RussiaGate: fragments of a story large beyond imagining

by Fabius Maximus

Summary: Here is a summary of the RussiaGate stories, fragments of contradictory information about something that might be big beyond imagining.

Special solutions

Both sides have constructed pleasing narratives based on leaks and rumors. Narratives which they believe are proven facts. Let’s begin with some delusional statements from Paul Krugman, a prominent liberal.

“There’s really no question about Trump/Putin collusion, and Trump in fact continues to act like Putin’s puppet.”
— In the NYT on 17 November 2017.

“We’ve basically crossed the line into treason now — and a whole party is acquiescing”
— Tweet on May 19 about GOPefforts to unmask the intel operative placed in the Trump campaign. Note Glenn Greenwald’s decisive rebuttal.

Here’s an example of the red meat being fed conservatives.  Joe Digenova was US Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1983 – 1988. He has seen the inside of the Washington machinery. Here are two interviews on Fox News from the past week. Big claims, little evidence. First, a quote from him on “The Ingraham Angle,” 15 May 2018.

“The state of play now is that it is abundantly clear that there was no legitimate basis even for a counterintelligence investigation, let alone in criminal investigation.

“It is quite obvious that John Brennan was at the head of a group of people who were going to create a counterintelligence investigation against Trump by creating false information which was going to be fed through Carter Page and fed through George Papadopoulos so that it would be picked up, reported back to Washington and provide the basis for a counter — a fake counterintelligence investigation.

“And it was all Brennan’s doing. And that is why the Justice Department is viciously fighting, revealing everything they can about the source in London who everybody knows the identity of.”

Second, his discussion on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” 17 May 2018. Video here.

CARLSON: Joe, what do we know?

DIGENOVA: We know that Hillary Clinton was illegally exonerated, we knew that a year ago. We know that there was a substantial effort to frame the current president of the United States with crimes by infiltrating his campaign, and then his administration with spies that the FBI had set upon them. We have learned that the crimes were committed by the FBI, senior members of the Department of Justice, John Brennan, Mr. Clapper, Mr. Comey, and others associated with the Democratic Party, and that Donald Trump and his associates committed no crimes. …

Categorically and unequivocally, it has been proved that the FBI, in violation of all guidelines, all legislation, and I believe they committed crimes in doing so, purposely sent people into the Trump campaign to plant false information, then force that information to be forwarded back to CIA, and then funneled to the FBI, to be used as false information in FISA applications. Everybody involved in that process who knowingly participated committed a crime. …

CARLSON: So why aren’t they being held to account?

DIGENOVA: As of today, I understand that a referral for criminal prosecution has been made by Mr. Horowitz to Mr. Huber, who is investigating the FISA leaks, the unmasking, the leaks of the unmasking and everything we described tonight. Criminal referrals have already been made, and I suggest that Mr. Brennan – who loves to make comments about the process, get himself a good lawyer. Not a good writer.

Ed Note: John Huber is a US Attorney, the lead Federal law enforcement official for Utah, and has been assigned by the Attorney General to investigate Republican claims of FBI misconduct and whether more should have been done to investigate Hillary Clinton’s ties to a Russian nuclear agency (see CNN).

CARLSON: Wait, John Brennan the NBC news paid consultant?

DIGENOVA: Yes, NBC News’ consultant, the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the most partisan hack leader of the CIA in history, needs a very very good lawyer.

CARLSON: Criminal lawyer?

DIGENOVA: Yes, criminal lawyer. He doesn’t need a slip-and-fall lawyer, although he’s going to slip and fall. He’s going to be in front of a grand jury shortly.

Even weirder things about the RussiaGate stories

Both sides have developed contradictory – almost non-overlapping — narratives. See this by Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei at AXIOS: “The public case against Trump.” Convincing, powerful — but it omits most of the logic and information (of varying degrees of credibility) that the GOP focuses on. Even more exaggerated is Natasha Bertrand’s article at The Atlantic about “the most significant revelations the country has learned since Mueller began his probe.” Artfully crafted to mislead (e.g., the largely bogus section about the “Russia trolls worked to help Trump” ).

Worse, partisans on both sides get much of their information from Tweets. A big fraction of those are insults. See this discussion between the President of the United States and John Brennan — long-time senior intel officials and former Director of the CIA. This is the modern version of children passing notes in the classroom. Are these people suited to hold high office (or any position of responsibility) in America?

We’re reduced to reading this wild speculation since by now many of the key players have given contradictory stories. Peter Elkind of Propublica notes one of the many examples: “How a Typical Government Leak Turned Into a Three-Way War Between Comey, McCabe and Trump” — “Two former allies, James Comey and Andrew McCabe, have offered contradictory accounts of the orchestrated FBI leak that spawned a critical investigation. That means one of them has to be lying – as President Trump is happy to tweet to the world.”

Most of what we know comes from leaks, rumors, and heavily redacted documents.

There is good analysis from both sides, resulting in a ping-pong game-like result for the layperson attempting to follow the action. For example, see this incisive analysis by McCarthy about the NYT story of the probe’s origins. Lots of dynamite allegations by both sides in this complex and ever-changing story. The American public has no firm basis on which to draw conclusions — other than tribal loyalty.

Who wins?

For two years liberals have focused much of their effort on broadcasting their story about RussiaGate. That’s even more true for the past year, since Mueller was appointed special prosecutor. So far the situation is best described in “The Russia Temptation” by Rich Lowry.

“So, when Trump denies he reimbursed Michael Cohen, it could lead to legal trouble. When he admits he reimbursed Michael Cohen, it could lead to legal trouble. It’s never enough to say he had an affair with a porn star, paid her off, and was dishonest about it, which would seem embarrassing and blameworthy enough. No, there has to be the prospect of him and people around him getting caught up in the grinding machinery of prosecution.

“Republicans adopted the same view in the 1990s. If they could affix the scandal suffix “-gate” to any matter (Troopergate, Filegate), they thought they had hit gold. The public ended up caring more about the benign material conditions of the 1990s than Bill Clinton’s appalling conduct and attendant legal problems.

“Many elected Democrats, per Amy Klobuchar, seem to realize that the most politically promising attack against Trump is as a stereotypical Republican plutocrat implementing all the same textbook GOP policies, rather than as a Kremlin tool. But left-wing cable personalities, much of the mainstream press, and the Democratic base are much too vested in Russia to ease off, and the amount of attention they devote to it is overwhelming.

“The Mueller probe has been covered like it’s a major scandal, with a missing 18 1/2 minutes every other day, when it is only an investigation. It holds the possibility of uncovering a major scandal — if, that is, one exists. A symptom of the Russia obsession is to consider that a given, when there is not yet any public proof.”

Here is the bottom line: Trump’s job approval as of May 13: the highest it has been since 29 January 2017, one week after inauguration. The Democrats have spent vast amounts of political capital publicizing the investigation (which could have run quietly) – diverting attention from Trump’s plutocrat-friendly and highly unpopular policies. They have nothing whatsoever to show for it.

Trump job approval

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