ewly released notes
taken by high-level Department of Justice (DOJ
) officials during a March 6, 2017, meeting with FBI
leadership expose some of the lengths the FBI engaged in to cover up its spying on the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.
The notes were released on May 8 by lawyers representing former Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann as part of an effort to clear him on charges of having lied to the FBI. The notes, in reality, appear to do little to exonerate Sussmann but do provide quite a bit of information on the FBI.
The meeting at which the notes were taken took place just two days after Trump’s March 4, 2017, tweet in which he accused former President Barack Obama of having wiretapped Trump Tower. Trump’s tweet panicked FBI leadership, who were unsure exactly how much Trump knew about their efforts to tie him up with Russia collusion allegations.
What the notes reveal is that in response to the tweet, they tried to cover their tracks.
By March 2017, FBI leadership already knew with near-certainty that the Trump–Russia collusion claims were a hoax. They knew that Clinton’s campaign had a plan to vilify Trump by portraying him as a puppet of Putin. The FBI also knew that not a single claim in the so-called Steele dossier—which was the primary source of allegations of Trump–Russia collusion—had checked out.
In fact, at that point, the FBI had already spent three days interviewing Steele’s primary source, Igor Danchenko, who disavowed pretty much every claim in Steele’s dossier. The FBI also knew that the Alfa Bank story, which claimed that a Trump server was communicating with a Russian bank—information that had been brought to them by Sussmann—was bogus.
In short, the FBI knew that all the claims of Trump-Russia collusion had proven to be fake.
But things took a sudden and dramatic turn on March 4, 2017, when Trump said on Twitter that he knew that Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, a very public claim of spying that set off alarm bells with both FBI and DOJ leadership. Trump’s tweet so alarmed these DOJ and FBI officials that the topic dominated a meeting two days later that included FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and the acting U.S. attorney general, Dana Boente.
The problem for the FBI was this: They didn’t know how much Trump actually knew about their actions. Just a day earlier, on March 3, 2017, radio host Mark Levin had reported that the Obama administration had obtained Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants that involved Trump and several of his campaign advisers. Levin also reported that Trump’s off-the-cuff joke in July 2016—“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing”—had become the basis for the Russia collusion accusations.
But as we now know, the FISA warrants weren’t the only thing that the FBI leadership was involved with. The FBI was actively spying on the Trump campaign and the incoming Trump administration’s transition communications, a fact that also was revealed in the new notes. The FBI had not only spied on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, but also on another aide, George Papadopoulos, going so far as to lure him to London, where they tried to set him up in a clumsy but elaborate sting.
There were also the new fake accusations brought forward by Sussmann that Trump was tied to the use of a Russian Yota phone. And there was the matter of tech executive Rodney Joffe–a man with deep ties to the FBI–who had been using his access to non-public data to spy on Trump both at Trump Tower and at the White House.
In all likelihood, Trump probably only knew what Levin had reported the day before–that there was a FISA warrant on a campaign aide–but the FBI leadership didn’t know how much Trump knew and had to assume that he knew a lot more.
The discussion at the March 6 meeting was dominated by Trump’s tweet, with the FBI’s McCabe kicking things off by stating that the bureau was trying to determine what was behind Trump’s tweets.
Notes at the meeting were taken by three DOJ officials—Tashina Gauhar, Mary McCord, and Scott Schools. The notes were released because one of the notes appears to show that McCabe stated that Sussmann had represented clients when he took the Alfa Bank allegations to the FBI. Sussmann initially told the FBI that he didn’t represent anyone and was merely acting as a good samaritan. It’s that lie to the FBI by Sussmann that he has been charged with and Sussmann’s lawyers are hoping to sow doubt by introducing that single sentence that appears to say otherwise.
This claim by Sussmann’s lawyers, however, is, in essence, a side-show as the notes are double-hearsay evidence written six months after Sussmann told the FBI the exact opposite.
The real bombshells are in the many pages of notes that Sussmann doesn’t cite; those notes reveal the true extent of the FBI’s panic over Trump’s tweet. The first reaction from FBI leadership appears to have been to tell the acting attorney general, Boente, a sequence of lies about their investigation.
The notes reveal that the FBI repeatedly referred to Steele’s dossier as “Crown reporting,” suggesting the dos…