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The Permanent Coup
How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President
By Lee Smith
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CHRONOLOGY OF THE PERMANENT COUP
• The Maidan Revolution is born as protestors take to the streets in Kiev, Ukraine, on November 21.
• Between November and February, Vice President Joe Biden makes nine phone calls to Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovych.
• In December, State Department official Victoria Nuland is in Kiev meeting with Yanukovych, opposition, and protestors in effort to shape foreign government.
• After Ukrainian president Yanukovych flees to Russia in February, Biden visits Kiev in April to warn Ukrainian officials against corruption.
• In May Biden’s son Hunter is appointed to the board of Bursima, an energy company owned by an ally of the exiled Yanukovych.
• In August, a Ukrainian prosecutor opens investigation of Burisma. By end of year, owner of company paying Biden’s son $80,000 a month has fled Ukraine and is on the most wanted list.
• Through the spring and summer, Biden is in regular contact with the new Ukrainian president, Poroshenko.
• Donald Trump announces his candidacy for president on June 16.
• On July 14, the Obama administration strikes a nuclear agreement with Iran.
• In the summer, CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella is detailed to the White House and works with Biden.
• In October, Washington, DC–based opposition research firm Fusion GPS hires CIA contractor Nellie Ohr for research on alleged Trump ties to Russian organized crime figures.
• On December 7, a New York Times article reports on Hunter Biden’s work for Ukrainian firm Burisma.
• On December 9, Joe Biden first publicly calls for the Ukrainian government to clean out the prosecutor’s office investigating the company that is paying his son.
• In mid-January, the Obama White House invites Ukrainian officials to Washington and asks them to drop the investigation of the company paying Hunter Biden. US officials also ask for information on a Republican strategist who worked with Ukrainian officials, Paul Manafort. Biden aide and Ukraine specialist Ciaramella is in attendance.
• Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, senior Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr, and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson begin to correspond regarding Trump and Russia issues.
• Trump names his foreign policy team in March 21 interview with the Washington Post.
• A smear campaign tying Trump officials to Russian interests begins to appear in the US press at the end of March.
• Paul Manafort is named Trump campaign convention manager on March 29.
• On March 29, the Ukrainian parliament dismisses the prosecutor investigating the company paying Biden’s son.
• In April, Fusion GPS is hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
• Rome-based academic Joseph Mifsud tells Trump aide George Papadopoulos on April 24 that Russia possesses the Hillary Clinton emails.
• Papadopoulos meets in early May with Alexander Downer. In late July, the Australian diplomat tells US counterpart Elizabeth Dibble that the Trump aide suggested Russia may have damaging information on Clinton.
• In May, Fusion GPS hires Steele to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia.
• Donald Trump Jr. agrees to a June 9 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. She has Clinton-funded Fusion GPS under contract to push pro-Putin, anti-US information campaign.
• On June 12 Julian Assange announces that Wikileaks will publish Clinton-related emails.
• The first memo, dated June 20, from the dossier attributed to Steele, alleges that Trump is supported by Russian government.
• Steele meets FBI agent Michael Gaeta in London on July 5.
• The same day, FBI director James Comey clears Clinton regarding the private computer server investigation.
• Carter Page delivers a speech in Moscow on July 7.
• Halper meets Carter Page at a Cambridge University symposium on July 11.
• A July 19 Steele memo alleges that prior to visiting Cambridge, Page had met with Russian officials in Moscow.
• Wikileaks posts stolen Democratic National Committee emails on July 22.
• On July 24, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook claims that Russia hacked the DNC emails to assist Trump. Dossier memo from late July makes same allegation.
• Steele meets with Bruce and Nellie Ohr in Washington, DC, on July 30.
• On July 31, the FBI opens an umbrella investigation of the Trump team based on the information regarding Papadopoulos that the Australian diplomat gave to the US embassy in London. The investigation is called Crossfire Hurricane.
• On August 10, the FBI begins separate investigations of Manafort, Page, and Papadopoulos.
• On August 11 and 12, Crossfire Hurricane agents meet with FBI informant Stefan Halper, who claims an acquaintance with Page, Manafort, and Flynn.
• FBI agent Peter Strzok sends the “insurance policy” text to FBI lawyer Lisa Page on August 15.
• On August 16, the FBI opens an investigation of Flynn, called “Crossfire Razor.”
• August 20, Halper meets with Page and asks if the Trump campaign is planning an October surprise to spring on the Clinton campaign. He records Page.
• CIA director John Brennan briefs Senate minority leader Harry Reid on Trump-Russia claims on August 25.
• Reid sends an open letter on August 29 to Comey regarding Carter Page and demands that he come forth with information he is holding.
• On September 15, Halper meets twice with Papadopoulos and records him.
• Yahoo News publishes a story sourced anonymously to Steele that implicates Page as a Russian spy on September 23. The article by Michael Isikoff is later used to obtain a spy warrant on Carter Page.
• On September 28, FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe is notified of Clinton emails found on a Clinton aide’s laptop.
• The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court grants the FBI a warrant to monitor Page’s communications on October 21.
• The FBI reopens the Clinton email investigation on October 28.
• On October 30, Harry Reid sends a second letter to Comey.
• News stories in several outlets dealing with false allegations about Trump’s ties to Russia publish in the Financial Times, Mother Jones, the New York Times, and Slate on October 31.
• Donald J. Trump is elected forty-fifth president of the United States on November 8.
• No later than November 30, Obama officials commence surveillance of incoming Trump officials. Flynn’s identity is unmasked from transcripts of classified intercepts no less than fifty-three times by thirty-nine Obama aides.
• On December 9, Obama directs CIA chief John Brennan to conduct an Intelligence Community Assessment that determines Russian president Vladimir Putin interfered with the election to help Trump win.
• On December 29, Obama imposes sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 elections.
• Flynn’s December 29 call with the Russian ambassador becomes a weapon for Obama officials to get rid of Flynn.
• On January 4, FBI agent Peter Strzok is told by FBI leadership to see if the investigation of Flynn is still open.
• On January 5, Obama meets with Biden, Comey, national security advisor Susan Rice, and deputy attorney general Sally Yates. Strzok’s notes show that Obama tells FBI director, “Make sure you look at things and have the right people on it.” Rice writes an email to herself January 20 claiming that she and Joe Biden heard Obama tell Comey at the January 5 meeting to go “by the book.”
• The declassified version of the Intelligence Community Assessment is released on January 6. The same day President-elect Trump is briefed on the ICA and the Steele dossier.
• CNN’s story on Trump being briefed posts on January 10. Hours later, BuzzFeed publishes the dossier.
• David Ignatius writes a January 12 Washington Post column sourced to a leaked transcript of the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak.
• Crossfire Hurricane interviews Steele’s primary subsource in January as part of a massive cover-up to hide abuses and crimes committed during the Trump probe.
• Trump is inaugurated as the forty-fifth president of the United States on January 20.
• In late January, the Crossfire Hurricane team discusses how to entrap Flynn in forthcoming interview.
• On January 24, Flynn is interviewed by FBI agents, who tell FBI leadership that he didn’t lie.
• George Papadopoulos is interviewed for the first time January 27, six months after the FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane, based on allegations regarding his connections to Russians.
• On February 9, the Washington Post publishes a story sourced to the transcript of the Flynn-Kislyak call.
• Flynn leaves the White House on February 13.
• On March 2, Trump tweets that Obama had him wiretapped.
• The same day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigations after a Washington Post story sourced to intercepts reports that he failed to declare meetings with the Russian ambassador.
• Comey’s March 20 testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) reveals the FBI’s investigation of Trump.
• On March 22, the HPSCI chairman, Representative Devin Nunes, reveals the Obama administration’s unmasking of Trump officials.
• Kashyap “Kash” Patel joins the HPSCI staff in April, and Objective Medusa, their investigation of abuses and possible crimes committed during FBI Russia probe, commences.
