The anatomy of a right-wing conspiracy theory, debunked

The conservative media entertainment complex is a mixture of wild conspiracy theories and right-wing propaganda. Its goal is to create alternative facts and to distract from the known truth, in creating a post-truth society in which facts do not matter. In a just world, this would be considered a crime against humanity.

This week the Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel and National Review’s Andrew McCarthy opined that a secret “source” of the FBI and CIA was used against the Trump campaign. When he appeared on Rupert Murdoch owned FAUX News aka Trump TV’s Fox and Friends, McCarthy went further: “There’s probably no doubt that they [FBI] had at least one confidential informant in the campaign.”

As we all have sadly come to learn, from Fox and Friends lips to the ears of the Twitter-troll-in-chief Donald Trump: a conspiracy theory is born. Trump marks Mueller anniversary by claiming FBI ‘spied’ on his campaign.

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Taking their cues from the Twitter-troll-in-chief, every talking head GOPropagandist in the conservative media entertainment complex and Trump apologists in Congress began spinning the conspiracy theory that the “deep state” set up the Trump campaign with an informant and entrapped them into colluding with an adversary of the United States. Now we know what Trump will say when we learn what he’s hiding. No longer able to make a credible case for his oft-repeated assertion of “no collusion!,” Trump and his GOPropagandists are now falling back on the old crime movie line “I’m innocent I tell ya, I was framed!

The New York Times and the Washington Post have now debunked this latest right-wing conspiracy theory (below).

But in doing so, the reporters have provided far too much information about the FBI informant whom “FBI Director Christopher Wray underscored the importance of protecting the identity of in testimony Wednesday amid an ongoing battle with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and other House Republicans over the disclosure of a document the Justice Department says would endanger a source.” FBI Director Defends Protecting Sources in Battle With House Republicans.

I fully expect that by the end of the day, someone in the conservative media entertainment complex is going to out the identity of this intelligence source, just as they did to CIA NOC Valerie Plame in covering for George W. Bush.

As Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) warns, Identifying FBI source to undermine Russia probe could be a crime:

“It would be at best irresponsible, and at worst potentially illegal, for members of Congress to use their positions to learn the identity of an FBI source for the purpose of undermining the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our election,” Warner said. “Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves.”

The New York Times reports, F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims:

President Trump accused the F.B.I. on Friday, without evidence, of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign “for political purposes” even before the bureau had any inkling of the “phony Russia hoax.”

In fact, F.B.I. agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign. The informant, an American academic who teaches in Britain, made contact late that summer with one campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, according to people familiar with the matter. He also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page, who was also under F.B.I. scrutiny for his ties to Russia.

Trump’s congressional allies say they are concerned that federal investigators are abusing their authority, have demanded documents from the Justice Department about the informant.

Law enforcement officials have refused, saying that handing over the documents would imperil both the source’s anonymity and safety. The New York Times has learned the source’s identity but typically does not name informants to preserve their safety.

Democrats say the Republicans’ real aim is to undermine the special counsel investigation. Senior law enforcement officials have also privately expressed concern that the Republicans are digging into F.B.I. files for information they can weaponize against the Russia inquiry.

* * *

No evidence has emerged that the informant acted improperly when the F.B.I. asked for help in gathering information on the former campaign advisers, or that agents veered from the F.B.I.’s investigative guidelines and began a politically motivated inquiry, which would be illegal.

But agents were leery of disrupting the presidential campaign again after the F.B.I. had announced in a high-profile news conference that it had closed the case involving Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, according to current and former law enforcement officials.

After opening the Russia inquiry about a month later, they took steps, those officials said, to ensure that details of the inquiry were more closely held than even in a typical national security investigation, including the use of the informant to suss out information from the unsuspecting targets. Sending F.B.I. agents to interview them could have created additional risk that the investigation’s existence would seep into view in the final weeks of a heated presidential race.

F.B.I. officials concluded they had the legal authority to open the investigation after receiving information that Mr. Papadopoulos was told that Moscow had compromising information on Mrs. Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” months before WikiLeaks released stolen messages from Democratic officials. As part of the operation, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, the F.B.I. also began investigating Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his future national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

Details about the informant’s relationship with the F.B.I. remain scant. It is not clear how long the relationship existed and whether the F.B.I. paid the source or assigned the person to other cases.

* * *

The informant is well-known in Washington circles, having served in previous Republican administrations and as a source of information for the C.I.A. in past years, according to one person familiar with the source’s work.

F.B.I. agents were seeking more details about what Mr. Papadopoulos knew about the hacked Democratic emails, and one month after their Russia investigation began, Mr. Papadopoulos received a curious message. The academic inquired about his interest in writing a research paper on a disputed gas field in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, a subject of Mr. Papadopoulos’s expertise.

