Their lead investigator, Peter Strzok, was famously fired for his blatant animus against President Trump, but the FBI division that conducted the bogus Russia collusion probe is still at work, this time at the center of the investigation of Trump’s handling of classified material at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
Paul Sperry reports for Real Clear Investigations that the division is also a focus of special counsel John Durham’s probe of the FBI’s alleged abuses of power in the Russia investigation, known as Operation Crossfire Hurricane.
As Sperry previously reported, a key member of the Crossfire team, Supervisory Intelligence Analyst Brian Auten, was involved in the probe of the abandoned laptop of President Biden’s son Hunter Biden. FBI whistleblowers, according to the Senate Judiciary Committee, alleged Auten helped quash the probe by labeling derogatory information as Russian “disinformation.”
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz referred Auten in 2019 for disciplinary review for cutting corners in the vetting of the dubious Steele dossier commissioned by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, which was used to obtain warrants to spy on the Trump campaign. Auten, Sperry reported, allegedly allowed information he knew to be false to slip into warrant affidavits and mislead the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.
FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed in congressional testimony this month that “a number of” former Crossfire Hurricane team members are still employed at the bureau amid a disciplinary review.
Sperry noted that some former FBI officials worry Auten, regarded as a top bureau expert on Russia and nuclear warfare, will be part of the analysis of the boxes of documents agents seized from Trump’s home on Aug. 8. The agents’ task is to help determine if any of the alleged classified material might have been compromised, posing a national security risk.
According to sources, Jay Bratt, the top counterintelligence official in the Justice Department’s national security division has been coordinating the Mar-a-Lago investigation, Sperry reported. Bratt is a Democratic National Committee donor. He’s working with Alan Kohler, who replaced Bill Priestap as head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division. Priestap resigned amid criticism of his role in the Russia probe. Kohler, according to sources, was close to Stefan Halper, the academic and longtime FBI contractor who served as a bureau informant in a failed effort to suborn Trump campaign officials.
‘The biggest hoax in election history’
Kash Patel, a former federal prosecutor and Trump administration official, believes the FBI may have a personal interest in seizing the records stored by Trump.
In October 2020, he pointed out, Trump authorized the declassification of all of the records of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane and Clinton email investigations.
The FBI may have confiscated some of those records in its raid to make sure they don’t become public, he said. And the bureau may be seeking other documents to justify the opening of failed Trump-Russia collusion case.
“Tragically, the same FBI characters that were involved in Russiagate are the same counterintel guys running this ‘national security investigation’ against Trump,” said Patel.
As a House Intelligence Committee investigator, Patel interviewed Crossfire Hurricane team members. He pointed to Inspector General Horowitz’s report indicating FBI analyst Auten hid exculpatory information about Trump adviser Carter Page from other investigators and the FISA court.
“And to top it all off, this guy admits [to Horowitz’s investigators] he’s unrepentant about his role in making up the biggest hoax in election history, and Wray still lets him be a supervisor at the FBI,” Patel said. “It’s just insane.”