There are a couple of new articles out in the past week that merit your attention if you have not already read these. The first is from Fox News–Strzok-Page texts debated whether to share details with DOJ on key London meeting in 2016. I am surprised this has not garnered more attention.
The texts between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page in this release (I'm referring to the documents posted on the Fox website) start in the evening of August 1, 2016. Strzok, responding to Page, comments on a canceled brief for Andy McCabe from FBI Deputy Assistant Director Jonathan Moffa and says it is probably a good thing because "Bill may need a little saving from himself."
Bill refers to Bill Priestrap, the head of FBI's counter intelligence operations. Important to remember that Strzok worked for Priestrap at this point. Yet, it appears that Strzok is operating under some other authority.
Lisa Page then writes:
"Also, Andy spoke to ?????. He was out, he has a POC for you over then when you need it."
Strzok was on his way to London. My informed guess is that the ????? was CIA. POC means Point of Contact. Andy had a name of a CIA officer. The Chief of Station in London was Gina Haspel. I do not have a name for her Deputy. The nature of this case means that at least Haspel would have been witting.
The texts start again around noon Washington time, which means 4pm London time. At 13:36:19 (i.e., 1:36 pm EDT), Lisa writes:
"I worry OGC is making happy to glad changes which are nice to have but not legally necessary and which will derail this thing."
OGC refers to Office of General Counsel. What did Page fear would get "derailed?"
Strzok then writes:
Interesting fact. Guy we're about to interview was (BLANKED OUT).
This appears to be a reference to Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer, who had served as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Yeah, that's helpful. BEN is calling you guys a bunch of dicks right now.
The "BEN" in question may refer to BEN RHODES. If true, shows that the White House was involved in this early on.
Peter Strzok offers a very telling aside:
"Remind me about SCIF and embassy history."
The SCIF at the London Embassy is more commonly referred to as "The Bubble." It is were the Ambassador and intel folks go to discuss SECRET and TOP SECRET matters. This means that Strzok was meeting with CIA personnel at the London Embassy. A follow up text from Strzok confirms this:
I think we need to consider the lines of what we disclose to DOJ. For example, the last stipulation notes we will not disclose the identities outside the FBI. I think we and they could live with that. And frankly I think you might argue that the unauthorized disclosure might reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to US national security.
Lisa then asks Peter who was at the meeting. She specifically asks about the Deputy Chief of Mission (the number two US diplomat in the Embassy). Peter replied:
No. Two of them, two of us.
The "them" means, CIA. When you are talking about sensitive sources that involve identities you are dealing with human intelligence.
Lisa then wrote:
Just checked yellow and there are two POCs for you from BOTH OGAs waiting there for you. Both may have already reached out.
Both OGAs? Other Government Agencies. Since there are two in question this is shorthand for CIA and NSA.
We know from a May 2019 piece by National Review, based on the Congressional interview with FBI DAD Jonathan Moffa, who was the section chief over counterintelligence analysis, that the FBI actions involved Confidential Human Sources, which were central to this so-called investigation:
The deputy assistant director at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jonathan Moffa, was involved with the Russia–Trump investigation from the start. He was asked, in a closed-door Capitol Hill interview on August 24, 2018, to describe his role: “I was the section chief over counterintelligence analysis during the period of the election,” Moffa told lawmakers and staff. “And as a result, I had analysts who reported to me who supported the full range of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigations and counterespionage investigations during that period. So in a sense, if there’s a Russian-election-related investigation underway in the division at that point, personnel reporting to me are a part of it.”
If the CIA and NSA had solid, reliable sources on the Russian angle, we would know that by now. Instead, when you look at the weak January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment, you see a dearth of sources. It is all analytical speculation.
Which brings me to the newest piece to drop, CrowdStrikeOut: Mueller's Own Report Undercuts Its Core Russia Meddling Claims.
Most of the material in this article will be familiar to regular readers of SST because I wrote about it first. Here are the key conclusions:
- The report uses qualified and vague language to describe key events, indicating that Mueller and his investigators do not actually know for certain whether Russian intelligence officers stole Democratic Party emails, or how those emails were transferred to WikiLeaks.
