By Mark Penn, The Hill, July 15, 2018
I’ve seen President Clinton deny he had a relationship with “that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” I’ve seen President Obama assure people they will get to keep their doctor under ObamaCare. And I’ve seen former press secretary Sean Spicer declare that President Trump’s inaugural crowd was larger than Obama’s.
But these falsehoods pale in comparison to the performances of a series of “deep state” witnesses who have combined chutzpah with balderdash, culminating so far in the testimony of FBI agent Peter Strzok.
Let’s review just some of the highlights.
Former FBI Director James Comey maintained he did not make any decision on the email investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton until after Hillary Clinton’s interview, even though his conclusion memo was written, edited and watered down months in advance of his announcement. We have all of the timing, the drafts of the memo, and the dates and times of the edits.
Former CIA head John Brennan denied he supplied the Steele dossier on Trump to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the face of mounting evidence that he did precisely that and, at least orally, gave the former Nevada Democrat a full account of the dossier, leading Reid to write a public letter demanding an investigation.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has flatly denied that he lied to the FBI about orchestrating a self-serving leak, even denying knowledge in several interviews with FBI investigators, including one session that Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz has on tape, if one reads the fine print of his report.
Now comes Strzok who, to the actual applause of congressional Democrats, denies he ever did anything in 26 years that contained even a hint of bias, despite the most damning evidence imaginable in the record — quote after quote indicating, at each and every phase of the Trump-Russia investigation, that he hated Trump, would create an “insurance policy” against his victory, and would “stop” him from serving as president. On a trip to Walmart, he says he can “smell” the Trump voters there. After all, he said, he expected his texts would be private communications — even as he used government devices to avoid detection of his relationship with then-FBI attorney Lisa Page, with whom he texted.
And like all the other witnesses, he does not come in contrite but with verbal guns blazing. These witnesses seem to believe they belong to a protected class. He offered no proof that he carefully acted to separate these views — which he constantly expressed to his paramour Page, who also was on the investigation — from his actions that are now under investigation. It is false, by the way, to say he was cleared of bias in the Trump-Russia investigation; the inspector general faulted Strzok’s texts and is currently investigating the origins of that investigation.
Remarkably, we learned that special counsel Robert Mueller never even made the slightest direct inquiry into Strzok’s actions and behavior, other than to remove him from the investigation. Mueller, you may recall, for five months ducked answering congressional inquiries as to why Strzok and Page were reassigned, and we only learned the reasons when the DOJ inspector general sent these text messages to Congress. Mueller, it seems, was too busy combing every single email of the transition team, and later monitoring every single call of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, to stop and review how this bias might have tainted much of the evidence of his investigation and require new interviews of witnesses or other action.
One other revelation in Thursday’s congressional hearing was really quite stunning: Strzok named fellow FBI official Bruce Ohr, whose wife was hired by the political opposition research firm Fusion GPS, as someone who handed in a version of the Steele dossier to the FBI. And Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) read from an email indicating that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), journalist David Corn of Mother Jones magazine and Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson all had sent versions of the Steele dossier to the FBI. (Simpson, by the way, testified he never dealt with the FBI.) At that point, just as it was getting interesting, Strzok claimed the FBI was barring him from answering any further questions on this material.
This revelation goes to the very heart of the matter of how bias led to a ridiculous, unverified group of mostly easily disproven allegations being treated as if they were the holy grail to stop Trump from becoming president. Dossier compiler and former British spy Christopher Steele, who also lied to the FBI about his press contacts, and Simpson apparently created a massive echo chamber involving the State Department, the CIA, politicians such as Reid and McCain, and the FBI — through the undisclosed relationship with Ohr’s wife — to spread what was all the same information, from the same unverified sources, as though it was coming in from all over. And this was all paid for through undisclosed contributions from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. Remember, her State Department aides denied to the FBI even knowing that she had her own email server as secretary of State, despite clearly communicating about it in emails, and those who smashed and destroyed evidence were given either immunity or a pass.
While former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and others have been prosecuted for lying to the FBI over communications and actions that appear to be perfectly legal, the FBI and the rest of the deep state have been allowed so far to thumb their noses at Congress and the American people without any serious repercussions. No wonder, for the first time, that fewer than 50 percent of respondents approve of the Mueller investigation in the latest Fox News poll.
News flash: President Clinton did have an inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Not everyone got to keep their existing insurance and doctors under ObamaCare. Trump’s in-person inaugural crowd was smaller than Obama’s turnout. And some of these deep state actors have testified under oath in ways that, to any reasonable person, would seem less than honest.
Mark Penn is a managing partner of the Stagwell Group, a private equity firm specializing in marketing services companies, as well as chairman of the Harris Poll and author of “Microtrends Squared.” He served as pollster and adviser to President Clinton from 1995 to 2000, including during Clinton’s impeachment. You can follow him on Twitter @Mark_Penn.
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