Summary: The bottom line about RussiaGate is that something is happening in Washington, but none of the explanations make sense. Read the stories carefully, since most are deceptive. We have to watch and wait to learn the truth.
“To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.”
— From Benjamin Disraeli’s novel Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845).
There are two obvious scenarios explaining RussiaGate, claims that the 2016 was illegitimate and that the President has dangerous ties to Russia.
(1) The intelligence community (IC) has evidence of Trump’s guilt. Hence the months of leaks (typical of high-profile investigations by US law enforcement). These leaks, and perhaps back channel conversations, have convinced leaders of the Democratic Party that RussiaGate might lead to Trump’s resignation or impeachment. Hence their massive investment of resources to focus the public’s attention on RussiaGate, preventing it from being “swept under the rug.”
(2) A small group of senior CIA and FBI officials have allied with the Democrats to do a soft coup against Trump for political reasons. Lacking strong evidence, they rely on leaks (agitprop) to turn public opinion against Trump to cripple his administration (perhaps breaking Trump’s spirit so he will resign). Anonymous leaks also provide some protection if elements of the Justice Department or intelligence community move against them (they are quite vulnerable to this).
In both scenarios, the major news media have helped by providing uncritical reporting. Both of these scenarios have large numbers of believers. Neither makes much sense.
(1) The intelligence community (IC) has evidence of Trump’s guilt.
If so, why have they not revealed it? For example, the CIA report given to Obama about Russian cyber-interference in the election. As Lambert Strether said, “If all this was happening in August, why was the story kept under wraps?” The explanations given are weak. But the stakes seem too high to have concealed the evidence from the American public, especially when they are leaking so many hints about it. Even now they will not release even a redacted version of the report.
Worse, both the leaks and the officially released evidence are weak. They become weaker still as we learn more about them. This is a typical example of the “evidence”.
“Comey confirmed that the FBI didn’t independently collect any evidence to connect Russia to the Democratic Party breaches. ‘We got relevant forensic information from a private party, a high-class entity, that had done the work,’ he said, almost certainly referring to Crowdstrike, the cybersecurity company the Democratic National Committee had hired. That firm’s reports about the cyberattack, and other efforts to pin hacks on Russian intelligence services, haven’t always been convincing.”
— “Missing From Comey’s Fireworks: Trump-Russia Collusion” by Leonid Bershidsky at Bloomberg — “The investigations haven’t revealed much so far on one of their most important questions.”
I consider it bizarre that after 12 months the FBI has not been able to confirm the key points of Crowdstrike’s report — yet they still considers it credible, despite the firm’s links to the Democratic Party. Also odd is that the Democratic National Committee has not given the FBI access to its servers for analysis of the alleged hack. (See more about Crowdstrike here.)
(1) …have convinced leaders of the Democratic Party that this might lead to Trump’s resignation or impeachment.
The Democratic Party’s leaders must be confident of this, given their massive investment of time and credibility in RussiaGate. But why is removing Trump a rational goal? President Pence is likely to be both more competent than Trump, more popular with the mainstream GOP elected officials, and a more effective advocate for far-right policies.
(2) A small group of senior officials of the CIA and FBI have allied with the Democrats to do a soft coup against Trump for political reasons.
This would be an unprecedented change in the behavior of the CIA and FBI’s leaders. Why would they take such a large risk? Also, consider the mechanics. The group would have to be small to maintain secrecy, but large enough to execute this large project.
Also, these are not partisan agencies or known to have staff strongly aligned with the Democratic Party. Remember the news stories about Republicans in the FBI driving the investigation of Hillary, despite Comey’s objections?
“It is impossible as I state it, and therefore I must in some respect have stated it wrong.”
— Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of the Priory School.”
