In September, President Trump announced he would declassify pertinent documents relating to the Russian Collusion investigation. Four days later, he cancelled this order because two allies, believed to be England and Australia, had requested the documents remain classified. Recently, Trump has once again said he is “very seriously” thinking about declassifying the files.
The documents in question include 21 pages of the FBI’s original FISA Court application to surveil former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page. In addition, notes from the FBI’s interviews “used in the FISA applications, notes of interviews with Bruce Ohr, the DOJ official who served as a back channel to Steele, and FBI and DOJ emails which are believed to show that evidence was withheld from the FISA court in its applications to spy on Page” were part of the request.
According to the Telegraph, MI6 officials are warning that the release of these documents would “undermine intelligence gathering” operations. The Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith claims to have interviewed twelve sources in both the US and the UK for his article. Here are some of the highlights. Italics, mine.
The row comes as UK intelligence agencies are increasingly dragged into a heated and partisan battle in Washington DC over the origins of the Russian investigation. Where did it start?
Mr. Trump’s allies and former advisers are raising questions about the UK’s role in the start of the probe, given many of the key figures and meetings were located in Britain. True.
However, a result of the attack line is that Britain’s spy agencies are being included in claims of “deep state” opposition to Mr Trump. It risks inflaming UK-US tensions at a time when Britain wants to deepen ties with America as it leaves the European Union. Not our problem. You should have thought of this long before now.
British spy chiefs have “genuine concern” about sources being exposed if classified parts of the wiretap request were made public, according to figures familiar with discussions.
“It boils down to the exposure of people”, said one US intelligence official, adding: “We don’t want to reveal sources and methods.” US intelligence shares the concerns of the UK. This has been the main talking point of Democrats in Congress from the beginning.
Another said Britain feared setting a dangerous “precedent” which could make people less likely to share information, knowing that it could one day become public. The exoneration of President Trump is far more important. Again, the British intelligence community should have thought about this before getting involved.
The current row is deemed so politically sensitive that staff at the British embassy in Washington DC have been barred from discussing it with journalists. They shouldn’t be discussing it with the press anyway.
Theresa May, who already has a testing relationship with Mr Trump, has also been kept at arms-length and is understood to have not raised the issue directly with the US president.
One former British official warned that many of the attacks seem to originate from right-wing internet forums, such as 4chan. The claims must be treated with suspicion given they are often cited without hard evidence and bring a political benefit to the White House. This is propaganda.
GCHQ, Britain’s secret listening post, issued a rare on-record statement last year denying a suggestion quoted by Sean Spicer, then the White House press secretary, that it had helped wiretap Trump Towers. A GCHQ spokesman called the claim “nonsense” and “utterly ridiculous”. Do they honestly think we believe them?
Tony Blair, the former prime minister, also had to publicly deny a suggestion he told Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law, that UK intelligence agencies may have been involved in surveillance of the Trump campaign.
Riley-Smith included one lone source, one of Trump’s former advisors, who said: “You know the Brits are up to their neck.” And regarding the FISA Court application, he said “I think that stuff is going to implicate MI5 and MI6 in a bunch of activities they don’t want to be implicated in, along with FBI, counter-terrorism and the CIA.”
It appears the Brits “doth protest too much.” Why are they so concerned about transparency if they have nothing to hide? Most of the above statements sound as if they had been uttered by Adam Schiff himself.
The documents must be declassified with or without British approval. Former British intelligence official Christopher Steele, the author of the bogus Trump dossier, stands at the center of the whole story. His compilation of unsubstantiated allegations was cited as the basis for the FBI’s FISA court application to spy on Carter Page and for subsequent renewals. The application was released earlier this year in heavily redacted form. Republicans are now calling for an unredacted copy.
Also involved in this intrigue was Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic with reportedly high level connections to the Russian government. Mifsud, who is now missing and presumed dead, allegedly informed low level Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos then famously shared this information with then-Australian ambassador Alexander Downer in a London bar in May 2016. Two months later, when the FBI received word of this encounter, they immediately opened their counterintelligence investigation of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Papadopoulos and others believe that Downer, who has previous connections to Bill and Hillary Clinton, was part of a British intelligence conspiracy to discredit the US president.
Moreover, University of Cambridge Professor Stefan Halper was paid by the FBI for his role as a secret informant in their investigation of Trump.
Since much of the action began on British soil and many of the key figures in this fairy tale are either British citizens or individuals who spend a lot of time in the UK, country, it’s necessary to question the role of UK and even Australian intelligence agencies.
For far too long, Republicans have been reduced to reading the tea leaves while Mueller, Democrats and their pawns, the mainstream media, and now the Brits seek to obstruct the truth. It’s time for some transparency.
British opposition should not be a consideration in Trump’s decision whether or not to declassify the material. Trump needn’t worry about the consequences to people who have never passed up an opportunity to mock him. Although it might have improved Republican fortunes if these documents had been released prior to the midterms, their release at any time will be welcome.
The President of the United States has been held hostage by a sham investigation, the outcome of which could alter the course of history. If the release of classified documents reveals information that proves embarrassing to either Britain or Australia, their discomfort pales in comparison to the damage the FBI’s original counterintelligence probe and the subsequent Mueller investigation have inflicted on Trump’s presidency over the past two years. Please release the documents President Trump.