“When those investigations are over,” he writes in his new WaPo piece about the DOJ’s multiple probes into the origins of Russiagate, “they will find the work was done appropriately and focused only on discerning the truth of very serious allegations.” If that’s a bet then I’ll take that action. He’s right, I’m sure, that neither the IG nor Bill Barr’s handpicked investigator will come back alleging a “deep state” plot to undermine Trump, but there’s also zero chance that an FBI probe that incorporated the Steele dossier will receive gold stars for everyone involved. At the barest minimum, the Department will be accused of not having treated a counterintelligence investigation into an opposing party’s presidential campaign with appropriate skepticism or “political sensitivity.”
Really, try to imagine Bill Barr’s Justice Department producing a report that found no wrongdoing on any level by Donald Trump’s inquisitors, after the AG himself went so far as to use the word “spying” during a congressional hearing. A fun question for federal defense lawyers: Could *any* FBI investigation, let alone one exploring possible collusion between Russia and the sitting president, receive a completely clean bill of health from a scrupulous Inspector General?
But never mind that. Comey’s overarching point is one that’s been made many times, including by me on this site, and which remains unanswered as far as I know. If Russiagate was a plot to spoil Donald Trump’s presidency, why didn’t the plotters share what they knew about it before the election in 2016, when it would have had the most impact on Trump’s chances? Removing a sitting president is next to impossible; wrecking a presidential candidate’s chances is pretty easy, though, sufficiently so that many Democrats would tell you that Comey himself wrecked Hillary Clinton’s chances by sending his last-minute letter in October 2016 announcing the reopening of the Emailgate probe. Why didn’t he or Strzok or McCabe or whoever leak what they knew about Trump and Russia before Election Day instead of pooh-poohing reporters’ suggestions that there was something to it?
If we were “deep state” Clinton loyalists bent on stopping him, why would we keep it secret? Why wouldn’t the much-maligned FBI supervisor Peter Strzok — the alleged kingpin of the “treasonous” plot to stop Trump — tell anyone? He was one of the very few people who knew what we were investigating…
But wait, the conspiracy idea gets dumber. On Oct. 28, after agonizing deliberation over two terrible options, I concluded I had no choice but to inform Congress that we had reopened the Clinton email investigation. I judged that hiding that fact — after having told Congress repeatedly and under oath that the case was finished — would be worse than telling Congress the truth. It was a decision William Barr praised and Hillary Clinton blamed for her loss 11 days later. Strzok, alleged architect of the treasonous plot to stop Trump, drafted the letter I sent Congress.
And there’s still more to the dumbness of the conspiracy allegation. At the center of the alleged FBI “corruption” we hear so much about was the conclusion that Deputy Director Andrew McCabe lied to internal investigators about a disclosure to the press in late October 2016. McCabe was fired over it. And what was that disclosure? Some stop-Trump election-eve screed? No. McCabe authorized a disclosure that revealed the FBI was actively investigating the Clinton Foundation, a disclosure that was harmful to Clinton.
If they wanted to stop Trump, why didn’t they leak what they knew about George Papadopoulos and the FISA warrant on Carter Page to the press to insinuate that Trump was in cahoots with Russia? For that matter, why didn’t they falsely accuse him of something far more outlandish, like conspiring with Putin to rig the vote totals or whatever? That’s another weird hole in the “deep state” theory: It assumes that the FBI is crawling with sinister political operatives hellbent on taking Trump down, but not so sinister that they’ll say any ol’ thing to achieve their ends. Instead of fabricating convincing-seeming evidence to incriminate Trump, they stick with the shoddy raw intelligence collected by Steele. Instead of manufacturing transcripts that place, say, Trump himself in contact with Putin discussing the election, they end up with Papadopoulos talking to some guy in London. There must be Russian spooks within the FBI’s reach who would have agreed to falsely accuse Trump of something deeply nefarious if Comey and Strzok had threatened them, but somehow that doesn’t happen either. The “deep state” plot to ruin Trump’s presidency ends up being thin enough on FBI-gathered evidence that not only POTUS but everyone around him ends up dodging an indictment by Bob Mueller.
The FBI may not be as malevolent and/or as competent as it was in the Hoover era but surely they can do better than that if they’re spoiling to set someone up.
The answer offered to the question of “Why didn’t the deep state take Trump down before the election?” will be, I assume, that they didn’t think they needed to. Hillary was going to win anyway without their help so they decided to keep Russiagate a secret rather than leak it and risk giving Trump a reason to say later that the FBI spoiled his chances. There are problems with that logic, though, starting with the fact that the polls tightened considerably in the last few weeks before Election Day. Comey had no reason to believe Clinton’s victory was a lock by the last few days of the race, especially in light of his own Emailgate revelation. Also, what reason would there have been to begin the Russiagate probe before Election Day if Clinton’s win was supposedly assured? If there was no realistic prospect of a Trump victory then the “deep state” shouldn’t have become interested in using possible collusion with Russia as a reason to take Trump down until after he was elected president. In reality, though, they began investigating the campaign months earlier. Why?
And if the answer to that is “They wanted an insurance policy before Election Day to blow him up just in case the race got close,” go look again at my link to the pre-election polling. It did get close. They went to all this trouble to supposedly frame Trump, using inexplicably weak evidence that ultimately didn’t accuse him of anything, and then didn’t leak it even though Hillary needed help finishing Trump off? C’mon. But it doesn’t matter: The incoherence of the “deep state” theory will be brushed away once the IG files his report, which, I’m sure, really will document misconduct of some kind — not a “plot” but less sensational mistakes. As long as the bad guys are guilty of some wrongdoing, Trump will claim vindication. And they will be.