Politics, et Cetera

A publication from The Political Forum, LLC

 

Tuesday, February, 2018

They Said It:

To avoid, therefore, the evils of inconstancy and versatility, ten thousand times worse than those of obstinacy and the blindest prejudice, we have consecrated the state, that no man should approach to look into its defects or corruptions but with due caution; that he should never dream of beginning its reformation by its subversion; that he should approach to the faults of the state as to the wounds of a father, with pious awe and trembling solicitude.  Society is indeed a contract. But it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature.

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.

 

THE ILLOGIC OF AMERICAN POLITICS.

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran an interesting op-ed, tangentially related to last week’s “big” news story and warning of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things to come.  Unfortunately for the Times and for the op-ed’s author, the piece told us more about the state of our nation’s social fabric than it did about the President Trump, the ongoing investigation into Russian connections, or the supposed “harm” done by releasing the memo.  The author, a man named Josh Campbell, wrote the following in the Times’ usual “disappointed-with-America” tone:

After more than a decade of service, which included investigating terrorism, working to rescue kidnapping victims overseas and being special assistant to the director, I am reluctantly turning in my badge and leaving an organization I love.  Why?  So I can join the growing chorus of people who believe that the relentless attacks on the bureau undermine not just America’s premier law enforcement agency but also the nation’s security. My resignation is painful, but the alternative of remaining quiet while the bureau is tarnished for political gain is impossible.

A small number of my current and retired colleagues have said that we should simply keep our heads down until the storm passes.  I say this with the greatest respect: They are wrong.  If those who know the agency best remain silent, it will be defined by those with partisan agendas.

F.B.I. agents are dogged people who do not care about the direction of political winds.  But to succeed in their work, they need public backing.  Scorched-earth attacks from politicians with partisan goals now threaten that support, raising corrosive doubts about the integrity of the F.B.I. that could last for generations….

What, then, are we to make of the recent allegations of political bias at the F.B.I., particularly those involving two employees whose cringe-worthy text messages continue to  threaten the agency’s reputation?  While it would be disingenuous to claim that those two are not at least guilty of exercising incredibly poor judgment, it would be equally disingenuous for anyone who really knows the modern-day bureau to insinuate that the organization is plotting from within….

The assumption among confused and dismayed F.B.I. employees is that the attacks are meant to soften the blow should the investigation by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, lead to additional charges.  However, these kinds of attacks by powerful people go beyond mere criticism — they could destroy the institution.  Although those critics’ revisionist supporters claim their ire is reserved for institutional leadership and not the rank and file, it is the F.B.I. agent on the street who will be most severely affected as public support for federal law enforcement is sacrificed for partisan gain.

Clearly, Campbell lacks self-awareness.  He is upset that people think that the FBI has its own political agenda, and yet, here he is, in the pages of the New York Times, pushing his own political agenda.  And it doesn’t help matters that he is pitching his agenda in the Times, which is quite probably the most agenda-driven paper in the country, having admitted long before Donald Trump’s election that its duty was to frame the story in such a way as to “stand up” to those it sees as detrimental to its version of the American ideal.

Additionally, Campbell would have us believe that his thoughts, feelings, and frustrations are those of your average, everyday FBI agent, who is free from such biases and does not “not care about the direction of political winds.”  This train of thought fails on two counts.

First, Campbell was NOT just your average, everyday Joe.  He was, rather, the special assistant to the Director of the FBI.  And the Director, of course, is a political appointee, which is to say that he is, by definition, a political player.  That’s a good thing, in our opinion, but it undermines Campbell’s case.  You see, the second problem with Campbell’s lament is his opinion that the Bureau – or any bureaucracy, really – should and CAN remain insulated from politics.  This tenet of early public administration has been debunked repeatedly, both on practical and normative grounds.  Politics and administration are, in the end interconnected, as they should be.  Anything less would violate the very foundation of self-government.  The “dichotomy” between the politics and administration is a fantasy, and the ongoing adherence to this fantasy is both dangerous and destructive.