• Trump fires Comey on May 9.
• In May, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein reportedly suggests to FBI and DOJ officials that they record Trump.
• FBI acting director Andrew McCabe opens an investigation of Trump.
• In a bid to orchestrate the appointment of a special counsel, Comey leaks memos of meetings and conversations with Trump to the New York Times for a May 16 story.
• Robert Mueller is appointed special counsel on May 17.
• On May 23, John Brennan testifies in front of HPSCI that he initiated the Trump-Russia investigation.
• On June 14, the CIA’s reported Russian asset Oleg Smolenkov leaves Moscow.
• The Washington Post’s June 23 story reports the existence of a CIA mole deep inside the Kremlin.
• The New York Times publishes stories on four consecutive days (July 9–12) about a Trump Tower meeting the year before between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer.
• On July 12, the FBI interviews another attendee at the Trump Tower meeting, who corroborates Trump Jr.’s account and says that nothing nefarious happened.
• Rosenstein writes an August 2 memo outlining the scope of the special counsel investigation, parameters that are based on allegations made in the dossier.
• In October Objective Medusa uncovers that Clinton campaign paid for the dossier; the role of senior DOJ official Bruce Ohr and wife, Nellie, in the Crossfire Hurricane investigation; and that FBI agent Peter Strzok was dismissed from the Mueller team.
• After the special counsel leaks that Flynn’s son may be indicted, on December 1 the former Trump confidant pleads guilty to making false statements to the FBI.
• On January 23, former vice president Joe Biden gives a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations in which he boasts of a 2016 quid pro quo with the Ukrainian government. He tells the audience that he used $1 billion in US taxpayer money as leverage to get the Ukrainians to fire the prosecutor who was investigating the company paying his son Hunter.
• On February 2, the HPSCI majority releases the Nunes memo, showing that the FBI used the Clinton-funded dossier to obtain a FISA warrant on Page.
• The House Intelligence Committee releases its “Report on Russian Active Measures” on March 22.
• In April, the New York Times and the Washington Post are jointly awarded a Pulitzer Prize for pushing the collusion conspiracy theory with stories based on leaks of classified intelligence.
• On February 14, William Barr is confirmed as attorney general.
• On March 22, Mueller files his final report on the special counsel investigation.
• On May 13, Barr appoints the US attorney from Connecticut John Durham to investigate the origins of Crossfire Hurricane.
• On July 24, Mueller testifies before House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees as Russia investigation concludes.
• Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Zelensky is overheard by National Security Council staffer Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who discusses it with colleague Eric Ciaramella.
• On August 12, Ciaramella files a whistleblower’s complaint based on hearsay with intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson.
• After the Department of Justice finds that the report does not meet the statutory requirements to qualify as a whistleblower’s complaint, Atkinson notifies the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on September 12 that he has a whistleblower’s complaint.
• On September 13, California congressman Adam Schiff subpoenas the complaint.
• On September 24, Trump releases a transcript of the call. The same day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces a formal impeachment inquiry.
• Throughout October, Schiff conducts dozens of interviews to vet and rehearse witnesses before the public hearings begin.
• On December 9, 2019, the DOJ’s inspector general Michael Horowitz releases his long-awaited report detailing evidence of crimes and abuses the FBI committed during the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
• After public hearings conclude in early December, Pelosi waits until January 15 to pass two articles of impeachment to the Senate.
• A week after Senate proceedings begin, Trump is warned about the approaching coronavirus and shuts down travel from China on January 31.
• On February 5, the Senate acquits the president, and the next day he celebrates with allies in the White House.
• In February, Kash Patel is detailed to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as Ambassador Richard Grenell’s deputy. The documents they declassify give more evidence of government crimes and abuses committed during the Trump investigation.
• In order to better allocate federal resources to manage the pandemic, Trump declares a national emergency on March 13.
• On March 29, the president extends stay-at-home guidelines through April.
• Barack Obama makes an unprecedented appearance on social media on April 10 to remind his supporters of his political presence.
