Even as Donald Trump’s first term as president winds to a close, the full details of the infamous Russia collusion scandal that shadowed his presidency have not been fully uncovered.
But there can be no ambiguity that then-candidate Trump was the target of spying by the FBI — and new documents only further confirm what Trump’s supporters have long alleged, according to author Andrew McCarthy.
“Fig leaf of deniability”
As McCarthy puts it so nicely in a piece for National Review published Sunday, the defenders of the Crossfire Hurricane probe have always disguised a fundamentally political probe aimed at Trump as a routine, counterintelligence probe aimed at his campaign. (Spying isn’t actually spying, as former FBI Director James Comey famously claimed.)
“By purporting to focus on the campaign, investigators had the fig leaf of deniability they needed to monitor the candidate,” McCarthy wrote Sunday.
But while the FBI took great pains to obscure their true purpose, declassified documents speak for themselves. Among them are a newly uncovered file from the summer of 2016, right in the thick of Crossfire.
According to McCarthy, the file was written by a case agent, John Pientka, who met with Trump, Michael Flynn, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the FBI’s New York Field Office for what was ostensibly a straightforward briefing.
The memo makes clear that this was all ceremony. At one point, Pientka notes bluntly that he was “actively listen[ing] for topics or questions regarding the Russian Federation,” McCarthy reported.
Crossfire Hurricane had commenced weeks before the Aug. 17 meeting, and Flynn, who was at the meeting, was an investigative target with his own codename, “Crossfire Razor,” according to Politico. The briefing notes appear to show special care to record Trump’s questions and reactions concerning Russia, as McCarthy points out.
For example, at one point, “Trump and Christie turned toward each other and Christie commented, ‘I’m shocked,’” Pientka alleged, according to McCarthy.
This was not the last time the FBI used the pretext of informing Trump to spy on him, of course. As McCarthy recalls, in January of 2017, James Comey himself met with Trump for an infamous briefing about the Trump–Russia dossier that was, in truth, an attempt to surreptitiously record the president’s responses.
Even as these new documents come to light, and with months to go before the presidential election, U.S. Attorney John Durham’s criminal investigation of Russiagate remains a work in progress.
Will there ever be any accountability for this conspiracy?