Transcripts show FBI debated over Trump-as-Russian-mole for months, and why Trump hates Peter Strzok

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Guardian News / YouTube Donald Trump speaks at the UN...
Guardian News / YouTube

Why has Donald Trump devoted so many tweets demeaning and diminishing former FBI attorney Lisa Page and attacking her relationship with former deputy assistant director Peter Strzok? CNN revealed the reason behind Trump’s tweets on Monday morning with excerpts from Congressional testimony by Page and former FBI general counsel James Baker. Those transcripts show that the question of investigating Trump as a Russian asset had been debated inside the FBI for months, until his actions following the dismissal of FBI direct James Comey finally tipped the balance of that debate, driving even the most reluctant to finally acknowledge what had seemed unthinkable. And they bring a different light to some testimony that had already been available to the public.

On Friday, the New York Times reported that the investigation of connections between Donald Trump and Russia was not just about whether Trump’s campaign had conspired with the Russian government in the 2016 election. It wasn’t just about whether Trump had used his position to obstruct justice by hampering that investigation. As the Times reported then, and the Washington Post amplified on Saturday, the FBI launched an investigation into whether or not Trump was himself an operative for the Russian government, working against the interests of the United States.

Now CNN has obtained transcripts of the two FBI officials, speaking to Congress in closed door hearings. These transcripts show that the FBI strongly resisted those who urged them to investigate Trump during the campaign.

Page: It’s not that it could not have been done. This case had been a topic of discussion for some time. The ‘waiting on’ was an indecision and a cautiousness on the part of the bureau with respect to what to do and whether there was sufficient predication to open.

But following the firing of Comey, Trump’s open admission that he had taken that action to halt the Russia investigation, the vitriolic and Russia-centric first draft of Trump’s letter to Comey, and Trump’s same-day meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, those who had been protecting Trump in the FBI finally acknowledge that those who had been pushing for Trump’s investigation all along—which included Strzok—were right. It was an investigation that had to happen, even if the whole idea of investigating a sitting executive for working against the interests of the nation struck everyone as daunting.

The counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s actions was not a spur of the moment decision following Comey’s firing. The Justice Department reluctantly opened the investigation of Trump as a Russian asset, after months of seeing evidence that made even those who hated the idea feel that they could no longer ignore the threat.

The transcripts show that, following Comey’s departure, Strzok pressed Page and others to open the investigation while Andrew McCabe was acting director. In her testimony, Page insisted that the investigation could have been opened under Comey.

Page: It’s not that it could not have been done. This case had been a topic of discussion for some time. The ‘waiting on’ was an indecision and a cautiousness on the part of the bureau with respect to what to do and whether there was sufficient predication to open.

“This case” was not the investigation into Russian interference in the election, and possible conspiracy between members of Trump’s team and the Russian government. That case had already been under investigation for months. The case Page is discussing is the other case, the case of whether Donald Trump was directly under the control of Vladmir Putin.

The most striking thing about these transcripts is not just that they show how reluctantly the FBI entered into considering the idea of Trump as a Russian mole, taking up the case only after their desks were weighed down with evidence. The transcripts also show that Congress has known about the FBI’s investigation into Trump almost as long as there has been such an investigation. Both Page and Peter Strzok testified before the House in early July of 2018, and it’s clear from the questions directed at Page behind closed doors that the Republican Congressmen doing much of the grilling were already well aware of the investigation of Trump as more than just someone who played along during the campaign.

That insight paints a very picture of how Trey Gowdy and others responded to testimony from Strzok.

Gowdy: The moment special counsel Bob Mueller found out about Peter Strzok’s text and emails he kicked him off of the investigation. But that was a year and a half too late. The text and emails may have been discovered in May of 2017, but the bias existed and was manifest a year and a half before that. All the way back to late 2015 and early 2016.

It’s now clear that what Gowdy meant by this is that Strzok was on the side of the FBI debate that was pushing for a deeper investigation into Trump much earlier. That debate didn’t toggle to the “must investigate” side until after Comey’s dismissal and the related events. But it’s now obvious why House Republicans were so intent on attacking Strzok, and why Trump continues to go after both Strzok and Page more than a year after both left the investigation. Both had been trying to invalidate the counterintelligence investigation into Trump.

Trump is convinced that without Strzok and others who argued for an investigation, it would never have happened. The “abundance of caution” side would have won the day, and the FBI would have sit on its hands. And Trump … would have been free to do whatever he, or Vladmir Putin, wanted.

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Alfred Higgins
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Alfred Higgins

Putin’s Puppet? No. Say it ain’t so.
P.S. Please refrain from referring to Mr. tRump as an “idjit”. Every time a reference to tRump bypasses the term “idiot”, that reduces the chances that a Google algorithm will bring up tRump’s face when the term “idiot” is searched.