• On May 7, the Justice Department withdraws its case against Flynn.
• On May 8, Obama leaks a conversation in which he suggests Flynn might yet be prosecuted for perjury.
• On May 25, a Minneapolis man dies when a police officer kneels on the back of his neck for nearly nine minutes. The ensuing protests spread throughout America, leaving a wake of death and destruction.
• On May 31, rioters massing at the White House set fire to a historic church.
• On June 1, Trump leads senior cabinet members on a walk across Pennsylvania Avenue to visit the church. The president holds a Bible in his hands and says, “This is a great country.”
• Former defense secretary James Mattis publishes a statement on June 3 that encourages senior Pentagon officials to put distance between themselves and the president, thereby destabilizing the government of the United States.
• The same day, June 3, Obama holds a video town hall in which he says the protests that ravaged America offer an opportunity for change.
• The coup continues.
CLOUD OF DUST
“We’ve all been through a lot together,” said the president.
It was February 6, 2020, and Donald Trump was addressing the allies he’d brought together at the White House. The Senate had just acquitted him of impeachment charges, and it appeared that the plot that had begun even before Trump became president was finally over.
The country had been through a lot ever since he was elected to lead it. And there would be more only a few months ahead, epochal events that no one could have imagined, a global pandemic, and then nationwide riots that convulsed the country. Even these shared traumas that should’ve united America were seen by Trump’s opponents as instruments to undo him. It was by that time the normal course of things.
Almost immediately after he’d won the presidency, a vocal and privileged minority led by government bureaucrats and the media convinced millions of Americans to turn on their neighbors, families, and fellow citizens just because they voted for Trump. They called the rancor they used to divide the country “Resistance.” The instability they provoked was meant to impede the president’s agenda with the ultimate goal of forcing Trump from the White House.
But in February, the president was just relieved to have been acquitted. He talked about his 2016 opponent, whose political warfare operation tasked a former British spy to invent a story about him and imaginary ties to Russia. “Hillary Clinton and the DNC paid millions of dollars for a fake dossier,” said Trump, “and now Christopher Steele admits that it’s fake.”
The FBI used the dossier to get a warrant to spy on Trump and his associates. He described his interactions with the former director of the Bureau, who’d managed the coup until May 2017. “Had I not fired James Comey,” said Trump, “it’s possible I wouldn’t even be standing here right now. We caught him in the act. Dirty cops. Bad people.”
In May 2017, control of the operation was passed to a special counsel, Comey’s predecessor at the FBI, Robert Mueller. He conducted a nearly two-year investigation based on the Clinton campaign’s fake dossier. “We then went through the Mueller report,” said the president, referring to the more than four-hundred-page document that found no evidence of the collusion story the Clinton campaign had invented to destroy Trump. “They should have come back one day later,” he said, referring to the two years and $40 million that Mueller wasted chasing a vulgar fairy tale—and that came after the FBI had already investigated the case for a year.
The effort to impeach the president followed within hours after the curtain came down on Mueller. The impeachment charges were tailored to the precise pattern of the Russia collusion narrative. Clinton’s campaign had alleged that Trump had made promises to Russia in exchange for help defeating her in 2016. And now at the start of 2020, career bureaucrats and House Democrats accused Trump of offering a quid pro quo to the president of Ukraine for help against the man they planned to run against him, Joe Biden.
“They made up facts,” said Trump. “A corrupt politician named Adam Schiff made up my statement to the Ukrainian president. He brought it out of thin air. Just made it up.” He was referring to a bizarre, fake rendition of Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president that Schiff had read out during a public hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.
Trump was comfortable among his Republican allies that afternoon. He let on that he wasn’t really holding a news conference, nor was he was giving a speech. The media didn’t know what to make of it. Trump was having fun. He knew how to hold an audience. “It’s a celebration,” he said. He wanted to thank friends. “I call them friends because,” he said, “you develop friendships and relationships when you’re in battle and war much more so than in a normal situation.”
He singled out Devin Nunes for praise. “He’s the most legitimate human being. He’s the hardest worker. He’s unbelievable. He took tremendous abuse.”
