In the wake of the report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz about the origin of the Trump/Russia probe, Fox News is working to spin a variety of conspiracy theories and misrepresentations. But the report found that despite a number of procedural errors and omissions in the process to get Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act approval to monitor Trump campaign aide Carter Page, there was still a legitimate basis to begin the investigation.
Fox had been building up hype on this for years, alleging all manner of conspiracy theories about anti-Trump political bias and a vast plot to plant spies and frame him — but the report itself was a big dud, to the point that Attorney General Bill Barr has attacked it on Trump’s behalf. So what does Fox do? Well, they lie about it.
Prime-time host Sean Hannity really topped Monday night with perhaps the most Orwellian presentation: He declared that the report showed exactly the opposite of what it actually said, saying the investigation was “nothing but outright lies” and “a massive political bias.”
On the Tuesday morning edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt expressed outrage that “the FISA court wasn't even told who paid for that dossier -- it was Hillary Clinton's campaign,” referring to the infamous opposition research dossier by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, which President Donald Trump and others have claimed spurred the entire investigation, but which Horowitz’s report says only became a factor during the FISA process, after the probe itself was already underway based on prior evidence.
This makes it sound like the FISA court was in the dark about funding sources and political motives for the infamous dossier. But as the report says, the court was indeed given a pretty good idea:
Due to [Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart Evans’s] persistent inquiries, the FISA application also included a footnote, developed by [the Office of Intelligence] based on information provided by the Crossfire Hurricane team, to address Evans's concern about the potential political bias of Steele's research. The footnote stated that Steele was hired by an identified U.S. person (Glenn Simpson) to conduct research regarding “Candidate #1's” (Donald Trump) ties to Russia and that the FBI “speculates” that this U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit the Trump campaign.
Also on Tuesday morning, former congressman and now Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz made a truly outlandish statement on Fox & Friends, saying the bias from law enforcement has been only against Trump.
The suggestion that that there were no pro-Trump elements throughout various investigations is laughable, given the well-documented record of anti-Clinton elements in the New York field office, which forced then-FBI Director James Comey to deliver public statements in late 2016 that heavily damaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
Moreover, a footnote in the inspector general report gives an example of pro-Trump elements in the bureau:
We reviewed the text and instant messages sent and received by the Handling Agent, the co-case Handling Agent, and the [Secret Service agent] for this [confidential human source], which reflect their support for Trump in the 2016 elections. On November 9, the day after the election, the SSA contacted another FBI employee via an instant messaging program to discuss some recent CHS reporting regarding the Clinton Foundation and offered that “if you hear talk of a special prosecutor...I will volunteer to work [on] the Clinton” The SSA's November 9, 2016 instant messages also stated that he “was so elated with the election” and compared the election coverage to “watching a Superbowl comeback.” The SSA explained this comment to the OIG by saying that he “fully expected Hillary Clinton to walk away with the election. But as the returns [came] in...it was just energizing to me to see....[because] I didn't want a criminal to be in the White House.”
On November 9, 2016, the Handling Agent and co-case Handling Agent for this CHS also discussed the results of the election in an instant message exchange that reads:
Handling Agent: “Trump!”
Co-Case Handling Agent: “Hahaha. Shit just got real.”
Handling Agent: “Yes it did.”
Co-Case Handling Agent: “I saw a lot of scared MFers on...[my way to work] this morning. Start looking for new jobs fellas. Haha.”
Handling Agent: “LOL”
And on a matter that gets right into the realm of tinfoil hats, there is Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese professor suspected of being a connection between former Trump 2016 campaign aide George Papadopoulos and the Russian government. Mifsud’s current whereabouts are unknown, but right-wingers have continually insisted that he must have really been an American intelligence asset, not Russian, and part of the plot to frame Trump — which the report has fully deconstructed.
Since it fell apart, right-wing personalities have had to rearrange their far-fetched theory: Mifsud obviously must be a CIA asset, not FBI. Such a “fact” might have been beyond Horowitz’s reach, they say, but it will be revealed in the other investigation, being conducted by Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham.
On Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight, the eponymous host brought on right-wing lawyers Joseph DiGenova and Victoria Toensing — ending their apparent absence from the network after they made controversial remarks — who floated this idea. (DiGenova and Toensing are also the attorneys for Fox News contributor and The Hill columnist John Solomon — as well as for Ukrainian gas oligarch Dmitry Firtash.)
“How about Mifsud is not an FBI agent? Duh,” exclaimed Toensing.
“Yeah, but he is a CIA asset,” DiGenova said.
“Or Western intelligence,” Toensing completed the thought.
On the other hand, on Tuesday morning’s edition of Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria, host Maria Bartiromo and guest John Solomon just kept insisting as fact that Mifsud was one of the “informants” and “a longtime Western intelligence asset,” without acknowledging what the Horowitz report said, and predicting that Durham will reveal it to be so.
There is a problem with this loophole these media figures are trying to construct: The report indicates that Carter Page had been a contact for the FBI and also had a relationship with the CIA. So if Mifsud was a CIA asset, shouldn’t we expect to see it here, as well?