News and Commentary

CNN Wonders What The Meaning Of The Word “Pretext” Is. The Meaning Is Clear.

Forget debating what the meaning of the word “is,” is, because CNN seems confused by the word “pretext” now.

In an article about newly released texts between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, CNN reporters Laura Jarrett (former Obama adviser Valeri Jarrett’s daughter) and Manu Raju quote one of the texts between the agents.

“Sitting with Bill watching CNN. A TON more out,” Strzok said in a text to Page on January 10, 2017. “Hey let me know when you can talk. We’re discussing whether, now that this is out, we use it as a pretext to go interview some people.”

Anyone with half a brain reading that would understand it to mean “we can use this report to go interview some people,” but this is CNN.

“It is not clear what was meant by ‘pretext,’ but in counterintelligence investigations it is common practice to approach someone for questioning without divulging the true reason for the interview, which might be highly classified,” the CNN reporters write. “Something of interest publicly reported in the media might serve as an effective way for an FBI agent to question someone while protecting any sensitive sources and methods, explained Josh Campbell, a CNN analyst and former FBI supervisory special agent.”

“A straightforward explanation of their intent, however, is rarely offered explicitly via text, and, as a result, these cryptic lines result in a Rorschach-like test of their meaning in a week where the credibility of Page and Strzok has again been put to the test,” they add.

Let’s go back to the Russia investigation timeline and see if we can’t discern the meaning of the word “pretext.”

On January 6, 2017 (four days before Strzok sent the above text), former FBI Director James Comey, at the behest of the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, met with Trump to tell him Russia had potential blackmail material alleging salacious acts (now known as the Steele Dossier, off of ex-British Spy Christopher Steele who actually compiled it). The next day, Comey wrote a memo detailing his conversation with Trump, and mentioned he had told the incoming president that “media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook.”

That “news hook” ended up being the January 6 meeting between Trump and U.S. intelligence officials and the follow-up meeting after with Comey where he discussed the dossier. The CNN report Strzok texted Page about on January 10, 2017 was a story about how “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him.” The Comey briefing gave the media the cover it needed to report on the dossier and legitimize the document.

Once the dossier was legitimized, the investigation into Trump and Russia ramped up.

It’s clear what “pretext” meant when Strzok sent the text.