Saturday, January 02, 2021

How Close We Came To Ultimate Betrayal


Of all the books written about the Trump era debacle, I wanted to read the one by Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who got hounded out of the agency by Donald J. Trump. Strzok had led much of the initial FBI investigation into Russian influence and interference in the 2016 election, and after Strzok's text messages criticizing Trump became public, the president unleashed literally hundreds of nasty tweets against him, forcing the agent to move his family into hiding. Those tweets -- some of which alleged that Strzok was a "traitor" - also led ultimately to Strzok's firing from the FBI.

I've just finished Strzok's book, "Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump." It's a quick read, and with Trump now increasingly in our rearview mirrors, I could stand to confront the insider knowledge that Strzok brings without sinking into more despair over the state of things and the prospect that we were going to have Trump in the White House for another four years.

Strzok offers a fairly straightforward conclusion of presidential betrayal: “Our investigations revealed Donald Trump’s willingness to further the malign interests of one of our most formidable adversaries, apparently for his own personal gain.” The catalog of evidence takes up almost a full page:

...the Russian hack and release of Democratic Party email; independent political actors and camnpaign affiliates back-channelling with WikiLeaks; a sustained and coordinated Russian attack on U.S. electoral systems; clandestine Russian exploitation of social media to target hot-button voter issues; a campaign foreign policy adviser [George Papadopoulos] who knew about the Russian hacks before we did and lied to us; another campaign adviser [Carter Page] with longtime connections to Russian intelligence personnel who couldn't keep his story straight; a former campaign manager [Paul Manafort] with huge debt and troubling ties to Russian and pro-Russian Ukrainian government figures; a former national security advisor [Mike Flynn] who had lied to us about his contacts with Russia and had been forced to resign because of it; an attorney general [Jeff Sessions] who had had contacts with Russia that he had not disclosed during his confirmation hearings.

And on top of it all, at the pinnacle of this heap of perfidy and treachery, sat a president who had lied to the public, cozied up to Russia, and, once he became aware of them, attempted to block our investigations at every turn.

Many of us don't expect Trump's obstruction of justice (the firing of FBI Director James Comey being only the most egregious example) to ever suffer prosecution. President Biden certainly doesn't encourage it and can probably keep it from ever happening. "We need to heal as a nation." Part of my healing would include seeing justice restored, but I'm resigned to Trump's going free, at least for the Federal crimes (the crimes in New York State are another matter). Strzok's book vividly reminds me of the absolute carnival of additional incompetent corruption we could have suffered had Trump been reelected. Can you imagine?

Strzok was and still is a boy scout. Albeit an arrogant and intolerant boy eagle scout. Impatient to a fault but smart as any buggy whip you ever snapped. Along with bashing Trump in his text messages with Lisa Page, the other FBI agent with whom he was having an affair, Strzok was an equal opportunity basher. He thought that Hillary Clinton and the Clinton campaign were bee-yotches of the first order. He hated both Democrats and Republicans and all the nonsense of Party politics, which were in full roar on the Hill during Trump's tenure. Everybody who acted stupidly or illegally deserved Peter Strzok's contempt. 

Obviously not his bosses at the FBI, Comey and McCabe and some others in the chain of command, who are and were in Strzok's eyes upstanding defenders of the constitution and the independence of the FBI and also victims like him of Trump's vindictiveness, with the willing participation of some of the Trump brass in the Department of Justice. (Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Bob Mueller, comes off as a willow stick in Magoo glasses -- a man who you didn't dare trust. (Not included in this book, but Rosenstein too became part of Trump's hobby of hollowing out any people who might dare challenge his right to do any damn thing he pleased. Rosenstein went quietly into retirement.)

[Footnote and a gripe: There's no index to this book. Bah!]

Strzok's personal talent for text-message-savaging of fools and poltroons -- written after all and sent really as a part of sexual foreplay with a colleague who gave as good as she got -- doesn't mean he wasn't a good and honest investigator. In fact, I think his devotion to blunt and even cruel honesty were part of his boy scout credo and actually the character flaw that makes him a tragic figure. The name "Lisa Page" does not appear in his book, and he refuses to say anything about the affair, except that he regrets it and knows it was wrong. Getting fired from the Russian investigation by Bob Mueller himself was a level of punishment to this Captain America that must have been excruciating. Even without Twitterman's roasting him on a spit.

Trump political appointees in the Department of Justice likely leaked the Strzok-Page text messages as part of an overall campaign to discredit the Russian "hoax" by fantasizing a "deep state" cabal of career investigators who supposedly hated Trump and wanted him destroyed. Later, when the IG of the FBI determined that Strzok had not employed any political bias in his investigation, higher-ups (now Trump replacements, officials afraid of Trump's anger) rewrote the report to support Strzok's firing. Rod Rosenstein presided over all of it.

Strzok's Connection To the Popular FX Series, "The Americans"

Strzok earned his stripes as an FBI counterintelligence specialist by being in on the exposure of some deep cover Russian spies who were posing as middle-class Canadians with two kids and longterm plans to become Americans. These real spies became the fictionalized characters Nadezhda and Mischa on the much more glamorous spy series "The Americans," which entertained us through six seasons with seductions and murders galore. The couple that Strzok helped expose were much staider. Their deep-cover identities became known to the FBI in 2001 -- after Strzok and his guys gained legal but secret access to the couple's safe deposit box -- but they and a whole network of other deep-cover Russian agents in several states weren't rounded up in a mass arrest until 2010.

All those Russian spies were eventually deported, exchanged for American assets in Russian prisons, including Sergei Skripal, a Russian double-agent for America. Putin and his operatives later hunted down Skripal and his daughter Yulia in an English provincial town and dosed them with nerve agent.

The ruthlessness of Putin has had its shadow puppet in the White House for four goddamn years.

1 comment:

Pixelshim said...

The truth will out. I hope that I live to see it.