Fearful of future stonewalling, two powerful GOP Senators redoubled their efforts to bring closure, transparency and accountability to the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” conspiracy by releasing a tranche of documents they had obtained.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., made public more than 400 pages of material they had obtained through the Senate Finance Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which they chair respectively.
The effort followed the recent appointment of US Attorney John Durham as special counsel to investigate the conspiracy surrounding the FBI’s Russia-collusion hoax as hopes fade that Trump will succeed in a long-shot bid to overturn election fraud and retain the presidency.
However, some worry that Durham’s newly bestowed authority could hinder, rather than help, the cause of transparency.
“Although agency bureaucrats have fought tooth and nail to keep records hidden, our commitment to transparency has never wavered,” Grassley said in a statement.
“The documents we are releasing today are the product of our continued fight for transparency,” he continued. “These documents are far less than what we have requested, but we are making them public so the American people can decide for themselves what wrongdoing did and did not occur.”
In conjunction with the release, Johnson’s committee also held a hearing Thursday that featured two esteemed investigative journalists and a top-level retired FBI agent.
Like Grassley’s statement, the hearing with journalists Lee Smith and Sharyl Attkisson, along with former FBI Assistant Director for Intelligence Kevin Brock, took on something of a sobering tone as the senators anticipated the arrival of a Biden administration that would only deepen the culture of corruption in Washington, DC.
Johnson lamented that the committee’s Democrats had chosen largely to boycott the hearing altogether.
“Apparently corruption is partisan,” he said. “If it’s corruption on the side of your party—not worried about it.”
Johnson and others expressed frustration and alarm over the refusal of Democrats to condemn the clear evidence showing the collusion and abuse involving anti-Trump operatives in the media and intelligence community who worked with the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.
“I think the attendance of this hearing shows that Congress is a paper tiger” when it comes to addressing issues of systemic corruption due to the political nature of the hearings,” Johnson said.
He also vented about the difficulties he faced in dealing with the FBI—even under a supposedly friendly Trump administration—who had routinely redacted entire memos before providing them under subpoena.
“When it comes to investigations about wrongdoing in the political realm, we do it completely backwards,” he said, suggesting that the probes should begin with public congressional hearings and then be referred to the FBI if criminal allegations appear actionable.
The current sequence, instead, allows the agency to use ongoing investigations as a pretext for refusing to cooperate and be fully transparent with the senators, he said.
Due to the politicization of the agency, though, and the corruption stemming from the investigators themselves, Johnson said public accountability was a more effective deterrent than the tepid threat of indictment.
He noted the stonewalling that had occurred in his efforts to shed light on the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into Trump.
Even with the recent trend of declassifying and releasing documents, “we are a long way from fully understanding this because of the resistance, because of the obstruction,” Johnson said.
Offering his expertise as a former FBI insider, Brock agreed.
He said there was nothing “by the book” about the way ex-FBI Director James Comey, ex-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and other bad actors in the agency’s upper echelons had conducted the partisan smear campaign.
“It would be startling to me that an FBI director and deputy director would treat a FISA application against a presidential campaign in a nonchalant way,” Brock said. “It stretches credulity that they would wave it off.”
Contrary to the justifications Comey and McCabe have used that the probe was of the utmost concern to ensure national security, the unraveling of the events have proven that it was Hillary Clinton who pushed the narrative and not disinterested law-enforcement officials.
Documents have shown that Clinton signed off on the smear campaign, likely as a way to distract from her own email scandal, which had turned into a criminal FBI investigation.
Her campaign later commissioned the notorious Steele Dossier, which was drawn from what is now understood to have been a Russian disinformation effort.
Moreover, Brock noted that he target of the FBI’s probe was not Russians but American citizens, and the predicating ‘evidence’ was based on fourth-hand information about Russian hacking.
The hearsay that the FBI used to justify spying on Trump officials was passed to the agency from Australian diplomat Alexander Downer—who, in turn, had heard it via Trump adviser George Papadopoulos during a casual conversation at a London wine bar.
But Papadopoulos, himself, had no direct knowledge of the hacking. He had heard it from Joseph Mifsud—a Maltese diplomat and academic with ties to Western intelligence agencies—whom he had just met at a conference in Italy.
The original source of Mifsud’s information remains unclear, although some suspect Obama’s intelligence officials may have been the ones to plant it in order to lay a trap for the Trump campaign.
“It is hard to overstate how anomalous this behavior was that [Comey and McCabe] would first of all open up a counterintelligence invest into a presidential campaign without incredibly substantial justification—let alone thin—and secondly to embargo that investigation onto the 7th floor of the FBI and run it out of headquarters,” Brock said.
“The reason the FBI runs its investigations out of field offices and not in headquarters is because headquarters is close to the political flame of Washington, DC,” he continued. “They’re there for a different purpose. They’re not there for an investigative purpose.”
Smith and Attkisson also used their inside knowledge of the media industry to shed light on how the Fifth Estate was weaponized for Democrats’ partisan political devices.
Both journalists began their careers in left-wing media entities, including CNN and The Village Voice.
While the legacy media has long weathered complaints over its institutional bias, though, Smith said that the industry’s financial collapse, with the arrival of the internet, had resulted in a much more sinister problem.
“This is not about partisanship–what we’ve seen is something very destructive and very dangerous,” he said.
“… [W]e’ve seen as a consequence [of the financial collapse] the moral and professional collapse of the press,” he continued. “What we’re talking about now is not a normal media. It is a platform for information operations.”
Increasingly, billionaire technocrats such as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs), and social-media tycoons like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey have assumed the role of media publishers, co-opting their platforms to advance their outside business and political interests.
Johnson noted that in his visits to foreign nations where US anti-corruption efforts were a central mission, concerns over oligarchs controlling the media were always prevalent.
“It wasn’t long before I started realizing maybe we’re the pot calling the kettle black here,” he said. “These are American oligarchs … and they exert way too much” influence.