Three decades ago I had lunch in San Francisco with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Allen Drury. I'd read his recent novels, mostly on Cold War relations with the USSR. The Hill of Summer was a favourite. After some invigorating conversation, I picked up the tab, worth every cent, and we said our goodbyes.
An hour later, I left a secondhand bookshop with a parcel of his earlier writings, including the Pulitzer winner Advise and Consent . Also A Senate Journal , the result of his covering of that chamber in the mid-1940s. It all had the effect of turbo-charging my interest in American politics.
• Covid-19 coronavirus: Pandemic fallout tracks political divide
• Covid-19 coronavirus: US response highlights partisan divide of red and blue states
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Louisiana responds to virus threat with rare political unity
• Covid-19 coronavirus: Trump says governors play 'political game' with tests
Over the lockdown, an event inspired me to ponder a work of fiction. I love a good political thriller, so why not, instead of reading someone else's, write my own? Here's a precis:
"America's first female presidential candidate is a shoo-in. She is, however, beaten at the post by a complete outsider, a billionaire male of suspect morality. This results in the Washington 'swamp dwellers' setting in train plans to reverse the outcome by whatever means at their disposal, legitimate or otherwise.
"Two weeks prior to inauguration, an Oval Office meeting is attended by the outgoing President and heads of the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOJ, and the VP. What is set in motion disrupts the new administration with the goal of terminating it. The next day the President-elect is briefed by the FBI Director on salacious information pertaining to his behaviour. This then triggers a prearranged leak to the media, which in turn sets the course for the entire first term in the White House.
"What follows could only be fiction. The incoming National Security Adviser is targeted and ultimately charged with lying to the FBI. He eventually capitulates, pleads guilty and faces prison time. Sights are then set on the new Attorney General, who is subsequently fired by the President. The political-media alliance never lets up in its effort to take down this President. As each attempt fails, there is another in the making. A syndrome set in at the beginning and has infected a very large portion of the population."
But there is a small problem. This story is not mine, nor is it fiction. It is though, just scratching the surface; the full story is a deep dive. The conspiracy began during the presidential electoral campaign, but let's pick it up where my "fictional" story got interesting.
During the 2016 election build-up, serious efforts were made to undermine the Trump campaign. Claims were made at the time of spying, wire-tapping, fake reports which were utilised for FISA court applications, and all conducted via senior-level personnel in the FBI and DOJ.
Leighton Smith Podcast: Global economy and Melanie Phillips
Leighton Smith Podcast: Trump, Turnbull and Geoffrey Parker
Leighton Smith Podcast Episode 63: Barry Soper and Sir Roger Douglas
In early March 2017, conservative broadcaster Mark Levin mounted a case for the above. He did so, simply by assembling media reports mainly from the New York Times , Washington Post and the Guardian . It was a very forceful argument but he was mocked and ridiculed mercilessly.
That Oval Office meeting took place on January 5. Present were President Barack Obama, VP Joe Biden, Deputy AG Sally Yates, CIA Director John Brennan, Director National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director James Comey.
The next day Comey presented President-elect Donald Trump with the salacious tale from the unverified Steele dossier. Immediately after the meeting Comey messaged James Clapper: "mission accomplished". Clapper alerted CNN who first ran the story. It was all prearranged.
Arguably the most egregious example of corruption is the persecution of General Mike Flynn, Trump's short-lived National Security Adviser; viciously framed. After being poorly advised by his original lawyers, his case was adopted by Sidney Powell, a woman of outstanding character and unquestionable courage. Powell's efforts were aided by the recent declassification of a large file of documents from the FBI and DOJ. This led to the dropping of charges against Flynn, charges based on corrupt practice by the agents concerned and verified by their own paper trail. Two weeks ago, Obama criticised the dropped charges. The response from Sidney Powell via open letter was exceptional. It's on her website.
Also revealed were details of the House Intelligence inquiry which chairman Adam Schiff had secreted away. Their release - and he was forced into it - show he has lied continuously. Serious lying. And while Brennan, Clapper and others have been claiming publicly on CNN and MSNBC the magnitude of evidence for Russian collusion by Trump; behind closed doors and under oath, they admit to no evidence whatsoever. None, Zero, Nichego!
While we're dealing with confessions, Crowdstrike, the private company hired to investigate the DNC computer hack, under sworn testimony, admitted they could not verify the Russians did it. But that has been the claim for years. It's been a hoax from the get-go. This only scratches the surface. Levin, btw, got it right. More to come.
• Leighton Smith is an award-winning broadcaster who publishes a podcast at NewstalkZB and nzherald.co.nz every Wednesday.