(…) Strzok’s September 6, 2020, interview with CBS (and related brief comments in Compromised) gave the very first information on the critical Downer interview, including the very first official explanation of why Downer decided to report the Papadopoulos conversation to the U.S. embassy when he did—in Strzok’s words, what “triggered him.”
Exact words are important, so here are Strzok’s exact words in the CBS interview (transcription and emphasis mine):
Narrator: Papadopoulos was in London having drinks with an Australian diplomat.
Strzok: Papadopoulos told them that somebody on the Trump campaign had received an offer that said the Russians have material that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton and to Obama and they offered to coordinate the release of that information in a way that would help the Trump campaign.
Narrator: The Australians didn’t make much of it until Trump made this appeal about Hillary Clinton’s emails: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Those Australian diplomats heard that and contacted the FBI.
Strzok: When they saw that speech by Trump, that triggered their memory of the conversation they had with Papadopoulos.
The CBS interviewer observed the implication that Trump had been hoisted on his own petard, as it was his own inflammatory statements that had originated the entire Crossfire Hurricane investigation, not malicious or mistaken conduct by others after all. Strzok agreed:
Interviewer: So, Donald Trump with his own words brought this investigation down on himself.
Strzok: According to what the foreign government told us, yes.
In Compromised, Strzok similarly stated that Downer delivered his original information to the U.S. embassy “shortly after Trump’s Florida press conference”:
When we received the report about Papadopoulos’s revelations to the Friendly Foreign Government’s personnel—intelligence that they sent from their embassy to ours shortly after Trump’s Florida press conference…
In Downer’s recounting, Trump’s words jarred his memory of a series of conversations months earlier…
A vivid narrative from one of the most important figures in the opening of Crossfire Hurricane.
Here’s the problem.
Trump’s “Russia, are you listening” quip was made at a July 27, 2016, press conference, while Downer’s tip was given to the U.S. embassy on July 26, one day earlier. (The July 26 date is provided in both the Mueller Report, published in April 2019, and the Horowitz Report, published in December 2019.)
It was chronologically impossible for Trump’s quip to have actually triggered Downer’s tip.
Worse, this implies that Strzok’s story about Downer telling him that he had been triggered by Trump’s speech was also untrue—either a false memory or fabrication—each as insalubrious as the other.
Nobody in U.S. major media or its “fact checkers” noticed Strzok’s false information.
It was, however, quickly noticed by Hans Mahncke, a knowledgeable Twitter commentator on Russiagate, who issued the following challenge to Strzok on Twitter at 5:58 p.m. on Sept 6, 2020:
.@petestrzok told CBS that the Australians came forward because they were triggered by a Trump speech.
The problem is that the Australians came forward *before* Trump’s speech.
Strzok is lying or the Australians lied. Take your pick.
Either way, this destroys the predicate. pic.twitter.com/MBL2e1NJg1
— Hans Mahncke (@HansMahncke) September 6, 2020
Mahncke’s observation was picked up by Dan Bongino, who two days later (September 8, 2020) colorfully brought it to the attention of his large audience (citing Mahncke). In framing his comment as a choice between Strzok lying or Downer lying, Mahncke was allowing the remote possibility that Australian ambassador Downer had lied to Strzok about what had triggered him. Because Strzok’s interview with Downer took place after Trump’s quip, Downer would have had knowledge of the quip when he met Strzok, even though he didn’t have knowledge of the quip when he provided the tip. So it is not chronologically impossible that Downer lied, only implausible. But it remains a remote possibility that Strzok himself never suggested, and which became moot when Strzok (as discussed below) walked back part of his false story.
Later on September 6 (9:11 p.m.), Jerry Dunleavy of the Washington Examiner published a short article (together with accompanying announcement on Twitter) that pointed out the impossibility of Strzok’s chronology:
NEW: Strzok claims Downer was spurred to tell U.S. about Papadopoulos convo (FBI cited to open Trump-Russia inquiry) after Trump said “Russia if you’re listening…” But Mueller/Horowitz say Australia told U.S. on 7/26/16. Trump quip wasn’t til next day…https://t.co/ipjKNbqZTM
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) September 7, 2020
While Dunleavy alertly noticed the chronological issue, unlike Mahncke, he didn’t connect the impossible chronology to Strzok’s false story about what Downer had told him. As discussed in the next section, Strzok capitalized on this oversight to construct a “limited hangout”—to borrow an apt phrase from Nixonian days. (Read more: American Conservative, 3/20/2021) (Archive)