Beyond his confusion about what does and does not constitute constitutional governance in a republic, Campbell’s argument is based mostly on things he doesn’t and couldn’t possibly know.  For example, Campbell contends that “F.B.I. agents are dogged people who do not care about the direction of political winds.”  Then he adds that it would be disingenuous for anyone to “insinuate that the organization is plotting from within.”   In both cases, he is making claims that he either cannot know or that are contradicted by empirical evidence.

Those of you who are familiar with logic will notice that this great nation has been overcome by failures of logic.  In this specific case – and in countless others – the country is plagued by that which is known in statistics as the “Exception Fallacy” and in logic more generally as the “Fallacy of Composition.”  This is the fallacy whereby one assumes that something that is true of a part is also necessarily true of the whole.  To wit:  A is part of B.  A has property X.  Therefore, B has property X.  Thus we find that according to Campbell, he himself is righteous, dedicated, and dogged and the people he knows in the Bureau are righteous, dedicated, and dogged.  Therefore, the Bureau must be righteous, dedicated, and dogged.

Here’s the catch, though:  the Federal Bureau of Investigation is an $8-plus billion/year operation with more than 35,000 employees.  Additionally, it has a structural ethos which – to borrow Campbell’s condescension – anyone who really knows anything about organizational structures can tell you is likely quite different from the sum of its individual parts.

Worse still, Campbell not only presumes that everyone in the organization is as righteous as he is, he also presumes that his and their definitions of righteousness are necessarily those that are shared by the public at large.  This is the false consensus bias, which, when coupled with the Fallacy of Composition can create conditions and beliefs that to outsiders appears ridiculous, even obscene.  One would think, perhaps, that an agent of the FBI, in particular, would know this well.  You see, once upon a time, the leaders of the FBI thought they were protecting national security and saving the country from a grave danger and a communist agitator, a man named Martin Luther King, whom the Bureau’s leaders believed was far more corrupt and far more dangerous than even Donald Trump.

Just four short years ago, The New York Times – which was then still worried about the abuses that might be perpetrated against innocent people by a bureaucratic police agency with no serious oversight – published a letter that had been sent by the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Chief, William Sullivan to Martin Luther King, Jr., along with a package of blackmail material.  The letter, which was written to sound like it came from a black man outraged at King’s behavior, read as follows:

In view of your low grade, abnormal personal behavoir I will not dignify your name with either a Mr. or a Reverend or Dr.  And, your last name calls to mind only the type of King such as King Henry the VIII and his countless acts of adultery and immoral conduct lower than that of a beast.  King, look into your heart.  You know you are a complete fraud and a great Liability to all of us Negroes….

King, like all frauds your end is approaching.  You could have been our greatest leader.  You, even at an early age have turned out to be not a leader but a dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile…. But you are done.  Your “honorary” degrees, your Nobel Prize (what a grim farce) and other awards will not save you. King, I repeat you are done.

No person can overcome facts, not even a fraud like yourself.   Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure.  You will find yourself and in all your dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk exposed on the record for all time.  I repeat — no person can argue successfully against facts.  You are finished.  You will find on the record for all time your filthy, dirty, evil companions, male and females giving expression with you to your hideous abnormalities….

The American people, the church organizations that have been helping – Protestant, Catholic and Jews will know you for what you are — an evil, abnormal beast.  So will others who have backed you.  You are done.

King, there is only one thing left for you to do.  You know what it is.  You have just 31 days in which to do (this exact number been selected for a specific reason it has definite practical significant.)  You are done.  There is but one way out for you.  You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.

Now, for the record, we are not saying that the FBI is capable of such behavior today.  Indeed, we doubt there is anyone in the country – save a few conspiracy nuts – who could imagine the Bureau or its agents encouraging someone like Martin Luther King to kill himself today and using blackmail in the process.  At the same time, it’s worth remembering that the FBI of fifty years ago did not consider itself evil.  Indeed, it considered itself righteous, dedicated, and dogged.  And its unique role in protecting the national security permitted that self-perception to morph into something truly ugly and dangerous.

For our part, we agree with Campbell that most employees of the Bureau are honest, earnest, dedicated, hardworking, and quite smart.  We would also add that these characteristics generally apply to most Bureau employees past and present.  We know a few of them and could not be more honored by their friendship.  They are truly admirable people.

