The Gatekeeper Files: How Trump Sold You on Fascism

Part One: “The Gatekeeper Files: Rise of the Alt-Right

Six months earlier than Robert Mueller reported in his investigation on Russiagate, Barbara Ledeen, a staffer for Senator Chuck Grassley’s Senate Judiciary Committee, reached out to former naval officer and then chief executive of far-right media outlet Breitbart News, Steve Bannon, with a proposal to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. The details of her proposal revealed that she believed Hillary’s private server and deleted emails were key in exposing the Clinton Foundation’s criminal activities and destroying her 2016 presidential campaign. 

Part one of this series introduced Bannon not only as a former naval officer and media executive, but also a far-right winger with enormous ties to the Military-industrial complex and U.S. intelligence agencies through his now-defunct company, Cambridge Analytica, and his close association with men like Blackwater founder and CIA op runner Erik Prince, and Palantir CEO Peter Thiel. His media outlet, Breitbart news, also played an extensive role in pushing alt-right ideology and a pro-Trump agenda during the election.

And like Ledeen, Bannon had an interest in the Clinton Foundation as evidenced by the fact that he and the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) helped facilitate the publication of Peter Schweizer’s book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, a month before Ledeen reached out to him. According to Amazon Books, Clinton Cash “follows the Clinton money trail, revealing the connection between their personal fortune…the Clinton Foundation, foreign nations, and some of the highest ranks of government.”

Interest in the foundation became a central theme throughout the 2016 election and was promoted by anonymous 4chan posters and Bannon associates like Roger Stone, a political “trickster” and conduit between prominent alt-right figures and the Trump campaign. And what we’ll learn in this ongoing investigation is that the search for Hillary’s missing emails as well as a hyper-interest in the Clinton Foundation contributed to the election campaign’s “fog of war,” and led voters to believe that Hillary Clinton would be prosecuted under a Trump administration.

Additionally, the same players mentioned in part one of this series were not only reportedly involved in two separate operations to obtain Hillary’s emails from foreign adversaries if need be, but in subsequent campaigns to bring fascism to the forefront of American politics under the guise of fighting Hillary Clinton and the Deep State, and with it, the downfall of Julian Assange. 

Hillary’s Missing Emails and the Clinton Foundation

On May 5, 2015, Clinton Cash was published by HarperCollins as a project of the GAI, a conservative think-tank co-founded by Schweizer and Steve Bannon “to investigate and expose crony capitalism, misuse of taxpayer monies, and other government corruption of malfeasance.” Schweizer, also the senior editor-at-large of Breitbart News, sits as president of the organization which has been largely funded by the Mercer family who also co-founded Cambridge Analytica with Bannon and poured millions into both GAI and Breitbart News.

The book was met with resounding cheers for exposing the Clintons’ shadier than thou dealings through the foundation such as foreign donations and paid speeches and according to Bloomberg, Bannon was thrilled the book was making such a splash. Apparently, it “validated a personal theory, informed by his Goldman Sachs experience, about how conservatives can influence the media and why they failed the last time when a Clinton was running for the White House.”  And yes, Bannon also used to work for Goldman Sachs.

Bannon obviously had more than just a general interest in exposing the Clintons’ financial secrets so it’s not surprising that an email from Barbara Ledeen arrived in his inbox on June 5, 2015, with a proposal attached.  

(Source: Mueller Memos via Buzzfeed)

Ledeen was likely aware of Bannon’s enthusiasm on the subject and had the contacts to make a connection happen.  She’s not only a staffer for Grassley’s Senate Judiciary Committee, her husband, Michael Ledeen, a D.C. neocon and former consultant to the U.S. National Security Council, Department of State, and Department of Defense, is also a close associate of retired Army Lt. General Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor who Ledeen co-authored a book with in July 2016.  According to his wife’s proposal:

“This is a proposal for obtaining and then providing multi-level forensic analysis of the emails of certain accounts linked to the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as well as other members of the William, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation because of its known acceptance of foreign money from organizations, institutions, individuals and cut-outs of dubious distinction.”

“Preliminary research shows that millions of dollars were accepted by the Foundation at or around the time that the donors received a quid pro quo from the U.S. government generally or the U.S. State Department specifically.”

“How the donations were characterized or washed before they landed at the Foundation in an effort to conceal the true owner is classic money laundering.”