- The report's timeline of events appears to defy logic. According to its narrative, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced the publication of Democratic Party emails not only before he received the documents but before he even communicated with the source that provided them.
- There is strong reason to doubt Mueller’s suggestion that an alleged Russian cutout called Guccifer 2.0 supplied the stolen emails to Assange.
- Mueller’s decision not to interview Assange – a central figure who claims Russia was not behind the hack – suggests an unwillingness to explore avenues of evidence on fundamental questions.
- U.S. intelligence officials cannot make definitive conclusions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computer servers because they did not analyze those servers themselves. Instead, they relied on the forensics of CrowdStrike, a private contractor for the DNC that was not a neutral party, much as “Russian dossier” compiler Christopher Steele, also a DNC contractor, was not a neutral party. This puts two Democrat-hired contractors squarely behind underlying allegations in the affair – a key circumstance that Mueller ignores.
- Further, the government allowed CrowdStrike and the Democratic Party's legal counsel to submit redacted records, meaning CrowdStrike and not the government decided what could be revealed or not regarding evidence of hacking.
Mueller’s report conspicuously does not allege that the Russian government carried out the social media campaign. Instead it blames, as Mueller said in his closing remarks, "a private Russian entity" known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).
- Mueller also falls far short of proving that the Russian social campaign was sophisticated, or even more than minimally related to the 2016 election. As with the collusion and Russian hacking allegations, Democratic officials had a central and overlooked hand in generating the alarm about Russian social media activity.
- John Brennan, then director of the CIA, played a seminal and overlooked role in all facets of what became Mueller’s investigation: the suspicions that triggered the initial collusion probe; the allegations of Russian interference; and the intelligence assessment that purported to validate the interference allegations that Brennan himself helped generate. Yet Brennan has since revealed himself to be, like CrowdStrike and Steele, hardly a neutral party — in fact a partisan with a deep animus toward Trump.
I encourage you to read the piece. It is well written and provides an excellent overview of critical events in the flawed investigation.
What was the purpose of the 2+2 meeting in London?
Bill H says
The one thing which overwhelms all else is the actual nature of the material that came from the DNC servers and appeared on Wikileaks. A great deal of noise is made about that information’s journey, who stole (hacked or copied) it, how it was done, who transmitted it, etc. But no noise whatever is made about the information itself, or at least when an attempt is made it is buried by the “Russia meddled” noise.
The information itself is that the DNC is a bad actor, that it rigged the primary election for Hillary Clinton. No one, no one, denies the truth of the information itself. When what the DNC did is mentioned the conversation instantly changes to the Russians having “meddled in our election.”
Buried in the noise is that the DNC meddled in the electoral process far more destructively and far more directly than the Rusians did, if the Russians did so at all, which I perceive as highly doubtful.
i’m not familiar with all the intricate details of the “investigation” (i just detect a strong smell of bs coming from mueller), and I found this piece hard to follow on the page-strzok texts and their significance.
Probably to bring Strzok up to speed on Halper. The FBI has, or at least didn’t used to have, no authority to conduct in
Bill H – I could not agree with you more.
I would guess that the Bureau Agents had to be read in on what the Agency people had been doing with Halper and possibly Mifsud,; that, and to bring their purported counter-intelligence expertise to bear. Active investigation in the UK with respect to Papadopolis was in prospect, probably to include tech surveillance, and the Bureau has no authority to conduct active independent investigation overseas. Halper, such as he could be called a source at all, appears to have been, has to have been, working in the UK with Agency people and almost certainly with MI 6 as well. If NSA was there in the UK, it was with a view to coordinating tech; but with that said, it would be highly irregular for our people to be conducting active investigation, especially if it included physical and technical surveillance, without coordinating at some level with MI 6 and 5 as well.
If John Brennan was not there at the genesis of this fiasco, I will eat my hat; and I cannot see how there weren’t high level officials at MI 6 engaged as well. Halper is working in the UK with the Agency in re Russia and not working with the Russia obsessed MI- 6? Similarly, Steele is dredging for Russian dirt wherever he can get it and he’s sealed himself off from his former employer? Not likely.
