By Rod Thomson
We’re going to get into the full context, but to jump straight to the point: There is absolutely nothing to the Russian scandal narrative pushed by Democrats and the media — which are largely the same. Nothing.
Liberals have suddenly discovered that the Russian reset failed and the country remains an enemy or opponent. This occurred not during Russia’s aggressions around the world or hacking U.S. companies, but when they may have hacked into the Democratic National Committee. So now no one in the Trump campaign, or connected to Trump, should ever have talked to the Russians before the 2016 election.
Of course this is nonsense, but to see just how nonsensical we’ll completely dismantle the narrative step by step to show that there is, truly, no “there” there.
- The Russians did not hack the election.
- The Russians did not unduly attempt to influence the election.
- Vladimir Putin does not have a bromance with Donald Trump.
- Sen. Jeff Sessions did nothing wrong in meeting with the Russian Ambassador.
- There was no secret collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russians.
- There are, however, some serious questions about connections and actions between President Obama and Russia.
All of the above statements can be made definitively based on all the information we have at this point, and all we know about our history to provide the context that the media will not provide.
There actually is almost no story here. A sidebar of mild interest. But there is a reason the Democrats have latched onto it and the media is lashing it forward.
First, we debunk the whole thing.
The Russians did not hack the election
There is no evidence that the Russians hacked into the actual election in any way. No polling places were compromised by Russians. No ballots tampered with (by Russians.) The votes of Americans were duly counted, along with some unknown number of illegal immigrants.
There is evidence that the Russians hacked into the computers of the Democratic National Committee. There is a decent case for this, although it is not enough to call it a fact. Also, seldom mentioned, is that the Russians tried to hack into the computers of the Republican National Committee. They were unable to break into those computers.
However, hacking into party computers is not “hacking the election.” Hacking the election is meant to convey the idea that the Russians changed the results, that they stole the election from Hillary Clinton to give it to Donald Trump. For that, as we will see, there is no actual evidence.
Using the phrase “hacked the election,” however, is a conflation of items to reach a desired conclusion. We will see this methodological spin throughout the attempts to indict the Trump administration.
The Russians did not *unduly* attempt to influence the election
The key here is “unduly.” Because historical and global context is huge. Reporting makes it sound like all this started last year. That’s just journalistic malpractice.
The reason for “unduly” is that by any criterion, this is standard practice among nations, and most definitely with Russia toward the United States.
The French government sought to influence the election of our first presidents to enlist U.S. aid in their long-running war with Great Britain. They favored Thomas Jefferson’s position and opposed George Washington. The British attempted to influence several U.S. elections in the 1800s, usually due to European intrigues.
In 1941, Britain used several methods to get a pro-interventionist Republican nominated against FDR in his third presidential bid. Later in the general election, the British used a fictional map falsely attributed to Hitler to force both candidates into a stronger interventionist position.
In 1960, the Soviets held captured U-2 pilot Gary Powers after his spy plane crashed in Russia, purposely delaying his release until after the presidential elections to benefit John F. Kennedy. Soviet Premier Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs that it worked: “We kept Nixon from being able to claim that he could deal with the Russians; our ploy made a difference of at least half a million votes, which gave Kennedy the edge he needed.”
During the Cold War years, the Soviets sought to influence U.S. public opinion on a range of issues, including elections. Maybe most interesting, however, is the collusion Sen. Ted Kennedy sought with Russia to undermine the reelection of President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Kennedy initiated this. He offered to travel to Moscow to meet with then-Soviet leader Andrei Andropov — who hated and feared Reagan — and promised to arrange several TV interviews for Andropov. Kennedy assured Andropov he could get the Russian dictator media sit-downs and that they would look like honest journalism. We don’t know for sure whether the Russians acted on any of it, or if some other deal was struck.
Tellingly, when this was discovered in the opened KGB archives in 1991, the London Times did an extensive story on it. The U.S. media — aligned with the Democratic Party — ignored the story, even as Kennedy sat as a leading Senator and was reverently referred to as the “lion of the Senate.”
And by the way, the U.S. has attempted to influence elections in other countries for years. In fact, this is a common practice among nations. There is a whole database detailing it. Hysteria over Russia trying to influence the U.S. election is barely even news if honest news judgment is exercised — except when it is useful.
So any Russian interference there may have been in the recent U.S. elections is, in itself, not huge news when we realize how common this practice is. You just won’t learn that from the media.
There is no Putin-Trump bromance
Here lies another canard in the narrative. It goes like this: Putin complemented Trump. Trump likes complements. Trump replied in fashion. In another president, this would be called basic diplomacy.
But because Democrats and the media are whigged out over Russia, and over Trump, this rather boring exchange has become a basis for there being a bromance — current linguistic currency for a close male bond. It’s as silly as it sounds, at every level.
In fact, no less publications than USA Today and Newsweek used the term in their headlines. Yes, journalism has really declined.
But there are clear and stated flash points. Putin has long wanted to rebuild the Russian Empire, and made some headway during Obama’s feckless years. Trump ran on making America great again both domestically and around the world and is determined to rebuild the American military. No friend of Putin would be rebuilding our military. In fact, that and a strong economy — the other arm of Trump’s campaign — would be the two areas Putin would least like to see. That’s some bad bromancing.
