On Tuesday 19th December 2017 it was the turn of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe to give evidence about Russiagate behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee. Judging by this report on Fox News the Republican members of the Committee found it a frustrating experience
Congressional investigators tell Fox News that Tuesday’s seven-hour interrogation of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe contained numerous conflicts with the testimony of previous witnesses, prompting the Republican majority staff of the House Intelligence Committee to decide to issue fresh subpoenas next week on Justice Department and FBI personnel….
“It’s hard to know who’s telling us the truth,” said one House investigator after McCabe’s questioning….
Sources close to the investigation say that McCabe was a “friendly witness” to the Democrats in the room, who are said to have pressed the deputy director, without success, to help them build a case against President Trump for obstruction of justice in the Russia-collusion probe. “If he could have, he would have,” said one participant in the questioning.
Investigators say McCabe recounted to the panel how hard the FBI had worked to verify the contents of the anti-Trump “dossier” and stood by its credibility. But when pressed to identify what in the salacious document the bureau had actually corroborated, the sources said, McCabe cited only the fact that Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had traveled to Moscow. Beyond that, investigators said, McCabe could not even say that the bureau had verified the dossier’s allegations about the specific meetings Page supposedly held in Moscow….
The sources said that when asked when he learned that the dossier had been funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, McCabe claimed he could not recall – despite the reported existence of documents with McCabe’s own signature on them establishing his knowledge of the dossier’s financing and provenance.
(bold italics added)
The key words are the ones I have highlighted and they go to the heart of the FBI’s – and Robert Mueller’s – problem.
Briefly, it is now clear that the entire Russiagate investigation rests on the Trump Dossier, which the FBI has admitted it cannot verify. McCabe’s statement that the FBI has managed to ‘verify’ the fact that Carter Page travelled to Moscow in 2016 is almost an admission that no other part of the Trump Dossier can be verified. ‘Verifying’ the fact that Carter Page went to Moscow in 2016 can hardly be the product of the FBI’s hard work given that Carter Page’s trip to Moscow was public knowledge before the Trump Dossier reported it. The fact that this was only the part of the Trump Dossier McCabe would say was verified is a sure sign that the FBI has failed to verify any other part of it.
The fact that the FBI has been unable to verify the Trump Dossier was of course admitted to Congress by the FBI back in November.
However for McCabe to admit in testimony to Congress that the Trump Dossier cannot be verified would be to admit that the collusion allegations which are the focus of the Russiagate investigation and which originate from the Trump Dossier cannot be proved. In that case there would be no sense in continuing further with the Russiagate investigation and the Republicans in Congress would be in a strong position to demand that it be brought to an end.
That is not a possibility that McCabe is in a position to consider because ending the Russiagate investigation without the collusion allegations proved would open up the FBI and McCabe himself to scrutiny over their actions in 2016 in placing under surveillance during the election individuals who were members of Donald Trump’s election team on the strength of a Dossier they cannot verify.
Needless to say the fact that the Dossier was paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign makes the matter worse. As several Republican Congressmen have pointed out, it means that the FBI placed under surveillance individuals on the strength of unverified ‘research’ paid for by Donald Trump’s electoral opponent.
I would add that it is not only the FBI’s actions during the 2016 which are now open to criticism and scrutiny. It is also McCabe’s own individual actions since his central role in launching the Russiagate investigation and in ordering the surveillance of Hillary Clinton’s opponents is now becoming increasingly clear. Suffice to say that the discussion referred to by Peter Strzok in his ‘insurance’ email to his love Lisa Page took place in McCabe’s office.
It is not surprising therefore that McCabe continues to profess his belief in a Dossier he all but admits the FBI cannot verify. It is also not surprising that he conveniently ‘forgot’ that the Dossier upon which his whole career and reputation and that of the FBI now depends was paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Meanwhile news from London must be making McCabe – and Robert Mueller and members of his team – still more concerned.
