Mar-a-Lago raid rooted in bizarre 2017 House hearing

The ‘swamp’ has always had a target on Trump’s back

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To pick a date for when the Washington/Democratic Party insurrection began against former President Donald Trump, an infamous March 20, 2017, House intelligence committee hearing would survive a fact-check.

Mr. Trump’s enemies scored a daily double that day that set the stage for months to come. 

First, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, panel Democrats gleefully validated the Christopher Steele dossier bought by the Hillary Clinton campaign and spread all over the town’s levers of power. Secondly, at the witness table, then-FBI Director James B. Comey, a dossier devotee, announced that the entire Trump campaign was under investigation for Kremlin interference in the 2016 election.

Thus, the ground rules were set two months into the new president’s tenure. When it comes to harassing Mr. Trump, anything goes. 

That takes us to Aug. 8, south Florida, the ex-president’s Palm Beach home and private club, for another insurrection chapter. A historical first rooted in that March 20, 2017, rule-making.

Attorney General Merrick Garland and a compliant FBI raided the home of President Biden’s chief political rival in 2024. Swarming federal agents put the United States in the pantheon of dictatorial regimes around the world who trample the opposition’s leader who in this case is polling better than inflationary Biden. 

Always ignored during the Trump era was this fact: It was the Clinton side that used Russian foreign disinformation to interfere in the election and then sabotage the White House.

The dossier came from Mr. Steele, a retired British intelligence operative who relied on Russian Igor Danchenko as his primo source. Mr. Danchenko popped in and out of Moscow to collect Trump gossip, aided by a longtime Clinton loyalist PR executive, and then went on to London to feed Mr. Steele’s creative writing. In the mix of information were deliberate Kremlin lies, according to a 2019 Justice Department inspector general’s report. 

We now know the document Mr. Schiff, who rose to become Houser intelligence chairman, relentlessly endorsed was fiction. 

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen never went to Prague on a secret mission; Trump did not fund Russian hacking; Carter Page and Paul Manafort were not conspiracy pals (they didn’t know each other). A Russian diplomat in Washington did not oversee the hacking; a Cypress high-tech firm did not do the hacking. It was done by Russian intelligence; no Trump romp with a Moscow prostitute; there was no “well development conspiracy of cooperation,” as Mr. Steele wrote. 

The FBI relied on it to obtain from District Court judges four wiretap warrants on Mr. Page. But that’s an understatement. The dossier’s greater value was as a vehicle to put Trump people under scrutiny to find that “well developed” conspiracy.

The FBI agent leading the probe, Peter Strzok, vowed in a text message he would “stop” the Trump candidacy. The FBI Seventh Floor hierarchy was committed to erasing Trump, then and now. 

That brings us back to the March 20, 2017, House hearing. Mr. Trump had been in office just two months. The dossier emerged on BuzzFeed News during the transition, with none of it confirmed.

I watched the hearing and was struck by how Democrats, sitting on a committee that is supposed to deal in facts, embraced unproven — even ludicrous — claims.

Here’s one example:

Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas: “I want to take a moment to turn to the Christopher Steele dossier, which was first mentioned in the media just before the election and published in full by media outlets in January. My focus today is to explore how many claims within Steele’s dossier are looking more and more likely, as though they are accurate.”

“This is not someone who doesn’t know how to run a source and not someone without contacts. The allegations it raises about President Trump’s campaign aides’ connections to Russians when overlaid with known established facts and timelines from the 2016 campaign, are very revealing.”

Democrats even gave Mr. Steele credit for scoops you could find online before the dossier writing began that June, such as this nugget on campaign volunteer Carter Page. 

“Is it a coincidence that the Russian gas company, Rosneft, sold a 19% share after former British intelligence officer Steele was told by Russian sources that Carter Page was offered fees on a deal of just that size?” asked Mr. Schiff.

The problem is, that the exact number, 19%, was announced in Moscow beforehand.

Outside of the dossier, there was a list of sensational false allegations against Mr. Trump and his people that garnered much press and Democratic posturing. 

March 20, 2017, changed the rules. Hit Mr. Trump with whatever you’ve got.

The claims: Russia funded the Trump campaign through the National Rifle Association; Mr. Trump maintained a secret line of communication with Russian-oligarch-owned Alfa Bank; Ukraine pro-Russia operatives made payments to Mr. Manafort based on a supposed “black ledger”; Mr. Manafort secretly traveled to London to meet with Wikileaks; U.S. intelligence owned reams of communication intercepts between the Trump campaign and Kremlin intelligence; A Russian-born scholar at Cambridge University in England had some sort of inappropriate relationship with Michael Flynn. 

None of those tales panned out. 

Mr. Trump, of course, stumbled badly in his “Stop The Steal” and Jan. 6 protest that exploded into a Capitol riot. He misled supporters into thinking fraud stole the 2020 election. His belief that Vice President Mike Pence could overturn the electoral college results was terribly misguided.

But leading up to that day, Mr. Trump was justified in thinking he had been done in by what he calls “the swamp” and its repeated erroneous allegations and its anti-Trump FBI. 

News that Mr. Trump was planning a return triumphantly to the White House and launch a war on bureaucratic Washington must have rattled the Biden political loyalists at Mr. Garland’s Justice Department. 

The FBI Mar-a-Lago raid is clearly designed to find documents on which Mr. Garland can bring an indictment related to Jan. 6. He knows a sure winner with a D.C. jury in waiting.

If liberals can promote a piece of Democratic-funded fiction to bring down a president and then sweep it into the memory hole, the left rightly believes it can unleash just about any dirty trick against Mr. Trump — to include having the FBI storm his home.

Reporting by The Washington Times.