If I were a fan of conspiracy theories (If?!?) I would have a deep-dive New Year's weekend. My launch point would be this in-the-nick-of-time story about the background to the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign which began last summer.
How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt
WASHINGTON — During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.
Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.
Oh, well, the so the FBI was inspired by Australian (and presumably British) intelligence agencies. Whew! We were worried that their launch point, as hinted but not directly claimed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, had been the Steele dossier, bought and paid for by Team Clinton.
But let's have some fun, starting here - why do we believe that George Papadopoulos's contact, the mysterious Professor Misfud, was working for the Russians? The professor was more or less a nobody from Malta claiming to have Russian contacts, and had a vague affiliation with a Russian university. Everything we see in his bio would be perfectly consistent with an MI6 attempt to promote one of their contacts as a Russian go-between. If I remember my Le Carre, and George Smiley, that would mean that MI6 could use the professor as a contact point for coat-trailing operations where they try to draw the attention of other spies, defectors, malcontents or any else interested in reaching out to the Russians. Its a fly-trap - people who want to reach out to the Russians meet the Maltese Stool Pigeon and end up unwittingly chatting with MI6. Impossible? No. Probable? Who can say?
As to the notion that in April 2016 the professor had early inside knowledge about the DNC hack which had only struck e-gold the month before, well, maybe. But if I were a self-promoter I would have been well aware that months of speculation had swirled around the question of whether the Russians had hacked Hillary's secret email server, the existence of which had been revealed in 2015. So, a lucky guess by the professor? Again, who knows?
In any case, the Trump/Putin bromance had been a matter of interest going back to 2015. So as a matter of protecting themselves and their ally, MI6 (with a wink from the US intelligence community) might have mounted an operation against George P. This LOL article about how the recruitment of George P. has all the earmarks of a Russian operation would read exactly the same if MI6 were substituted into it.
So sure, Prof. Misfud could have been part of a Russian operation to get a guy into the Trump campaign. OK, the Reds allegedly had Manafort, who joined the campaign in late March, but maybe he wasn't their guy so they needed to add a nobody with no connections to Team Trump out on the periphery of the campaign. Maybe!
Or maybe George P. was targeted by Western intelligence as, well, an insurance policy in case they needed a pretext to investigate Trump. What, am I suggesting the Western establishment was anti-Trump? Hard to imagine, right?
So now with the Steele dossier emerging as an indefensible pretext for the Trump investigation the FBI throws us George P.
Or not. George P. may well have been speaking to an authentic Russian contact point. That still doesn't mean this FBI-philic leak to the Times accurately describes the real impetus for any warrant applications.
Hall of mirrors stuff.
DO LET ME ADD: One of my 2016 resolutions was "No more crazy theories this year." Almost made it! Now, where's my apple pie and ice cream for breakfast? Next week, The Diet!