But that’s not really the point.  The point, rather, is that Josh Campbell has taken to the pages of the New York Times to make a political point (about others making political points) based on fallacious presumptions about both the leaders of the Bureau and the Bureau itself, given its organizational ethos.  This is foolish, and divisive.  Sadly – and here’s the thing – Campbell is not alone in making these presumptions; they constitute precisely the tactic that dominates our politics today.

When it comes to the FBI and its battle with President Trump, Campbell is not the only one who has fallen victim to the Fallacy of Composition.  In fact, countless other people have, not just in the mainstream media but in some of Left’s most prestigious organizations.  Consider, for example, the following, which was posted just yesterday at The Lawfare blog, an undertaking headed by Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.  It purports to be a damning indictment of the Trump administration for its inability, apparently, to tell the truth.  To wit:

When President Trump fired James Comey as FBI director last May, the special agent in charge of the Detroit field office, David Gelios, wrote an email to his staff:

I just saw CNN reporting that Director Comey has been fired by President Trump.  I have no notification from HQ of any such thing.  If I receive any information from HQ, I will advise.  I’d ask all to stand by for clarification of this reporting.  I am only sending this because I want everyone to know I have received no HQ confirmation of the reporting.  I hope this is an instance of fake news.

In the Knoxville field office, Special Agent in Charge Renae McDermott wrote to the staff she leads: “Unexpected news such as this is hard to understand but I know you all know our Director stood for what is right and what is true!!! . . . He truly made us better when we needed it the most.”

The following day, in an email with the subject line “Follow up with your squads,” she followed up: “I need for all of you to make sure our/your folks are doing OK.  Check with them today, tomorrow ….you get the idea.”

McDermott sent that latter email as the White House was launching its public broadside against Comey’s performance.  In a May 10 press conference, the same day McDermott was asking her staff to make sure one another were “doing OK,” then-Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that the president had “lost confidence in Director Comey” and that “the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director.”  She stated that the president had “had countless conversations with members from within the FBI” in the course of making his decision to fire Comey.  The following day, Sanders stated that she personally had “heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision” and that the president believed “Director Comey was not up to the task…that he wasn’t the right person in the job.  [Trump] wanted somebody that could bring credibility back to the FBI.”…

Over the next few days, a wealth of evidence emerged to suggest that Trump and Sanders were playing fast and loose with the truth.  But we now have the documents to prove that decisively.  Their disclosure was not a leak but an authorized action by the FBI, which released to us under the Freedom of Information Act more than 100 pages of leadership communications to staff dealing with the firing.  This material tells a dramatic story about the FBI’s reaction to the Comey firing — but it is neither a story of gratitude to the president nor a story of an organization in turmoil relieved by a much-needed leadership transition….

Here at Lawfare, Nora Ellingsen — who served as a counterterrorism analyst at the FBI for several years — talked with roughly 20 of her former colleagues. She characterized the opinion of Comey among the FBI’s rank and file as almost universally positive.  “Nearly everyone loved him,” she wrote, and the “degree of consensus on this point … has been incredible.”  She went on: “All of the people I talked to described having the same reaction when they heard that the director had been fired: complete shock, followed by deep sadness.”…

The bottom line is that the documents tell a remarkably consistent story about the reaction inside the FBI to Comey’s firing, and it is not the story the White House has told about an agency in turmoil.  It’s very much the story, rather, that McCabe told the Senate a few days after Comey’s dismissal.  Someone, the documents show, stood before the American people the week of the firing and told the truth about the FBI.  It just wasn’t Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Donald Trump.

The first thing you notice here is that someone – namely Lawfare blog – has something of an obsession.  In the grand scheme of things, this is an inconsequential story.  President Trump exaggerates, sometimes extraordinarily.  If the Lawfare folks think they have proven something here, good for them.  Out guess is that they merely confirmed what everyone else already knew.  The Trump White House – like every White House since Kennedy’s – sought to frame the narrative to its benefit and, in so doing, put the best public face it could on the matter.