Barbara Ann says
This from the Fox article: “Fox News has learned some of the words and names that were redacted in the string of Strzok-Page messages” prompts a (maybe dumb) question:
Do we know/can we infer how Fox managed to fill in just some of the redacted info? It seems odd to me that only a few of the blanks have been filled in, as if Fox had access to the original FBI phone records they’d have all of it. Also, the new handwritten parts seem to contain information which could not possibly have been gathered from any other source outside of this private 2 way conversation – e.g. “Just you two? Was DCM present for the interview?” and the reply “No, two of them, two of us”.
Do Fox have it all and are they then just teasing us, or is perhaps one of the two star-crossed lovers singing?
My interpretation of the exchange between Strzok and Page is that the Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes has seen a problem with the Downer “tip” or report. What Downer has done is to break the Five Eyes intelligence agencies’ procedural rules. Probably by law, certainly by bureaucratic regulations, he was required to send his “tip” about Papadopoulos back to Melbourne to the Australian national intelligence agency for processing. The Five Eyes agreement established the basic rule that the agency of the country that gathers the intelligence must be the agency that processes it. Reasons for this are security, quality control, and independent and unbiased evaluation of the product. This didn’t happen. Downer walked his ‘tip’ over to Elizabeth Dibble, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy. Probably the day after the meeting at the Kensington wine room. Dibble passed the ‘tip’ on to her boss, Victoria Nuland, European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) Assistant Secretary of state.
Downer’s report was touted as an intelligence product. It’s not. It doesn’t have anything at all to do with intelligence. It is a state department product. Ben Rhodes must have noticed this problem. He is concerned. I think what has been decided is that it is now necessary that Halper make another attempt to compromise and incriminate Papadopoulos. The Downer report is flimsy and can be unravelled by judicial inquiry. There’s an obvious chain of state department actors promulgating the Downer information. But it is being played as an intelligence product. That’s why Lisa Page wants to know if Dibble is at the meeting. It would be better if state department just stays further away. Downer/Dibble/Nuland are the evaluating agency behind the evidence that the FISA document is based on. That’s also why Page is relieved that Office of General Counsel (OGC) has just made it far more difficult to identify the people behind the Downer report. She sees the vulnerability.
Downer has to lie, eventually, about his actions in re the report. He tells ‘The Australian’, a newspaper, that “he officially reported” the Papadopoulos meeting back to Australia “the following day or a day or two after.” Then after another interval, Joe Hockey, the Australian Ambassador, passed the information on to Washington. (My source on this is Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal and ‘Undercover Huber’ on Twitter.) This is a lie. He never reported what amounts to one man’s denunciation of Papadopoulos to any intelligence agency. Downer went straight to Elizabeth Dribble at the US Embassy.
This is why Halper was sent back into the fray, and the weird September meeting a month or so later in a private room at the Travelers Club took place with Papadopoulos. It’s besides the point, but I agree with everything Halper told the crazy Greek kid about British and American policy in the Mediterranean. Papadopoulos was, and is, no doubt, if he had a chance, ready to force the British out of Cyprus and move Incirlik to the island of Karpathos. He does not seem to understand that Mt. Troodos is the jewel in the crown. He wants to squeeze Turkey away from the natural gas fields which will soon enough be found on the Turkish continental shelf between Turkish North Cyprus and the Turkish mainland. The kid if a Greek at heart. Not entirely an American. He’s got the ethnic thing. He hates Turks, like all Greeks. Downer and Halper were right! Funny. It’s also funny that Downer went out of the way to have a photo made of himself and the Turkish ambassador in the time frame when he was dropping a shit bomb on the kid and on America.
Tidewaters analysis sounds most convincing to me.
My very limited inquiries suggest that Downer is not regarded as the sharpest tool in the workshop nor is he regarded as fun to be with by those that have had the misfortune to have worked for him as Australian Foreign Minister. He is also of an age, and family, with a “born to rule” patrician complex that has dominated South Australian conservative politics for years.
The idea, therefore, that out of the blue, an entrepreneurial Downer would take it upon himself to cultivate Papadopulous, to the extent of lowering himself to drinking in an establishment like a wine bar with a man, an American, less than half his age, seems to me to be absurd. Equally absurd is the notion that his alleged stunning discovery that Russia maintains a dirt file on an American politician is somehow a surprise that must be communicated with great urgency to the U. S. IC.
