There’s no defense like a good offense.
For weeks the unfolding story in Washington has been how a cabal of conspirators in the heart of the American federal law enforcement and intelligence apparatus colluded to ensure the election of Hillary Clinton and, when that failed, to undermine the nascent presidency of Donald Trump. Agencies tainted by this corruption include not only the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) but the Obama White House, the State Department, the NSA, and the CIA, plus their British sister organizations MI6 and GCHQ, possibly along with the British Foreign Office (with the involvement of former British ambassador to Russia Andrew Wood) and even Number 10 Downing Street.
Those implicated form a regular rogue’s gallery of the Deep State: Peter Strzok (formerly Chief of the FBI’s Counterespionage Section, then Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division; busy bee Strzok is implicated not only in exonerating Hillary from her email server crimes but initiating the Russiagate investigation in the first place, securing a FISA warrant using the dodgy “Steele Dossier,” and nailing erstwhile National Security Adviser General Mike Flynn on a bogus charge of “lying to the FBI”); Lisa Page (Strzok’s paramour and a DOJ lawyer formerly assigned to the all-star Democrat lineup on the Robert Mueller Russigate inquisition); former FBI Director James Comey, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and – let’s not forget – current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, himself implicated by having signed at least one of the dubious FISA warrant requests. Finally, there’s reason to believe that former CIA Director John O. Brennan may have been the mastermind behind the whole operation.
Not to be overlooked is the possible implication of a pack of former Democratic administration officials, including former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and President Barack Obama himself, who according to text communications between Strzok and Page “wants to know everything we’re doing.” Also involved is the DNC, the Clinton campaign, and Clinton operatives Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer – rendering the ignorance of Hillary herself totally implausible.
On the British side we have “former” (suuure . . . ) MI6 spook Christopher Steele, diplomat Wood, former GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan (who resigned a year ago under mysterious circumstances), and whoever they answered to in the Prime Minister’s office.
The growing sense of panic was palpable. Oh my – this is a curtain that just cannot be allowed to be pulled back!
What to do, what to do . . .
Ah, here’s the ticket – come out swinging against the main enemy. That’s not even Donald Trump. It’s Russia and Vladimir Putin. Russia! Russia! Russia!
Hence the unveiling of an indictment against 13 Russian citizens and three companies for alleged meddling in U.S. elections and various ancillary crimes.
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume all the allegations in the indictment are true, however unlikely that is to be the case. (While that would be the American legal rule for a complaint in a civil case, this is a criminal indictment, where there is supposedly a presumption of innocence. Rosenstein even mentioned that in his press conference, pretending not to notice that that presumption doesn’t apply to Russian Untermenschen – certainly not to Olympic athletes and really not to Russians at all, who are presumed guilty on “genetic” grounds.)
Based on the public announcement of the indictment by Rosenstein – who is effectively the Attorney General in place of the pro forma holder of that office, Jeff Sessions (R-Recused) – and on an initial examination of the indictment, and we can already draw a few conclusions:
- Finally, “collusion” is dead! If Mueller and the anti-constitutional cabal had any hint that anyone on the Trump team cooperated with those indicted, they would have included it. They didn’t. That means that after months and months of “investigation” – or really, setting “perjury traps” and trying to nail people on unrelated accusations, like Paul Manafort’s alleged circumvention of lobbying and financial reporting laws – and wasting however many millions of dollars, Mueller and his merry band got nothing. Zip. Zilch. Bupkes. Nada.The fake charge that Trump colluded with the Russians is exposed as the fraud it always was.
- And yet, “collusion” still lives! But while there is no actual allegation (much less evidence) that any American, much less anyone on the Trump team, “colluded” with the indicted Russians, the indictment makes it clear that Moscow sought to support Trump and disparage Hillary. Thus, Trump is guilty of being favored by Russia even if there was no actual cooperation. It’s a kind of zombie walking dead collusion, collusion by intent (of someone else) absent actual collusion. Its purpose in the indictment is to discredit Trump as a Russian puppet, albeit an unwitting one. The indictment says the Russian desperados supported Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein too – so they’re also Putin’s dupes.