The second thing you’ll notice is that the whole story, and especially Lawfare’s unequivocal claims of proving things “decisively,” is terribly misleading, primarily because it’s built on logically fallacious premises.  Indeed, this particular piece of work is a two-fer, in that it is fallacious on two counts.  For starters, there’s the obvious Fallacy of Composition again:  Some members of the FBI were upset, not happy that Director Comey was fired.  Therefore, the FBI itself was unhappy that Comey was fired.  Additionally, this story is representative of what is known as the Apex Fallacy, a subset of the Fallacy of Composition, in which the top-tier members of the group are assumed to be representative of the group as a whole.  Various FBI leaders – i.e. “more than 100 pages of leadership communications to staff” – are unhappy with firing of Director Comey, therefore, the entire Bureau is unhappy.  And so, by extension, no could possibly share the sentiments attributed to “some” Bureau members by President Trump and his spokespeople.

Under normal circumstances, none of this would matter much.  Yes, it’s a publication associated with the Brookings Institution, perhaps the best known and most powerful think tank in Washington.  But so what?  Who cares?

Well, as it turns out, we care, because this type of logically insipid argument dominates the political debate these days and is unquestionably exacerbating the nation’s already prominent rifts.  The people who wrote this piece – plus their readers – believe that this is definitive, unimpeachable evidence that Donald Trump is an inveterate liar whose dishonesty is, somehow, going to damage the country irreparably.  In truth, of course, this “evidence” proves nothing.  There is, as we said, no question that Trump lies in the sense that all politicians lie, but there is no proof in any of this that he lies more than others or that his lies are any more harmful to the country than other politicians’ lies.  And yet, the Lawfare folks are convinced of it, hardened in their convictions by “definitive” proof and therefore even more willing to “resist” the President and to seek his failure.

Of course, if you’re looking for two-fers, the attitude of the mainstream cultural apparatuses – media, academia, entertainment, politics – is logical fallaciousness on steroids.  Today, “earnest” journalists, celebrities, and academics bemoan the “shocking”, previously hidden, racial animosity held by many white people and many Republicans.  In an August, 2017 piece for The Hill, for example, the Democratic pollster Margie Omero discussed her surprise at the racist attitudes expressed by individuals in some unspecified focus groups:

Working as a Democratic pollster, white Americans’ racial prejudice is hard to avoid.  You particularly hear it in focus groups, where voters can easily lapse into racially coded language.  I’ve had respondents tell me they’ve heard on “very good authority” that “Latinos get to go directly to the front of the line” for government assistance.  I once heard a veteran complain that “immigrants from Egypt” were getting more help to pay for college or housing than he was.  Another complained “welfare queens” got priority over them when it came to health insurance.

While moderating, I’m not supposed to tackle these views head-on in real time.  My job is to try to understand respondents’ motivations — worries about scarce economic resources, limited upward mobility, and financial insecurity.  In the past hearing these comments saddened me, but I felt confident we could eventually neutralize many racially hostile views if our politics focused on economic prosperity and optimism.

Now I know we need more than that.

You get that?  Some white Americans said some ignorant things that may or may not have been racist, depending on one’s definition, and therefore “white people” have a problem with race that requires “more than that.”

Also last August, a professor at Clemson University said out loud what many others have said in private, namely that all Republicans are racists.  In a Facebook post Bart Knijnenburg  declared that “All trump supporters, nay, all Republicans, are racist scum.”  Just to make sure no one missed his point, he reiterated himself in the comments on his post, writing “All republicans? Yes…Your complacency made this happen.  Pick a side: denounce your affiliation, or admit you’re a racist.”

Michael Moore – the round clown of Hollywood – has often taken the same tack in describing Republicans, insisting that anyone who would vote for or be a member of the GOP is, by definition, a racist.  Variety put it this way last year:

Following the rally and vigil he led after the performance of his Broadway show Aug. 15, Michael Moore appeared on CNN for an explosive interview with Don Lemon in which he equated support for Donald Trump with racism.