Someone put Downer up to it and primed him with the desired result, and it was not his pretty little assistant, nor the Australian Government, either.
English Outsider says
The reaction of HMG when the Steele dossier first surfaced publicly was abnormal – Steele was not disowned. That is what one would normally expect when something as damaging as that to UK/US relations surfaced.
Also abnormal is the reaction of HMG to a recent leaked email from the UK ambassador –
One would normally expect a determined effort to restore good diplomatic relations after such a leak. Instead HMG has doubled down –
There’s a whirl of theory and speculation surrounding both incidents but what is indisputable is that the diplomatic niceties are being ignored. This is not how “special relationships” are supposed to work.
Might I ask, could this be related to fears that President Trump might release documents implicating HMG in the attempts to discredit Trump before the 2016 election?
I think Tidewater’s observation is key to understanding what really happened. He says:
What Downer has done is to break the Five Eyes intelligence agencies’ procedural rules….he was required to send his “tip” about Papadopoulos back to Melbourne to the Australian national intelligence agency for processing….This didn’t happen. Downer walked his ‘tip’ over to Elizabeth Dibble, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy.”
Was Downer’s summary of Papadopolous “alleged” conversation critical to launching the investigation. (Russiagate)
Yes, it was. But Downer never observed the normal protocols. Why?? Why didn’t Downer submit his account of the conversation with Papadopolos to the agency who would analyze how credible the information really was?
This is not some minor point. If Papadolpolous did NOT say what Downer says he said, then there was never any basis for the investigation, so we need to know.
Second, why did he take “his ‘tip’ over to Elizabeth Dibble, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy”?? Is that how things work, any intel of real substance gets funneled to the State Department??? Isn’t it more likely that Downer belonged to an inner circle of intelligence agents who knew what was going on, knew what was expected of him, and provided the details of a (fictitious) conversation that would justify further investigation.
The problem is that Papadopolos disputes Downer’s account of the conversation which means that the basis for the investigation is in doubt.
The thing that should trouble every American who has been following this, is how far-reaching the tentacles of this insidious spy-ring really goes. There are clearly agents in the State dept, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and various agencies around the world–all willing to carry out an attack of the president of the United States.
Who do these people work for??
We don’t even know yet.
Downer didn’t follow the normal protocols because the meeting with Papoudoupolous was not requested by the Australian Government, therefore there would be no one back in Australia waiting with an open file for his report. My guess is that they were surprised to discover that Downer is entangled in this mess.
As for Downer happening on this “opportunity” and deciding on his own to proactively chase Papodopolous, in my opinion, it is just not in his character.
Someone else requested Downer to approach Papodopulous. We do not know who it was.
The one thing that Downer could actually be relied upon to do consequent to his wine bar meeting would have been to produce a magnificent report, written with great flourish and imagination. This ability would put him in the same category as Steele, ie., being the mere originator of a document that became useful in other hands.
As Australian High Commissioner in London, he would have been required as Tidewater states, to send his report back to Dept Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra, and if he did then being a self-promoter he would have marked it with a long distribution list. If so then a copy may one day come to light. I suspect that he also was required to report on any contact with Dibble.
Perhaps, one day we will read the report of Agent Alexander.
David Habakkuk says
In matters like this, it is helpful I think to proceed from opposite ends.
Obviously, one needs to work out what ‘Occam’s Razor’ suggests is the most obviously plausible hypothesis. But, in ‘information operations’, a vast amount of effort and ingenuity commonly goes into what one might call ‘cheating Occam’s Razor’: making it seem that true explanations are so wildly improbable that they are not worth further thought.
So, one needs to be cautious about moving from concluding that something is improbable to dismissing it as impossible.
With Carter Page, I am reasonably confident that he really is just an ‘ingenu’, who was framed by Steele and his co-conspirators, in their panicky attempts to create bogus links between Trump and the Russians.
By contrast, although I have no doubt that Papadopoulos was framed, I cannot make him out. My grasp of Mediterranean ‘oil geopolitics’ is not strong enough to hazard firm judgements about what he says about the issues involved and his own role.
