Like a pebble rolling downhill and starting an avalanche, it really does seem as if a single tweet can rock Washington to its very foundations. In the unlikely event that you missed it:
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
This naturally set the usual anti-Trump doofuses to “shredding” his claim, and got them licking their chops yet again about impeachment (what would the news cycle be without them?). What really grabbed my attention, however, was FBI director James Comey taking the highly unusual step of admonishing the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s claims. This is just the latest move in a crazy dance that Comey has been doing ever since he declined to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for her email hijinks–one which had him re-open that investigation just a couple of weeks before the election, only to close it again when it revealed nothing new. So what gives?
Well, turns out there’s a new development that puts things into a little more perspective. Last week, the Wahsgington Post ran a story that detailed The FBI’s cozier-than-it-should-have-been relationship with British ex-spook Christopher Steele, the guy who created the “dossier” that detailed Donald Trump’s supposed escapades with Russian hookers:
The former British spy who authored a controversial dossier on behalf of Donald Trump’s political opponents alleging ties between Trump and Russia reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work, according to several people familiar with the arrangement.
Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials, according to the people familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
At the time Steele had gathered this information, he was in the employ of Fusion GPS, a firm that was doing opposition research on Trump for the Democrats. Most reasonable people might consider that to be a whopping conflict of interest–which is probably why the FBI severed its ties with Steele when that inconvenient fact came to light.
But this kind of stink has a way of sticking around, which brings us to a letter that Senator Chuck Grassley just dispatched to Director Comey:
The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends. It is additionally troubling that the FBI reportedly agreed to such an arrangement given that, in January of 2017, then-Director Clapper issued a statement stating that “the IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.”
Furthermore, the letter goes on to demand that the FBI provide information to Grassley’s investigative committee, including:
Has the FBI relied on or otherwise referenced the memos or any information in the memos in seeking a FISA warrant, other search warrant, or any other judicial process?
And suddenly, Comey’s panicked request to the DOJ makes sense. If the FBI had used information gathered from Democrat oppo research in seeking a FISA warrant against Trump and his campaign associates, that would be bad. Like worse-than-Watergate bad. Like the Obama administration used the FBI and the DOJ to dig up dirt to smear a political opponent during a presidential campaign. It only makes sense that Comey would want to head off any investigation that would reveal such a thing.
The Democrats thought they could use their Russians-hacked-the-election meme to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency–but if the above proves true, they may live to regret that tactic.