- Any and every Russian equals Putin. Incredibly, nothing in the indictment points to any connection of those indicted to the Russian government! This is on a par with the hysteria over social media placements by “Russian interests” on account of which hysterical Senators demanded that tech giants impose content controls, or dimwit CIA agents getting bilked out of $100,000 by a Russian scam artist in Berlin in exchange for – well, pretty much nothing. (The CIA denies it, which leads one to suspect it is true.) Paragraph 95 of the indictment points to what amounted to a click-bait scam to fleece American merchants and social media sites from between $25 and $50 per post for promotional content. Paragraph 88 refers to “self-enrichment” as one motive of the alleged operation. That makes a lot more sense than the bone-headed claim in the indictment that the Russian goal was to “sow discord in the U.S. political system” by posting content on “divisive U.S. political and social issues.” What! Americans disagree about stuff? The Russians are setting us against each other! In announcing the indictment, Rosenstein said the Russians wanted to “promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed.” (He wagged his finger with resolve at that point.) It evidently doesn’t occur to Rosenstein that he and his pals have undermined public confidence in our institutions by perverting them for political ends.
- Demonizing dissent. Those indicted allegedly sought to attract Americans’ attention to their diabolical machinations through appeal to hot-button issues (immigration, Black Lives Matter, religion, etc.) and popular hashtags (#Trump2016, #TrumpTrain, #MAGA, #Hillary4Prison). Have you taken a stand on divisive issues, Dear Reader? Have you used any of these hashtags? Are you reading this commentary? You too might be an unwitting Russian stooge! Vladimir Putin is inside your head! Hopefully DOJ will set up a hotline where patriotic citizens influenced without their knowledge can now report themselves, now that they’ve been alerted. Are you a thought criminal, comrade?
- An amateurish, penny-ante scheme with no results – compared to what the U.S. does. At worst, even if all the allegations in the indictment are true – a big “if” – it would still amount to the kind of garden-variety kicking each other under the table that a lot of countries routinely engage in. As described in the indictment this gargantuan Russian scheme was (as reported by Politico) an “expensive [sic] effort that cost millions of dollars and employed as many as hundreds of people.” Millions of dollars! Hundreds of people! How did the American republic manage to survive the onslaught? Rosenstein was keen to point out for the umpteenth time that nothing the Russians are alleged to have done (never mind what they actually might have done, which is far less) had any impact on the election. That stands in sharp contrast to the lavishly funded, multifaceted, global political influence and meddling operations the U.S. conducts in nations around the world under the guise of “democracy promotion.” The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), along with its Democratic and Republican sub-organizations, can be considered the flagship of a community of ostensibly private but government-funded or subsidized organizations that provides the soft compliment to American hard military power. The various governmental, quasi-governmental, and nongovernmental components of this network – sometimes called the “Demintern” in analogy to the Comintern, an organization comparable in global ambition if differing in ideology and methods – are also coordinated internationally at the official level through the less-well-known “Community of Democracies.” It is oftendifficult to know where the “official” entities (CIA, NATO, the State Department, Pentagon, USAID) divide from ostensibly nongovernmental but tax dollar-supported groups (NED, Freedom House, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) and privately funded organizations that cooperate with them towards common goals (especially the Open Society organizations funded by billionaire George Soros). Among the specialties of this network are often successful “color revolutions” targeting leaders and governments disfavored by Washington for regime change – a far cry from the pathetic Russian operation alleged in the indictment.
- “Mitt Romney was right.” Already many of Trump’s supporters are not only crowing with satisfaction that the indictment proves there was no collusion but refocusing their gaze from the domestic culprits within the FBI, DOJ, etc., to a bogus foreign threat. “This whole saga just brings back the 2012 election, and the fact that Mitt Romney was right” for “suggesting that Russia is our greatest geopolitical foe,” is the new GOP meme. To the extent that Russiagate was less about Trump than ensuring that enmity with Russia will be permanent and will continue to deepen, this latest Mueller indictment is a smashing success already.
The Mueller indictment against the Russians is a well-timed effort to distract Americans’ attention from the real collusion rotting the core of our public life by shifting attention to a foreign enemy. Many of the people behind it are the very officials who are themselves complicit in the rot. But the sad fact is that it will probably work.
James George Jatras is an analyst, former U.S. diplomat and foreign policy adviser to the Senate GOP leadership.
Featured image is from Zero Hedge.