Late yesterday afternoon, there was a livelier than usual Friday-night news-dump, when the Attorney-General of the United States announced that Robert Mueller had wrapped up his "Russia investigation" and there would be no further indictments.
For two years, the prefatory "Russia" has been intended to give the word "investigation" more heft, to make it seem as if there was something more than let's-get-Trump-on-anything. But even the unlimited resources of a wretchedly corrupt federal justice system couldn't keep that going without something more than Michael Cohen's taxi medallions (only in America) and a few Russian troll farms, one of whom has amusingly decided to push back in court against Mueller and his showboating cronies.
Other than that, there are, as I said almost two years ago, no Russians in the Russia investigation - and what foreign "interference" with the 2016 election there was from Russia seems to have been amateur and minimal, unless you count MI6 spook Christopher Steele working his Moscow Rolodex on behalf of Hillary Clinton and her Deep State allies. There was, however, extensive domestic interference with the election, in that at the behest of the sitting administration the most powerful figures in the permanent bureaucracy set to work on a sophisticated surveillance operation against its political opposition: "Republics" in the Americas have been invariably prefaced by the qualifier "banana"; it just took Washington a little longer to sign up.
I'm tied up with trial preparation this weekend, but I don't really have much to say that I haven't said in the previous two years. We will see in the next few days whose version of these last three years prevails - mine or, say, John Brennan's. We begin in November 2016, on the morning after the election night before:
Mostly she was mad - mad that she'd lost and that the country would have to endure a Trump presidency... Hillary kept pointing her finger at Comey and Russia. 'She wants to make sure all these narratives get spun the right way,' this person said.
No problem, because oddly enough that was what virtually the entire leadership of the DOJ and FBI were planning anyway, and indeed had been working on for months. And one of the most idiotic features of "the peaceful transfer of power" gave them all the cover they needed:
During the stupid and anachronistic two-and-a-half-month electoral "transition", the outgoing Administration worked round the clock to de-legitimize and cripple their successors.
Thus Susan Rice and Samantha Power, neither of whom is Judi Dench in the Bond pics, began frantically "unmasking" hundreds and hundreds of surveilled individuals all the way up to high noon on inauguration day. The object was to turn an improper months-long investigation of the outgoing administration's political opponents into a years-long investigation of the incoming administration's non-existent "collusion" - a brilliantly chosen term because it has no legal meaning. So the same people who'd been running the Trump investigation ordered up a new set of business cards - and hey presto, welcome to the "Russia investigation":
It started in April 2016, when it became clear that Trump was going to win the Republican nomination. The Hillary campaign and the DNC gave millions of dollars to Marc Elias, a Clinton lawyer, who in turn hired Fusion GPS, who in turn hired former MI6 agent Christopher Steele. Why use Mr Elias as a cutout? Because Hillary and the DNC could then itemize the expense as "legal services" rather than list payments to Mr Steele, which would be in breach of federal law...
Steele's dossier was passed along to the FBI. It seems a reasonable inference, to put it as blandly as possible, that the dossier was used to justify the opening of what the Feds call an "FI" (Full Investigation), which in turn was used to justify a FISA order permitting the FBI to put Trump's associates under surveillance. Indeed, it seems a reasonable inference that the dossier was created and supplied to friendly forces within the bureau in order to provide a pretext for an FI, without which surveillance of the Trump campaign would not be possible.
But that's all you need. The dossier is a remarkable thing. It self-regenerates and corroborates itself as it ricochets back and forth between corrupt bureaucrats, biddable hacks and rubber-stamp judges:
At the FISA court, the FBI, to bolster their reliance on the Steele dossier, pointed to newspaper stories appearing to corroborate aspects of it - even though, as he subsequently testified under oath at the Old Bailey, those stories were in fact fed to those reporters by Steele himself. Nevertheless, it works like a charm on gullible FISA judges. You take one thing and you make it two things. Or even better, you take nothing and you make it a thing: Here, from yesterday's letter by Senator Ron Johnson, are McCabe, Sally Yates and other FBI/DOJ honchos arranging for Comey to brief Trump on the Steele dossier for the sole purpose of giving CNN a news peg for leaking details about what's in it.
If you've ever been in the most piddling nothing civil suit in the District of Columbia, you'll know how quickly the paperwork piles up. Here a mere thirty-three pages of thinly sourced gossip was enough to support a three-year multi-gazillion-dollar investigation that destroyed the real lives of real people. It's thin stuff:
'Speaking in confidence to a compatriot in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald TRUMP, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between them and the Russian leadership. This was managed on the TRUMP side by the Republican candidate's campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, whom President PUTIN apparently both hated and feared.'
Evidently not as much as Christopher Steele 'both hated and feared' Donald Trump. Whoops, sorry, my mistake: Donald TRUMP. We want it to look all official and dossier-like, don't we? Christopher STEELE said that he was 'desperate that Donald Trump not get elected'. He told this to Bruce OHR, the now demoted Associate Deputy Attorney General - the one who failed to disclose that his wife was one of a mere seven employees of Fusion-GPS and the one charged with working on Trump oppo research for the aforementioned Hillary CLINTON.
