Tip of the Iceberg or Just a Dead End

Robert Brooks Contributor
Tip of the Iceberg or Just a Dead End
Read Time: approx. 2:45

This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on August 18, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up.


Tip of the Iceberg or Just a Dead End: Over the weekend, the Associated Press reported that Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI lawyer, will plead guilty to falsifying a document used to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on former Trump-campaign adviser, Carter Page. This is the first criminal case arising from U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the probe of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. Clinesmith is set to admit that he altered an email from the CIA in order to renew the FISA warrant against Page in 2017. That email stated that Page had worked as a source for the CIA, but Clinesmith changed the reference to state that Page was not a source. Clinesmith’s expected plea comes after the FBI admitted in January that two of the four FISA warrants it presented to a court that approved (and re-approved) the surveillance of Page were invalid. Here is what both sides are saying about the latest development:

On the LeftChris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large says, “This is, in a word, bad. FISA warrants are a very big deal and need to be very carefully considered as they allow the government to surveil an American citizen. That there were errors in this process that have led to at least one guilty plea from someone involved in the warrant reflects poorly on the bureau. Period.” At the same time Cillizza says “There is zero evidence that the FBI ‘spied’ on Trump’s campaign or, as he has alleged repeatedly over the last few years, that then-President Barack Obama orchestrated some massive surveillance effort of his 2016 campaign. There’s no evidence to suggest that Obama directed some sort of spying operation. And no matter what Trump wants to be true, the plea of Clinesmith doesn’t prove it either. What it does prove — especially when you consider the admitted errors by the FBI and the findings by the IG regarding the FISA applications — is that there were significant screw-ups in the way in which the FBI went about making the case that it needed to surveil Page for as long as it did. And that, in the case of Clinsemith, a crime was committed in regard to these FISA applications — whether or not he meant to. What it doesn’t prove is that Trump’s wild claims that there is a ‘deep state’ conspiracy that tried to keep him from being elected and has worked against him since he got into office actually exists. The facts just aren’t there.”

On the Right: Larry O’Connor disagrees with Chris Cillizza of CNN. In his piece for Townhall O’Connor says bluntly, “Now There’s No Denying It: Obama’s FBI Spied On Trump… Period.” O’Connor says “Clinesmith was so intent on spying on Carter Page, an unpaid advisor to the Trump campaign, that he lied to the secret FISA court and doctored an official document to misrepresent that Page had not cooperated with the CIA in past investigations involving Russian espionage. Page, a retired intelligence officer from the United States Navy and a graduate of the US Naval Academy, had fully cooperated with an earlier investigation involving Russian bad guys. That information surely would have thrown a wrench into the attempts to tap Page’s phones, his emails, his text messages, and the phones, emails, and text messages of everyone he corresponded with and everyone they corresponded with.” O’Connor says, “To be clear, as soon as this FISA surveillance warrant was granted, the FBI, under the control of President Barack Obama, had access to the entire Trump campaign. They spied on Trump, and it’s taken four years for anyone to see any kind of criminal repercussions.”

Flag This: To summarize, left-leaning outlets acknowledge that the FBI screwed up, but they don’t characterize the errors as politically driven or as some massive “deep-state” conspiracy orchestrated by the Obama administration to sabotage the Trump campaign. Upon review, this story did not receive much oxygen from left-leaning outlets, something that right-leaning outlets complained about:

Some of the coverage from the left in written form came from CNN’s Chris Cillizza above, and from articles like ones below:

As for right-leaning outlets, the Clinesmith news was like catnip, and there was probably an overreaction or over-allocation of space devoted to the story. Zooming out, right-leaning outlets and commentators believe this is the latest example of the left’s “hypocrisy.” They say that for two years the United States was dragged through the mud with the Russia-investigation, and now that there’s pro-Trump, Russia-related news to report, left-leaning outlets could care less. Either way, it will be interesting to see if this is the tip of the iceberg of the Durham investigation as Trump claims or just a dead-end.