It looks like President Obama ordered up phony RussiaGate scandal

https://nypost.com/2020/05/11/looks-like-president-obama-ordered-up-phony-russiagate-scandal/

It looks like President Obama ordered up phony RussiaGate scandal

May 11, 2020

RussiaGate is now a complete dead letter — but ObamaGate is taking its place. Just how far did the then-president go to cripple his successor?

It’s now clear the Obama-Comey FBI and Justice Department never had anything more substantial than the laughable fiction of the Steele dossier to justify the “counterintelligence” investigation of the Trump campaign. Yet incessant leaks from that supposedly confidential probe wound up consuming the Trump administration’s first months in office — followed by the Bob Mueller-led special counsel investigation that proved nearly the “total witch hunt” that President Trump dubbed it.

Information released as the Justice Department dropped its charges against Gen. Mike Flynn shows that President Barack Obama, in his final days in office, played a key role in fanning the flames of phony scandal. Fully briefed on the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, he knew the FBI had come up with nothing despite months of work starting in July 2016.

Yet on Jan. 5, 2017, Obama told top officials who’d be staying on in the new administration to keep the crucial facts from Team Trump.

It happened at an Oval Office meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, intel chiefs John Brennan and Jim Clapper and national security adviser Susan Rice, as well as FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

“From a national-security perspective,” Rice’s memo afterward put it, “President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia.”

This even as then-President Obama also directed that as many people as possible across his administration be briefed on the (utterly unsubstantiated) allegations against Team Trump — and as Rice and others took unprecedented steps to “unmask” US citizens like Flynn whose conversations had been caught on federal wiretaps of foreigners.

Indeed, the Obama administration went on a full-scale leak offensive — handing the Washington Post, New York Times and others a nonstop torrent of “anonymous” allegations of Trumpite ties to Moscow. It suggested that the investigations were finding a ton of treasonous dirt on Team Trump — when in fact the investigators had come up dry.

Sadly, Comey’s FBI played along — sandbagging Flynn with the “friendly” interview that later became the pretext for the bogus charges dropped last week, as well as triggering the White House chaos that led to his ouster. This when the FBI had already gone over the general with a fine-tooth comb, and concluded that, no, he’d done nothing like collude with the Russians.

Meanwhile, Comey himself gave Trump an intentionally misleading briefing on the Steele dossier. That was followed by leaks that suggested the dossier was the tip of an iceberg, rather than a pack of innuendo that hadn’t at all checked out under FBI scrutiny.

Pulitzer Prizes were won for blaring utter fiction; the Trump administration was kneecapped out of the gate. Innocents like Flynn were bankrupted along the way.

Say this about Obama: He knows how to play dirty.

May 12, 2020. Tags: , , , , . Barack Obama. Leave a comment.

The Nation: The Real Costs of Russiagate

https://www.thenation.com/article/the-real-costs-of-russiagate/

The Real Costs of Russiagate

Its perpetrators, not Putin or Trump, “attacked American democracy.”

By Stephen F. Cohen

March 27, 2019

The very few of us who publicly challenged and deplored Russiagate allegations against candidate and then President Donald Trump from the time they first began to appear in mid-2016 should not gloat or rejoice over the US attorney general’s summary of Robert S. Mueller’s key finding: “The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.” (On the other hand, those of us repeatedly slurred as Trump and/or Putin “apologists” might feel some vindication.)

But what about the legions of high-ranking intelligence officials, politicians, editorial writers, television producers, and other opinion-makers, and their eager media outlets that perpetuated, inflated, and prolonged this unprecedented political scandal in American history—those who did not stop short of accusing the president of the United States of being a Kremlin “agent,” “asset,” “puppet,” “Manchurian candidate,” and who characterized his conduct and policies as “treasonous”? (These and other examples are cited in my book War with Russia? From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate, and in a recent piece by Paul Starobin in City Journal.) Will they now apologize, as decency requires, or, more importantly, explain their motives so that we might understand and avoid another such national trauma?

Shortly after Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union, in 1985, he released a banned film, Repentance, that explored the underlying institutional, ideological, and personal dynamics of Stalinism. The film set off a nationwide media trial and condemnation of that murderous era. Though Russiagate has generated in America some Soviet-like practices and ruined a number of lives and reputations, it is, of course, nothing even remotely comparable to the Soviet Stalinist experience. By comparison, therefore, some introspective repentance on the part of Russiagate perpetuators should not be too much to ask. But as I foresaw well before the summary of Mueller’s “Russia investigation” appeared, there is unlikely to be much, if any. Too many personal and organizational interests are too deeply invested in Russiagate. Not surprisingly, leading perpetrators instead immediately met the summary with a torrent of denials, goal-post shifts, obfuscations, and calls for more Russiagate “investigations.” Joy Reid of MSNBC, which has been a citadel of Russiagate allegations along with CNN, even suggested that Mueller and Attorney General William Barr were themselves engaged in “a cover-up.”

