Well, the memo was released. You can read it in full here, and I recommend you do so because, on the evidence of much of Friday's TV and radio coverage, most commentators only want to talk about it in the most shallow political terms. Whereas the questions it raises about state corruption in an age of round-the-clock technological surveillance are far more profound.
Let's start with something I wrote back in October:
It seems a reasonable inference, to put it as blandly as possible, that the [Christopher Steele] dossier was used to justify the opening of what the Feds call an "FI" (Full Investigation), which in turn was used to justify a FISA order permitting the FBI to put Trump's associates under surveillance. Indeed, it seems a reasonable inference that the dossier was created and supplied to friendly forces within the bureau in order to provide a pretext for an FI, without which surveillance of the Trump campaign would not be possible.
So my view has always been that the dossier is not "evidence" but a mere simulacrum of evidence - a stage prop to lay before the FISA court judge to get him to sign off on Trump surveillance. Because a judge has to be given something before he'll cough up a warrant, even if what it is is no more real than the "secret papers" in a spy thriller. Nevertheless, for a group of highly placed FBI and Department of Justice officials, it was a very crude calculation: No dossier, no surveillance.
That much the memo appears to confirm:
Deputy [FBI] Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.
So Robert Mueller's entire "Russia investigation" springs from this dossier: a huge sprawling multi-branch tree of a rotten poisonous fruit.
In order to pull that off, the fact that the dossier is garbage from a paid partisan could not be disclosed to the judge. Granted that the FISA court is a racket, the government is still bound before the bench by the most basic of lawyerly duties - candor toward the tribunal:
In an ex parte proceeding, a lawyer shall inform the tribunal of all material facts known to the lawyer that will enable the tribunal to make an informed decision, whether or not the facts are adverse.
In the "national security" sphere, the entire system is ex parte. Carter Page, the peripheral Trump campaign volunteer who was the target of the surveillance, was not represented in court. In fact, he did not even know he was on "trial". A year and a half after he attracted the attentions of Deputy Director McCabe and his chums, Mr Page has not been charged with a single crime, never mind (to be old-fashioned about these things) convicted of one. Indeed, the only reason he is even aware that he is/was under 24/7 surveillance by the panopticon state is because McCabe's FBI found it politic to leak that fact to the newspapers - via the coy disclosure that he briefly came under FISA surveillance as "Male-1" five years earlier.
Mr Page has committed no crime and been charged with none, but is routinely spoken of in the press as if he has been. In it is interesting to contrast his treatment with, say, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whom the Department of Justice designated as "unindicted co-conspirators" in a major terrorism-funding case, but which designation is apparently no obstacle to their continued respectability in the media, their invitations to speak at small-town libraries, churches and schools (for example, a CAIR operative will be spreading the word at Firelands College in Huron, Ohio next month), and even their influence upon Robert Mueller's FBI.
But the FBI didn't care what it did to Carter Page - because he was necessary to get them to Trump.
The first request [UPDATE: See Jeffrey Gilbert's important clarification below] for a surveillance warrant was made on October 21st 2016 - less than three weeks before the presidential election. Did the Department of Justice and the FBI inform the tribunal of "all material facts" relating to the dossier. Did they disclose inter alia..?
a) that it was the work of a former foreign spy now hawking his Rolodex for fun and profit;
b) with a passionate, indeed obsessive anti-Trump bias;
c) who was being handsomely paid for his work;
d) by Trump's political opponents at the DNC and the Clinton campaign;
e) and was collaborating on anti-Trump oppo research for Hillary with the wife of the self-same Associate Deputy Attorney General heavily involved in the warrant application.
Did they disclose, to boil it down, that this "evidence" was, in fact, the work of a paid Hillary campaign operative (at two removes) whose private business would be greatly enriched were he to take out the GOP candidate?
Or did they pass it off as either routine FBI work-product or intelligence from a respectable source that had been independently verified by the FBI?