I would be happy to be persuaded that he can be taken at face value, but alternative hypotheses do seem worth further thought.
It may or may not be material that, as well as being Greek, Papadopoulos also appears to be Orthodox.
(It is sometimes important to bear in mind the extent of disillusion among people from the Orthodox world who used to see the West as allies in a common struggle against atheistic communism, and have come to suspect that they were naive.)
By the same token, I am keeping an open mind about Mifsud. A great deal of rather crude disinformation has been disseminated, in an attempt to conceal his clearly abundant links to Western intelligence agencies, notably MI6.
But then, there are interesting issues to do with his friend and lawyer, Stefan Roh, who has a White Russian wife. I do not build a great deal on the fact that a month after the Salisbury incident that figure changed the name of one of his companies to ‘No Vichok’ – it appears that on this point at least, ‘BuzzFeed’ managed to report correctly.
(See https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/albertonardelli/stephan-roh-joseph-mifsud-novichok-companies-house .)
However, as well as raising questions about Roh’s allegiances, the change brings up another thorny issue. The sheer ludicrousness of the Western ‘narrative’ on so many matters, among them what happened to the Skripals, is I suspect opening up opportunities for Russian intelligence. And in the case of Mifsud, there does appear to be evidence that he is fond of money.
As to how the involvement of Benjamin Rhodes in the exchanges Larry discusses is to be explained, however, I am somewhat sceptical about the notion that any of these people display much in the way of refined concern for proper procedure.
My scepticism has been strengthened by the palpable fact that, the more information comes out, the more it becomes clear that a lot of crucial actors on the Western side were doing in June-July-August 2016 shows signs of total panic.
The initial memoranda in the dossier attributed to Steele, the claims by ‘CrowdStrike’ and the former GCHQ person Matt Tait about ‘smoking gun’ evidence implicating the GRU in what it now seems clear was a leak of material from the DNC to ‘WikiLeaks’, alike have an air of desperate improvisation.
(This sense of panic, incidentally, comes over in waves in the description by Kathleen Kavalec of her conversation with Steele the following October. She checked a simple point: his claim about a supposed Russian consulate in Miami, and found it was wrong. I suspect that the story behind the – progressively less, but still heavily redacted – materials that have been made public about this meeting is that of more and more people realising there was a conspiracy and that they needed to distance themselves from it.)
I think there is a lot more to be learnt about the 30 July 2016 breakfast meeting at the Mayflower Hotel between Bruce and Nellie Ohr and Christopher Steele. It seems to me extraordinarily unlikely that her testimony that until that point she had been unaware that her old British acquaintance was also working for Fusion on Trump-Russia research is accurate.
Also, Larry’s explications have reinforced my curiosity about the involvement of the NSA in this, particularly as it appears to be the case that Admiral Rogers had closed down improper access to contractors – who it seems likely included Nellie Ohr – on 18 April 2016.
If, as is now suggested, this improper access went back to 2012, I think a great deal of effort may have been put, over the intervening four years, by people in the NSA and GCHQ in conjunction with outsiders, into analysing intercepts of people who were, in any way, under suspicion (of a range of different possible misdemeanours, as seen by the conspirators.)
Given my generally low opinion of the intellectual capacities of many of those involved, including Nellie Ohr as well as Christopher Steele, it seems to me perfectly possible that this produced some howlers – an obvious possibility being the claim about Michael Cohen’s visit to Prague.
It could quite conceivably however have produced some accurate information which cannot be made public, both for ‘sources and methods’ reasons and because doing so would reveal the scale of the conspiracy to subvert the Constitution involved in ‘Russiagate’.
To cover himself, plus demonstrate his masterful HUMINT collection skills, I suggest he would have sent a copy of something to DFAT and many other AusGov recipients.
Bill Smith says
Didn’t Papadopoulos meet with Downer on May 10th? That was after Papadopoulos had another meeting with someone else (a female) from Downer’s office on May 6th? Mueller says the investigation started after the May 6th meeting?
as somebody said on another blog, britain is just deciding which group of power players it wants to have the special relationship with. apparently it’s the clinton machine.
