The New York Times has published a lengthy article describing the path taken by the FBI in its investigation of possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia. The first noteworthy revelation in the piece is that the investigation which began on July 31, 2016, was given the codename “Crossfire Hurricane” after the lyric from the Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
The goal of the remainder of the article isn’t to lay out a timeline of events but to suggest that the FBI’s treatment of the Trump investigation was much more relaxed than it’s treatment of the Hillary Clinton email investigation:
This month, the Justice Department inspector general is expected to release the findings of its lengthy review of the F.B.I.’s conduct in the Clinton case. The results are certain to renew debate over decisions by the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, to publicly chastise Mrs. Clinton in a news conference, and then announce the reopening of the investigation days before Election Day. Mrs. Clinton has said those actions buried her presidential hopes.
Those decisions stand in contrast to the F.B.I.’s handling of Crossfire Hurricane. Not only did agents in that case fall back to their typical policy of silence, but interviews with a dozen current and former government officials and a review of documents show that the F.B.I. was even more circumspect in that case than has been previously known.
You can almost feel the frustration seeping through the pixels as the Times reports on what might have been the end of the Trump campaign:
The facts, had they surfaced, might have devastated the Trump campaign: Mr. Trump’s future national security adviser was under investigation, as was his campaign chairman. One adviser appeared to have Russian intelligence contacts. Another was suspected of being a Russian agent himself.
The Times repeats the central comparison several more times, attempting to make the case that Trump got off easy. But some of the evidence it offers isn’t terribly convincing or even accurate. For instance, here’s how the Times reports Peter Strzok’s reaction to the start of the investigation:
Crossfire Hurricane began exactly 100 days before the presidential election, but if agents were eager to investigate Mr. Trump’s campaign, as the president has suggested, the messages do not reveal it. “I cannot believe we are seriously looking at these allegations and the pervasive connections,” Mr. Strzok wrote soon after returning from London.
Reading that, you’d get the impression that the handful of people investigating this were the opposite of eager. Strzok’s text makes it sound as if he thinks the whole thing is a waste of time, i.e. are we seriously doing this? But it turns out that’s not actually what Strzok texted his girlfriend Lisa Page. Back in February, ABC News wrote about this particular text in a story headlined “Beyond anti-Trump sentiments, FBI officials’ texts reflect deep concern over Russia.”
Two months earlier, as the FBI’s investigation was getting underway, Strzok texted Page, “OMG l CANNOT BELIEVE WE ARE SERIOUSLY LOOKING AT THESE ALLEGATIONS AND THE PERVASIVE CONNECTIONS. What the hell has happened to our country!?!?!??”
Doesn’t that version of the text give a somewhat different impression of how Strzok felt about the investigation? For one thing, his use of all caps suggests he is practically screaming with outrage, which is the opposite of disinterest. And the portion the Times omitted makes it clear he saw this as a disaster: “What the hell has happened to our country!?!?!??” That’s three exclamation points and four question marks. You’d be forgiven for thinking he was somewhat eager to answer that question.
A bit later in the story we get another attempt to explain away Strzok’s comment about an insurance policy:
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way he gets elected,” Mr. Strzok wrote, “but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
Mr. Trump says that message revealed a secret F.B.I. plan to respond to his election. “‘We’ll go to Phase 2 and we’ll get this guy out of office,’” he told The Wall Street Journal. “This is the F.B.I. we’re talking about — that is treason.”
But officials have told the inspector general something quite different. They said Ms. Page and others advocated a slower, circumspect pace, especially because polls predicted Mr. Trump’s defeat. They said that anything the F.B.I. did publicly would only give fodder to Mr. Trump’s claims on the campaign trail that the election was rigged.
Mr. Strzok countered that even if Mr. Trump’s chances of victory were low — like dying before 40 — the stakes were too high to justify inaction.
I’ve been over all of this before. I still can’t quite grasp why it’s so difficult for people to see this as wildly inappropriate. An FBI investigation is being compared to an insurance policy against that unlikely scenario that Trump wins the election. The clear implication is that the investigation will pay off if Trump wins. But who is the beneficiary of this payoff? In the case of a life insurance policy, it’s the bereaved family who hoped their loved one would live beyond 40 but took out the life insurance policy just in case. In the case of this investigation, it’s the people who hope Trump doesn’t win in November but want an insurance policy just in case he does.
Near the end of the story we finally get this gem:
In late October, in response to questions from The Times, law enforcement officials acknowledged the investigation but urged restraint. They said they had scrutinized some of Mr. Trump’s advisers but had found no proof of any involvement with Russian hacking. The resulting article, on Oct. 31, reflected that caution and said that agents had uncovered no “conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.”
The key fact of the article — that the F.B.I. had opened a broad investigation into possible links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign — was published in the 10th paragraph.
A year and a half later, no public evidence has surfaced connecting Mr. Trump’s advisers to the hacking or linking Mr. Trump himself to the Russian government’s disruptive efforts. But the article’s tone and headline — “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia” — gave an air of finality to an investigation that was just beginning.
Democrats say that article pre-emptively exonerated Mr. Trump, dousing chances to raise questions about the campaign’s Russian ties before Election Day.
So the Times admits that even 18 months after the election, Democrats have nothing to prove collusion. But we’re somehow supposed to bemoan the fact that Trump was exonerated before the election, despite the fact he still hasn’t been found guilty of anything all these months later? Isn’t it just possible that the October NY Times article will turn out to be correct? After all, 18 months is a long time. What was the Times supposed to print? I guess the headline Democrats wanted was: No evidence of collusion but give us 2 more years and maybe we’ll have something.