The Jury Talks Back


Stop Overselling the Importance of the Strzok Texts

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:38 am

I did not watch the Strzok partisan shoutfest. But Phillip Bump at the #FAKENEWS Bezos Post has a point about the evil Peter Strzok:

In a written statement offered before he testified before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday, Strzok pointedly noted that there was no effort on his part to keep Trump from winning the White House — and, further, that he was one of only a few people who could have potentially leaked details from the investigation in an effort to block Trump’s victory.

“In the summer of 2016,” Strzok wrote, “I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.”

This is a nearly impossible point to rebut.

Before Election Day, there were rumblings that Russia was engaged in the campaign in nefarious ways and that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to see Trump win. There were rumors — theories, really — that Trump was more than happy to have Russia’s help or even might be aiding that effort. In the closing days of the campaign though, the two most important stories about the Clinton and Trump investigations were ones that solely worked to the eventual winner’s advantage.

On Halloween 2016, the New York Times detailed what was known about the investigation into Russian interference (an effort addressed earlier that month in an unusual public statement from the government). The headline, though, summarized the good news for Trump’s effort: “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”

“None of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government,” the article read. Since Trump was inaugurated, of course, we’ve learned much more about links between the campaign and Russia — involving even members of Trump’s family. The effect of the story, though, was to quash those rumors about Trump’s motivations.

Paul Waldman expands on this concept:

This is the core of what makes the Republican effort to discredit the Russia investigation so utterly insane. They want us to believe there was an FBI conspiracy to prevent Trump from being elected president, and what did that conspiracy do? First, it mounted a cautious investigation of what nearly everyone now acknowledges was a comprehensive effort by Russia to help Trump get elected, an effort that people on the Trump campaign and even in Trump’s own family tried to cooperate with. But then it kept that investigation completely secret from the public, lest news of it affect the outcome of the investigation in any way.

You will notice that Republicans have not been able to produce any evidence that Strzok or anyone else took any official action that was biased, unfair or inappropriate in their investigation of Russian interference and the Trump campaign.

The view of the FBI as a hotbed of partisan leakers is indeed difficult to reconcile with the fact that this stuff was not leaked at the most critical time. Also, these were private messages, and nobody would like having their private messages aired to the country.

That said, unlike the #Resistance, I’m not ready to canonize Strzok. The messages were written on government devices. He is an adulterer. While the conclusions he came to about Trump’s personality are similar to the conclusions many of us came to, having a guy this openly and emotionally partisan involved in these investigations feels very inappropriate and disturbing.

But it’s not enough for me to decide that the FBI and Mueller are involved in a #WitchHunt. That’s what Donald Trump wants me to think, but no sale.


  1. Now there is evidence Russia hacked the DNC, presumably to hurt Hillary and help Trump, but that didn’t come out either (if it was known at the time). But Stone was Trump’s associate and he was publicly talkingabout Hillary/the DNC, Wikileaks and Guccifer in August 2016, well before the election.

    Comment by DRJ — 7/13/2018 @ 9:54 am

  2. But none of these things were reported, and they would have hurt Trump if they had been. The FAKENEWS and corrupt government memes don’t ring quite as true.

    Comment by DRJ — 7/13/2018 @ 9:56 am

  3. Following up on Waldman’s point, at the time, Strzok thought there was nothing to the Russia-Trump story:

    According to Fox News, new text messages released in January 2018 “allegedly reveal that controversial FBI official Peter Strzok was hesitant about joining Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation team because of his ‘gut sense’ there would be no big there there.’” U.S. Senator Ron Johnson released the new texts on the Jay Weber radio show in Wisconsin. Fox News reported that some of the context is unclear but one Strzok message allegedly read: “you and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.”

    Comment by DRJ — 7/13/2018 @ 10:14 am

  4. I wish they’d look into why, exactly, it was not a fireable offense for Strozak to be spending copious amounts of time, while at work, sending personal texts on a work-provided device.

    As for the indictment of the Russians, I am very much looking forward to seeing how they deal with the chain-of-evidence issue. Specifically, that there is no actual evidence from the DNC server; the FBI, inexplicably, never examined it. The only evidence from that is via a report from Crowdstrike, the DNC’s IT contractor. And even that has a little problem; 22.6 MBPS. That’s the download speed they claim in the report, and it’s a speed that’s native to USB 2.0 thumb drive, but not on a transatlantic connection on the kind of internet service the DNC had.

    I’m also looking forward to the FBI having to explain why, exactly, they didn’t insist on looking at the server after the DNC claimed it was the Russians. They have every legal right to insist in a NATSEC case. So, why did they not?

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 7/13/2018 @ 6:09 pm

  5. Because they would have to shut down the shop, just like if the actual content of comeys memos, had been released there would have been no need for Mueller to be appointed.

    In addition, the first hack is attributed back in March, four months before trump made his tongue in cheek request, but carry on.

    Comment by Narciso — 7/13/2018 @ 6:39 pm

  6. @ Narciso
    “In addition, the first hack is attributed back in March, four months before trump made his tongue in cheek request, but carry on.”

    Not only that, but by the time Trump made his comment, Hillary’s server, in spite of having been subpoenad, had been thoroughly bleachbitted and destroyed. I’m just amazed they haven’t accused Trump of time travel – yet.

    My current opinion is that Guccifer 2.0 and the info from that source was a Russian hack, while the Wikileaks stuff (of which there was vastly more) was an internal leak, not a hack, and therefor someone working at the DNC. I can’t think of any other explanation for the 22.6 MBPS download speed – unless Crowdstrike cooked up the whole thing and just put in the wrong number when concocting the metadata.

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 7/13/2018 @ 9:41 pm

  7. Trump asked the Russians to hack Hillary on July 27, 2016 and, according to the indictment, they did:

    22. The Conspirators spearfished individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign throughout the summer of 2016. For example, on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearfish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign.

    Note that the indictment does not say the DNC server was hacked then, but other Clinton accounts were hacked. Also, the accounts were hosted by a third party provider so the FBI/DOJ could have had access to those servers and computers.

    Comment by DRJ — 7/14/2018 @ 6:54 am

  8. It will be interesting if these allegations can be substantiated with computer/digital evidence. My guess is they can. If so, were all the attacks after Trump solicited hackers? Or were there hacks, Trump invited the hacks, and then immediately more hacks?

    Ultimately, were there contacts between Trump associates and Russians about this time?

    Comment by DRJ — 7/14/2018 @ 10:18 am

  9. No they weren’t, you know was meeting at that time
    Lynch and Clinton, and subsequently the matter was closed. But that is actual criminality by a fmr cabinet member and presumptive president, who cares about that. There was obstruction Nixon couldn’t have dreamed of doing.

    Comment by Narciso — 7/14/2018 @ 10:37 am

  10. No they weren’t

    Roger Stone has said he is probably the unnamed person in the Mueller indictment who talked to the hackers and also “was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.”

    So, Yes, they were.

    Comment by DRJ — 7/14/2018 @ 1:49 pm

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