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  • Svetlana Lokhova

Chapter Nine: Motive


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But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

—Matthew 15:13-14

“In every operation there is an above the line and a below the line. Above the line is what you do by the book. Below the line is how you do the job.”

—John le Carré, A Perfect Spy

Every election day makes or breaks thousands of Washington Swamp careers, including the likes of Stefan Halper. The cunning operative planned ahead. After what he no doubt saw as a lifetime of unfair and unjustified rejection, the fiercely determined Halper wanted a well-paid legacy. As Randolph Churchill, father of Sir Winston, warned in June 13, 1886, “beware the ambition of an old man in a hurry.” Halper burned with a desire to crown his career as “a foreign affairs expert” with a senior diplomatic post and didn’t care who gave it to him. He always was a commentator, never a player.

Halper was a founding member of the club of old men at Cambridge who fought against the tide of time. By June 2015, Halper’s role was for all intents and purposes over at Cambridge. All his connections were retiring and stepping back from the University; in particular, Sir Richard Dearlove stepped down as Master of Pembroke in 2015. Halper, now aged seventy-two, was perhaps looking at a future of irrelevancy and a sharp drop in income. Seemingly this type of future did not feature in Halper’s plans. Nothing if not ambitious, Halper believed he had something very special to offer and was entitled to a top role, perhaps as the United States ambassador to China. If Hillary Clinton won the election, perhaps he hoped to be rewarded for his service. Halper began heaping very public praise on Hillary Clinton, such as in March 1, 2013, when he made an unintentionally hilarious comment “an elegant Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who was loved by everyone” to Reuters[1]

He kept up his public support for Hillary right up until the eve of the election. On November 3, 2016, just five days before Americans went to the polls, Halper gave an interview to the Russian news agency Sputnik voicing support for Clinton. Halper told the Russian news service “the victory of Hillary Clinton, who is more experienced and predictable than her Republican rival Donald Trump, in the U.S. presidential elections will be more beneficial for the U.S.-UK relations and for relations with the European Union.”[2] If in the unlikely event Donald Trump triumphed, Halper was also working on a Plan B.

The 2016 election was supposed to be a no-contest, a smooth procession leading up to the coronation of Swamp Queen Hillary Clinton as the 45th President of the United States. It was her turn. With Hillary’s accession to the seat in the Oval Office, the Democrats, self-styled natural party of U.S. government, would cement their grip on the lucrative and most influential positions in Washington. The establishment had kept their hands on the levers of power and budget and grown fat pocketing the cashflow. At the gift of the president are over 9,500 Federal executive positions with fancy salaries located in the Washington area alone.

Since the days of Ronald Reagan back in the 1980s, no president acted as a change agent to shake up the cozy Washington status quo. Donald Trump threatened to be that disruptive force. The Washington elite is all about smooth continuity, despite the occasional heated political rhetoric. Whether it is the Reds or the Blues in power, the federal government inexorably grows each year in size, budget, and power. If the 2016 election went to plan, the Clinton money machine would seamlessly absorb outgoing President Obama’s incumbent team for the next eight years of business as usual before anointing a successor.

In mid-2015, the Deep State became collectively concerned about the then unlikely possibility of President Donald Trump. In response, they created the “Russia collusion” ruse. Did some of the chief players of federal law enforcement and the national intelligence agencies become the prime movers? Most assumed Hillary Clinton would be the next president and some that their extralegal efforts to “ensure” her victory would be rewarded, regardless of the potential illegality and unethical behavior required.

Hillary Clinton was the chosen continuity candidate of the Swamp and everyone in the Washington bubble invested heavily in her. It was the surest bet in political history. The polls the Swamp dwellers saw pointed to a landslide. The liberal newspapers they read were full of pro-Hillary stories. They lived in an echo chamber. If you wanted to continue your lucrative career post-election in Washington, you had to support her.

Hilary raised millions of dollars in donations from those hoping for advancement or access. It is the familiar Clinton way: pay to play. At stake in November 2016 was control of the world’s cup of largesse. For the fiscal year 2018, the U.S. federal government spent a staggering $4.11 trillion. Government spending was the equivalent of 20.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Government agencies have taxpayer-funded budgets equivalent to entire industries.

Each agency has a political appointee at their head. The intelligence community leads this trend with billions of unaudited dollars of secret money and unaudited budget funding. Believe it or not, the last audit of the intelligence community took place after the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. Gen. Michael Flynn proposed to change all this with an unprecedented audit. He talked about having the senior leadership reapply for their positions and slashing jobs in Washington. Donald Trump endorsed Gen. Flynn’s plan to drain the intelligence community Swamp.

Since resigning as President Obama’s Secretary of State in 2013, Hillary was preparing for her anointment and busy planning every step of her succession. Clinton passed millions of dollars from her campaign to the heavily indebted Democratic National Committee. Donna Brazile, the DNC Chair, commented: “that in exchange for bailing out the party, which was broke, the Clinton campaign would get control over certain decisions and aspects of the DNC.”[3] By 2015, Hillary owned the DNC, so her nomination as their candidate was assured. But despite seemingly holding all the cards, she could not “kill off” the pesky Senator Bernie Sanders’s challenge in the primaries.