“If you vote for a racist, what are you then?  Because it sure sounds like racism to me,” he told Lemon during the late-night interview, after Moore and Mark Ruffalo protested outside Trump Tower with the audience of his current Broadway show.  “He’s absolutely a racist,” Moore added of Trump, saying later in the interview, “If you still support the racist, you are the racist.”…

In the interview, Moore also likened Trump supporters to rape enablers, in a rhetorical move over which Lemon expressed discomfort.

In all of this, you see logical fallacies galore.  You see the Fallacy of Composition and the Apex fallacy, of course, but you also see their inverse, the Fallacy of Division, in which characteristics of the whole are presumed to apply to individuals as well.  The GOP secretly believes X, which means that everyone in the GOP is presumed to believe X secretly as well.  The whole bit is a logical dumpster fire.

And yet, it’s this type of thinking that dominates our politics today.

In a piece written last summer for National Review, the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro argued that all of this – this breakdown in logic and the overreliance of fallacious arguments – was, in part, the result of our cultural elites’ snobbery and their need to denigrate those they see as inferior.  He wrote:

The third reason the media seem so eager to label Trump a racist: If they label Trump racist, they can pillory anyone who disagrees as a representative of broader American racism.  The media take a Trump statement — say, Trump’s excoriation of MS-13 — and pillory it as racist, then claim that public support for Trump is evidence of widespread white privilege and institutional racism.  The syllogism is simple: Trump is a racist; only racists support a racist; Americans who support Trump are racists.

Certainly, Shapiro is right, but we think that there’s more to it than just that.  The supreme irony here is that once upon a time, the Fallacy of Composition was the last redoubt of the true racist.  Hurtful, harmful, derogatory, and damaging stereotypes were created and perpetuated by use of the Fallacy of Composition.  For example, the Rothschilds, who were powerful bankers, were also Jewish.  Therefore ALL bankers and ALL masters of global finance are Jewish.  Likewise, the New York Times and the Washington Post were both founded by Jewish families.  Therefore the Jews control the global media.  From time immemorial, this breakdown in logic has largely served the ends of those with nefarious and racially tinged intentions.

Today, the notion that certain groups possess group characteristics is back, but is now the redoubt of those who purport to be “liberal,” “progressive,” or “anti-racist.”  Indeed, Fallacy of Composition has become an integral part of the postmodern Left’s attempt to rewrite the balance of power in Western societies.  Called “identity politics,” this application of the Fallacy of Composition posits that every identity group – whites, black, male, female, non-conforming, straight, gay, etc. – has its own version of reality, shared only but totally by every member of the group.  Reality does not exist as an objective matter.  The collective experiences of the identity group differentiate it from the whole, which is why only the members of the identity group “experience” reality in a specific manner.  Everyone else experiences reality differently and cannot even begin to fathom what it means to experience reality from within the group.

Postmodernists believe that all identity groups speak a language unique to themselves and to their own experiences.  Therefore, they believe that certain groups communicate “secret messages” to one another through otherwise seemingly innocuous speech.   This is the “dog-whistle” complaint we hear so much about in politics today.  “States’ rights,” for example, is white, racist code for hatred of blacks and other minorities.  Only the white racists – and the assorted post-modernist cultural polymaths – understand the code for what it really is.

Postmodernism insists that shared language, experiences, etc. form the backbone of identity-based reality.  Unless one has lived, breathed, spoken about, and otherwise faced the experiences of a specific identity group, one cannot possibly fathom what reality is or means to that group.  Only the group itself can exercise or justify its own expression of power.  Or to put it another way, the shared experiences of victimhood create the demand for power, which, in turn, begets status and which cannot be questioned from the outside.  Identity politics is a postmodern initiative designed not just to empower the Left’s favored groups, but to shield those groups from any and all external criticism.

All of this feeds division, breeds resentment, and distorts our politics.  Moreover, it is all grounded in the logical Fallacy of Composition.

Aha, you say.  But in this specific case, isn’t Trump doing much the same thing when accuses the FBI of being corrupt?  Isn’t he too attributing characteristics of individuals to the whole?  Maybe, but not necessarily.  At the most fundamental level, the FBI is a bureaucracy, just like any other.  And nearly a century of study of bureaucracies has shown that these agencies do, indeed, have a common organizational ethic.  Bureaucracies are not identity groups.  They are collective entities that share common characteristics and common behaviors.  Moreover, these behaviors are self-interested and intended to preserve the organization over all other functions and from all threats.

It is true that the members of the FBI share no unique characteristics beyond the skills necessary to carry out the Bureau’s mission.  But in this case, that is not especially relevant.  Several weeks ago, we quoted a tweet by the former Director of the FBI, James Comey, who bragged about how the Bureau is now and always has been “independent.”   This then is the problem:  the Bureau’s current and past leaders think of themselves as independent, which is to say beyond the control of mere politicians.  This in itself is problematic and in contradiction of the ideals and values of our republic.  Trump is not engaging in identity politics of illogical thinking when he calls the Bureau corrupt.  He is, rather, stating the obvious, if doing so hyperbolically.  The FBI works for the people of the United States, and it is hardly illogical to expect it to behave that way.

 

MERE COINCIDENCE?

In the above piece, you likely noticed that we mentioned two entities that are leading the charge against the “corrupt” and “dishonest” Trump administration, the FBI and the Lawfare blog, which is published in cooperation with the Brookings Institution.  The memo released last week by Congressman Devin Nunes and the House Select Committee on Intelligence purported to show how the Clinton administration had manipulated the FBI and the Obama Justice Department to undermine the Trump campaign and then the Trump presidency.  We know that such charges might sound outrageous to some.  And so to help minimize the skepticism among any of you doubters, we want to take a brief trip down memory lane. This trip will, we think, help explain why we don’t share the skepticism but have grown increasingly cynical

We’ll start with a piece we wrote and published on May 26, 1999, titled “Crooks, Incompetents, Political Hacks, and Fools,” which describes the Clintons, some of their connections with the FBI, and some of those connections’ connections.  To wit:

As Linda Tripp, a low level Defense Department employee who is involved in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, discovered recently, Clinton’s investigators will dig back three decades if necessary to find some dirt on someone they want to discredit

She also discovered that even if what they find doesn’t amount to much, they will still use it for all it’s worth. In her case, they had the Secretary of Defense himself announce what he described as a “very serious” finding on national prime time news, namely that she had been involved in a minor scrape 29 years earlier while in college.

Whether the Clinton gang knew it or not, such a crude display of raw power aimed at an ordinary citizen is a textbook police state method. When considering this, it is important to understand that this tactic is not principally designed to effect the particular individual involved, but to intimidate anyone else who might be thinking about coming forward with information.

It can be a highly useful tactic, especially, as in the present case, when it is known that the Clinton crowd once had over 900 confidential FBI files on Republicans, and also once had former FBI General Counsel Howard Shapiro running back and forth between the Bureau and the White House like some sort of bicycle courier.

Shapiro is now a private attorney with the high powered, Washington law firm of Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering, where former White House counsel and “Washington fixer extraordinaire” Lloyd Cutler hangs his hat. Among other things, Shapiro represents a man named Terry Lenzner, a private investigator who works for a firm called the Investigative Group Inc. (IGI).

To complement our work, we’ll also give you a little bit from a September, 1998 Vanity Fair article called “The President’s Private Eye,” which adds more details about Lenzner and his IGI group:

Many who have passed through Lenzner’s gates are of undeniable renown: Raymond Kelly, an undersecretary at the Treasury, was president of I.G.I. between 1994 and 1996.  Former FBI deputy director Larry Potts is now at the firm.  Brooke Shearer, the First Lady’s close friend and the wife of Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, worked at I.G.I. for four tempestuous years and remains Lenzner’s particular confidante.  Her twin brother, Cody Shearer, was also a frequent presence, according to former employees. . . .

“Dumpster-dipping,” or sorting through the trash of a “target” is an art form mastered by, among others, Brooke Shearer, who is now a senior adviser at the Department of the Interior [where Web Hubbell’s wife works also].  “There’s nothing more hilarious than seeing Brooke go through people’s garbage,” reports one I.G.I. alumnus. . . .

