As Durham starts his clock on Spygate, CNN clarifies what that ‘intel assessment on 2020 election interference’ was for

As Durham starts his clock on Spygate, CNN clarifies what that ‘intel assessment on 2020 election interference’ was for
U.S. Attorney John Durham, District of Connecticut. Dept. of Justice photo via Fox News

On Friday, the Department of Justice issued the first criminal complaint to come out of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation of Spygate: the Obama administration’s operation to spy on the Trump campaign in 2016, and continue spying on the Trump administration through at least 2017.

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith is expected to plead guilty to a charge of making a false statement in relation to the series of FISA authorizations obtained against Carter Page in 2016 and 2017.

This false statement is not a process crime.  It’s material to the underlying criminal issue of evidence being falsified for sworn statements to the FISA court by the FBI and DOJ.  The statement of criminal information about Clinesmith includes two main points, the second of which is the one that particularly identifies him.

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That point is that in June 2017, when the third renewal of the FISA authorization on Page was being staffed, Clinesmith altered the contents of an email from the liaison officer of an “other government agency” (OGA; apparently the CIA) that acknowledged Page to have been a coded type of operational contact for it.  Clinesmith had queried the OGA on Page’s status, and received an email in return.  When he provided the email to others at the FBI, he altered the wording of the OGA official’s email.

The alteration served to make it seem as if the OGA official distinguished between the coded “contact” type and a “source.”  The OGA official had not, in fact, made that distinction in the email.

Here is the wording of the original email (with some portions ellipsed through) from the OGA official.
Subsequently, we see the wording altered by Clinesmith in forwarding the email to others at the FBI.

(A “digraph” in this case is a two-letter agency code that clarifies the relationship and type of reporting or information involved with a given individual and the agency.  Digraphs come in pre-defined categories.)

The other main point in the summary of criminal information is that the planners of Crossfire Hurricane, which was formally initiated on 31 July 2016, were told on 17 August 2016 that Carter Page had “been approved as an ‘operational contact’ for the OGA from 2008 to 2013.”  However, the four FISA applications against Page, for which Clinesmith was one of the responsible parties, failed to forward that information about Page to the court.

A couple of points on the Clinesmith case.  One, he was referred for prosecution in the matter of altering the OGA official’s email by the DOJ IG, Michael Horowitz, in November 2019.  It is no surprise, therefore, to see this case go forward to a plea.

And two, the FISA court fingered Clinesmith for his role in falsifying the FISA applications in December 2019.  This was a known, court-processed matter even outside the IG referral.  Some kind of DOJ action was inevitable.

Count on your fingers, if necessary: that’s eight months ago.  Even taking into account the slow-roll that seems endemic to all Spygate-related proceedings, that’s a long time to plea-bargain.  It indicates pretty strongly that Clinesmith did quite a bit of cooperating to get his plea.  And coming from his former job, Clinesmith would have had quite a bit to cooperate on.

The hidden campaign for indictments

I’ve said over and over (see here as well), as readers will attest, that what we should expect from Durham is an orchestrated roll-out of indictments, with a raft of court pleadings that basically locks down the miscreants one by one without giving them warnings that enable them to maneuver against Durham’s case with the revelations from another defense.

If we didn’t want the Spygate principals to get away with it, I’ve argued, that’s what we should want and wait for.  The first public case filing starts the clock on disclosure, for any defendant who isn’t planning to take a plea deal.  The more the other likely defendants know about what Durham’s got, the more readily they can maneuver.

Make no mistake, as our old POTUS-in-Chief used to say.  The likely defendants have already been doing that, to the extent they’re able.  Unlike us, they all know who they are, and who can probably be charged with what.

When I speak of maneuvering, I don’t mean only that they’d prepare to maneuver in court; I refer also to the likelihood that they’d pick scapegoats, fix blame, and throw each other under the bus, in order to save a few.  There are a lot of dispensable individuals in the mix, and more lying to achieve their ends is by no means unthinkable for them.