Jim Ticehurst says
Well..Here we are..The British are Back to Torch the White House Again..No Problem when it was Lit Up in Rainbow Colors..But Long after the Gold Rush…Folks in New Jerseyand and.. New York with way Too Much money from Hedge Funds..Leveraging..Buying or Owning Foreign Debt..Offshore accounts..and Whole Brewerys…NOT just Six PACS,,Can buy the Loyalty of Politicians..and Want to OWN the System..So..here we Are…Donlad Trump Playing The Star Spangeled Banner,,Panic..Fision GPS…Domestic..To June 2016…Foreign Profile..Christopher Steele..British Ambssadors Meeting John McCaine..Bars..Wine..Chatter..Embassy meetings..DCH….DHM..Intrigue…Mr.Assange…a Cult Hero from Australia..Hackers..Leaks..Dont Pee in The Bushes..It will either Be a Bush..a Clinton or a Russian…..and OMG……Russian Rye Bread Crumbs..BIG One…Leading right to Trump Tower…I do Remember hearing about Aldrich Ames..He smelled and His Cubicle was Messy…and Robert Hanssen..FBI..Maybe Some Biscuit Eaters need to be in a new Photo Lineup..or get their Chimneys Swept..hmmm
English Outsider says
Seems like it. Not just the UK. The European political machine generally has no love for your President.
Dearlove reckoned Trump would only be there for one term. If that’s an indication of the general attitude then perhaps HMG and the rest of them think just waiting it out is a good bet. Hope it’s not.
Stephen Richter says
but none of this interfered in the US election. Trump won. I guess the FBI would have leaked to the press if anyone thought Trump would win. But that did not happen.
What is important and criminal is the Mueller investigation. That has clearly harmed Trump. Arguably, the long running Mueller investigation and assumption of many voters that Mueller must have found something, was a big factor in republicans losing control of the House.
Mueller has to be investigated. When did he know there was no collusion? How does he justify not releasing a report that, the public clearly needs to know the finding of, until after the mid term elections? And how lame are republicans to allow Mueller to sit on exonerating findings for so long?
Erika Thompson, a senior advisor to Downer, sent an email to Papadopoulos on May 6, suggesting an interview. Downer had been a special advisor to the UN Secretary General on Cyprus from 2008-2014. He could always argue that he had good reason to talk with Papadopoulos since the kid was saying reckless things about Cyprus. Papadopoulos had granted a two-hour tape-recorded interview to Francis Elliott of the London Times on May 3. At the end of it, he appeared to have issued an ultimatum to Cameron, who had said harsh things about Trump in December of 2015. If Cameron did not apologize it might put the special relationship at risk. Big headlines. Downer was not friendly at the Kensington Wine Rooms. He was ‘oozing aggression.’ As Papadopoulos talks, Downer has his cell phone out and seems to be making a video of the conversation…
Erika Thompson was engaged to a ‘diplomat’ at the Israeli embassy, Christian Cantor. The Israelis may be in the picture.
Later, of course, there is the strange involvement of Papadopoulos with Charles Tawil, which seems to me to have been the most dangerous attempt to destroy him, and to thereby compromise the Trump administration.
In a capsule: In Israel, Tawil gave Papadopoulos $10,000. As I see it, the plan was that the kid would fly back into the US with the money in his luggage. At that point he would be arrested. On July 27, 2017, Papadopoulos flew back into the US and was arrested. He didn’t have the money on him, and he noted that the FBI conducted a frantic search.
Who was Tawil working for? Once Papadopoulos had the money in his possession in Israel, he flew with Tawil to Cyprus, where they met a third party, who would be a part of a vaguely described business arrangement which needed legal clarification. The money was to be a monthly stipend. Before returning to the United States, Papadopolous flew to Greece and ultimately turned the money over to a lawyer he knew in in the northern city of Thessaloniki. That is what saved him.
Who was the third man they met, maybe at the port of Limassol? Papadopoulos does not say. Neither does Tawil.
There is speculation about the Israeli connection in an article in Tablet: ‘How Russiagate Became Israelgate.’ By Lee Smith. June 8, 2018.
emma peele says
Halper…..who set up Popodopulus and Page.
Prof Halper is an FBI informant and CIA operative.