I’m struggling to keep up with developments in the counterintelligence investigation that has culminated in the project undertaken by Robert Mueller as Special Counsel. Having taken a few hours off this morning and needing to do so again today, I can only offer links and notes.
• The New York Times reports on the “obstruction of justice” branch of the Mueller Switch Project in “Trump asked Sessions to retain control of Russia inquiry after his recusal,” by Michael Schmidt and Julie Hirschfeld Davis. The Mueller team apparently thinks that Trump can be guilty of a crime for the exercise of one of his constitutional powers (or not!).
• President Trump has taken to Twitter to comment in his accustomed style. Quoting Rep. Trey Gowdy in a series of tweets, President Trump puts an exclamation point on the underlying facts.
….There are lots of really good lawyers in the country, he could have picked somebody else!” And I wish I did!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2018
• Rep. Gowdy has been briefed on the FBI’s use of an informant to check in on several Trump campaign officials. Kyle Cheney reports that Gowdy finds nothing amiss in this astounding development. Cheney’s Politico story on Gowdy’s comments is “FBI was right to deploy informant, senior GOP lawmaker says.” Cheney quotes Gowdy speaking in a FOX News interview: “I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got.” Gowdy added that the information also suggested that the effort had “nothing to do with Donald Trump.”
• The Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins has not been briefed by the FBI’s use of an informant, but he ventures the opinion in his column today: “In surveilling Carter Page, the FBI had every reason to know it was surveilling an inconsequential non-spy, and did so based on a warrant that falsely characterized a Yahoo news article. Its suspicions of George Papadopoulos were based on drunken gossip about Hillary’s emails when the whole world was gossiping about Hillary’s emails.” Jenkins adds a few paragraphs later: “If a private informant was enlisted to feel out the Russian connections of a couple of Trump nonentities, this was at least a sensitive and discreet approach to a legitimate question when so many FBI actions were neither.”
• We now know that Stefan Halper worked as the FBI informant, or one of them. Former Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis was the object of one of Halper’s inquiries. Byron York interviewed Clovis for the Examiner column “Trump campaign vet: Informant used me to get Papadopoulos.” Byron quotes Halper’s email inquiry to Halper:
I am a professor at Cambridge University lecturing on US politics and foreign policy. I am what is called a ‘scholar practitioner,’ having served in the White House and four presidential campaigns — two as policy director. Over the past month I have been in conversation with Carter Page who attended our conference in Cambridge on US elections. Carter mentioned in Cambridge, and when visiting here in Virginia, that you and I should meet. I have enjoyed your comments and appearances in the media; you hit the sweet spot focusing Trump’s appeal to working America. May I suggest that we set a time to meet when you are next in Washington. Meanwhile, all the best, Stefan Halper.
Byron reports: “Halper’s note to Clovis — they worked out logistics and met at Clovis’ hotel, the Doubletree Inn in Crystal City, Virginia, a couple of days later — was premised on his approach to Page. And it seemed of a piece with Halper’s approach, the very next day, to Papadopoulos. But the actual content of their meeting has left Clovis wondering what Halper was up to.”
• What about the shadowy Joseph Mifsud? Surely you haven’t forgotten him. Lee Smith picks up the trail in the RealClearPolitics column “The Maltese phantom of Russiagate.”
• Back to Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal column linked above: “Consider just one anomaly: Any ‘intelligence community’ worth the name would get to the bottom of foreigner Christopher Steele’s singular intervention in a U.S. presidential election, based as it was on the anonymous whisperings of Russian intelligence officials. Not ours. Our intelligence community is highly motivated not to know these answers because any finding that discredited the Steele dossier would also discredit the FBI’s actions in the 2016 campaign.” What about that?
• And then we have this, by the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross “Grassley: Fusion GPS Founder Gave ‘Extremely Misleading’ Testimony About Trump Work.” Ross reports on the May 24 letter by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to his Democratic colleague Chris Coons. In relevant part, Senator Grassley highlights a sliver of the testimony offered by the man from GPS Fusion, Glenn Simpson (letter embedded below via Scribd).