The informant offered a $3,000 honorarium for the paper and a paid trip to London, where the two could meet and discuss the research project.

“I understand that this is rather sudden but thought that given your expertise it might be of interest to you,” the informant wrote in a message to Mr. Papadopoulos, sent on Sept. 2, 2016.

Mr. Papadopoulos accepted the offer and arrived in London two weeks later, where he met for several days with the academic and one of his assistants, a young woman.

Over drinks and dinner one evening at a high-end London hotel, the F.B.I. informant raised the subject of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails that had spilled into public view earlier that summer, according to a person familiar with the conversation. The source noted how helpful they had been to the Trump campaign, and asked Mr. Papadopoulos whether he knew anything about Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Papadopoulos replied that he had no insight into the Russian campaign — despite being told months earlier that the Russians had dirt on Mrs. Clinton in the form of thousands of her emails. His response clearly annoyed the informant, who tried to press Mr. Papadopoulos about what he might know about the Russian effort, according to the person.

The assistant also raised the subject of Russia and the Clinton emails during a separate conversation over drinks with Mr. Papadopoulos, and again he denied he knew anything about Russian attempts to disrupt the election.

After the trip to London, Mr. Papadopoulos wrote the 1,500-word research paper and was paid for his work. He did not hear again from the informant.

Mr. Page, a Navy veteran, served briefly as an adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign until September 2016. He said that he first encountered the informant during a conference in mid-July of 2016 and that they stayed in touch. The two later met several times in the Washington area. Mr. Page said their interactions were benign.

The two last exchanged emails in September 2017, about a month before a secret warrant to surveil Mr. Page expired after being repeatedly renewed by a federal judge. Mr. Trump’s congressional allies have also assailed the surveillance, accusing law enforcement officials, with little evidence, of abusing their authority and spying on the Trump campaign.

The informant also had contacts with Mr. Flynn, the retired Army general who was Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser. The two met in February 2014, when Mr. Flynn was running the Defense Intelligence Agency and attended the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar, an academic forum for former spies and researchers that meets a few times a year.

According to people familiar with Mr. Flynn’s visit to the intelligence seminar, the source was alarmed by the general’s apparent closeness with a Russian woman who was also in attendance. The concern was strong enough that it prompted another person to pass on a warning to the American authorities that Mr. Flynn could be compromised by Russian intelligence, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The Washington Post adds, Secret FBI source for Russia investigation met with three Trump advisers during campaign:

In mid-July 2016, a retired American professor approached an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign at a symposium about the White House race held at a British university.

The professor took the opportunity to strike up a conversation with Carter Page, whom Trump had named a few months earlier as a foreign policy adviser.

But the professor was more than an academic interested in American politics — he was a longtime U.S. intelligence source. And, at some point in 2016, he began working as a secret informant for the FBI as it investigated Russia’s interference in the campaign, according to people familiar with his activities.

* * *

There is no evidence to suggest someone was planted with the campaign. The source in question engaged in a months-long pattern of seeking out and meeting three different Trump campaign officials.

The Washington Post — after speaking with people familiar with his role — has confirmed the identity of the FBI source who assisted the investigation, but is not reporting his name following warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that exposing him could endanger him or his contacts.

The source declined multiple requests for comment. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.

Page was one of three Trump advisers whom the FBI informant contacted in the summer and fall of 2016 for brief talks and meetings that largely centered on foreign policy, according to people familiar with the encounters.

“There has been some speculation that he might have tried to reel me in,” Page, who had numerous encounters with the informant, told The Post in an interview. “At the time, I never had any such impression.”

In late summer, the professor met with Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis for coffee in Northern Virginia, offering to provide foreign-policy expertise to the Trump effort. In September, he reached out to George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign-policy adviser for the campaign, inviting him to London to work on a research paper.

Many questions about the informant’s role in the Russia investigation remain unanswered. It is unclear how he first became involved in the case, the extent of the information he provided and the actions he took to obtain intelligence for the FBI. It is also unknown whether his July 2016 interaction with Page was brokered by the FBI or another intelligence agency.

* * *

Earlier this month, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) issued a subpoena to the Justice Department for all documents related to the FBI informant. Justice Department officials have declined to provide the information, warning that exposing him could have severe consequences.

In a May 2 meeting, senior FBI and national intelligence officials warned the White House that information being sought by Nunes risked the source’s safety and that of his sources, and could damage U.S. relationships with its intelligence partners.

The stakes are so high that the FBI has been working over the past two weeks to mitigate the potential damage if the source’s identity were revealed, according to several people familiar with the matter. The bureau took steps to protect other live investigations that he has worked on and sought to lessen any danger to associates if his identity became known, said these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence operations.

For years, the professor has provided information to the FBI and the CIA, according to people familiar with the matter. He aided the Russia investigation both before and after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s appointment in May 2017, according to people with knowledge of his activities.

