Crossfire Hurricane: Pull back curtain on FBI’s investigation of Donald Trump, Russia

President Trump is ordering the Justice Department formally to examine whether the Obama administration used the FBI to attempt a political hit on his 2016 campaign. It’s about time.

On Sunday the president tweeted that he will instruct the DOJ to investigate whether the FBI/DOJ “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump campaign for political purposes.” The last three words are key, because we already know the Trump campaign was under FBI “surveillance.” Only the motive and who gave the orders remains a mystery.

Remember the umbrage in March 2017 when the president said that he had been “wiretapped” before the election? Then-FBI Director James Comey testified he had had “no information” to support that idea, and he had “looked carefully inside the FBI.” Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said there was no surveillance, and as DNI he would have known about a court order on “something like this.” PolitiFact labeled the claim 100% false.

What a difference a year makes. Recent revelations of the extent of the anti-Trump surveillance activity have forced Trump critics to adopt a new narrative. Clapper now says spying on the campaign was actually a good thingThe New York Times took issue with the term “spying,” saying rather that it was simply an “investigation.” This dickering over terms is reminiscent of when former Attorney General Loretta Lynch insisted the “investigation” into Hillary Clinton’s home-brew email server be called a “matter.”

Former FBI agent Asha Rangappa wrote in the Washington Post that the spying was in fact for Trump’s protection, which he would understand if he knew the first thing about the art of counter-intelligence. But if the FBI was trying to shield the Trump campaign from evil Russkies, why not inform the candidate up front both to warn him and to allay any potential misunderstandings? The New York Times helpfully answers that the FBI was protecting the integrity of the election by keeping the spying under wraps — and in fact if any campaign was hurt it was Hillary Clinton’s.

This flurry of revisionist interpretations comes prior to the expected release of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the Hillary Clinton email investigation, which could contain criminal referrals. The IG is also looking into how the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to begin its spying campaign on an unnamed Trump aide. Shortly after the president’s tweet on Sunday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asked the Inspector General to expand this investigation to include “whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation.”

The FBI and Justice Department could help matters at this point with radical transparency, releasing all the information about every aspect of what they dubbed Operation Crossfire Hurricane. But at every turn the DOJ has raised national security objections to revealing practically anything important. This is harmful to the DOJ and the country. The department leadership needs to understand that a considerable number of Americans believe that the DOJ itself has become a national security threat.

Besides, how could the FBI’s spying on the Trump campaign not have been for political purposes? We have FBI special agent Peter Strzok’s private texts to his paramour FBI lawyer Lisa Page reviewing an Aug. 15, 2016, meeting in then-deputy director Andrew McCabe’s office with top FBI officials, saying the government “can’t take (the) risk” that “Trump gets elected” and the Russia investigation was their “insurance policy” against a Trump presidency. If the Strzok-Page texts were not still heavily and strategically redacted we would know much more. And the fact remains that a major party candidate has never been subjected to such a bizarrely concocted and systematic official investigation during and after an election. Derailing this bastardized process and the Mueller investigation it spawned is not obstruction of justice, but obstruction of injustice.

Whoever came up with the Rolling Stones-inspired name “Crossfire Hurricane” for the horrendous spy operation had a strange sense of humor. But as we watch the truth gradually emerge, see the abuses of power laid bare, and entertain the prospect that the principle actors behind this wretched excess may be held criminally responsible, to quote the Stones, “it’s all right now, in fact it’s a gas.”


James S. Robbins, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and author of This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive, has taught at the National Defense University and the Marine Corps University and served as a special assistant in the office of the secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration. Follow him on Twitter: @James_Robbins.


One thought on “Crossfire Hurricane: Pull back curtain on FBI’s investigation of Donald Trump, Russia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *