.. Together, Strzok and Page explored the power of secrets, routinely leaking to the press to shape political outcomes. “Still on the phone with Devlin,” Page texted to Strzok, referring to former Wall Street Journal national-security reporter Devlin Barrett. Big news about the Hillary Clinton email story was breaking when Devlin and Page were on the phone together. “You might wanna tell Devlin he should turn on CNN, there’s news on,” Strzok texted back.
Page: He knows. He just got handed a note.
Strzok: Ha. He asking about it now?
Page: Yeah. It was pretty funny.
Influencing the nation’s politics was routine. And ridiculously easy: one quick call to “Devlin,” and boom! The world changed.
.. Deploying secrets for political effect — deciding which to keep, which to tell, and how to tell them — was a task that they approached with alacrity. The ultimate goal, of course, was not propping up Hillary Clinton so much as maximizing the power and autonomy of the FBI. In pursuing this goal, McCabe and the two lovers demonstrated the very essence of the right stuff: a breezy comfort with bending the law to the demands of politics.
.. The dossier, as we have come to know it, is some 17 reports that he compiled between June and December 2016. In early July, Steele had been working on the Clinton account for only a few weeks and had written but one report, dated June 20. It claimed that Trump was Vladimir Putin’s Manchurian candidate. “[The] Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting, and assisting Trump for at least 5 years,”
.. Putin’s goal was “to sow discord and disunity both within the US itself, but more especially within the Transatlantic alliance.” The Russian leader supported Trump, mainly, by supplying “valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”
.. Putin had offered lucrative financial contracts, but Trump had turned them down. The wily Russian, however, had managed to get his hooks into Trump due to the American’s “sexual perversion.”
.. Mike Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA, helps explain the delay. Morell did some digging into Christopher Steele’s dossier and shared the results of his research at a public forum in Washington, D.C., in March 2017. Steele, according to Morell, did not have direct access to the Russians whom he labeled as his “sources” — people who included former officers in the FSB. He “communicated” with them, if that is the right word, through paid intermediaries
.. The chances of Steele having been played were thus great. Morell explained it like this:
If you’re paying somebody, particularly former FSB officers, they are going to tell you truth and innuendo and rumor, and they’re going to call you up and say, “Hey, let’s have another meeting, I have more information for you,” because they want to get paid some more.
This process, Morell said, “takes you nowhere.”
.. Morell, the man who expressed that opinion, was not just a seasoned intelligence professional; he was also a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton for president.
.. When in the history of the rivalry between the West and Russia has it been possible for a British spy to call up sources in Moscow and gain immediate access to the deepest secrets of the Kremlin? Steele, relying only on his wits, unearthed gems the likes of which glittered only in the dreams of the CIA, Mossad, and MI6, the greatest intelligence-gathering organizations on earth. To believe that tale, we must assume that Steele, like James Bond, is no ordinary secret agent. He’s a super spy.
.. Steele was “passionate about” preventing Trump from winning the election. His financial incentives, of course, oriented him in exactly the same direction. He was a paid piper — and he got paid only for collecting information detrimental to Trump. Isn’t it possible — likely, even — that his shadowy paymasters in the demimonde of the Clinton campaign were calling the tune?
.. “He said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. . . . I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.”
.. “Our specialty is public record information.” In truth, Simpson’s true specialty is not research but persuasion — more specifically, persuasion of reporters. He has a talent for convincing journalists to publish stories, true or not, that benefit his clients. In short, he is a public-relations flack.
.. But Simpson is no ordinary PR man; he’s a super flack. In the first decade of this century, he was in his early forties and working as an investigative journalist for the Wall Street Journal. He was reaching the pinnacle of his profession just as the Internet was gutting the print media. Simpson, however, had a marketable talent. “I call it journalism for rent,” he said at a public forum in August 2017. Journalism as we once knew might be dead, but deep-pocketed clients still needed to get stories into the press. And they needed to block other stories from being published. Simpson knew almost every member of the Washington press corps personally, and he understood the constraints under which they worked — what it took to get a story past an editor.
.. Con men stoke the greed of their marks by letting them catch glimpses of suitcases bulging with cash. Simpson gave his marks a sense that he was similarly loaded — but with valuable information, not money.
.. Remnick explained. “He sees in Trump weakness and ignorance, a confused mind. He has every hope of exploiting him.”
.. As it turns out, Steele reported, the idea to hack the DNC actually originated from the American side. It was Trump’s team that defined the objective of the operation: “leaking the DNC e-mails to Wikileaks during the Democratic Convention” in order “to swing supporters of Bernie Sanders away from Hillary Clinton and across to Trump.”
.. On the day-to-day level, the job of managing the Trump-Putin collusion fell to Paul Manafort
.. The Trump people had placed him on a team of foreign-policy advisers, to be sure, but they had thrown the group together in haste to counter the accusation that the campaign lacked an expert bench.
.. Steele’s allegations against Page make sense only in a Marvel Comics universe. Carter Page: by day, a mild-mannered businessman; by night, a diabolical mastermind.
The role that the super spy ascribed to Page