Foreign donations. Quid pro quos. Money laundering. There’s no disputing the fact that the Clinton Foundation is shady AF and somebody probably needs to go to prison over its activities. But the point being here is that Ledeen believed Clinton’s private server had been “breached long ago,” by the Chinese, Russians, or Iranians and that the “entire data mass from the Clinton private domain server” existed either in the hands of malevolent forces or somewhere on the Dark Web. That, and she appeared willing to work with foreign adversaries if necessary to get her hands on them. 

This begs the question of whether or not DNC officials and intelligence operatives were aware of this operation and if so, did it contribute to the full-blown smear campaign against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks that they colluded with Trump, Roger Stone and the Russians to get Trump get elected?  But this isn’t the story we’re covering today. Well, not exactly.

Julian Assange’s Announcement

A year after Ledeen reached out to Bannon, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently being held illegally in a UK super max prison, was interviewed by ITV’s Robert Peston on Peston on Sunday, and it would become a source for chaos and confusion for the next four months (my emphasis):

Peston: “Do you have any of the undisclosed [Clinton] emails?”

Assange: “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton.”

Peston: “Some of the ones that haven’t come into the public domain you’re planning on putting out?”

Assange: “We have emails related to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication.”

Note that at no point did Assange ever say that WikiLeaks were in possession of Hillary’s emails. When Peston asked for Assange’s opinion about the FBI investigation into Hillary’s private server, he responded:

Assange: “Well, unfortunately what I think is going to happen…we’ve accumulated a lot of material about Hillary Clinton, we could proceed to an indictment but Loretta Lynch is the head of the DOJ of the United States appointed by Obama…she’s not going to indict Hillary Clinton…There’s very strong material, both in the emails and in relation to the Clinton Foundation. For example, we published an email where Hillary Clinton is instructing her staff to remove the classified header of a classified document and send it by non-classified fax…”

Again, Assange is speaking in terms of the FBI investigation and that story about classified headers being removed? That was found in Hillary’s State emails which were published by WikiLeaks prior to the interview. In fact, The Hill reported on the story six months beforehand.

And yet, there are three things that everyone took from this interview: WikiLeaks had Hillary’s missing emails that Bannon, Ledeen, and others desperately wanted, the emails pertained to the Clinton Foundation, and it was imminent they were going to publish. The biggest offender of this false narrative was ITV, itself.

At 1:20 p.m. on June 12, 2016, the day of Preston’s interview with Assange, ITV posted on their website:

“Wikileaks plans to release further leaks of emails sent by Hillary Clinton from her private server, founder Julian Assange has revealed. Mr Assange said Wikileaks has accumulated a large cache of information about the Democratic presidential nominee that could be used to bring an indictment against her. Mr Assange said the emails Wikileaks holds about Ms Clinton contain ‘very strong material’, such as the former secretary of state allegedly instructing her staff to remove the ‘classified’ header from a classified document and send it by unclassified fax.”

Perhaps after realizing their colossal mistake, at 5:50 p.m. later that day they drastically revised their statements:

“Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, said on Sunday that the journalist organisation is planning to release upcoming leaks in relation to US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.”“Speaking to Peston on Sunday, Mr Assange said WikiLeads [sic] has further information relating to claims circulating since 2015 that Clinton had in the past used her family’s private email server for official communications.”

But the damage was done. Within hours The Guardian jumped on the story with a headline that screamed, “WikiLeaks to publish more Hillary Clinton emails,” and Time wrote, “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says that the whistleblower organization will publish more emails Hillary Clinton sent and received on her private email server while Secretary of State.”

Bannon’s company, Cambridge Analytica, with its sinister ties to the U.S. State Department, U.K. Defence, and more, reached out to Assange in “early June 2016,” in the hopes of obtaining the emails because Assange had “publicly claimed he had Clinton emails and planned to publish them.” And by late June, Trump was publicly accusing the Clintons of money laundering and making “hundreds of millions of dollars selling access, selling favors, [and] selling government contracts,” because according to Politico, “Clinton Foundation scandals will be good fodder for Trump.”

And while Trump was trying out new campaign tactics, Jerome Corsi’s new book, Partners in Crime: The Clintons’ Scheme to Monetize the White House for Personal Profit,” which promised to prove “beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Clinton Foundation is a vast criminal conspiracy” and a “slush fund for grifters,” hit the PR campaign trail just four days before FBI anon, the precursor to Qanon, showed up on 4chan’s boards.

The anonymous online figure claimed to be an FBI analyst, drawing believers in who apparently thought it was cool that they were touting Corsi’s new book, deeply racist, alt-right ideology and, of course, the importance of the Clinton Foundation.