Contrary to a number of major media outlets, from Bloomberg News to The Wall Street Journal, nor does Mueller’s exculpatory finding actually mean that “Russiagate…is dead” and indeed that “it expired in an instant.” Such conclusions reveal a lack of historical and political understanding. Nearly three years of Russiagate’s toxic allegations have entered the American political-media elite bloodstream, and they almost certainly will reappear again and again in one form or another.

This is an exceedingly grave danger, because the real costs of Russiagate are not the estimated $25–40 million spent on the Mueller investigation but the corrosive damage it has already done to the institutions of American democracy—damage done not by an alleged “Trump-Putin axis” but by Russsigate’s perpetrators themselves. Having examined this collateral damage in my recently published book War with Russia? From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate, I will only note them here.

§ Clamorous allegations that the Kremlin “attacked our elections” and thereby put Trump in the White House, despite the lack of any evidence, cast doubt on the legitimacy of American elections everywhere—national, state, and local. If true, or even suspected, how can voters have confidence in the electoral foundations of American democracy? Persistent demands to “secure our elections from hostile powers”— a politically and financially profitable mania, it seems—can only further abet and perpetuate declining confidence in the entire electoral process. Still more, if some crude Russian social-media outputs could so dupe voters, what does this tell us about what US elites, which originated these allegations, really think of those voters, of the American people?

§ Defamatory Russsiagate allegations that Trump was a “Kremlin puppet” and thus “illegitimate” were aimed at the president but hit the presidency itself, degrading the institution, bringing it under suspicion, casting doubt on its legitimacy. And if an “agent of a hostile foreign power” could occupy the White House once, a “Manchurian candidate,” why not again? Will Republicans be able to resist making such allegations against a future Democratic president? In any event, Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign manager, Robby Mook, has already told us that there will be a “next time.”

§ Mainstream media are, of course, a foundational institution of American democracy, especially national ones, newspapers and television, with immense influence inside the Beltway and, in ramifying synergic ways, throughout the country. Their Russiagate media malpractice, as I have termed it, may have been the worst such episode in modern American history. No mainstream media did anything to expose, for example, two crucial and fraudulent Russiagate documents—the so-called Steele Dossier and the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment—but instead relied heavily on them for their own narratives. Little more need be said here about this institutional self-degradation. Glenn Greenwald and a few others followed and exposed it throughout, and now Matt Taibbi has given us a meticulously documented account of that systematic malpractice, concluding that Mueller’s failure to confirm the media’s Russiagate allegations “is a death-blow for the reputation of the American news media.”

Nor, it must be added, was this entirely inadvertent or accidental. On August 8, 2016, the trend-setting New York Times published on its front page an astonishing editorial manifesto by its media critic. Asking whether “normal standards” should apply to candidate Trump, he explained that they should not: “You have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century.” Let others decide whether this Times proclamation unleashed the highly selective, unbalanced, questionably factual “journalism” that has so degraded Russiagate media or instead the publication sought to justify what was already underway. In either case, this remarkable—and ramifying—Times rejection of its own professed standards should not be forgotten. Almost equally remarkable and lamentable, we learn that even now, after Mueller’s finding is known, top executives of the Times and other leading Russiagate media outlets, including The Washington Post and CNN, “have no regrets.”

§ For better or worse, America has a two-party political system, which means that the Democratic Party is also a foundational institution. Little more also need be pointed out regarding its self-degrading role in the Russiagate fraud. Leading members of the party initiated, inflated, and prolonged it. They did nothing to prevent inquisitors like Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from becoming the cable-news face of the party. Or to rein in or disassociate the party from the outlandish excesses of “The Resistance.” With very few exceptions, elected and other leading Democrats did nothing to stop—and therefore further abetted—the institutional damage being done by Russiagate allegations. As for Mueller’s finding,the party’s virtual network, MSNBC, remains undeterred. Rachael Maddow continues to hype “the underlying reality that Russia did in fact attack us.” By any reasonable definition of “attack,” no, it did not, and scarcely any allegation could be more recklessly warmongering, a perception the Democratic Party will for this and other Russiagate commissions have to endure, or not. (When Mueller’s full report is published, we will see if he too indulged in this dangerous absurdity. A few passages in the summary suggest he might have done so.)

