90 Miles From Tyranny : Year in Review: 20 Notable Spygate Developments of 2019

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Year in Review: 20 Notable Spygate Developments of 2019

In the saga of “Spygate,” 2019 has shaped up to be the year the tables turned.

In the first days of January 2019, a federal judge extended the term of the grand jury in the special counsel investigation by Robert Mueller. Later that month, the FBI raided the home of veteran Republican strategist Roger Stone in front of CNN cameras.

The raid and indictment of Stone were symbolic of the spectacle that was the Russia investigation. Mueller charged Stone with process crimes; the indictment included no allegations related to the central theme of the Russia probe—whether anyone on the Trump 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Meanwhile, the “Russiagate” media frenzy (sparked long before Mueller’s appointment) continued, with CNN treating the footage of the early-morning, guns-drawn raid as the late-stage operation in a takedown of a criminal empire.

Mueller’s final report would state that there was no evidence that any American colluded with Russia in the 2016 elections.

But the tables have turned as the year draws to a close.

Even before Mueller published his report on President Donald Trump, Attorney General William Barr sent shockwaves through the establishment by stating plainly that he believed spying did occur on the Trump campaign. As the year draws to a close, the Justice Department (DOJ) watchdog, Inspector General Michael Horowitz, has confirmed the long-running claims of significant errors in the applications to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

In 2020, the foundation laid by these developments will be a useful reference as U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation of the malfeasance continues. While not an exhaustive list, the 20 moments below are representative of the reversal and are helpful for viewing the events in the year ahead.


20. Senate Intelligence Committee Finds No Evidence of Trump–Russia Collusion

While the House Intelligence Committee had come to the same conclusion a year earlier, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s findings in February were significant because the committee has a track record for bipartisanship. At the time, both Democratic and Republican sources on the committee confirmed that the investigation didn’t turn up any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

19. Rosenstein Removed McCabe From Russia Probe After Appointing Mueller

In mid-February, we learned that in May 2017, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had removed then-FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe from the Russia investigation shortly after appointing special counsel Robert Mueller to lead the probe. The revelation added to an emerging picture of the events surrounding Mueller’s appointment. The DOJ statement from which the news originated appeared to imply that Mueller’s appointment had something to do with actions taken by McCabe.

18. Trump Innocent of Collusion and Obstruction, DOJ Concludes

In late March, Attorney General William Barr released a summary of conclusions based on Mueller’s report. The special counsel concluded the investigation, finding no evidence that Trump or anyone on Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia. While Mueller didn’t make a call on whether Trump obstructed justice, Barr and Rosenstein reviewed the report and found insufficient evidence to bring charges.

17. Spying on Trump Campaign Did Occur, Barr Says


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