Predictably, the story from The Guardian about real Russian spying at the American embassy in Moscow is getting scant media attention during Paul Manafort’s show-trial on old loan fraud and tax charges. Whether or not he broke the law, Manafort is considered by the “Russia” special counsel to be collateral damage in their search-and-destroy mission to somehow bring down President Trump. Presiding Judge T. S. Ellis III said it well when he observed that Robert Mueller would have no interest in Manafort if he weren’t trying to get the man to “sing” or even “compose” information damaging to the President.
But the story about actual Russian “meddling” is still out there, and former Secret Service agent and conservative commentator Dan Bongino has offered some firsthand information in a recent podcast. It seems that not only does he know the identity of the Russian national who violated the rules by conversing on her personal email with other embassy employees and meeting frequently with the primary Russian security office –- a big red flag –- but he says he even met her when he was at the embassy.
As an employee of the State Department, she was supposed to be using official government email for all communications with government employees. Hey, at least she didn’t set up her own personal email server for all her State Department business and use BleachBit software to delete thousands of subpoenaed documents (“where even God can’t read them”) to hide her tracks from the FBI, Freedom Of Information Act requests and congressional oversight committees. That would have been REALLY bad! But I digress.
Being a proud former member of the Secret Service, Bongino wanted to make it clear that it was not up to the Secret Service to vet embassy employees. The State Department was supposed to do that. One gets the impression that going to the embassy is a real eye-opener, in that there are many Russian nationals working there. I wonder if the vetting process on them is any better than the one used on this particular person.
My visit to Bongino’s website to find out more about the embassy spying led me to an extremely detailed piece in the Washington Examiner by Margot Cleveland, in which she describes what may turn out to be the missing puzzle piece that reveals an attempt to frame Trump for Russian collusion and spark an investigation into essentially nothing. And it started months before any official case was opened.
One thing to be appreciated about Cleveland’s writing is that she’s not some one-sided conspiracy theorist; she picks allegations apart, gives the benefit of the doubt and includes alternate explanations for fishy-sounding meetings, etc. (It’s up to us as to whether or not we believe those explanations.) For example, she includes testimony from Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, procurer of the Steele “dossier,” saying their two meetings with Natalia Veselnikskaya’s group before and after the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., and others were about totally different issues. We don’t know; the timing of those meetings, though very suspicious, may indeed have been purely coincidence.
That said, Cleveland brings up associations and timeline-related facts that should raise both eyebrows. She says they offer further proof that the FBI and DOJ abused the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) rules to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page and provide more evidence showing that the State Department was involved in targeting Trump. They center around a mysterious man named Joseph Mifsud, who seems to have done a disappearing act.
Recall that Mifsud, a Maltese professor connected to the London Centre for International Law, met George Papadopoulos in the spring of 2016, when Papadopoulos was briefly working there. As the story goes, after returning from a trip to Russia that April, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. The FBI claimed later that they launched “Crossfire Hurricane” in July, after Australian diplomat (and big-time Clinton Foundation crony) Alexander Downer told them that Papadopoulos had told him, over drinks in a London bar, that there was Russian dirt on Hillary.
Read Cleveland’s piece for details of the timeline and Mifsud’s presence at the Global Ties national conference in Washington, DC, in February of 2017, at which time he met with the FBI. Caution: it really gets into the weeds, but bear with her. Cleveland believes that the invitation for him to speak may have been arranged to provide cover for him to meet with the FBI. We don’t know, because the FBI allowed him to leave the country. Sort of a “catch and release” program for suspected spies.
Cleveland examined parts of the recently released (and highly redacted) FISA warrant applications dealing with Papadopoulos to see if she could connect any dots. One thing stood out in the third application, submitted in April of 2017: the addition of a footnote that included a FOIA exemption request, which allows the government to withhold information “that could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source.” Why would they put that in? Perhaps the FBI told the FISA court that Mifsud was an FBI informant or an asset of a foreign government.
To cut to the chase: The FBI and DOJ are still hiding behind their “sources and methods” excuse for failing to come clean about Joseph Mifsud and his role in starting the investigation of candidate Donald Trump (and later, the special counsel investigation of the President). What we demand to know: How did this investigation really start? Was Mifsud a source and/or a method? Did Mifsud “feed” the Russian-dirt-on-Hillary story to Papapopoulos to set the ball rolling? (After all, this would have been before we knew about any “dirt” from supposed Russian DNC hacking.) The intelligence community is still hiding the murky origins of what looks to be their “insurance policy.”