Of course, don’t forget that Corsi is also a former Breitbart contributor and in part one of this series, it was revealed that he, Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Erik Prince’s mother, and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence all belonged (or still do) to the same secretive organization, Council for National Policy (CNP), which has been described as an ultra-conservative, Christian group whose members include neo-Confederates and white supremacists.

And then there was that time in July when Stone associate Charles Ortel emailed then Fox News reporter James Rosen and Fox’s Judge Napolitano about the network reaching out to Julian Assange and Rosen responded that WikiLeaks was planning on publishing Hillary emails relating to the Clinton Foundation sometime in September. Ortel forwarded the message to Stone who then directed Corsi to “get to [Assange]” because WikiLeaks’ pending were allegedly about the Clinton Foundation.

Eight days later Corsi emailed Stone to tell him that he “expected” the focus of WikiLeaks’ next publication to be about the Clinton Foundation because of course he expected it. The entire Trump campaign probably expected it, too, because everyone was listening to a bunch of circle jerks like Stone, Corsi, and Ortel who had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.

In fact, Stone pushed the Foundation/WikiLeaks email story all the way through to September, despite the fact that in the ITV interview, Assange was likely referring to Hillary’s State emails and already-released FOIA’s, FBI files, media reports, and perhaps even Clinton Cash, when he mentioned the Clinton Foundation.

And Then There Was Peter Smith

It apparently only took five days for Trump to realize that WikiLeaks’ publication of DNC emails did not include Hillary’s missing emails at which time he famously asked Russia to find them themselves. But the Motherland isn’t the only one he asked. According to the Mueller report:

“After candidate Trump stated on July 27, 2016, that he hoped Russia would ‘find the 30,000 emails that are missing,’ Trump asked individuals affiliated with his Campaign to find the deleted Clinton emails. Michael Flynn—who would later serve as National Security Advisor in the Trump Administration—recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly, and Flynn subsequently contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails.”

Affiliated with the campaign or officially part of it?  After Trump requested that someone look into the matter, Flynn reached out to Barbara Ledeen because naturally. Bannon had known about her operation for over a year at that point, as did Ledeen’s husband who was a close associate of Flynn’s. After contacting her, Ledeen agreed to provide Flynn with updates about her progress throughout the summer of 2016.

Flynn also reached out to Republican operative, Peter Smith, a Chicago investment banker “known for funding and conducting opposition research on the Clintons,” and who was also trying to track down Hillary’s emails because he believed Russian hackers had stolen them from her private server.

Ledeen and Smith had actually been in contact previously, in early December 2015, when Ledeen sent Smith the same proposal she sent Bannon, indicating that Ledeen was probably aware that Smith might be interested in working with her—perhaps even indicating that Smith had been working on a similar project for quite some time. Smith ultimately turned down her proposal.

Instead, he reached out to pro-Trump, alt-right activist Charles C. Johnson—if he hadn’t already by the time Ledeen contacted him—likely because Smith and Johnson had worked together on oppositional research since 2013.  At some point, Johnson asked Smith for investment capital for his online platform, “WeSeachr,” a fundraising website that helped raise money for guys like Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer, a screaming neo-Nazi if there ever was one. But Johnson denies that ever happened.

Johnson does admit that he and Smith stayed in contact throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign during which time Smith sought his technical help in tracking down Hillary’s emails. He also asked Johnson to introduce him to Steve Bannon but what Johnson claims he did instead was to “put the word out to a ‘hidden oppo network’ of right-leaning opposition researchers to notify them of [Smith’s] effort.”

“‘The magnitude of what he was trying to do was kind of impressive,’ Johnson said. ‘He had people running around Europe, had people talking to Guccifer [2.0].'”

Interestingly enough, some of the most well-known individuals who spoke with Guccifer 2.0, a self-proclaimed hacker who wrongly claimed they hacked the Clinton Foundation and disingenuously took credit for WikiLeaks’ DNC publication, was Roger Stone; his close associate and alt-right political journalist, Cassandra Fairbanks; and far-right media figure Lee Stranahan. Stranahan, in fact, bragged that he introduced Guccifer to Stone.

Peter Smith and the GCHQ

Smith also reached out to a former GCHQ information specialist after WikiLeaks released the DNC emails, another detail missing in Mueller’s report aside from Ledeen’s early outreach to Bannon. Smith contacted Matt Tait, reportedly telling him that Hillary’s servers had been hacked by Russians (and other actors), and that he wanted “the fruits of those hacks” to be exposed before the 2016 election. He had been contacted by someone on the Dark Web claiming to be in possession of the missing emails and Smith needed Tait to verify if they were authentic.