That’s what I suspect has been going on for all these months.  The action is on both sides: Durham assembling what matters and what will stick, and the miscreants scrambling around trying to throw shade and wriggle out of things.  (Which if you think about it helps explain the frenzied, near-psychotic state the entire establishment Left has been in throughout that period.  There’s been the polar opposite of “nothing” going on behind Durham’s darkened windows.  Every transparently ridiculous effort the establishment Left has mounted to take Trump down, since Durham’s investigation began – apparently early in 2019 – has been an attempt to forestall the Durham roll-out.)

A whole lot of the individuals Durham has interviewed are not the miscreants, but had to be questioned to get at them.  His team has also had to look into a massive record of events, many of them reconstructible only by computer records at the keystroke level.  The scope of the Spygate probe is breathtaking; it’s no wonder it is taking so long.

The bottom line from those two points is that I expect there will be much more coming from Durham.  With the Clinesmith plea announcement and criminal information filing, he has started his clock.  Buckle in, because the roller-coaster has engaged.

It appears the mainstream media know exactly what just happened.  There is, of course, the fact that the Clinesmith filing is getting no coverage from the MSM.  The silence speaks as loudly as always.

But it’s almost laughably transparent to see CNN roll out a thematic counter-effort of its own on the very same day.

CNN to the rescue

Others will probably be taking up the theme.  CNN framed it with a headline as stealthy as a pack of bagpipers in a VFW hall:

US intel report on Russia could undercut Trump’s hopes for Durham probe

Nothing subtle about that.  Just go ahead and give it a trumpet fanfare next time.

Readers will recall that I took a dim view of the recent intelligence report on election interference in 2020.  (That’s the report CNN is referring to.)  One of the things I noted was that it goes out of its way to affirmatively state that Russia wants Trump to win.

By contrast, the assessment suggests only that China and Iran would prefer Trump to lose – but without adducing specific examples of support for Joe Biden.

The obviousness is enhanced by the specific example the assessment uses to illustrate Russia’s preference for Trump; i.e., a flat-out assertion that Ukrainian allegations of wrongdoing by Biden in their country have been injected into Ukrainian law enforcement by Russia.

We have no reason whatsoever to believe there is intelligence to that effect.  The intel assessment doesn’t allude to any.  It merely states the matter as if this is an intelligence conclusion.

The report was thus constructed to maneuver thematically against the ongoing probes of (a) Spygate and (b) Biden/Ukraine.  It ran to just enough words to cover both, and added a dollop of topping about China and Iran to baffle any piercing insight into the real intent.

With its article from today, CNN has heaved the baffles overboard.  The introductory paragraphs speak for … well, for themselves, but more importantly for the intent of that special-pleading intelligence report:

The US intelligence community assessment that Russian interference in the 2020 election favors President Donald Trump threatens to undercut his hopes that prosecutor John Durham will discredit the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation into his 2016 campaign.

Trump and allies, including Attorney General William Barr, have questioned whether the Russians showed a preference for Trump in 2016. But the US intelligence assessment released last week makes clear the Russians are doubling down on their pro-Trump efforts to undermine Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign.

None of this is an actual reality.  It’s all a construct: a propaganda theme.  Put in real terms, the proposition before us is that the intelligence community presented a statement about Russia, Ukraine, and Biden as an “intelligence” conclusion – but with no evidence – and then proceeded to depict that evidence-free conclusion as evidence that Russia is intervening to boost Trump and undermine Biden in 2020.

If there were some genuine evidence of Russia specifically seeking to “undermine Biden,” the IC would surely have deployed it.  Instead, we got an unsupported reference to the Ukraine investigation: a ploy so obvious it makes you spew your morning coffee on the computer screen.

The good news here, besides CNN’s gambit being so transparent, is that it is so lame.  One should not be complacent about media outlets finding themselves “Winchester” – out of ammo – at this late date.  But they’ve turned over one of their own cards, revealing starkly what that silly intel report was actually about, and it’s a weak, perfunctory gesture that won’t reverberate.  It’s got no juice.

Along with Durham’s roll-out, we can expect the media to increase the volume on “alternative fiction” efforts.  But it will be so glaringly evident that that’s what they are, there will be hardly any reason to bother examining them.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.