A Look at the FBI's 'We Saved Trump by Spying on Him' Excuse

Last month, a New York Times report revealed for the first time that the FBI planted a confidential informant to interact with the Donald Trump campaign in hopes of uncovering a plot to influence the 2016 presidential election.  The same article contends that the bureau's decision to infiltrate the campaign constituted an extraordinary precaution to preserve the Republican candidate's chances in the 2016 presidential election by keeping its investigation out of the headlines.

If the FBI wanted to protect the Trump campaign prior to Election Day, it did a terrible job.

The Times report, co-authored by Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, and Nicholas Fandos, details how the FBI "declined to tip its hand" in the early stages of its collusion investigation, dubbed Operation Crossfire Hurricane, because the facts of the case "might have devastated the Trump campaign."  FBI senior management, whose staggering animus for Trump is a matter of documented fact, maintain that they offered the Republican nominee a favor by spying on him.

If this is case, then why did "law enforcement and intelligence sources" tell NBC News that the FBI was "conducting a preliminary inquiry" into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's ties to Moscow?  The FBI refused to formally comment on the Oct. 31, 2016 report, lending credibility to Senate minority leader Harry Reid's assertion that the bureau possessed "explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government."

Lawyers representing Manafort, who is facing indictments unrelated to Russian collusion, have requested a hearing on these leaks because they "substantially prejudice and adversely impact" their client.  The defense specifically named the Oct. 31 NBC News article, including it among several "government-source disclosures" which violate "Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, internal government policies and procedures, federal statutes, and Mr. Manafort's Constitutional rights."

If the FBI was spying on Trump's team to protect his integrity, then why did "a senior US government official" vouch for former British spy Christopher Steele in a report published by Mother Jones just before the election?  In the same report, Steele leaked the unverified details of a highly salacious dossier confirming the existence of the FBI's Trump investigation.  House Republicans have pointed a finger at James Baker, the FBI's general counsel, after classified documents revealed that he communicated with Mother Jones reporter David Corn in the weeks leading up to the election.

In September 2016, as Steele was just beginning to shop his uncorroborated dossier to the mainstream press, Yahoo News reported that Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page held "private communications with senior Russian officials" and that Congress was briefed on his ties to Moscow during classified hearings exploring Russia's election interference.

The article's not so subtle implication is that Page offered to ease sanctions against Russia in the event that Trump won the election, encouraging Moscow's electoral interference.  A "senior U.S. law enforcement official" confirmed that Page's ties to Russia were being "actively monitored and investigated," even as the FBI was piecing together a hyper-sensitive FISA warrant to electronically surveil the campaign adviser.

The Times report concludes that "[t]op officials quickly became convinced that they would not solve the [Trump] case before Election Day, which made them only more hesitant to act."  Thus, the FBI contends, the agents chose to slow down and use informants.  However, if investigators were concerned about time, bureau procedure dictates that using "confidential human sources" to covertly cross-examine the Trump campaign was the most efficient way to produce proof of wrongdoing before Nov. 8, 2016.

Writing in 1978, FBI director William Webster argued that "the informant is THE with a capital "T" THE most effective tool in law enforcement today – state, local, or federal."  During his own term as FBI director, Special Counsel Robert Mueller agreed that using an informant is the quickest way to extract vital evidence.  He said using this law enforcement tool provides agents with "critical intelligence and information we could not obtain in other ways[.]"

Yet, based on discussions with anonymous "officials," the media continue to advance the theory that witness interviews were the quickest, most efficient means to find answers in an investigation.  According to The Times, "[a]gents considered, then rejected, interviewing key Trump associates, which might have sped up the investigation but risked revealing the existence of the case."

The more likely scenario is that confidential informants were recruited to accelerate the pace of the investigation so that agents could present American voters with a convincing case and establish Trump's guilt ahead of the November election.

Strzok and Page, who were both assigned to Crossfire Hurricane, exchanged text messages that illustrate the bureau's strategy during the early investigation.  The Times acknowledges that Page "advocated a slower, circumspect pace" to the Trump probe, based on a misguided certainty that he would lose in November.

Strzok later dismissed his mistress's passive scheme in favor of a more aggressive approach.  "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in [then-FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe's] office – that there's no way [Trump] gets elected, but I'm afraid we can't take that risk," he wrote, adding, "It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40."

After interviewing "people close to the pair and familiar with their version of events," The Wall Street Journal determined that Strzok meant, "It would be better to be aggressive and gather evidence quickly."  Cultivating confidential informants would have been the most efficient means to that end for senior FBI officials.

The assertion that the FBI chose to spy on campaign staff to preserve Trump's electoral chances does not stand up to scrutiny.  When their "insurance policy" failed to produce dividends in time, senior intelligence officials responded by leaking news of their ongoing probe to both lawmakers and the press.

