Josh Campbell, the former special assistant to then-FBI Director James Comey who is now on staff at (yes) CNN as a news analyst, has just released a new book, titled “CROSSFIRE HURRICANE: Inside Trump’s War on the FBI.
(Isn’t it downright weird that so many former Obama administration officials have jobs at CNN? I digress.)
Anyway, the title of this book seems highly ironic, in that the investigation dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” could more accurately be described as the reverse: the FBI’s war on Donald Trump. According to Chuck Ross at The Daily Caller News Foundation, the book appears not to be intended as a critical tell-all but exactly what one would expect: a defense of Comey and the FBI. In fact, after CNN hired Campbell in February of 2018, an FBI flier touted his new job, saying that he was planning to use it to “defend the Bureau.” Even so, the book features an account of Comey’s Trump Tower meeting with the President-elect that, perhaps unwittingly, reinforces all the other evidence we have that his discussion of the Moscow-prostitutes story was part of a set-up.
Recall that Comey, along with fellow intelligence officials John Brennan, James Clapper and Mike Rogers, visited Trump to brief him on an intelligence community assessment on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Prior to the meeting, it had been decided that Comey would speak to Trump one-on-one after the briefing to tell him about the story, put forward in the “salacious and unverified” Christopher Steele “dossier,” of alleged nasty goings-on in a Moscow hotel in 2013 and the possible existence of a video, and to warn him that he might be blackmailed.
Comey has said he warned Trump about this because he thought it was about to be released in the media. Under questioning by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan in 2018, he said, “It was brought up privately because the goal of the private session was to alert the incoming President to this piece of it that we thought was about to become public.”
Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. As it turned out, the truth was just the opposite: it was the briefing itself, after being leaked to CNN, that led to the story’s appearance four days later. BuzzFeed, ready to jump, used the CNN story as justification to publish the entire “dossier” just hours after that.
According to his new book, Campbell was in the car with Comey & Friends for their trip to Trump Tower. In a preview, he writes the following: “Although the FBI director travels with an array of specialized equipment that keeps him connected 24/7 to the White House and the rest of the nation’s command authority, this was the first time in my nine months working directly for him that Comey had ever asked me to make a laptop available to him immediately following a meeting.”
What he writes next seems to be an attempt to justify what Comey was doing, but what it really does is show how deceitful and secretive the FBI director was being with the President-elect: “Aware of the unprecedented nature of an FBI director confronting a newly elected President with explosive material about his personal life, coupled with the fact that THE PRESIDENT’S CAMPAIGN WAS SECRETLY UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR ITS POSSIBLE TIES TO RUSSIA [emphasis mine], Comey wanted to make certain that he fully documented the interaction in writing.”
If Comey really had been concerned about Trump campaign associates being agents of Vladimir Putin or even having inappropriate contacts with Russian officials, he should have warned Trump about it. After all, the stated purpose of the meeting was to brief Trump on attempts by Russia to interfere in our election process! But the real purpose was not to GIVE him information, but to try to GET information out of him. Bait-and-switch.
And, in fact, that’s exactly what Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded in his report. Witnesses told investigators that FBI officials wanted to use this briefing to collect information that might be useful to them in the ongoing Russia probe. According to the report, officials believed “Trump might make statements about, or provide information of value to, the pending Russian interference investigation.” And this meeting was treated the same way they handle other forms of surveillance (SPYING); Comey followed up immediately, with a memo, just as he would have with any other information derived from surveillance (SPYING) under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In other words, they were spying on Trump.
Putting two and two together, that’s why Comey instructed Campbell ahead of time to furnish him with a secure laptop for the trip to Trump Tower.
The IG report also says that Lisa Page, who was then general counsel to Andrew McCabe, testified Comey wanted this memo to be included in the case file for the Russia investigation because it was “central to investigative activity.” It sure was, as Trump appears to have been their main target.
As Rep. Jordan concluded, “What was supposed to be a defensive briefing was anything but. He added that the briefing appeared to be intended “to trap the President in an attempt to help their investigation.”
Josh Campbell’s new book may have been intended as a defense of James Comey and the FBI, but, judging by the preview and its description of the Trump Tower meeting, I think it may serve to reinforce much of what we’ve already learned about Comey, and that’s nothing the FBI should be proud of.
By the way, Ross has more on Campbell’s book, which we’ll take up soon. The book also offers details about Comey’s preparation for the Michael Flynn interview at the White House. As Sean Hannity reported Wednesday evening, Campbell wrote that Comey said “Screw it” and recklessly broke with protocol in order to set up that fateful perjury trap –- I mean, interrogation. I don’t imagine that Campbell used the words “perjury trap.” Even though that’s just what it was.