Republicans Will Launch a Campaign to Lie, Distract, and Blame

As the House Intelligence Committee continues its impeachment hearings, Republicans have been scrambling for a defense of the president. They’ve gone from attacking the process to smearing the witnesses to “no quid pro quo” to “yes, he did it, so what?” But on Monday, we learned that the mother of all defenses is about to break. Here’s the report from Daniel Chaitin at the Washington Examiner.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is set to testify about his investigation into alleged Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuses next month.

After what appeared to be multiple delays, the announcement of the Dec. 11 hearing is a clear sign the report on FBI intelligence-gathering activities related to the 2016 presidential election is slated to be released to the public in the coming weeks.

The announcement came from Senator Lindsey Graham, who will be holding the hearing next month. Right wing media will provide wall-to-wall coverage of both the report and Graham’s hearings to distract from the ones taking place in the House.

While we don’t know what the report will actually say, that doesn’t really matter to Trump’s enablers. As I documented previously, we already know the facts about the FISA warrant and that hasn’t stopped the lies. Nuggets will be found to claim that FISA abuses occurred and they will be used to smear everyone that was involved. In other words, the defense of Trump’s corruption and abuse of power will be a massive dose of lie, distract, and blame.

Waiting in the wings if that one fizzles out is the Barr-Durham investigation on the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. Writing at RealClearPolitics, Aaron Maté says that he has identified the culprit on that one. Before getting to that, it is important to know that Maté also wrote a piece with this catchy title: “CrowdStrikeOut: Mueller’s Own Report Undercuts Its Core Russia-Meddling Claims.” He is one of those people who doesn’t buy that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, but managed to get the word “CrowdStrike” in his title, a clear reference to the conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine that meddled in the election to support Clinton.

When it comes to who Maté blames for the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, I could have saved him a lot of time. Over a year ago, I wrote that Trump should be more worried about the Brennan dossier. In that piece, I relied on the reporting of Greg Miller and his colleagues at the Washington Post for a definitive story about how the Obama administration handled the news that Russia was attempting to interfere in the 2016 election.

It has always been clear that the impetus came when former CIA Director John Brennan began to receive intelligence reports about what Russia was up to. He became concerned about the number of contacts between people associated with Donald Trump and known Russian agents, which he reported to the president. While the CIA is responsible for collecting foreign intelligence, it is up to the FBI to investigate domestic connections. So that part of the probe was turned over to James Comey and his staff.

Maté wrote a 4,000 word piece titled, “The Brennan Dossier: All About a Prime Mover of Russiagate,” which basically covers the same ground. There is, however, one big difference. He assumes that there is something nefarious about Brennan’s concerns. The issue this raises is that either Brennan received intelligence that was cause for concern or, as Margot Cleveland suggested at the Federalist, he was the “the plotter-in-chief hoping to prevent a President Trump—or to destroy him later.” Maté floated the idea that “C.I.A. officials might have somehow tricked the F.B.I. into opening the Russia investigation.”

After suggesting that “the [CIA] played a larger role in the early stages of the Trump-Russia probe than is publicly acknowledged,” Maté actually quoted Brennan being very transparent about his role.

Brennan has publicly taken credit for the Russia probe’s origination and supplying critical information to the FBI after it began. “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about,” he told Congress in May 2017. That information, Brennan added, “raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians,” which then “served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion-cooperation occurred.”

In other words, no one can “out” Brennan as the originator of the concerns about Trump and Russia because he’s done so himself. The only question remaining on the table is whether Brennan was the plotter-in-chief who tricked the FBI into opening the Russia investigation. Not only did the Senate Intelligence Committee weigh in on that question to affirm Brennan’s concerns, Natasha Bertrand reported that, as Trump’s first CIA director, Mike Pompeo conducted a personal review of the CIA’s findings. He found no evidence of any wrongdoing.

As with the FISA application and surveillance of Carter Page, these questions have been asked and answered. But because Trump’s enablers can’t mount of credible defense of the president’s actions with Ukraine, we’ll be subjected to a campaign of lie, distract, and blame targeted at both the FBI and the CIA. That’s all they’ve got.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.