Democrats fearful of what Attorney General William Barr might expose in his “investigation of the investigators” are unloading on him now with both barrels, and the media are helping them. Yesterday, I wrote about an attempt by the Washington Post to help protect the Democrats and the reputation of the Obama Justice Department with a negative editorial on Barr, saying he “manipulated” the work of special counsel Robert Mueller. Today, the New York Times is helping them do the same thing, with a piece on how the government used a young female undercover agent (spy), who went by the name of Azra Turk (real identity unknown), to spy on Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
What?? The NYT is being open about the fact that the government SPIED on a member of the Trump team? How is that possibly helpful to the Democrats?
Read down, and it’s easy to see what they’re doing: 1) breaking the story themselves to get ahead of it before the facts come out in a more damaging way, and, 2) slanting the story to try to justify the FBI’s actions. One example comes early in the piece...”The FBI sent her to London as part of the counterintelligence inquiry opened that summer to better understand the Trump campaign’s links to Russia.” Oh, well, THAT sounds benign enough. They just wanted to “better understand.”
There are other methods besides spying that they could have used if they had wanted to “better understand.” Here’s a wild idea: perhaps if they were concerned about Russian infiltration of Donald Trump’s campaign, they could have briefed...Donald Trump! That seems only fair, and they probably could have enlisted his aid in ferreting them out. We know they discussed informing him but chose not to. On the other hand, if they were genuinely alarmed at the prospect of Trump himself being an agent of Vladimir Putin --- even when there was no evidence of this --- they could have gone to any of the three members of Trump’s campaign team who were former U.S. attorneys. But, no, for some reason they had to work secretly and independently, around the fringes of the campaign, and send in an undercover honeypot to spy on a young adviser.
(Incidentally, the FBI is restricted by law from doing counterintelligence work in a foreign country. That’s the CIA’s realm. So it’s logical to assume that John Brennan was playing a key role with the spying that took place in London. I digress.)
Now, here’s the part of the NYT piece that really tries to justify the spying: “The decision to use Ms. Turk in the operation aimed at a presidential campaign official shows the level of alarm inside the FBI during a frantic period when the bureau was trying to determine the scope of Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 election, but could also give ammunition to Mr. Trump and his allies for their spying claims.”
Alarm? The FBI officials running this scam knew the “dossier” was nothing more than dirty oppo research against Trump paid for by the Hillary campaign. Lacking real evidence, they had to mislead the FISA court with unverified material to get their warrant to spy. And recall that Peter Strzok, in a text to Lisa Page, expressed reluctance to join the special counsel team to investigate Trump and Russia because there was no “there there.” That doesn't sound very "alarmed" to me.
Yes, this did end up giving ammunition to Trump for his “spying claims” (which were TRUE), but they no doubt assumed that the use of this spy would never become known. Now that the IG is about to release his report and the attorney general is also investigating, they know the jig is up.
Ms. “Turk” accompanied another FBI informant, Stefan A. Halper of Cambridge University, to London for this assignment. We’ve known about him for quite some time; it’s the fact that the woman was also working undercover that is a new detail.
Here’s another unbelievable “save” from the NYT piece: “The London operation yielded no fruitful information [editorial aside: OF COURSE IT DIDN’T], but FBI officials have called the bureau’s activities in the months before the election both legal and carefully considered under extraordinary circumstances.” We’ll see about that; "FBI officials" created the “extraordinary circumstances” themselves.
And, later: “It is unclear whether Mr. Horowitz will find fault with the FBI’s decision to have Ms. Turk, whose real name is not publicly known, meet with Mr. Papadopoulos.” The piece goes on to say that Ms. Turk’s role might have been “essential” to protect Halper’s identity as an informant if prosecutors ever needed court testimony about what they were doing. See? She HAD to go to London under a fake name and flirt with Papadopoulos (who was not yet married at that time) after inviting him to meet her at a bar and then ask him if Trump was working for the Russians, all in order to protect Stefan Halper’s identity. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
The NYT story quotes Barr from his Wednesday hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee: “Many people seem to assume that the only intelligence collection that occurred was a single confidential informant. I would like to find out whether or not that is in fact true. It strikes me as a fairly anemic effort if that was the counterintelligence effort designed to stop the threat as it’s being represented.”
Given the big picture, it sounds to me here that Barr is casting doubt on the level of the Trump “collusion” threat. But those seeking to justify the spying could say, “Hey, Bill Barr SAID the FBI could have done a lot more in the way of counterintelligence than they actually did!” I don’t think that’s what Barr meant at all.
By the way, I wasn’t exaggerating in saying that Turk was flirting with Papadopoulos. The NYT details a bit of it that’s documented: While still in London, she exchanged emails with him, saying that meeting him had been the highlight of her trip. “I am excited about what the future holds for us :),”
In addition, the NYT story appears to misrepresent the meeting Papadopoulos had with Australian diplomat (and big-time Hillary supporter) Alexander Downer while in London. It says that the FBI investigation came “largely” as a result of that, when we now know that it was primarily the Steele dossier that sparked it. And as I understand it, Papadopoulos’s stated recollection of hearing about “Hillary dirt” was much less specific than the account in this story. He has said he was told the Russians had damaging information on Hillary. (Oh, and he also believes now that this was a set-up in which he was “fed” information.) The NYT account seems somewhat embellished; it says he tells Downer the Russians offered to “help Trump’s campaign by releasing thousands of hacked Democratic emails.”
Here’s another “save”: “Secrecy was paramount for the FBI officials because of the sensitivities of investigating campaign officials during a presidential race.” Oh, I see. It’s BECAUSE this was a presidential race that they had to be undercover and not tell anyone, even in the campaign.
Read the whole thing. It’s obviously intended to provide cover in the way of justification for the FBI’s spying and other deception, but I’d think it would have the opposite effect on anyone who’s objective and well informed on this. On the other hand, someone who's objective and well informed didn't get that way reading the New York Times.