§ Finally, but potentially not least, the new Cold War with Russia has itself become an institution pervading American political, economic, media, and cultural life. Russiagate has made it more dangerous, more fraught with actual war, than the Cold War we survived, as I explain in War with Russia? Recall only that Russiagate allegations further demonized “Putin’s Russia,” thwarted Trump’s necessary attempts to “cooperate with Russia” as somehow “treasonous,” criminalized détente thinking and “inappropriate contacts with Russia”—in short, policies and practices that previously helped to avert nuclear war. Meanwhile, the Russiagate spectacle has caused many ordinary Russians who once admired America to now be “derisive and scornful” toward our political life.

The scarce good news it is that some Russian officials hope Mueller’s Russiagate exoneration of Trump will enable the president to resume his attempts to cooperate with Moscow. The bad institutional news is that Congress has invited, on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s initiative, NATO’s secretary general to address it on April 3. That figurehead has announced a renewed attempt to bring the former Soviet republic of Georgia into the military alliance. The last such attempt led to the US-Russian proxy war in Georgia in 2008. When it was tried in Ukraine in 2013, it produced the still ongoing Ukrainian civil and proxy war.

The editor of The New Yorker, itself an ardent Russiagate publication, asks whether “the moral and material corruption [Trump] has inflicted will be with us for a long while.” Perhaps. But the institutional costs of Russiagate are likely to be with us for even longer.

March 29, 2019. Tags: , , , , . Donald Trump, Media bias. Leave a comment.

It’s official: Russiagate is this generation’s WMD

https://taibbi.substack.com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million

It’s official: Russiagate is this generation’s WMD

The Iraq war faceplant damaged the reputation of the press. Russiagate just destroyed it.

By Matt Taibbi

March 23, 2019

Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is headed home without issuing new charges is a death-blow for the reputation of the American news media.

As has long been rumored, the former FBI chief’s independent probe will result in multiple indictments and convictions, but no “presidency-wrecking” conspiracy charges, or anything that would meet the layman’s definition of “collusion” with Russia.

With the caveat that even this news might somehow turn out to be botched, the key detail in the many stories about the end of the Mueller investigation was best expressed by the New York Times:

A senior Justice Department official said that Mr. Mueller would not recommend new indictments.

The Times tried to soften the emotional blow for the millions of Americans trained in these years to place hopes for the overturn of the Trump presidency in Mueller. Nobody even pretended it was supposed to be a fact-finding mission, instead of an act of faith.

The Special Prosecutor literally became a religious figure during the last few years, with votive candles sold in his image and Saturday Night Live cast members singing “All I Want for Christmas is You” to him featuring the rhymey line: “Mueller please come through, because the only option is a coup.”

The Times story today tried to preserve Santa Mueller’s reputation, noting Trump’s Attorney General William Barr’s reaction was an “endorsement” of the fineness of Mueller’s work:

In an apparent endorsement of an investigation that Mr. Trump has relentlessly attacked as a “witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said Justice Department officials never had to intervene to keep Mr. Mueller from taking an inappropriate or unwarranted step.

Mueller, in other words, never stepped out of the bounds of his job description. But could the same be said for the news media?

For those anxious to keep the dream alive, the Times published its usual graphic of Trump-Russia “contacts,” inviting readers to keep making connections. But in a separate piece by Peter Baker, the paper noted the Mueller news had dire consequences for the press:

It will be a reckoning for President Trump, to be sure, but also for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for Congress, for Democrats, for Republicans, for the news media and, yes, for the system as a whole…

This is a damning page one admission by the Times. Despite the connect-the-dots graphic in its other story, and despite the astonishing, emotion-laden editorial the paper also ran suggesting “We don’t need to read the Mueller report” because we know Trump is guilty, Baker at least began the work of preparing Times readers for a hard question: “Have journalists connected too many dots that do not really add up?”

The paper was signaling it understood there would now be questions about whether or not news outlets like itself made galactic errors by betting heavily on a new, politicized approach, trying to be true to “history’s judgment” on top of the hard-enough job of just being true. Worse, in a brutal irony everyone should have seen coming, the press has now handed Trump the mother of campaign issues heading into 2020.

Nothing Trump is accused of from now on by the press will be believed by huge chunks of the population, a group that (perhaps thanks to this story) is now larger than his original base. As Baker notes, a full 50.3% of respondents in a poll conducted this month said they agree with Trump the Mueller probe is a “witch hunt.”
(more…)

March 24, 2019. Tags: , , , , , . Donald Trump, Media bias. Leave a comment.