The memo makes plain all the answers to the above. The DoJ/FBI did not "inform the tribunal of all material facts" but misled the judge, seriously, on fundamental matters necessary to "enable the tribunal to make an informed decision". They misled him/her as to the nature of the document, its provenance, its credibility, the motivations of its author, and his financial ties to the Clinton camp.
They did, however, argue that the dossier had been independently "corroborated" by a September 2016 story in Yahoo News - even though that Yahoo story came from the same guy who authored the dossier: in effect, the Government got its surveillance warrant by arguing that its fake-news dossier from Christopher Steele had been independently corroborated by a fake-news story from Christopher Steele. Either the FBI is exceedingly stupid, which would be disturbing, given their lavish budget. Or the same tight group of FBI/DoJ officials knew very well what they were doing in presenting such drivel to the FISA court.
They're really the two choices here: either "the world's premier law enforcement agency" was manipulated by one freaky Brit spook, or "the world's premier law enforcement agency" conspired with the freaky Brit spook to manipulate the judge.
Me again from months ago:
There was enough of a pseudo-dossier, by the debased standards of the bloated US 'intelligence community', to be used as a pretext to get the rubber-stamp FISA court to approve 24/7 surveillance of everyone around Trump - and maybe that would turn up something to destroy him.
But, again, it didn't. Every sentient creature knows that - because everyone understands that if they'd found anything they'd have leaked it.
I get some pushback when I use expressions like "rubber-stamp FISA court". Shepard Smith was arguing on Fox yesterday that a FISA court judge is almost like a Supreme Court justice - I was laughing so much I nearly drove off the road. A judge can only judge what's laid before him. In this case, almost every material fact about the "evidence" was withheld, or coyly skirted. For example, Christopher Steele was said to be in the employ of a "US person", but not Fusion GPS or Glenn Simpson, who were being funded by Perkins Coie, who were being paid by the DNC - all of whom are cutouts, as the spooks say, for Hillary.
A FISA application has to be signed off on by the highest figures at both Justice and the Bureau - in this case Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey. Given the sensitive nature of the case, it is difficult to believe that they did not know the answers to all the questions above: they were demanding surveillance of a major-party presidential campaign in a two-party system on the basis entirely of uncorroborated rumors provided by the other party's operative. Yet Yates and Comey saw nothing wrong in denying the judge "all material facts".
A surveillance warrant against a US person also has to be renewed every 90 days - which this one was, thrice: That would presumably be just before the inauguration in January, and again in April and July. By the time of the first renewal, signatories Yates and Comey were aware that Steele had been fired as an FBI informant for blabbing to the press about being an FBI informant. In addition, an internal FBI investigation had found his dossier "minimally corroborated". Yet evidently the diminished value of both the dossier and its author were not disclosed to the judge - in January or subsequent renewals. Indeed, one can be fairly confident that Deputy AG Rosenstein and the FBI would have been happy to apply for a fourth renewal, were it not for the fact that the general crappiness of Steele's dossier was by then all over the papers and even a judge kept in the dark by the feds for a year might have begun to notice it.
In the middle of all this is an American citizen who was put under 24/7 surveillance by the panopticon state because it enabled the ruling party to eavesdrop on its political opponent. As much as Steele's dossier, Carter Page was a mere pretext: The dossier was the pretext to get to Page, and Page was the pretext to get to Trump.
Here are the only references Christopher Steele makes to Mr Page in his garbage dossier. First:
Speaking in confidence to a compatriot in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald TRUMP, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between them and the Russian leadership. This was managed on the TRUMP side by the Republican candidate's campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, whom President PUTIN apparently both hated and feared.
Evidently not as much as Christopher Steele "both hated and feared" Donald Trump. Whoops, sorry, my mistake: Donald TRUMP. We want it to look all official and dossier-like, don't we? Christopher STEELE said that he was "desperate that Donald Trump not get elected". He told this to Bruce OHR, the now demoted Associate Deputy Attorney General - the one who failed to disclose that his wife was one of a mere seven employees of Fusion-GPS and the one charged with working on Trump oppo research for the aforementioned Hillary CLINTON.