Her message to the American electorate was simple enough. Hillary Clinton was the most qualified candidate. She had the experience as First Lady and Secretary of State. Her campaign decided the issue the election would be fought on was her turf of foreign affairs. What could go wrong? The answer was simple: Hillary. A sizable part of America knew what the Clinton experience meant for them: corruption, bigger government, more laws, higher taxes, and no solutions to their problems.

When Hillary realized she turned off swathes of voters, she decided the problem lay not with her, but with the electorate. She dismissed the malcontents, arrogantly turning her back on the American voters she desperately needed to become president, terming them “a basket of deplorables.” She insulted Trump supporters, calling them “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic.”[4]

The most explosive issue of the 2016 election was Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. Hillary’s travails with her missing emails and the chronology of “Spygate” closely intertwine. The email controversy began back in March 2015 and ran throughout the campaign season. On July 10, 2015, the FBI opened a criminal investigation codenamed “Midyear Exam”into Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information while Secretary of State.

Many of the same FBI team who conducted the “Midyear Exam” serendipitously also conducted the later “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation. Secretary Clinton had exclusively used a personal email account on a non-government, privately maintained server when conducting official business. Despite all Clinton’s denials of wrongdoing, experts, officials, members of Congress, and political opponents,—especially General Mike Flynn—contended her use of her own messaging system software and a private server violated federal laws and regulations. She left her confidential, perhaps even highly classified communications vulnerable to potential hacking by anyone, including hostile foreign powers.

Hillary Clinton’s carefully cultivated image as the competent president-in-waiting was tarnished and then further damaged when in a joint statement released on July 15, 2015, the Inspector General of the State Department and the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community said their review of her emails contained classified information when sent, remained so at the time of their inspection and “never should have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system.”[5]

The dream candidate of the establishment was in deep trouble if just one email reappeared. Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was a hostage if her emails resurfaced during the campaign. The problem was not the FBI investigation, as the Swamp could and would ensure a benign outcome. After all, what FBI senior office holder was going to deliberately upset the next president, especially one with a reputation for taking revenge?

From the outset, it was unlikely the investigation was going to lead anywhere, probably because too many influential people would be caught up and exposed. The real concern was that if a hostile foreign power released one classified email, Hillary would be finished as a credible candidate.

Hillary’s enduring nightmare throughout the campaign was that her missing emails fell into the hands of one or more of her many opponents and would reappear at a decisive moment as a dreaded “October surprise.” As much as she might like to, Hillary could not control if and when those missing emails appeared. She could not change what was written in them. Hilary needed a plan. If she could not change the message, she could change the messenger. So the goal of her operation was to deflect their damaging effect by creating in advance a storm of indignation about who the hostile actors were who might release them.

The containment strategy was to have the national security scandal twisted and deflected into a problem for the rival Trump campaign. By re-characterizing the crime from Hillary’s handling of classified material into the method of releasing the Clinton’s emails, she removed the perception that she compromised America’s interests by her actions. The tactic was so effective, it was used a second time in 2019 to shield the White House “whistleblower.” It became a “crime” to investigate or name the “whistleblower” to distract from what he said and did.

The Swamp always assumed that the Republican campaign would search for, find and then exploit Hillary’s email scandal. Democrats pushed the story that Russian intelligence had accessed her server. The FBI informer Stefan Halper, put to his target Carter Page that in past campaigns he was involved in, “we would have used it in a heartbeat.”[6] The Democrats suggested that the nominee for the GOP campaign would have the most to gain from the release of Hillary’s emails into the public domain. Donald Trump by default became the “prime suspect.” Having formed these assumptions, the establishment planned an insurance policy surveillance and disinformation operation. The plan was to find a way to arrange surveillance on the Trump campaign to monitor the non existent preparations for an “October surprise” that existed only in Democrat fantasies.

Simultaneously, the offensive strategy was to damage the Trump campaign’s electoral prospects. Donald Trump and Gen. Flynn were hard at work creating a potent populist patriot movement—“Make America Great Again”—as a base for the election. What better way to undermine the nascent patriotic movement than expose its leaders as traitors, Russia’s puppets? The disinformation operation painted the pair’s work related trips to Russia as sinister. The plotters apparently mined the rich old seam of Soviet-era suspicion and the fear of Russian espionage to resonate with the American people. My hypothesis is that their covert plan hearkened back to the age that Halper and his employers were all happier living in, channeling the sordid games of the Cold War. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, for one, frequently and easily slips back into the rhetoric calling Russians “Soviets.” The Soviet Union collapsed at the end of 1991.

[1] Arshad Mohammed, “Cosmopolitan Kerry courts Europe, his old stomping ground,” Reuters (March 1, 2013). [2] Sputnik (November 3, 2016), https://sputniknews.com/politics/201611031047032702-clinton-us-uk-cooperation/. [3] Lulu Garcia-Navarro, “Donna Brazile Criticizes Clinton Camp in Campaign Memoir,” NPR (November 12, 2017). [4] Hillary Clinton at a campaign fundraising event in New York City (September 9, 2016). [5] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/25/us/politics/hillary-clinton-email-classified-information-inspector-general-intelligence-community.html [6] FBI transcript from IG Report, 318; https://apps.npr.org/documents/document.html?id=6571534-OIG-Russia-Investigation-Report. https://thefederalist.com/2020/01/28/ig-report-proves-obama-administration-spied-on-trump-campaign-big-time/


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©2020 by Svetlana Lokhova