But put that aside. The above paragraph would not be admissible in your county courthouse - because it's several degrees of hearsay. What it means is that a) Christopher STEELE was told by b) an unnamed Russian that c) an unnamed 'ethnic Russian close associate' of Donald TRUMP passed on to him that d) Paul MANAFORT was using e) Carter PAGE to 'co-operate' with 'the Russian leadership'. In a functioning justice system it would have as much value as you standing up in court and saying that Smith was told by Jones that Bloggs assures him that Christopher STEELE has sex with goats.
But we're in 'national security' court here, where due process is honored institutionally in the breach.
And so caps-lock DRIVEL by a misfit foreign spy was dignified by the number of DC A-listers willing to endorse it - DoJ bigshots, FBI counter-intelligence honchos, FISA judges, media grandees, and ultimately the straightest-shooting straight-arrow the G-men's collective quiver, "independent" counsel Robert Mueller:
Let me start with an immigrant's observation: My sweetly naïve understanding of an 'independent counsel' is that he should be 'independent'. For example, even in the presently desiccated condition of the Commonwealth, it's generally understood that, when you've got a problem and you want someone independent to investigate it, "independent" means outsider...
There isn't even the figleaf of 'independence' when you appoint a career swamp-dweller like Robert Mueller, a man who has relationships with every player in Washington going back decades. The parade of hacks infesting the cable shows to inform us solemnly that they've known Mueller for years and he's the very apotheosis of a straight shooter is, in fact, the strongest evidence of why he should never have been appointed: he's the insiders' insider. When Mueller decided to stage his pre-dawn swoop on Paul Manafort's bedroom, for example, he was raiding the home of a longtime client of his own law firm, WilmerHale...
My advice is that, whenever lifelong swampers assure us of the integrity of any individual, assume 'straight arrow' is Beltway-speak for 'slimey duplicitous permanent-state operator' and you can't go wrong.
Thus, the FBI has 35,000 employees. But oddly enough the same indispensable guy, Peter Strzok, gets assigned to run the Hillary investigation, and then the Trump investigation, and - surprise! - is immediately appointed by Mueller to the "Russia" investigation. And the straight-arrow eagle scouts immediately start throwing the book at everyone for the crime of misremembering to the FBI. Me fifteen years ago:
Martha [Stewart], it seems, will be going to jail for telling a lie. Not in court, not under oath, not perjury, but merely when the Feds came round to see her about a possible crime. They couldn't prove she'd committed a crime, so they nailed her for lying while chit-chatting to them about the non-crime. And for that they're prepared to destroy her company.
It's true that it's an offence to lie to the Feds. But, as my New Hampshire neighbours Tom and Scott, currently in my basement stretching out a little light carpentry job to the end of the winter, are the first to point out, the Feds lied to the public about Waco and Ruby Ridge (another bloodbath) for years. If the Feds can lie to the people, why can't the people lie to the Feds?
But even supposed rock-ribbed "constitutional conservatives" make no serious challenge to the iniquities of this "process crime" - "process" in this case being a coy euphemism for an utterly disgusting federal criminal justice system in which prosecutors win 97 per cent of their cases without ever bringing them to court. So Michael Flynn is broke and ruined, while the corruptocrats Comey and McCabe are working the talk-show sofas plugging their books.
And, notwithstanding Mueller closing up shop, the most disturbing questions remain: Forget the Russian trolls and Macedonian content farmers; this is a story not of foreign subversion of the election, but of domestic subversion of the election, by powerful figures able to reach out and entrap its marks at Cambridge conferences and London wine bars. In old-school banana republics, the coup happens quickly: "The rebels have seized control of the radio station," as the BBC's Africa bureaus used to announce every fortnight through the Sixties, and next thing you know this week's president-for-life is being carried out by the handles. But in America everything's more protracted and expensive. That, however, should not blind us to what happened: a cabal of Deep State bigwigs reverse-engineered a foreign cover for their own interference in self-government by the people. Show me the man and I'll show you the crime, boasted Beria. America's Berias aren't quite that good yet, but they're getting there:
This bloated pseudo-investigation is the very embodiment of Washington dysfunction: The less there is, the fewer real American lives it has any connection to, the further it recedes in the rear-view mirror, the more the Swamp is invested in it. They've already been on it for a year, and, if there were any "collusion", it would have been leaked months ago: If Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, the "Russia investigation" is a nullity wrapped in an absence inside a void, now shimmering in the black hole of the billable hours of fifteen lawyers and the expense accounts of a hundred FBI agents.
But tally-ho! The Great MacNuffin Hunt goes on - because in the Swamp all the most luxurious gravy trains are rear-view only. Putin must be laughing his head off. For the next three years they'll be so busy investigating the 2016 election, they won't even notice he's already moved on to stealing the 2020 election...
Trump Tweeted his way out of the Deep State's grip. I doubt any other Republican president would have proved so wily: It's not difficult to imagine President Jeb deciding to do the right thing and resign for the good of the country - without ever being able to figure what it was he'd done wrong. We have witnessed an extraordinary sustained attempted coup in which senior officials of the "justice" department shoot the breeze about wearing a wire to get the goods on the elected chief executive. If there are no consequences to that, it will happen again.
~We regret that almost the entirety of next week will be lost to litigious cockwomble Cary Katz and his allegedly conservative "Blaze TV", but we will do our best to keep a flickering candle in the window. In grim weeks such as the one about to begin, I am very grateful to all the members of The Mark Steyn Club from London, Ontario to London, England to London, Kiribati who have stuck with us this last year-and-a-half. We hope to welcome many more of you in the years ahead.