Matt Tait: “This Former British Spy Exposed the Russian Hackers”
(Source: Washington Examiner) Photo: Hannah Yoest

Tait, who felt that Smith may have been contacted by Russian intelligence in order to launder “real or forged documents,” claims he never saw the emails but at one point was sent a document from Smith that detailed a new company he set up in his quest to find them, called KLS Research. According to the document, Trump campaign officials like Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sam Clovis, and Michael Flynn were all  “involved in one way or another,” in Smith’s project. Jerome Corsi was also reportedly involved. Tait:

“It was immediately apparent that Smith was both well connected within the top echelons of the campaign and he seemed to know both Lt. Gen. Flynn and his son well. Smith routinely talked about the goings on at the top of the Trump team, offering deep insights into the bizarre world at the top of the Trump campaign.” 

By mid-September 2016, Tait claims that his communications with Smith stopped and that he had “grown extremely uncomfortable with the situation.” So uncomfortable, in fact, that he never contacted the GCHQ or any other intelligence agency despite being a former intelligence officer and believing that Smith may have been “contacted by a Russian intelligence front,” with malicious intentions.

What Tait did instead is write up an article about the story after The Wall Street Journal went public with it in June 2017.  At one point he even concedes to his readers that they’re probably wondering why he kept quiet which he then explains that he didn’t—he told one friend and one journalist about Peter Smith but, meh, the events didn’t register as anything “reportable.”  Apparently not even to the journalist.

Even more strange is the fact that Mueller didn’t report any of these details despite Tait being interviewed by the Mueller team on August 22, 2017, which we only know because Tait’s name can be found buried in a footnote on page 63 of the Mueller Report.

Peter Smith, KLS Research, and WikiLeaks

The Mueller investigation also found that Smith didn’t start looking for Hillary’s emails until Trump invited Russia to do the same thing nor did his operation get off the ground until he set up KLS Research sometime in early September 2016, but that doesn’t appear to ring true, either.

Ledeen obviously knew to reach out to him as early as December 2015, Smith was already working on the project when he contacted Tait, and based on The Wall Street Journal’s reporting, Smith may have been searching for Hillary’s emails as early as, if not earlier, November 2015, when he allegedly “started a business relationship with Lt. General Mike Flynn.”

According to emails that Smith himself wrote, Flynn, his son, and his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, were implicated in the project. Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., is a major figure in the alt-right movement—both during and after the election—hanging out with Gamergate leftovers like anti-feminist Mike Cernovich and Milo Yiannopoulos, and social media operatives like Cassandra Fairbanks and naval intelligence officer, Jack Posobiec. Trump himself had been promoting the alt-right since August 2015, when he retweeted Posobiec and a Pepe the Frog video called, “You Cant Stump the Trump.”

(L to R) Cassandra Fairbanks, Mike Flynn Jr., Tonya Posobiec, Jack Posobiec (Source: Twitter)

In another email Smith sent out, he reported that his team had come across “multiple individuals” in possession of Hillary’s emails and that two groups of hackers he came in contact with were both determined to be Russian. He also reportedly received a “large batch of emails,” and at one point he directed “one or more of those people [hackers] to send the emails to WikiLeaks,” in order to have them verified. 

As we now know, WikiLeaks never published Hillary’s missing emails, nor did they ever claim to have them, but after the 2016 election, Smith maintained that they had had the emails in their possession “for the last nine months.” This would mean that Smith was working on his project well before Mueller reported and that WikiLeaks had allegedly been sent emails around March-April 2016, coincidentally around the same time the Papadopoulos/Mifsud shenanigans started and when Judge Napolitano randomly announced on Fox News that the Russians had Hillary’s missing emails. 

Judge Napolitano’s announcement that Russia had 20,000 of Hillary’s emails was broadcast on May 9, 2016, and interestingly enough, two days later Edmund Kozak published an article entitled, “Kremlin Has Hillary’s Emails,” in which he reported that the “Kremlin was considering whether or not to release some 20,000 hacked Clinton emails reportedly in its possession.” Kozak works for Proactive Communications which was founded by Mark Serrano, another Fox commentator and PR guy whose firm was paid thousands of dollars by Trump’s reelection team this spring and who is now senior advisor to the Trump 2020 campaign. The story appears to have originated with the conspiracy website, whatdoesitmean.com, the same website that would start the Seth Rich conspiracy two months later.

