We know quite a bit about how the FBI watched the Trump campaign, including going to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court no less than twice to get a warrant on a minor Trump apparatchik. But does it go deeper?
The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel thinks it very well could. In a piece published Thursday titled “About That FBI ‘Source,'” Strassel postulates that information on an FBI source that the Department of Justice was just forced to reveal to the House Intelligence Committee may be evidence of an FBI mole inside the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.
“The Department of Justice lost its latest battle with Congress Thursday when it allowed House Intelligence Committee members to view classified documents about a top-secret intelligence source that was part of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign,” Strassel wrote. “Even without official confirmation of that source’s name, the news so far holds some stunning implications.”
Strassel noted that the DOJ and FBI “outright hid critical information from a congressional investigation.” She pointed to Speaker Paul Ryan’s press conference after the material was released Thursday, in which he “bluntly noted that Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’s request for details on this secret source was ‘wholly appropriate,’ ‘completely within the scope’ of the committee’s long-running FBI investigation, and ‘something that probably should have been answered a while ago.'”
“Translation: The department knew full well it should have turned this material over to congressional investigators last year, but instead deliberately concealed it,” she wrote.
“The bureau already has some explaining to do. Thanks to the Washington Post’s unnamed law-enforcement leakers, we know Mr. Nunes’s request deals with a ‘top secret intelligence source’ of the FBI and CIA, who is a U.S. citizen and who was involved in the Russia collusion probe,” she continued.
“When government agencies refer to sources, they mean people who appear to be average citizens but use their profession or contacts to spy for the agency. Ergo, we might take this to mean that the FBI secretly had a person on the payroll who used his or her non-FBI credentials to interact in some capacity with the Trump campaign.
“This would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting,” she continued. “It would also be a major escalation from the electronic surveillance we already knew about, which was bad enough.”
“Obama political appointees rampantly ‘unmasked’ Trump campaign officials to monitor their conversations, while the FBI played dirty with its surveillance warrant against Carter Page, failing to tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that its supporting information came from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Now we find it may have also been rolling out human intelligence, John Le Carré style, to infiltrate the Trump campaign.”
Of course, there was no confirmation of that on Thursday, but the wording of the statement does lend itself to that kind of interpretation — that this is information which would reflect extremely poorly on the Obama-era FBI and how it handled the Trump campaign.
There’s also evidence that this may not be the case; as Strassel noted, “among the Justice Department’s stated reasons for not complying with the Nunes subpoena was its worry that to do so might damage international relationships. This suggests the ‘source’ may be overseas, have ties to foreign intelligence, or both.”
“I believe I know the name of the informant, but my intelligence sources did not provide it to me and refuse to confirm it,” Strassel concluded.
“It would therefore be irresponsible to publish it. But what is clear is that we’ve barely scratched the surface of the FBI’s 2016 behavior, and the country will never get the straight story until President Trump moves to declassify everything possible. It’s time to rip off the Band-Aid.”
I don’t have Strassel’s sources, so I’m not one to judge. However, the fact that she believes with some confidence that she knows the name of the informant and was still willing to write this piece seems awfully notable, particularly given how hard the FBI and DOJ tried to keep this information out of the hands of the House Intelligence Committee.
What’s particularly striking about Strassel’s article is that it highlights just how little we know about the kind of surveillance the FBI conducted on Trump and those around him. We know that it’s already landed two convictions, although both of those were fairly minor and nobody in Trump’s inner circle has been touched by indictment, save a campaign manager he didn’t even seem to particularly like and whose tenure in that role was just slightly longer than William Henry Harrison’s term as president.
In short, the FBI’s intelligence actions during the 2016 election haven’t been particularly effective and we still can’t be sure we know the entire story. If it goes as deep as a mole in the Trump campaign, it’s yet another sign that law enforcement and intelligence were weaponized by the Obama administration for political reasons. If this is true, it also demonstrates that the metastasis of the Trump/Russia investigation spread far further than any of us could have suspected.
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