Contrary to the assertions of White House lawyers, who claim I.G.I. began its work for Clinton in 1994, the firm began its work on Clinton’s behalf seven years ago.  Even earlier it had investigated his potential political opponents in Arkansas . . . . In 1991, says another ex-employee, when Clinton sought the presidency, work on his behalf began in earnest.  The idea was to discover what dirt New York governor Mario Cuomo’s supporters may have dug up on his rival presidential hopeful.  There were evidently deep anxieties among Clinton backers, some concerning an Arkansas bank . . . . As it happened, I.G.I. already had considerable information on a Cuomo pal. . . .

Why should you care?  What does any of this have to do with anything?  Well, for starters it’s worth remembering that the Clintons are old hands at manipulating and abusing the FBI.  Additionally, some of these old friends are turning up these days in interesting places.  Yesterday, the great investigative reporter Byron York penned a piece on the newly released (but heavily redacted) criminal referral sent to the Justice Department by Senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham regarding the former British spy who compiled the Trump dossier.  York wrote the following:

A newly released document from the Senate Judiciary Committee says Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the Trump dossier, wrote an additional memo on the subject of Donald Trump and Russia that was not among those published by BuzzFeed in January 2017.

The newly released document is an unclassified and heavily redacted version of the criminal referral targeting Steele filed on Jan. 4 by Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. It appears to confirm some level of coordination between the extended Clinton circle and the Obama administration in the effort to seek damaging information about then-candidate Trump.

According to the referral, Steele wrote the additional memo based on anti-Trump information that originated with a foreign source. In a convoluted scheme outlined in the referral, the foreign source gave the information to an unnamed associate of Hillary and Bill Clinton, who then gave the information to an unnamed official in the Obama State Department, who then gave the information to Steele. Steele wrote a report based on the information, but the redacted version of the referral does not say what Steele did with the report after that.

Published accounts in the Guardian and the Washington Post have indicated that Clinton associate Cody Shearer was in contact with Steele about anti-Trump research, and Obama State Department official Jonathan Winer was a connection between Steele and the State Department during the 2016 campaign.

Did you catch that?  Our old pal Cody Shearer was “in contact” with Steele, the guy whose dossier formed the primary evidence for the FBI’s wiretap requests against Trump personnel.  As York notes, London’s Guardian newspaper has more:

The FBI inquiry into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 US presidential election has been given a second memo that independently set out some of the same allegations made in a dossier by Christopher Steele, the British former spy….

The second memo was written by Cody Shearer, a controversial political activist and former journalist who was close to the Clinton White House in the 1990s.

Unlike Steele, Shearer does not have a background in espionage, and his memo was initially viewed with scepticism, not least because he had shared it with select media organisations before the election.

However, the Guardian has been told the FBI investigation is still assessing details in the “Shearer memo” and is pursuing intriguing leads.

Not only is Shearer involved, he actually wrote the other memo, which is currently being used by the FBI!  Dumpster-divers never sleep!

Now, there’s one more key detail about Shearer that we think is worth mentioning:  Cody Shearer’s twin sister and fellow dumpster-diver, Brooke, is married to Strobe Talbott, who just happens to be the former president of the Brookings Institution (having resigned his position just this past October).  Now, the Guardian notes that “Cody Shearer does not have a background in espionage,” and thus might not have Steele’s connections in Russia, but guess what?  Before his brother-in-law went to work for Brookings, he was the Deputy Secretary of State for specializing in the post-Soviet states.  And you know who he worked for?  Bill Clinton!  And before he was the Deputy Secretary of State, Talbott was a foreign correspondent for Time Magazine in, among other places, the Soviet Union!  And before he was a foreign correspondent for Time, he translated Nikita Kruschev’s memoirs from Russian to English!

Now, we don’t know about you, but all of this strikes us as both fascinating and far from coincidental.  We don’t want to say that anything will come of it.  We spent the entire 1990s expecting something to come of the Clintons’ manifest corruption.  And we were always wrong.  Maybe this time will be different.  Who knows?  Don’t hold your breath, though.

And don’t put anything in the trash you wouldn’t want the FBI to read!

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