In the meantime, I have been doing some reading. I have read Josh Campbell's Operation Crossfilre Hurricane, along with Daniel Ziblatt's How Democracies Die, Mary Trump's Too Much and Never Enough and Stuart Stevens' It Was All a Lie. I have ordered John Dean's Authoritarian Nightmare, but it has not come in. And I have started the Inspector General's report on Crossfire Hurricane and plan to read the Senate Intelligence Committee's report. So expect a lot of reviews coming up.
I will not waste much time on Operation Crossfire Hurricane because I did not see much "there" there. Its most interesting insight was that the name "Operation Crossfire Hurricane" had no particular significance, it just sounded cool. It has some FBI local color. Otherwise I did not think I learned anything of significance from it.
In all fairness to Campbell, based on what I have seen so far from the Inspector General's report, the fault may not be with Campbell's writing, but with the operation itself. There just wasn't much "there" there. This may be a premature conclusion. So far I have read only the executive summary and the statement of the relevant laws and policies. But my overwhelming impression so far is that Operation Crossfire Hurricane didn't really do much certainly didn't learn much.
The report, it should be added, is necessarily biased. An Inspector General's report necessarily focuses on what the agency did wrong, rather than what they did right. The Inspector General has serious criticisms of the FISA wiretap on Carter Page, and on the FBI for giving too much credence to the Steele Dossier. So the report may give more focus to the Steele Dossier than it deserves, but one certainly gets the impression that the Steele Dossier played an outsized roll in the FBI's investigation and never actually revealed anything of value.
My first impression of the Inspector General's Report is, don't read if if you are allergic to alphabet soup. There is a lot of it there; so much that you really need glossary at hand to remind you what all the acronyms stand for.
Based on my reading so far, what appears to have happened was that the FBI was well aware of the Russian hacks of the DNC server and its release of the information to Wikileaks. Then they received a shocking report from the Australian intelligence service telling them that George Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy advisor, had been approached by a probable Russian agent and offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. Concerned that there might be communications between the Trump Campaign and Russia, the FBI did an open source and government database search on Trump Campaign personnel to see if any of them might be in communications with Russian intelligence. They came up with four names -- Paul Manafort, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn. Page was already under counterintelligence investigation for his tied to Russia, Manafort had worked for the pro-Russian government in Ukraine and was under investigation for financial crimes, Flynn had significant Russian ties and had been on Russian state television, and Papadopoulos had been the recipient of the message.
But then what? I am still a little unclear. The FBI made open records searches and send under cover informants to talk to Papadopoulos and Page, but were hampered by the need to keep the investigation secret. So when Christopher Steele came along with reports alleging "an ongoing conspiracy," the FBI finally had something to sink its teeth into. It investigated Steele's primary sub source (since revealed to be a US resident) and found much of his material unreliable. Nonetheless, Steele claimed that Page was a liaison between Manafort and Russia, and had been offered damaging materials on Hillary Clinton when he visited Russia in June. The FBI got a FISA wiretap, apparently in hopes of learning about the June meeting. The report found many serious defects in how the FBI obtained the wiretap. Nor does the wiretap appear to have yielded any useful information.
Operation Crossfire Hurricane came up empty handed. They did not find any evidence of communications between the Trump Campaign and Russia. The Steele Dossier appears to have been their main evidence of such communications. None of its allegations checked out. There was not an ongoing conspiracy between the campaign and Russia, nor was Page any sort of liaison.
And many Trump supporters take this to mean that no investigation should have been launched in the first place. I disagree. What the failure of the pre-election investigation proves is that it was hopelessly hampered by the need to keep the existence of the investigation secret, so it ended up chasing what amounted to a collection of fourth-hand rumors and seeking a FISA warrant, mostly because that was the best way they could think of to investigate without being found out. The FBI rejected even subpoenaing documents for fear of being found out.
After the election, the Mueller investigation, and the Senate Intelligence Committee, armed with subpoenas, the power to prosecute for perjury, and the power of qualified immunity, were able to learn that there had been some very alarming going's on during the campaign.
- Roger Stone was in regular (though indirect) contact with Wikileaks and also in regular contact with Donald Trump. Stone told Trump what to expect was coming down the pike so Trump could plan his campaign accordingly, and also gave advice to Wikileaks on how to time the releases.
- Donald Trump directed Michael Flynn to find Hillary Clinton's missing e-mails on the dark web. Flynn and his associated did their best, unconcerned with whether they might be dealing with Russian intelligence. Flynn and his associates did not, in fact, find the missing e-mails because they were not, in fact, on the dark web.
- Paul Manafort was in regular, almost daily, encrypted communication with a Russian spy and fed him a steady stream of campaign polling data. We do not know what the Russians did with the data. Nor is there any evidence Trump was aware of these communications.