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer at the Conservative Institute and a regular contributor to the Middle East Forum.

Last month, a New York Times report revealed for the first time that the FBI planted a confidential informant to interact with the Donald Trump campaign in hopes of uncovering a plot to influence the 2016 presidential election.  The same article contends that the bureau's decision to infiltrate the campaign constituted an extraordinary precaution to preserve the Republican candidate's chances in the 2016 presidential election by keeping its investigation out of the headlines.

If the FBI wanted to protect the Trump campaign prior to Election Day, it did a terrible job.

The Times report, co-authored by Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, and Nicholas Fandos, details how the FBI "declined to tip its hand" in the early stages of its collusion investigation, dubbed Operation Crossfire Hurricane, because the facts of the case "might have devastated the Trump campaign."  FBI senior management, whose staggering animus for Trump is a matter of documented fact, maintain that they offered the Republican nominee a favor by spying on him.

If this is case, then why did "law enforcement and intelligence sources" tell NBC News that the FBI was "conducting a preliminary inquiry" into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's ties to Moscow?  The FBI refused to formally comment on the Oct. 31, 2016 report, lending credibility to Senate minority leader Harry Reid's assertion that the bureau possessed "explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government."

Lawyers representing Manafort, who is facing indictments unrelated to Russian collusion, have requested a hearing on these leaks because they "substantially prejudice and adversely impact" their client.  The defense specifically named the Oct. 31 NBC News article, including it among several "government-source disclosures" which violate "Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, internal government policies and procedures, federal statutes, and Mr. Manafort's Constitutional rights."

If the FBI was spying on Trump's team to protect his integrity, then why did "a senior US government official" vouch for former British spy Christopher Steele in a report published by Mother Jones just before the election?  In the same report, Steele leaked the unverified details of a highly salacious dossier confirming the existence of the FBI's Trump investigation.  House Republicans have pointed a finger at James Baker, the FBI's general counsel, after classified documents revealed that he communicated with Mother Jones reporter David Corn in the weeks leading up to the election.

In September 2016, as Steele was just beginning to shop his uncorroborated dossier to the mainstream press, Yahoo News reported that Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page held "private communications with senior Russian officials" and that Congress was briefed on his ties to Moscow during classified hearings exploring Russia's election interference.

The article's not so subtle implication is that Page offered to ease sanctions against Russia in the event that Trump won the election, encouraging Moscow's electoral interference.  A "senior U.S. law enforcement official" confirmed that Page's ties to Russia were being "actively monitored and investigated," even as the FBI was piecing together a hyper-sensitive FISA warrant to electronically surveil the campaign adviser.

The Times report concludes that "[t]op officials quickly became convinced that they would not solve the [Trump] case before Election Day, which made them only more hesitant to act."  Thus, the FBI contends, the agents chose to slow down and use informants.  However, if investigators were concerned about time, bureau procedure dictates that using "confidential human sources" to covertly cross-examine the Trump campaign was the most efficient way to produce proof of wrongdoing before Nov. 8, 2016.

Writing in 1978, FBI director William Webster argued that "the informant is THE with a capital "T" THE most effective tool in law enforcement today – state, local, or federal."  During his own term as FBI director, Special Counsel Robert Mueller agreed that using an informant is the quickest way to extract vital evidence.  He said using this law enforcement tool provides agents with "critical intelligence and information we could not obtain in other ways[.]"

Yet, based on discussions with anonymous "officials," the media continue to advance the theory that witness interviews were the quickest, most efficient means to find answers in an investigation.  According to The Times, "[a]gents considered, then rejected, interviewing key Trump associates, which might have sped up the investigation but risked revealing the existence of the case."

The more likely scenario is that confidential informants were recruited to accelerate the pace of the investigation so that agents could present American voters with a convincing case and establish Trump's guilt ahead of the November election.

Strzok and Page, who were both assigned to Crossfire Hurricane, exchanged text messages that illustrate the bureau's strategy during the early investigation.  The Times acknowledges that Page "advocated a slower, circumspect pace" to the Trump probe, based on a misguided certainty that he would lose in November.

Strzok later dismissed his mistress's passive scheme in favor of a more aggressive approach.  "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in [then-FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe's] office – that there's no way [Trump] gets elected, but I'm afraid we can't take that risk," he wrote, adding, "It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40."

After interviewing "people close to the pair and familiar with their version of events," The Wall Street Journal determined that Strzok meant, "It would be better to be aggressive and gather evidence quickly."  Cultivating confidential informants would have been the most efficient means to that end for senior FBI officials.

The assertion that the FBI chose to spy on campaign staff to preserve Trump's electoral chances does not stand up to scrutiny.  When their "insurance policy" failed to produce dividends in time, senior intelligence officials responded by leaking news of their ongoing probe to both lawmakers and the press.

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer at the Conservative Institute and a regular contributor to the Middle East Forum.