Over the past three years, there have been a select few left-leaning journalists who have set aside their personal distaste for President Donald Trump and actually displayed some professional integrity.
Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, certainly no fan of the president, is one of those who have been dubious of the absurd notions of Russian collusion put forward by the Steele dossier that was accepted by so many in the establishment media.
Some on the left have claimed the lengthy Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuse report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is a total exoneration of the FBI instead of a clear condemnation of corrupt practices.
Taibbi, however, has taken a well-deserved victory lap over how he and other doubters have been proven correct in their initial assessment of the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
The Rolling Stone editor noted how the Horowitz report, much like the final report from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was a “Rorschach test” in which partisans would see only what they wanted. For him, however, the FISA report proved “what a clown show the Trump-Russia investigation was.”
The report revealed a series of abuses within the FBI, such as the bureau’s numerous inaccuracies and omissions in obtaining the FISA warrant against Trump campaign aide Carter Page
Taibbi decried the “almost comical” lengths the FBI went to in order to get that warrant, including the use of fraudulent documents and the purposeful hiding of exculpatory information.
The bulk of his fiery piece, however, was reserved for the FBI’s use of the Steele dossier to garner that warrant, despite any false claims to the contrary by the media, the majority of which have wrongly insisted for years that the dossier was only a “small part” of the FISA application.
Taibbi cited Horowitz’s finding that “we determined that the Crossfire Hurricane team’s receipt of Steele’s election reporting on September 19, 2016 played a central and essential role in the FBI’s and Department’s decision to seek the FISA order.” (Emphasis Taibbi’s.)
Indeed, an official with the FBI’s Office of General Counsel told the IG that the dossier “changed her mind” on establishing probable cause for the warrant, and an official in the National Security Division’s Office of Intelligence said the dossier was “what kind of pushed it over the line” in terms of obtaining the warrant.
Taibbi went on to note that House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes’ highly-criticized 2018 memo about the fraudulently obtained FISA warrant was vindicated by the IG report.
He wrote that, like Nunes, Horowitz established that the dossier had been “essential” in obtaining the warrant and that the FBI had “double-dipped” by citing both Steele and a Yahoo article in which Steele was the anonymous source.
In addition, Nunes’ memo accurately reported that while Steele had been fired or “closed for cause” by the FBI for leaking to the media, the FBI still collected information from him via a back-channel with DOJ official Bruce Ohr and none of Steele’s information had been corroborated or adequately vetted.
As Taibbi described, Horowitz’s report undermined the Democratic response memo from Nunes’ counterpart, Adam Schiff, which had asserted that the FBI had a “reasonable basis” for believing Steele’s dossier and that all of that information had been corroborated and coincided with other information obtained through “multiple independent sources.”
Furthermore, the Steele dossier has proven to be nothing more than unsubstantiated “internet rumors” that were never really checked out. Arguably the worst portion was the ridiculous “pee tape” story, which turned out to be the product of a comment made in “jest” by one of Steele’s sources during conversation “over beers” that was never meant to even be included in any reports.
On top of all of that, the FBI learned from other sources — and didn’t disclose — that Steele himself lacked judgment and didn’t verify the information he collected.
Then there was the circular and layered “bad reporting” surrounding the dossier that created the monster story that has plagued Trump since the beginning of his administration.
Taibbi wrote that Steele “embellished his sources’ quotes, played up nonexistent angles, invented attributions, and ignored inconsistencies,” which the FBI then copied without verifying into the FISA application, which was in turn seized on and shared by unquestioning reporters — a sort of three-layered cake of bad journalism and wrong reporting.
As bad as all of that was for Carter Page, it all turned out just as bad for Trump, who has suffered similar smears, a stymied administration, the dark cloud of suspicion and now impeachment — and of course the two-year Mueller probe that ultimately stemmed, in part, from that infamous dossier.
Taibbi accurately concluded, “No matter what people think the political meaning of the Horowitz report might be, reporters who read it will know: Anybody who touched this nonsense in print should be embarrassed.”
They should be embarrassed, but the reporters who latched onto the Steele dossier without any qualms are unlikely to ever admit it, and that is just sad.
The American people, and especially Carter Page, deserve better and are owed an apology — though nobody should hold their breath waiting for it.
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