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The Week Washington Went Third World

By Jack Cashill

Until early August 2016, the only coups that America experienced happened on movie screens. Without intending, an exhaustive Washington Post article from June 2017 suggests how America’s first serious coup attempt unfolded.

The article details an early August 2016 meeting in the White House. It should be noted that the article was written to provide cover for the Obama administration’s seemingly lackadaisical response to what the media imagined as the greatest provocation from Moscow since the Cuban missile crisis. According to the Post, the CIA’s John Brennan had sent an “intelligence bombshell” directly to Obama, an “eyes only” report with sourcing deep inside the Kremlin.

The report allegedly detailed “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.” Reportedly, Putin was not just meddling in the campaign, but was actively trying to defeat Hillary and elect Trump. “It took time,” said the Post, “for other parts of the intelligence community to endorse the CIA’s view.”

The nature of that bombshell appears to have shifted dramatically in the ten days prior to the August 2016 meeting. According to information released recently by Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe, “In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee.”

Solidifying this report are the handwritten notes from Brennan that he “subsequently briefed” President Obama and other national security officials about the “alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.” That “subsequent” briefing in early August would seem likely to be the one about which the Post breathlessly reported in June 2017.

Here is how the Post described that meeting on an elaborate graphic outlining the fanciful plot: “CIA Director John Brennan first alerts the White House in early August that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an operation to defeat or at least damage Hillary Clinton and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.”

In June 2017, when the Post article was published, its editors were still confident that “Russia’s interference was the crime of the century.” It was no such thing, but in documenting the White House’s multilevel response to the alleged threat, the Post sheds unwitting light on what was the crime of the century, the White House’s framing of Donald Trump for collusion with Russia.

Although in a recent Washington Post op-ed Brennan claims he briefed Obama during a “hurriedly scheduled meeting” on July 28, the likely day of the “bombshell” White House meeting was August 5, 2016. We have the FBI’s chatty Peter Strozk to thank for this insight.

On July 31, he texted his lover Lisa Page, “Damn this feels momentous. Because this matters. The other one did, too, but that was to ensure that we didn’t F something up. This matters because this MATTERS.”

The “other one” was the investigation into Hillary’s emails. “This” one was the investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia, “Crossfire Hurricane,” which was formally launched on July 31. The FBI, it would seem, was prepared “to endorse the CIA’s view.”

For the previous few months, Strzok and Page had been sharing their affection for each other and their loathing of Trump. Now, they could do something about it. “You’re meant to protect the country from that menace,” Page texted on August 5, the “menace” being Trump. “I’ll try to approach it that way,” the heroic Strzok responded. “I can protect our country at many levels.”

Later that same day, August 5, Strzok gave Page the impression he attended that August 2016 meeting in the White House. He quoted an unnamed bigwig, likely Brennan, as saying, “The White House is running this.” Strzok claimed to have pushed back not because of any perceived impropriety but because the White House was intruding on FBI turf.

On August 15, Strzok memorably signaled the shared motive of all the conspirators. “There’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” he texted Page. “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

On September 7, 2016, according to the Ratliffe report, “U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok regarding ‘U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.’”

It would seem that national security officials were moving along two tracks: a half-hearted inquiry into the very real Clinton disinformation campaign; and a serious effort, the “insurance policy,” to frame the Trump campaign for collusion with Russian state actors. The knowledge of the first effort should have negated the need for the second one, but it did not. The second one, as Strzok told us, “MATTERS.” There is still much to be learned about what transpired between July 26 and August 5, ten days that truly shook the world.

Given the easy access intelligence officials had to the major media, they could have alerted friendly reporters to the Clinton disinformation campaign as early as July 2016. What is remarkable is that no one reported that the DNC and the Clinton campaign had commissioned the Steele dossier until the Washington Post “broke” the story in October 2017.

This information surfaced only as a result of the relentless probing of Devin Nunes and the investigators of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). Knowing Nunes had uncovered the funding source, the conspirators fed the story to the Post, which massaged it into mush.

“The first I learned of Christopher Steele or saw any dossier was after the election,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon glibly told the Post. “But if I had gotten handed it last fall, I would have had no problem passing it along and urging reporters to look into it. Opposition research happens on every campaign.” Nothing to see here. Move along.

In 2018, the Post shared a “national reporting” Pulitzer with the New York Times “for deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration.” Not since Walter Duranty has a Pulitzer been awarded so promiscuously.

Coups historically begin with the plotters seizing the means of communication. By 2016, the major media had long since been seized. Renegade Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi said of this coup attempt what should have been obvious to everyone on his side of the barricades, “Being on any team is a bad look for the press, but the press being on team FBI/CIA is an atrocity, Trump or no Trump.”

Jack Cashill’s new book, Unmasking Obama: The Fight to Tell the True Story of a Failed Presidency, is widely available. See also

Image: Washington Post