Exactly when the professor began working on the case is unknown.

The FBI formally opened its counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 campaign on July 31, 2016, spurred by a report from Australian officials that Papadopoulos boasted to an Australian diplomat of knowing that Russia had damaging material about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The professor’s interactions with Trump advisers began a few weeks before the opening of the investigation, when Page met the professor at the British symposium.

Page recalled his conversation with the professor as pleasant, if not particularly memorable. It was the first interaction they ever had, he said.

The conference was held days after Page had traveled to Russia, where he had delivered a speech at Moscow’s New Economic School that publicly criticized U.S. foreign policy.

Page had been on the FBI’s radar since at least 2013, when the FBI caught two accused Russian spies on a wiretap discussing their attempts to recruit him. Later in 2016, Page became a surveillance target of the FBI, which suspected him of acting on behalf of the Russian government — an assertion he denies. Page has accused the government of abusing its authority by unfairly targeting him.

Page and the FBI informant stayed in touch after the conference, meeting several times in the Washington area, Page said. Page said he did not recall exactly what the two men discussed.

“You are asking me about conversations I had almost two years ago,” he said. “We had extensive discussions. We talked about a bunch of different foreign-policy-related topics. For me to try and remember every nuance of every conversation is impossible.”

In late August 2016, the professor reached out to Clovis, asking if they could meet somewhere in the Washington area, according to Clovis’s attorney, Victoria Toensing.

“He said he wanted to be helpful to the campaign” and lend the Trump team his foreign-policy experience, Toensing said.

Clovis, an Iowa political figure and former Air Force officer, met the source and chatted briefly with him over coffee, on either Aug. 31 or Sept. 1, at a hotel cafe in Crystal City, she said. Most of the discussion involved him asking Clovis his views on China.

“It was two academics discussing China,” Toensing said. “Russia never came up.”

The professor asked Clovis if they could meet again, but Clovis was too busy with the campaign. After the election, the professor sent him a note of congratulations, Toensing said.

Clovis did not view the interactions as suspicious at the time, Toensing said, but now is unsettled that the professor never mentioned his contacts with other Trump aides.

Days later, on Sept. 2, 2016, the professor reached out to a third Trump aide, emailing Papadopoulos.

People familiar with his outreach to Papadopoulos said it was done as part of the FBI’s investigation. The young foreign-policy adviser had been on the radar of the FBI since the summer, and inside the campaign had been pushing Trump and his aides to meet with Russian officials.

“Please pardon my sudden intrusion just before the Labor Day weekend,” the professor wrote to Papadopoulos in a message described to The Post.

He said he was leading a project examining relations between Turkey and the European Union. He offered to pay Papadopoulos $3,000 to write a paper about the oil fields off the coast of Turkey, Israel and Cyprus, “a topic on which you are a recognized expert.”

It is a long-standing practice of intelligence operatives to try to develop a source by first offering the target money for innocuous research or writing.

The professor invited Papadopoulos to come to London later that month to discuss the paper, offering to pay the costs of his travel. “I understand that this is rather sudden but thought given your expertise, it might be of interest to you,” he wrote.

Papadopoulos accepted. While in London, he met for drinks with a woman who identified herself as the professor’s assistant, before meeting on Sept. 15 with the professor at the Traveler’s Club, a 200-year-old private club that is a favorite of foreign diplomats stationed in London, according to the emails described to The Post.

After Papadopoulos returned to the United States and sent his research document, the professor responded: “Enjoyed your paper. Just what we wanted. $3,000 wired to your account. Pls confirm receipt.”

David Leonhardt of the Times warns, Trump’s Latest Lies — and His Media Machine:

Pro-Trump media outlets — many of which have little regard for truth — are spreading, Sara Fischer of Axios reports. These outlets include Salem Radio, Sinclair Broadcasting, Fox News and, Fischer writes, local websites promoting Republican candidates that are “intentionally framed to look like real news websites.”

Greg Sargent of The Washington Post notes that this pro-Trump media may become even more significant as the Russia investigation moves forward: “Trump’s ability to rely on an extensive media network that will back him to the hilt no matter what gives him an advantage that President Richard Nixon did not have during the climax of Watergate. As Fischer’s reporting indicates, we don’t really have a clear sense of just how extensive or influential that network really is. And we don’t have any idea yet what this really means for the country over the long term.”

The connection among [these] stories: The president is going to keep lying, and his allies are going to keep covering for him. The rest of us need to remember that a lie is still a lie, even when it’s coming from the president.

One response to “The anatomy of a right-wing conspiracy theory, debunked

  1. Nothing really surprises me anymore. Anyone who REALLY wants to know whats going on should definitely check this out, its a pretty scary warning from a history and religion professor. Pretty damn eye opening: https://ancientprophecy.weebly.com/