Did the U.S. Media and FBI Help Push Russia’s 2016 Election Disinformation Campaign?
Posted by Edmund R. Folsom, Esq.
April 18, 2020
Recall last December’s report from DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz? I blogged about it at the time, here. The report disclosed 17 serious “errors” and omissions in four FISA court applications for surveillance of Carter Page, an associate of, first, candidate Donald Trump and then as surveillance continued, President Trump. The surveillance was all part of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign. Russia’s point in interfering in U.S. politics is, we are repeatedly told, to undermine confidence in our institutions – the Presidency, the President and the like. It’s a giant psy-op. The point is not so much to bolster or undermine a particular candidate as to sow chaos and undermine confidence in our institutions.
The public version of Horowitz’s report was full of redactions, ostensibly to protect sensitive intelligence information. Late last week, a number of footnotes from Horowitz’s report were released, with much of the previously redacted information declassified, no longer redacted. The unredacted material makes clear the strong likelihood that Russian disinformation was fed into a document commissioned Hillary Clinton’s campaign, known as the Steele Dossier. The Steele Dossier was first published by a press outlet, Buzzfeed, in January of 2017. It became a central source of scuttlebutt supporting a narrative that newly elected President Trump had colluded with Russia to “hack” the 2016 Presidential election. But, in October of 2016, well before the Steele Dossier was published in the press, information from it played what I.G. Horowitz describes as a “central and essential role” in the FBI’s decision to seek a FISA surveillance order on Carter Page. And, information from the Steele dossier comprised a significant part of the information the FBI provided to the FISA Court in its four Carter Page surveillance applications, continuing through June of 2017.
This brings us back to the newly unredacted portions of the Horowitz report’s footnotes. The newly disclosed information indicates a strong likelihood that Russian intelligence planted disinformation into the Steele dossier. It shows that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team were aware it was quite likely the Steele Dossier contained Russian disinformation, but they kept using the information in their FISA Court applications anyway. Given that the purpose of Russian disinformation was to undermine the U.S. institution of the Presidency, if the Steele Dossier contained Russian disinformation, the U.S. media assisted Russia by spreading Russian disinformation as truth, and the FBI likely fed Russian disinformation into the U.S. court system to support a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order against a U.S. Citizen inside the United States. That has to be troubling to anyone who doesn’t just choose to ignore it, doesn’t it? Setting aside fans of Russian disinformation campaigns, of course…
Catherine Herridge, CBS News, does an easy to understand bit on it, here. More to come, I suspect.