who led the “Crossfire Hurricane” team.
As the CIA’s chief of station (COS), Haspel would not only have known about Strzok’s mission to London, but would had to have been briefed on it and approved it.
And that’s not the half of it. Haspel, as Brennan’s COS in London, must have run the UK end of the spy op on Trump for Brennan.
In addition to the Downer meeting, much of the Crossfire Hurricane action took place in London. Among the UK meetings that were part of the spy op in London were meetings between Stefan Halper, the Cambridge professor, and Carter Page, another minor Trump advisor. (Page also met with one of Halper’s employees who was operating undercover for the FBI.) Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic, also met with Carter Page in London and cooperated with the FBI’s investigation.
All of these meetings were parts of the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation. They had to have been overseen by the CIA’s London Chief of Station: Gina Haspel.
We don’t know — yet — what went on between Brennan, Haspel, or any of their agents and Christopher Steele, author of the dossier that was later seized upon as the basis for their “investigation.” Durham will have to investigate all of the London events and every aspect of Haspel’s and Brennan’s involvement.
Remember Hillary’s “Clintonmail.com” email system on which she communicated with Obama himself? Did Haspel, Brennan, and Comey — like many Obama officials — have non-government email accounts through which they communicated among themselves and with the Obama White House?
Durham will face the most determined stonewalling by the CIA on all of this. Both Haspel and Brennan have a lot to lose, so she will be fighting tooth and nail against any of Durham’s requests for documents and testimony. Durham, and Barr, will have to force the issue.
There are too many other inquiries Durham will have to make to recount here. But it’s worthwhile to mention two others.
The “original EC” is the much-discussed and never revealed electronic communication that Brennan sent to Comey that supposedly kicked off the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation. We don’t know the date, but the investigation — we are told by the FBI — began on or about July 31, 2016. The original EC must have been dated days or weeks before that date.
House investigators Reps. Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy were allowed to view a heavily redacted version of the original EC only after threatening to begin impeachment proceedings against FBI Director Christopher Wray and then-deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. It is still classified and unavailable to Congress and the public. Durham will be able to get it in unredacted form and Barr, if he so chooses, can release it publicly. He should.
We don’t know what, if any, of Christopher Steele’s input is contained in the original EC. It’s important to find out because Steele’s dossier begins with a memorandum dated 20 September 2016, two months after the likely date of the original EC.
That’s important because — despite the date of his first memo in the dossier — we don’t know when Steele began to spread his rumors about Trump to the FBI or CIA. It is entirely possible — even likely — that Steele (a trusted FBI source at the time) successfully peddled his unverified, anonymously sourced products to the FBI and CIA long before September 2016.
Barr and Durham have an enormous — and enormously important — task before them. They should not hesitate to go to the president whenever they are stonewalled by the CIA or FBI. His executive order is just the beginning of his necessary involvement in their investigation.
The faster Barr and Durham can complete their investigation, the sooner the public will learn about the abuses of power that occurred in the FBI/CIA spy op on Trump, his campaign, and his early presidency.
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