But put that aside. The above paragraph would not be admissible in your county courthouse - because it's several degrees of hearsay. What it means is that a) Christopher STEELE was told by b) an unnamed Russian that c) an unnamed "ethnic Russian close associate" of Donald TRUMP passed on to him that d) Paul MANAFORT was using e) Carter PAGE to "co-operate" with "the Russian leadership". In a functioning justice system it would have as much value as you standing up in court and saying that Smith was told by Jones that Bloggs assures him that Christopher STEELE has sex with goats.
But we're in "national security" court here, where due process is honored institutionally in the breach. To be able to reach a judgment on what value to place upon that paragraph the judge has to know something about the document, where it came from, and the man who wrote it.
You can get a sense of the circularity of the argument here from Carter PAGE's remaining appearances in the dossier - a "secret meeting" in Russia, followed by somebody else holding a "secret meeting" to "clean up the mess" left by the press disclosure of Carter PAGE's "secret meeting" - which was almost certainly disclosed by Christopher STEELE, who was briefing gullible journalists all the time. So the author of the dossier leaks hints of a "secret meeting" to drive other people to hold other "secret meetings" to discuss the press stories about the previous "secret meeting".
"Secret meeting" in this case means a meeting to which Christopher STEELE was not invited. For example, if I call you on the telephone and don't issue a press release, that's a "secret conversation". As it happens, Carter PAGE was in Moscow for a non-secret meeting - a public speaking engagement at the Higher Economic School. I shall be in Colorado Springs for a public engagement next weekend, but that's just elaborate cover for the "secret meetings" I'll be having afterwards. Anyway, at Carter PAGE's "secret meeting", the Russian supposedly (via the usual degrees of hearsay) reveals that the Kremlin has in its possession two dossiers. So now we have a dossier about other dossiers - or, in evidentiary terms, dossier hearsay about other dossiers:
Their agenda had included DIVEYKIN raising a dossier of 'kompromat' the Kremlin possessed on TRUMP's Democratic presidential rival, Hillary CLINTON, and its possible release to the Republican's campaign team.
However, the Kremlin official close to S IVANOV added that s/he believed DIVEYKIN also had hinted (or indicated more strongly) that the Russian leadership also had 'kompromat' on TRUMP which the latter should bear in mind in his dealings with them.
Do the Kremlin dossiers also capitalize surnames? Or is that just a Christopher STEELE thing? But note the salient fact here:
A source so far removed from the US Government that Christopher STEELE does not even know his/her sex says that the Kremlin has "kompromat" on both CLINTON and TRUMP. Yet, oddly, only the "kompromat" on TRUMP has been released: the "golden showers" rubbish that James COMEY's FBI leaked to the press after COMEY met with TRUMP to "brief" him on the "kompromat" - a presidential briefing which COMEY only held in order to be able to leak to the media afterwards that he'd briefed TRUMP on his golden showers.
So the Kremlin has "kompromat" on TRUMP and CLINTON, but only the TRUMP "kompromat" gets leaked ...by STEELE and the FBI. Gee, I wonder why STEELE doesn't leak the CLINTON "kompromat". Could that interesting difference in treatment be because he's on the payroll of the CLINTON team? Oh, and wouldn't you like to know exactly what the "kompromat" the Kremlin has on Hillary is? What a shame that seems to be locked in a far more secure vault than the TRUMP "kompromat"...
As I said to Tucker the other night, there's no evidence of Russian government interference with the 2016 election, but there's plenty of evidence of US government interference with the 2016 election. The latter ought to be far more disturbing. All foreign governments can be expected to pursue their national interests as they see fit. That the most powerful forces within your own government decide to subvert the election result is far more bizarre, and far graver.
The surveillance of Carter Page was a cover for the surveillance of Trump. The creation of the Steele dossier was a cover for the "Full Investigation" of the Trump campaign. The rumors of Kremlin "kompromat" are a cover for the widespread dissemination of Democrat "kompromat". And "foreign interference" in the US election is cover for domestic interference in the US election.