(Natural News) The FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller repeatedly kept alive a damning narrative that investigators knew to be false: namely, that a junior Trump campaign aide as a favor to the Kremlin had “gutted” an anti-Russia and pro-Ukraine plank in the Republican Party platform at the GOP’s 2016 convention.
(Article by Paul Sperry republished from RealClearInvestigations.com)
Federal authorities used this claim to help secure spy warrants on the aide in question, Carter Page, suggesting to the court that he was “an agent of Russia” – even though investigators knew that Page was working for U.S., not Russian, intelligence, and that they had learned from witnesses, emails and other evidence that Page had no role in drafting the Ukraine platform plank.
The revelation is buried in the Justice Department watchdog’s just-released report on FISA surveillance abuses. RealClearInvestigations fleshed out this unreported story with footnotes from the Mueller report and exclusive interviews with Trump campaign officials who worked on the convention platform.
Of all the Trump-Russia rumors, insinuations and falsehoods – from secret payments for shadowy hackers, to videotaped prostitutes with active bladders, to a clandestine rendezvous with Kremlin figures in Prague – the supposedly pro-Russia Ukraine platform alteration stands out. It seemed to offer early, public, concrete evidence of an actual bending of prospective U.S. policy to suit Moscow. The false narrative is also significant because it was initially pushed not by Democrats, but by associates of Republican Sen. John McCain and other so-called Never Trumpers. As a bipartisan red flag, it helped build momentum around a narrative of Trump treachery with, then as now, Ukraine playing a central role. It also shows how the Russia and Ukraine controversies were linked from the beginning by Trump’s foes.
This episode loomed so large that the first person Mueller’s team interviewed after taking over the Russia investigation in May 2017 was Rachel Hoff, who was serving as McCain’s policy adviser on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Like her boss, Hoff was no fan of President Trump. Agents sought to confirm with her reports that the Trump campaign had “gutted” the GOP’s platform plank on Ukraine to favor Russia during the party’s convention in Cleveland in early July 2016.
As a disgruntled convention delegate, Hoff got the story started by putting Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin in touch with another Never Trump delegate, Diana Denman, who had lost her bid to amend the GOP plank to call for providing “lethal” weapons to Ukraine to help fend off Russian incursions, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. Instead, the platform called for “appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine.”
Denman was overruled because heavily arming Ukraine was out of step with the GOP consensus at the time – to say nothing of the Obama administration’s policy, which refused to arm the Ukrainians. And it was at odds with Trump’s stated position, which sought to avoid military escalation in the region, while encouraging the European Union to take a larger peacekeeping role.
On July 18, 2016, the Post ran Rogin’s sensational story under the misleading headline, “Trump Campaign Guts GOP’s Anti-Russia Stance on Ukraine.” Pushing the narrative that Trump was doing the Kremlin’s bidding, it quoted Hoff warning that Trump “would be dangerous for America and the world.” The story left out the key part of the final Trump-approved plank pledging aid “to the armed forces of Ukraine.” Reached by phone, Rogin declined comment.
This story was quickly amplified in the Steele dossier, the series of now-debunked opposition research memos alleging Trump-Russia collusion. Compiled by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele for the Clinton campaign, those memos became a foundation for the FBI and Mueller probes even though – as this week’s IG report established – bureau agents knew that the material in them included demonstrably false assertions and exaggerated gossip dismissed as nonsense by Steele’s own purported source.
Steele also embellished the GOP convention story by claiming that Carter Page had played a key role in drafting the Ukraine plank as part of a commitment he had allegedly made to his Kremlin handlers “to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue.”
None of this was true. And the FBI — and Mueller — knew it, the Justice inspector general reveals in his report.
Still, the FBI presented the Steele dossier’s smear, cataloged as “Steele Report 95,” as key evidence in all four of its warrant applications to obtain wiretaps to eavesdrop on Page, according to the IG report.
To keep renewing the spy warrants, the FBI had to produce fresh evidence for FISA judges to support suspicions Page was “an agent of Russia.” Just a few weeks before the FISA warrant was set to expire in June 2017, Mueller had his investigators interview Hoff, as his first witness, followed by Denman, hoping they could provide fresh details to keep building an espionage case against Page and the Trump campaign.
But Mueller struck out.
According to agents’ notes documenting their June 2017 interview, as revealed in the IG report, Denham told the FBI that Page was not involved in the drafting of the Ukraine plank. But Mueller’s team did not update its fourth and final FISA warrant application on Page with this exculpatory information. Instead, it recited the same baseless claim that he had shaped the Ukraine policy with guidance from Russia. And the court renewed the warrant that June to electronically monitor Page, allowing the government to continue vacuuming up all of his emails, phone calls, text messages and other communications for another 90 days.
“Although the FBI did not develop any information that Carter Page was involved in the Republican Platform Committee’s change, the FBI did not alter its assessment of Page’s involvement in the FISA applications,” Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz noted in his 476-page report released Monday.