Tentative conclusions about RussiaGate
The definitive conclusion is that we do not know what is happening. RussiaGate is like a puzzle where the picture becomes less clear as we add pieces to it. When we eliminate the scenarios which don’t makes sense, we have nothing. It’s like T. S. Elliott’s “wilderness of mirrors” (see Trump and the Democrats stumble into a ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’), and even more like the wilderness of mirrors described by James Angleton (the CIA’s great counterintelligence ace).
Marcello Truzzi’s insight applies here: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”. Yet after 12 months we not only lack extraordinary proof, but any substantial proof (see Caitlin Johnstone’s series “Debunking Russiagate“). That makes the past 12 months of rising hysteria look pathological, not political — more like the Salem Witch Trials than Watergate. (Despite claims, one year after the Watergate burglary there was ample evidence of guilt by senior members of the White House staff).
But something big is happening. Too many power centers have invested too much for this to be a kerfuffle. We’re looking at waves and trying to describe the great beasts swimming below (whales or sandworms, as you prefer). All we can do is watch and withhold judgement until we know more.
“In extraordinary events ignorance of their causes produces astonishment.”
— By Cicero in De Divinatione II. 22.
The essential fact to remember when watching this story
Be skeptical. Since WWII government officials have lied to us, increasingly often. Which makes analysis of these situations difficult. For more about this see The Big List of Lies. Yet despite this history we still believe them. This gullibility is perhaps our most serious problem; reform of America is impossible until this changes.
“It’s better to be uninformed than misinformed.”
— Orville Hubbard (Mayor of Dearborn, MI) in the The Detroit Reporter, 10 December 1955.
For More Information
- See Lambert Strether’s brief but telling analysis of RussiaGate at Naked Capitalism.
- See Glenn Greenwald’s description of the news media’s uncritical reporting: “CNN Journalists Resign: Latest Example of Media Recklessness on the Russia Threat.”
- The Media Research Center found “TV News Is Obsessed With Trump-Russia Probe.” Amazing numbers!
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Trump and the new populism, about the Trump years in America, about ways to reform America, and especially these…
- Is Trump a tool of Putin? See the story & the debunking.
- Here are the facts so far about the Trump-Russia file.
- Deciphering the scandalous rumors about Trump in Russia.
- Exposing the farcical claims about Russian hacking of the election.
- What Trump told Russia, why it matters, and why journalists ignore the smartest man in Washington.
- Trump and the Democrats stumble into a ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’.
- Important: The GOP might impeach Trump, changing our politics forever – for the better.
A book about impeachment in America – and the case against Trump.
One of the best introductions to impeachment in modern American politics is The Age of Impeachment: American Constitutional Culture since 1960 (2008) by the historian David E. Kyvig (deceased). For more background see these five books about the process and history of impeachment in America.
The latest and most provocative book on this subject is Allan Lichtman’s The Case for Impeachment, released in April. He is a professor of history at American University. From the publisher…
“In the fall of 2016, Lichtman made headlines when he predicted that Trump would defeat the heavily favored Democrat, Hillary Clinton. Now, in clear, nonpartisan terms, Lichtman lays out the reasons Congress could remove Trump from the Oval Office: his ties to Russia before and after the election, the complicated financial conflicts of interest at home and abroad, and his abuse of executive authority.
“The Case for Impeachment also offers a fascinating look at presidential impeachments throughout American history, including the often-overlooked story of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, details about Richard Nixon’s resignation, and Bill Clinton’s hearings. Lichtman shows how Trump exhibits many of the flaws (and more) that have doomed past presidents. As the Nixon Administration dismissed the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as “character assassination” and “a vicious abuse of the journalistic process,” Trump has attacked the “dishonest media,” claiming, “the press should be ashamed of themselves.”
“Historians, legal scholars, and politicians alike agree: we are in politically uncharted waters—the durability of our institutions is being undermined and the public’s confidence in them is eroding, threatening American democracy itself. Most citizens—politics aside—want to know where the country is headed. Lichtman argues, with clarity and power, that for Donald Trump’s presidency, smoke has become fire.”