It turns out that over the course of a libel action brought against him by a Russian businessman mentioned in the Trump Dossier, Christopher Steele its compiler is now starting to row back on some of its claims. Here is what the Washington Times has to say about this
While Mr. Steele stated matter-of-factly in his dossier that collusion between Mr. Trump and the Russian government took place, he called it only “possible” months later in court filings. While he confidently referred to “trusted” sources inside the Kremlin, in court he referred to the dossier’s “limited intelligence.”
In recent weeks, the dossier of opposition research has taken on added importance in the debate over the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into suspected Russia coordination and whether it is biased against Trump people. Congressional Republicans are demanding that the FBI explain how the deeply contested, Democrat-financed document took on such importance in a major government investigation.Mr. Steele wrote 35 pages of memos in which he said Trump aides were part of a vast conspiracy with Moscow to interfere in the election against Hillary Clinton. The unverified charges were spread by Fusion GPS, the Washington-based political research firm that first commissioned the report. Mr. Steele bragged to Mother Jones magazine that he started the Mueller investigation by convincing FBI agents that summer about the credibility of his dossier.
It was later revealed that the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton helped fund the dossier, meaning that in essence her paid agent was spreading unsubstantiated charges to get to the FBI to investigate her opponent, critics say.
Now that Mr. Steele must defend those charges in a London courtroom, his confidence level has shifted down several notches.In the dossier, he stated without reservation that an “extensive conspiracy between Trump’s campaign team and the Kremlin” existed.
He wrote that Mr. Trump, as a hotel builder and entrepreneur, engaged in an eight-year partnership with Russian intelligence dating back long before his presidential campaign, during which both sides traded information. One memo also claimed that the Kremlin had compiled enough financial and personal information on Mr. Trump that it could blackmail the Republican nominee.
He wrote that Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, and a campaign volunteer, Carter Page, in tandem orchestrated the campaign with Moscow to meddle in the race. He also maintained that Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s attorney, traveled to Prague in August 2016 to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal staff and orchestrate a cover-up of the campaign’s hacking conspiracy
All of those charges have been denied, and none has been confirmed publicly by a press leak or congressional inquiry.
In court filings this year, Mr. Steele doesn’t sound as confident as his dossier.
He answered questions through his attorney in a libel complaint brought by a Russian entrepreneur, Aleksej Gubarev. Mr. Steele has accused Mr. Gubarev of being pressured by Russian’s FSB intelligence service to take part in hacking against the Democratic Party.
His answer was to a question from Mr. Gubarev’s legal team on the lengths he took to brief American reporters as the fall campaign was in full swing.
Mr. Steele answered, “The briefings involved the disclosure of limited intelligence regarding indications of Russian interference in the U.S. election process and the possible coordination of members of the Trump’s campaign team and Russian government officials.”
At the request of Fusion GPS, the investigative firm hired by Democrats to handle and pay Mr. Steele, the former spy said he briefed The New York Times, The Washington Post, Yahoo News, The New Yorker and CNN in person. He later briefed Mother Jones magazine via Skype.
In another indication that Mr. Steele was no longer wholeheartedly vouching for his own findings, he said he told journalists that they may not quote his research. He “understood that the information provided might be used for the purpose of further research, but would not be published or attributed,” he said through his attorney.
Mr. Steele also acknowledged that his final December memo, the only one that dealt with Mr. Gubarev, contained information he never vetted.
“The contents of the December memorandum did not represent (and did not purport to represent) verified facts, but were raw intelligence which had identified a range of allegations that warranted investigation given their potential national security implications,” he wrote.
He added, “Such intelligence was not actively sought; it was merely received.”
The unverified “raw intelligence” included Mr. Cohen reported trip to Prague.
Needless to say a Dossier the truth of which even its compiler cannot vouch for is not a Dossier that can be relied upon in court as evidence.
McCabe’s stonewall on Tuesday apparently went on for seven hours. With Congressional Republicans having now worked out what is going on he must have found it an uncomfortable experience. With more subpoenas coming and the Justice Department coming under increasing pressure I wonder for how much longer this situation can continue.