After offering his condolences to the victims of the mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, President Trump on Friday morning lamented the fate of another victim: himself.
Trump cited a report from One America News Network ostensibly about newly released testimony from former FBI agent Peter Strzok, then launched into a three-tweet thread about how unfair the investigation into Russian collusion was from the outset. It’s a neatly compacted distillation of Trump’s thoughts about the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — which appears to be nearing its conclusion — and is worth fleshing out in detail.
Here’s what the president wrote.
“New evidence that the Obama era team of the FBI, DOJ & CIA were working together to Spy on (and take out) President Trump, all the way back in 2015.” A transcript of Peter Strzok’s testimony is devastating. Hopefully the Mueller Report will be covering this.
So, if there was knowingly & acknowledged to be “zero” crime when the Special Counsel was appointed, and if the appointment was made based on the Fake Dossier (paid for by Crooked Hillary) and now disgraced Andrew McCabe (he & all stated no crime), then the Special Counsel should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report. This was an illegal & conflicted investigation in search of a crime. Russian Collusion was nothing more than an excuse by the Democrats for losing an Election that they thought they were going to win.
THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!
That One America report doesn’t actually say what Trump quotes. It’s more of a broad overview of the focus of the segment, which aired shortly after 5 a.m.
Believe it or not, the segment is less comprehensible and focused than Trump’s tweet about it. It’s pegged to the release of the Strzok testimony but is actually about a conspiracy theory that emerged in the summer. That theory focused on a text message sent from Strzok to FBI attorney Lisa Page, asking her whether she had gotten “all our oconus lures approved.” It was an apparent reference to setting up foreign (OCONUS, or “outside the continental U.S.”) informants (lures) for use in an investigation. But nothing about the text suggests it was related to Trump at all.
Nonetheless, OANN’s Pearson Sharp concluded that the text messages offered proof that “the FBI took steps to infiltrate Trump’s campaign with spies in December 2015.” Therefore former FBI director James B. Comey was lying under oath when he said the investigation began in July 2016 and the FBI broke its own rules about when it could use confidential informants. And, therefore, “it seems clear that Obama’s CIA, Department of Justice and the FBI were all working to take down President Trump in 2015, well before the FBI opened an official investigation,” Sharp said. That’s basically what Trump tweeted.
It is unmitigated nonsense predicated on a mistake (and citing as one source, the vastly discredited conspiracy site Gateway Pundit). It is either the laziest news report I’ve ever seen or the best example of what Trump would have decried as “fake news” had it not bolstered the message he hoped to hear.
So then, a bit later, he starts his riff, which picks up various threads from conservative media and his own tweets over a few days.
“. . . if there was knowingly & acknowledged to be ‘zero’ crime when the Special Counsel was appointed”: Trump has a habit of picking up bits of evidence that he likes and inflating them outward so he looks the way he wants.
Several days ago, he picked up on the idea that Mueller’s appointment came at a point when the FBI was still collecting evidence about possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government. In testimony Page offered to Congress, she made that point.
Now, you’ll remember that investigations aren’t criminal trials and are meant to collect the evidence to determine whether a crime has been committed. If you couldn’t start an investigation until you could prove a crime, you wouldn’t need an investigation. And investigations often fail to uncover evidence of crimes.
But Trump picked up this Fox News report and used it to stipulate that no crime had occurred because no direct proof of a crime was available at the outset of looking into the crime. That then became a “knowing” “acknowledgment” of “'zero' crime” having occurred, which is obviously untrue.
“ . . . if the appointment was made based on the Fake Dossier (paid for by Crooked Hillary) and now disgraced Andrew McCabe (he & all stated no crime)": Trump has also repeatedly focused on a dossier of reports compiled by former British intelligence official Christopher Steele. Those reports were written for Fusion GPS, a company that, at the time, was being paid by a law firm that did work for the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Hillary Clinton (“Crooked Hillary,” in Trump’s phrasing). The dossier includes raw intelligence that was not verified at the time it was produced and which subsequently has only spottily hit the mark in describing what happened.
It was not, however, the basis of Mueller’s appointment as special counsel. Trump’s confusing his inaccurate arguments here. The dossier was alleged to have been the primary source for a warrant that the FBI obtained to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, not for Mueller.
The Mueller appointment was spurred by Trump’s firing of Comey and Comey’s subsequent allegation that Trump had pressured him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe discusses the appointment in his recently released book, but it was the ultimate determination of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — a Trump appointee.
McCabe and “all” have also not stated that no crime took place in relation to Trump’s campaign.
“ . . . the Special Counsel should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report”: The special counsel was appointed, according to McCabe, to ensure that Trump couldn’t interfere further with the investigation into his campaign, wherever it led.
But Trump tips his hand here: He’s clearly mostly worried about the release of Mueller’s final report on his investigation. Trump’s been effective at inoculating his base against whatever it might reveal, but he’s clearly still worried enough about it to claim that it shouldn’t come out at all.
“This was an illegal & conflicted investigation in search of a crime”: There is nothing remotely illegal about the Mueller investigation, which was established under Justice Department guidelines and which has been upheld in court.
Trump simply likes to describe things he doesn’t like or that he feels threatened by as “illegal.” In January of last year we tallied the things that he’d described as “illegal,” including Clinton’s email server, her emails, a fundraising notice from the Republican Party, Barack Obama’s amnesty order, the State Department’s defense of Clinton, the sharing of CNN town hall questions with the Clinton campaign, Comey sharing an unclassified document and so on.
The president has made a concerted effort to cast the probe as biased against him, criticizing the attorneys working for Mueller and claiming that Mueller is hopelessly conflicted because, years ago, Mueller left one of Trump’s golf clubs because of a fee dispute. Seriously.
Mueller’s team has been largely quiet, not offering defenses against these charges. But it’s worth noting that any significant action that Mueller’s team takes had to be signed off by Rosenstein or, now, Attorney General William P. Barr.
“Russian Collusion was nothing more than an excuse by the Democrats for losing an Election that they thought they were going to win”: Trump’s made this claim before. Here’s a question: If the Democrats created allegations of Russian collusion to excuse losing the 2016 presidential election, how did the investigation start in December 2015, as OANN sloppily claimed? How did it even start in July 2016, as Comey testified under oath (and as all evidence suggests is true)?
The FBI saw a number of red flags during the 2016 election that spurred it to launch the probe in late July. Among those flags was a report from an Australian diplomat that he’d been told by a Trump campaign adviser that Russia had emails incriminating Clinton. Among those flags was that Trump’s campaign chairman at the time had obvious and established links to Russian oligarchs. Among those flags was that another adviser had traveled to Moscow earlier that month.
The Democrats really put in some effort laying the groundwork on this thing, I guess.
“THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!”: The good news is that, as presented, this never happened to a president in the first place.