The Washington establishment rejoiced last week over what seemed to be a windfall "gotcha" moment, as President Donald Trump said he had fired FBI Director James Comey over "this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia." The president labeled it a "made-up story" and, by all appearances, he is mostly correct.
A few days before his firing, Mr. Comey reportedly had asked for still more resources to hunt the Russian bear. Pundit piranhas swarmed to charge Mr. Trump with trying to thwart the investigation into how the Russians supposedly "interfered" to help him win the election.
But can that commentary bear close scrutiny, or is it the "phony narrative" Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas claims it to be? Mr. Cornyn has quipped that, if impeding the investigation was Mr. Trump's aim, "This strikes me as a lousy way to do it. All it does is heighten the attention given to the issue."
Truth is, President Trump had ample reason to be fed up with Mr. Comey, in part for his lack of enthusiasm to investigate actual, provable crimes related to "Russia-gate" — like leaking information from highly sensitive intercepted communications to precipitate the demise of Trump aide Michael Flynn. Mr. Flynn was caught "red-handed," so to speak, talking with Russia's ambassador last December. (In our experience, finding the culprit for that leak should not be very difficult; we suspect Mr. Comey already knows who was responsible.)
In contrast, Mr. Comey evinced strong determination to chase after ties between Russia and the Trump campaign until the cows came home. In the meantime, the investigation (already underway for 10 months) would itself cast doubt on the legitimacy of Mr. Trump's presidency and put the kibosh on plans to forge a more workable relationship with Russia — a win-win for the establishment and the FBI/CIA/NSA "Deep State"; a lose-lose for the president.
So far, it has been all smoke and mirrors with no chargeable offenses and not a scintilla of convincing evidence of Russian "meddling" in the election. The oft-cited, but evidence-free, CIA/FBI/NSA report of Jan. 6, crafted by "hand-picked" analysts, according to then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, is of a piece with the "high-confidence," but fraudulent, National Intelligence Estimate 15 years ago about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
But what about "Russia hacking," the centerpiece of accusations of Kremlin "interference" to help Mr.Trump?
On March 31, 2017, WikiLeaks released original CIA documents — ignored by mainstream media — showing that the agency had created a program allowing it to break into computers and servers and make it look like others did it by leaving telltale signs like Cyrillic markings, for example. The capabilities shown in what WikiLeaks calls the "Vault 7" trove of CIA documents required the creation of hundreds of millions of lines of source code. At $25 per line of code, that amounts to about $2.5 billion for each 100 million code lines. But the Deep State has that kind of money and would probably consider the expenditure a good return on investment for "proving" the Russians hacked.
It is altogether possible that the hacking attributed to Russia was actually one of several "active measures" undertaken by a cabal consisting of the CIA, FBI, NSA and Mr. Clapper — the same agencies responsible for the lame, evidence-free memorandum of Jan. 6.
Mr. Comey displayed considerable discomfort on March 20, explaining to the House Intelligence Committee why the FBI did not insist on getting physical access to the Democratic National Committee computers in order to do its own proper forensics, but chose to rely on the those done by DNC contractor Crowdstrike. Could this be explained by Mr. Comey's fear that FBI technicians not fully briefed on CIA/NSA/FBI Deep State programs might uncover a lot more than he wanted? Did this play a role in Mr. Trump's firing of Mr. Comey?
President Trump has entered into a high-stakes gamble in confronting the Deep State and its media allies over the evidence-free accusations of his colluding with Russia. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, publicly warned him of the risk earlier this year. "You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you," Mr. Schumer told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Jan. 3.
If Mr. Trump continues to "take on" the Deep State, he will be fighting uphill, whether he's in the right or not. It is far from certain he will prevail.
Ray McGovern (firstname.lastname@example.org) was a CIA analyst for 27 years; he briefed the president's daily brief one-on-one to President Reagan's most senior national security officials from 1981-85. William Binney (email@example.com) worked for NSA for 36 years, retiring in 2001 as the technical director of world military and geopolitical analysis and reporting; he created many of the collection systems still used by NSA.