The California Congressman was the first, as the president said, to step forward to say he’d seen evidence of an espionage operation within the U.S. government targeting Trump. Nunes had few allies at first. Even many of the people in the room where the president had gathered his friends had initially shied away. It wasn’t because they distrusted the 45-year-old nine-term representative. They’d just been scared off. They had seen how the press destroyed its opponents. They’d seen how activists drained their targets of money, threatened their jobs, and used their media partners to portray their opponents as extremists, racists, and Russian stooges. They’d watched as the intelligence community picked apart Trump appointees. Who wanted to be part of that? So Nunes had been on his own.
“They wanted to destroy him. They tried. They got close, but he wouldn’t let it happen,” said Trump. “He came out of nowhere. He’s saying, ‘These people are corrupt.’ He’s still saying it. He was unbelievable.”
Recognized by the president, Nunes stood for a second and clapped. When everyone else stood to applaud their colleague, Nunes sat down. It looked like he wanted the moment over quickly.
I ask Nunes if he was uncomfortable with the attention. No, he says. “It’s just not time for a victory lap, no reason to celebrate yet, there’s a lot more to do. No reason to celebrate until these freaks are locked up.”
It’s late winter 2020, a few weeks after the acquittal, and we’re driving out of Tulare, California, Nunes’s hometown, and headed north. He’s scheduled to deliver the keynote speech for a Bay Area Republican group’s Lincoln dinner. Nunes is still surprised that so many in his audiences know the details of his investigation and those he was investigating.
“Everyone knows all the names and what they did—all the dirty cops at the FBI, from Comey on down, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page.” That so many people know is evidence that Americans recognize the plot represents a large rupture in US political life. It’s now a part of American history, like the Civil War. It was Nunes who fired the first shot against the coup plotters.
The team he assembled as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and the investigation he’d initiated in the early spring of 2017 had found evidence that the FBI had abused the resources of the federal government to spy on Trump and his associates. Clinton operatives and prestige press organizations worked to smear Trump as a Russian asset, as Obama appointees across the administration spied on him and his team as Trump was candidate, president-elect, and then president.
“Everyone asks if the people who did this are going to pay,” says Nunes. “Believe me, after the president, there’s no one who wants these bastards to go down more than I do. I want to see the job finished.”
Nunes’s lead investigator for HPSCI’s inquiry into FBI crimes and abuses was Kashyap “Kash” Patel, a former Department of Justice prosecutor. He’d previously worked with the senior FBI officials involved in the plot and warned his colleagues they’d find irregularities. Patel had warned them that Comey, McCabe, and the rest were driven by agendas. He had told Nunes there were so many elements to their inquiry that they’d have to cut it off at the head. It was Patel who named the investigation Objective Medusa.
After leaving Nunes’s committee in the fall of 2018, Patel went to the White House. He was the National Security Council staff’s senior director for counterterrorism when US special forces took down master terrorist Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
“We couldn’t have done what we did without Kash,” says Nunes. The congressman sees everything significant in terms of his first calling, farming. He compares meeting Patel and their work together to how the California pistachio industry started.
“One night these two guys, Corky Anderson and Ken Puryear, wind up meeting in a bar,” says Nunes. “They didn’t know each other before, but they get to talking. Ken was a dentist, and Corky persuaded him to go into farming. It must have sounded promising, because he agreed. They went into business together, then struggled to keep it going, until one day Ken finds a tree stock going all the way back to the nineteenth century. They know it’s survived the Central Valley climate that long, so now they have their foundation. And that’s how they started the pistachio industry. It created thousands of jobs. What they made supported not just families but an entire region. It all came from a chance meeting.”
It was chance that Nunes rather than someone else was in charge of HPSCI when the coup unfolded, and it was chance that he and Patel met. Their character determined their actions, without which it’s unlikely the anti-Trump operation would have been discovered. If not, no one would have been there to stop the plot.
- On Sale
- Aug 18, 2020
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Center Street