From Consortium News
Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan.
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The recent Justice Department report about former FBI Director James Comey gives the public good reason to backtrack to a famous Trump Tower meeting.
On Jan. 6, 2017, Comey confronted the president-elect about "salacious" activities with prostitutes at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton. He also provided Trump with misleading information about the Democratic opposition research dossier compiled by ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, a bogus document whose political consequences were sure to be devastating once it was released, as it surely would be.
But why? Thanks to Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department's inspector general, we now know.
The report that Horowitz released shows that Comey may have been trying to set President Donald Trump up for a fall. Had the ploy worked, Trump might have found himself out of office for the "crime" of saying something wrong about an incident that was entirely made up.
Before the Trump Tower visit, Comey sat down with top FBI brass Chief of Staff James Rybicki, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, General Counsel James Baker, and others involved with the Russiagate investigation to strategize about the upcoming meeting.
Page 17 of the OIG report tells of what they were up to:
"Baker and McCabe said that they agreed that the briefing needed to be one-on-one, so that Comey could present the 'salacious' information in the most discreet and least embarrassing way. At the same time, we were told, they did not want the President-elect to perceive the one-on-one briefing as an effort to hold information over him like a 'Hoover-esque type of plot.' Witnesses interviewed by the OIG also said that they discussed Trump's potential responses to being told about the 'salacious' information, including that Trump might make statements about, or provide information of value to, the pending Russian interference investigation."
As the final sentence shows, Comey's job was to confront Trump about the alleged 2013 Moscow incident and see whether he would give the FBI reason to advance its Russiagate investigation to a whole new level, that of the presidency itself.
This was the same approach the FBI would employ a couple of weeks later after listening in on a telephone conversation between Mike Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and not liking what it heard about plans to bolster U.S.-Russian relations. The solution was to send a couple of agents to quiz the newly-appointed national security adviser and see how he would respond. After telling Flynn not to bother bringing along a lawyer because it was just a friendly chat and "they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport" as a follow-up memo noted the agents caught the ever-voluble Flynn fudging various details. Three weeks later, he found himself out of office and in disgrace. Ten months after that, he was in federal court pleading guilty to making false and misleading statements.
Now we know from the OIG report that this was apparently the goal with regard to Trump.
Russiagate began nine months earlier with a small army of intelligence agents buzzing around a naïve young Trump adviser named George Papadopoulos. [See "Spooks Spooking Themselves," May 31, 2018.] An Anglo-Maltese academic named Joseph Mifsud, an individual with strong Anglo-American intelligence connections, wined and dined him and told him that Russia had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails."
An Australian diplomat, former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who was similarly connected, invited him out for drinks and then passed along the fruits of the conversation to Canberra, which related them to Washington. A Belorussian-American businessman who worked for Steele offered Papadopoulos $30,000 a month under the table. A U.S. intelligence asset named Charles Tawil presented him with $10,000 in cash. A long-time CIA informant named Stefan Halper flew Papadopoulos to London and barraged him with questions: