A new report from John Solomon of The Hill ties together several loose threads floating around over the genesis of the FBI/DOJ espionage operation against the Trump campaign, who was involved in the "setup" of campaign aides, and how text messages between FBI employees suggest that the Obama White House was not only aware of the operation - but possibly directing it.
Not only is the timeline moved up from the summer of 2016 to spring, Solomon provides clarification on early contacts between the players involved in DOJ/FBI sting and Trump campaign aides.
The bridge to the Russia investigation wasn’t erected in Moscow during the summer of the 2016 election.
It originated earlier, 1,700 miles away in London, where foreign figures contacted Trump campaign advisers and provided the FBI with hearsay allegations of Trump-Russia collusion, bureau documents and interviews of government insiders reveal. These contacts in spring 2016 — some from trusted intelligence sources, others from Hillary Clinton supporters — occurred well before FBI headquarters authorized an official counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016.
The new timeline makes one wonder: Did the FBI follow its rules governing informants? -The Hill
“The revelation of purposeful contact initiated by alleged confidential human sources prior to any FBI investigation is troublesome,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), an ally of President Trump and chairman of a House subcommittee that’s taking an increasingly aggressive oversight role in the scandal, told me. “This new information begs the questions: Who were the informants working for, who were they reporting to and why has the [Department of Justice] and FBI gone to such great lengths to hide these contacts?”
Retired assistant FBI director for intelligence Kevin Brock also has questions. Brock supervised an agency update to their longstanding bureau rules governing the use of sources while working under then-director Robert Mueller. These rules prohibit the FBI from directing a human source to perform espionage on an American until a formal investigation has been opened - paperwork and all.
Brock sees oddities in how the Russia case began. “These types of investigations aren’t normally run by assistant directors and deputy directors at headquarters,” he told me. “All that happens normally in a field office, but that isn’t the case here and so it becomes a red flag. Congress would have legitimate oversight interests in the conditions and timing of the targeting of a confidential human source against a U.S. person.” -The Hill
The Text Messages
A series of text messages recovered by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz between FBI lawyer Lisa Page and special agent Peter Strzok reveal political pressure around the same time as the Trump-Russia probe officially opened.
“We’re not going to withstand the pressure soon,” Page texted Strzok on Aug. 3, 2016 - days after Strzok returned from London and opened the official Trump-Russia investigation. At the time, as John Solomon of The Hill notes, "they were dealing with simultaneous challenges: the wrap-up of the Hillary Clinton email scandal and the start of the Russia-Trump probe."
The texts reveal that Strzok and Page were also concerned about someone within the DOJ leaking details of their investigation (“This is MUCH more tasty for one of those DOJ aholes to leak,” Strzok texted Page), as well as concerns that the White House was spearheading the investigation.
“Went well, best we could have expected,” Strzok texted Page after an Aug. 5, 2016, meeting. “Other than Liz quote ‘the White House is running this.’ ” Page then texted to assure Strzok of a paper trail showing the FBI in charge: “We got emails that say otherwise.”
SHOCKER! New details and text revealed in the Trump- Russia probe.— Kambree Kawahine Koa (@KamVTV) June 1, 2018
FBI colleague - "Liz" - suggested the Obama White House was about to hijack the investigation.
'’The White House (Obama) is running this.'" -Lisa Page #FridayFeeling https://t.co/0BIyEzrzWg
The next day, Strzok and Page went into further detail about President Obama. “So maybe not the best national security president, but a genuinely good and decent human being,” Page texted Strzok, to which he replied: “Yeah, I like him. Just not a fan of the weakness globally. Was thinking about what the administration will be willing to do re Russia.”
What ever did Strzok mean about Obama being weak?
Perhaps so that the agency's targeting of Trump associates wouldn't occur on U.S. soil, the very beginnings of "Operation Crossfire Hurricane" - the code name given to the early official Trump-Russia investigation, all have ties to London.
The ties are so strong that some have begun to accuse the UK of colluding with the Obama administration and Clinton campaign to influence the 2016 US election.
According to documents and government interviews, one of the FBI’s most senior counterintelligence agents visited London the first week of May 2016. Congress never got the FBI to explain that trip — but, soon after it, one of the most consequential moments of the scandal occurred: On May 10, Australian diplomat Alexander Downer met in a London bar with Trump adviser George Papadopoulos, who boasted of knowing that Russia would release dirt on Clinton.
That contact was not immediately reported to U.S. intelligence.
By early June, a second overture to a Trump campaign adviser occurred in London. In a “Dear Carter” email, a Cambridge University graduate student invited Trump campaign adviser Carter Page to attend a popular July security conference in London.
While Page would not reveal the name of the graduate student, he did say that the student studied under Stefan Halper - the Cambridge professor and longtime FBI / CIA asset who was sent in to perform espionage on the Trump campaign.
Halper, according to Page, asked to be introduced to high-ranking Trump campaign official Sam Clovis.
On July 16, 2016, Carter Page relayed the overture to Clovis: “Professor Stef Halper spends part of the year in Virginia where he has a home in Falls Church; he's a big fan of yours having followed you on CNN and offered a range of possibilities regarding how he and the University might be able to help.”
Halper, a month later, emailed Clovis, referencing his contacts with Carter Page. “May I suggest we set a time to meet when you are next in Washington?” Halper invited on Aug. 29, 2016.
There are more links to London which strengthen the case for a setup. One week before Carter Page left for London, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele - recently hired by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, made contact with the FBI for an unknown purpose. Weeks later, Steele began working with the agency, while his infamous "Steele Dossier" - full of wild, salacious and largely unverified claims, would become a key document in the application for a FISA warrant to spy on Page.
What's more, the London meeting between Papadopoulos and Alexander Downer was reported to the FBI just weeks after the July 23, 2016 release of Hillary Clinton's emails by WikiLeaks.
Downer notably arranged a $25 million grant to the Clinton foundation a decade ago to help fight AIDS. This was part of an overall $88 million funneled from Australian taxpayers to the charity.
As Solomon of The Hill notes, "This timeline doesn’t prove wrongdoing; these contacts could have occurred organically, or been directed legally through intelligence channels. Yet, congressional investigators and FBI insiders tell me, they raise questions about when the investigation officially started and how."