What’s even more bizarre is that according to both an email sent out by Smith in December 2016, and Charles Ortel, the same Jerome Corsi/Roger Stone associate who was talking with former Fox News reporter James Rosen and Judge Napolitano about Clinton Foundation emails on July 25, 2016, Smith was soliciting money “to assist founder Julian Assange with legal support” (legal support for what exactly, the Swedish investigation or just in general?).  None of this is included in Mueller’s report.

What Mueller does like to talk about is Barbara Ledeen and CIA chump, Erik Prince:

“In September 2016, Smith and Ledeen got back in touch with each other about their respective efforts…Ledeen claimed to have obtained a trove of emails (from what she described as the “dark web”) that purported to be the deleted Clinton emails. Ledeen wanted to authenticate the emails and solicited contributions to fund that effort. Erik Prince provided funding to hire a tech advisor to ascertain the authenticity of the emails.” 

I have so many questions. First, did Ledeen pay for the emails and if so, who did she pay? What about Smith who allegedly secured a tranche of emails, as well? Did he pay for them because KLS Research reportedly raised at least $100K for his project from a small group of undisclosed individuals. Who did they get the emails from? A foreign government, malicious actors, the CIA posing as hackers?

And why weren’t any of these details disclosed by Mueller? In fact, Mueller dismissed the entire story:  No one was in contact with Russian hackers (except, apparently, WikiLeaks and anyone who spoke with Guccifer 2.0) and no one, including anyone “in touch with the Trump Campaign,” obtained Hillary’s missing emails.  

Mueller goes so far as to report, “…security experts who worked with Smith on the initiative did not believe that Smith was in contact with Russian hackers and were aware of no such connection.” But Tait certainly suspected as much, or so he claimed.  At the end of the day, evidence suggests that the Trump campaign was well more involved with Russian hackers than any evidence the intelligence agencies have put forth about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks who have always maintained that their emails did not come from Russia.

And one could theorize that the emails Smith told alleged Russian hackers to pass along to WikiLeaks sometime in March-April 2016, were later published by WikiLeaks, but even that isn’t speculated upon by Mueller in his report.

If WikiLeaks received any of Hillary’s alleged emails but didn’t publish, it’s likely because the documents were tainted and/or fraudulent.  As for Smith, on May 4, 2017, he contacted The Wall Street Journal about his story and checked into a hotel room near the Mayo Clinic the following day.  Ten days later he killed himself “weeks after telling friends that he believed he had finally obtained the missing emails.”  Remarkably, there’s been no suggestion that Smith was a victim of “Arkancide,” adding to the infamous Clinton body count despite claiming to possess the very emails that Hillary deleted.  In fact, the media has virtually buried this story entirely.

Best of all, Charles Ortel was close with Smith and was reportedly one of the last people to speak to him before he died which makes you wonder if Judge Napolitano’s early comments about 20,000 emails in Russia’s possession, James Rosen’s email about the Clinton Foundation, and Roger Stone pushing the Clinton Foundation-WikiLeaks narrative (I previously reported that Rosen was Stone’s fake news source, not Randy Credico), all stem from Peter Smith’s secret project. 

Lock Her Up, Not Assange

One of the more masterful things that the Trump campaign and alt-right movement did during the 2016 election was to use Hillary’s missing emails and the Clinton Foundation as a means to get voters to support fascism under the guise that Hillary Clinton would be locked up under a Trump administration. Three years later, Hillary is still on the loose and Trump will probably never leave office. 

After affiliates of the Trump campaign failed to bring Hillary’s missing emails to fruition via two different operations involving top campaign officials tied to the Military-Industrial complex and intelligence agencies, WikiLeaks’ release of John Podesta’s emails gave them another opportunity to distract voters from the fascist, white nationalist running for office, and they took it.

“I realized Milo could connect with these kids right away. You can activate that army. They come in through Gamergate or whatever and then get turned onto politics and Trump.” – Steve Bannon

The Podesta emails set off a chain of events that culminated into a wide-spread, anti-Hillary campaign led by Bannon’s Gamergate minions and Roger Stone’s alt-right, social media operatives. It eventually morphed into something else entirely, spreading its fascist tentacles across social media as it slowly divided and conquered the WikiLeaks support community, culminating in the arrest of Julian Assange, not Hillary Clinton, earlier this year.

Feature Photo: TIFF

Part Three: The Gatekeeper Files: Operation Pizzagate

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