Ron Johnson Grasping at Chum

Russian disinformation purveyor Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley continue to serially demand and release documents from FBI in hopes of sustaining a buzz suggesting that Hillary was treated better than Donald Trump.

The latest batch is a hodgepodge. It purports to be,

messages from former FBI agent Peter Strzok related to Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI’s investigation of Trump campaign and administration officials, and the FBI’s “Midyear Exam” investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

But it is actually a hodgepodge, including texts pertaining to Guccifer 1.0, the ongoing hacks of the DNC, and other investigations pertaining to Russia, including the beginnings of a focus on Russia’s 2016 social media campaign. Some of the texts, such as one from October 21, 2016 about leaked Podesta emails involving Obama, don’t obviously involve Strzok at all.

There is no possible set of search terms that would return these texts. But they’re useful to compare with another more motivated set of texts released by the Jeffrey Jensen investigation that overlap with this one. Here’s a set of texts packaged up to justify blowing up the Flynn prosecution.

As a later filing to Judge Sullivan admitted, they were actually repackaged from the FBI original, and in the process an error was introduced into the document (adding the wrong time for the “Will do” text).

The set released to Johnson includes just a few of those texts, completely out of context.

But those texts reveal one reason why the Jensen texts were packaged up: to alter the UTC times to Eastern time, the kind of thing that, for trial exhibits, needs to be formally noticed. It’s the kind of thing Sullivan wouldn’t need to assess the evidence, but that would make the connections Jensen was trying to feed the public (some false) easier to put together.

Neither the Senators, their staff, nor the frothy right seem to have cared that these texts reflect a random grab bag to keep them occupied. Chuck Ross got himself in a tizzy, for example, because Strzok read the Michael Isikoff article reflecting information from Steele and determined that the Steele reports were “intended to influence as well as inform.”

In his rendition of the text, Ross claims that this means Strzok knew “Steele was a source” for the story. Of course, it means no such thing (and Ross had to mis-cite it to make the claim). It actually reflects that Strzok knew Steele’s reports were a source for the story, which was noticed to the FISA Court from the very first application, and so nothing we didn’t already know.

Then there’s the Federalist, which claims that this text proves the FBI was wiretapping calls between Fox News and George Papadopoulos.

The text is a copy of a text sent by someone else (that is, forwarded to the person who forwarded this to Strzok). It appears to come from Chicago (CG). Chicago was running an informant on Papadopoulos, who spoke quite a lot to him while being monitored. The most likely explanation for this is that after news about Sergei Millian was breaking (whose name is redacted in all these texts), Papadopoulos told the informant that Fox had reached out to him. In the same way Papadopoulos bragged falsely about meeting Russia’s ambassador and Putin’s niece, he may well have exaggerated the seniority of the person he spoke with.

Meanwhile, some of the texts provide needed content.

One text explains part of why Joe Pientka wrote up the briefing he gave Mike Flynn, Chris Christie, and Trump in August 2016: to capture what was said in case anyone leaked it.

He was wise to do so! Both Flynn and Trump would go on to make claims about what went on in the briefing, with Flynn falsely claiming that briefers said they disagreed with President Obama’s policies, claims that do not accord with the record — thus far — we’ve gotten of it.

And in January, amid a recurring discussion about how to organize the investigations — and exhibiting a concern that the multiple (Egypt, Flynn on Turkey, Papadopoulos and Israel) different CI concerns would turn into a Trump focused investigation rather than one focused on multiple legitimate concerns run by people with specific expertise to them — Strzok raised the risk of Flynn leaking. Flynn had a history of sharing classified information inappropriately. In one of the calls with Kislyak, Flynn offered up what kind of calls the Transition had been making (which might have been classified if it happened after inauguration).

Flynn: Yeah, there … there, I can tell you that there’s, uh, you know, a litany of countries that are … that we’re talking … I’m … I’m talking directly to. And … and that …

Kislyak: I see.

Flynn: Basically, just as I asked you.

With this disclosure, Flynn basically admitted to the Russians that Trump’s people were conducting a systematic effort to undermine Obama’s policy. And Kislyak just took at all in, letting Flynn run his mouth.

“I see.”

So at a time he would have been reviewing these transcripts and seeing how little filter Flynn had with a hostile country, Stzrok noted that the conversations with Kislyak or others could easily turn into an Espionage investigation, file code 65, if Flynn shared classified information.

There’s more, reflecting a real concern about the leaks that also (rightly) pissed off Trump, along with real efforts to chase them down.

But for now, DOJ and FBI appear to be throwing random shit Ron Johnson’s way to get through the end of the term, when he’ll no longer Chair HGSAC.

8 replies
  1. Michael says:

    One of Strzok’s texts on July 28th refers to {““[o]ur open C[counter-]I[ntelligence] investigations relating to Trump’s Russian connections.”” So of course some people on the right are claiming the investigation of Trump started earlier than the FBI claimed:
    Do you know if there’s an explanation for this?

    • Montana Voter says:

      While I don’t have the resources or the desire to search through the public information that has been generated over the past 6 years regarding these issues (I am confident someone else will do so) It is clear that Michael Flynn was the subject of investigations going back to 2010 while he was being demoted in the military. Also there was regular monitoring of other Russians and their communications. As part of this monitoring Trump associates were regularly found to be communicating with Russians or their surrogates. This, coupled with Trump’s own July 2016 “Russia, if your listening” speech, essentially created a flag waving “look at me” scenario on the part of Trump and his associates that essentially demanded that someone in our intelligence agencies look to see what was going on. Papadapoulos soon began his phone calls, emails and associations with Russian agents that really brought things into focus. There is still much information that is redacted or protected by its inclusion in the Mueller report that needs to be examined. Of course, we have Bill Barr to blame for the “no collusion” battle cry of the Trump side. This is just another extension of the “but her emails” strategy used to obscure and disguise the actual events. Obviously this is skewed to Trump or his allies favor.

    • emptywheel says:

      There are some obvious answers: Sergei Millian (who was definitely under investigation within 2 months), Oleg Deripaska (who should have been under closer investigation). The Carter Page investigation was already started. This could also be the beginning of the matrix work for the UNSUB prosecution.

      • Montana Voter says:

        Thank you. And I agree that there are many more examples that could or should be exposed. The problem continues to be Barr’s work on the inside of DOJ. He is the biggest “fox guarding the henhouse” I have ever seen going all the way back to Meese and Mitchell in the Nixon days.
        The story today of the insider PAC Jared Kushner used to loot the Trump campaign for themselves loops us directly back to the Citizen’s United decision. One can only imagine the steps being taken to preserve the health of Justice Thomas and avoid any issues with Chief Justice Roberts seizure issues.
        Even worse, they are leaving so many landmines throughout government that none will get addressed fully.

  2. pdaly says:

    I noticed “Fury” is visible in the more recent release (“Hey, if you haven’t closed Fury don’t do it yet”) but not in the earlier release by the Jensen investigation.
    Is this because of the recent Presidential pardon of Flynn or some other reason?
    Especially since he corrects himself to RAZOR right after that line, it indicates perhaps that FURY is some unrelated(?) investigation?

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