There are potential places of cooperation with Russia, particularly against Islamic jihadism. Putin’s southern border and provinces are crawling with jihadists and there have been terrorist attacks in Moscow and elsewhere. As in Nazism, there is a common enemy. That is usually called Realpolitik, a la Henry Kissinger.
The way in which Obama worked with Russia was the unilateral withdrawal of America’s deterrent umbrella in Eastern Europe. Yes, as in Crimea and Ukraine and even Syria, it was just basically a give away to weaken the American position. And remember, the Iran deal greatly benefitted both an Islamic terrorist-exporting regime and an ally of Russia.
There was no secret collusion, no Sessions problems
United States Senators meet with foreign leaders routinely, particularly those that sit on Senate committees that are involved with international interests, such as the Senate Armed Services Committee. Jeff Sessions was a U.S. Senator during the 2016 election campaign. He served on the Armed Services Committee. He met with the Russian Ambassador.
Yup. That’s pretty much it. That is the basis for the entire fabricated controversy.
The only potential additional issue is that during his confirmation hearings to become U.S. Attorney General, Sessions said he did not have any contacts with the Russians during the campaign. This is muddy because the context is that the question was part of a series from Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., that was focused on Session’s actions as a surrogate for the Trump campaign. In that sense, he had no contacts with the Russians. But as a Senator, he did.
Watching video of the hearings, it seems likely Sessions was answering Franken as part of the Trump team, not as a Senator. However, ideally he should have clarified. And when it came out, he could have clarified. But that is a messaging issue, not a scandal.
To that point, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., tweeted out in a huff that Sessions was compromised as the Trump Administration’s Attorney General because he met with the Ambassador. She claimed that she had never met with the man, suggesting how rare such an event would be. But then it turns out that McCaskill had met with the Russian Ambassador in 2013. And tweeted about it.
Did she lie in her tweet or did she forget the four-year-old meeting? Who knows. Either way, it’s hardly a scandal. Except when a Republican does it. And such meetings with foreign leaders are common. In fact, Sessions met with at least 10 foreign ambassadors in 2016.
So was there any other collusion, any evidence at all?
No, according to no less than James Clapper, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence. On Meet the Press recently, Clapper and host Chuck Todd had this exchange:
James Clapper: We did not include any evidence in our report, and I say, “our,” that’s N.S.A., F.B.I. and C.I.A., with my office, the Director of National Intelligence, that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report.
Chuck Todd: I understand that. But does it exist?
James Clapper: Not to my knowledge.
So even Obama intelligence officials say there is no evidence of Russian collusion. And yet, we are dealing with a full-fledged scandal with Democrats calling for Sessions to resign.
Now Obama-Russia, on the other hand…
Here’s the real kicker in this whole story. While there is no Russian scandal regarding the Trump campaign, there is a very real one regarding the Obama presidency — one that has been out there like an elephant plopped in the living room. And like the metaphorical elephant, just as ignored.
First, let’s go back to 2012, when Obama told Putin’s most trusted confidant, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in a meeting in Seoul that after the election he would have more flexibility. Their meeting was about nuclear arms negotiations, but the context of this could be broader. Here is the exchange as Obama leaned close to the Russian President:
Obama: “This is my last election … After my election I have more flexibility.”
Medvedev: “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”
Obama then leaned over and patted Medvedev on the arm in a friendly gesture. That’s a lot of bromancing considering the hysteria we are seeing now as Russia has apparently returned to Evil Empire status after the DNC hack. Only media darling Barack Obama could do that with virtually no blowback.
But let’s now look forward from that overtly damning meeting.
Obama won reelection, and in the course of his second term, Russian military forces invaded Crimea. The United States response under Obama was nothing. Then Russia and her surrogates moved into eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian government begged for help, just arms and supplies, no soldiers or direct involvement. The United States response under Obama was nothing.
Then, after U.S. dithering while the Syrian civil war devolved into genocide, Russia intervened on behalf of the Syrian Assad regime — which Obama said had to go. Syria was a Cold War ally of the Soviet Union. And still, the United States response under Obama was nothing
Lastly in major actions, Obama’s State Department under Hillary Clinton sold Putin 20 percent of the United States uranium production — a necessary product in the development of nuclear weapons. Of course, money was rushing into the Clinton Foundation at this same time.
This does not include the unilateral defensive shield giveaways of Obama to Russia in his first term. This all came after Obama’s flexibility whisper to Medvedev.
Trump’s call for an investigation of Obama and Russian connections and dealings has been roundly ridiculed. But as we can see, it’s actually not unreasonable. The challenge for any investigation is that team Obama is generally too savvy to leave any footprints leading back to the former president.
What it’s all about
Given there appears at this point to be little evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and that there is considerable evidence of wink-and-nod collusion between Obama and the Russians, why is this such a huge controversy?
Raw political math.
Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House. Eventually, Republican appointees will be running all of the arms of government. The Democrats have no power. Unless Senate Republicans defect — always a possibility — the Democrats can stop none of Trump’s policies and actions.
That is why they took to the streets so virulently. That’s why they are challenging every jot and tittle in court. And most of all, that is why they are trying to turn the Russian story into a full-blown scandal in hopes of weakening Trump and thereby his presidency.
Their ultimate goal is impeachment — something Democrat leaders have been talking about since before Trump’s inauguration.
Their problem is that barring some new huge revelation — real evidence, not the fake evidence that we’ve seen so far — the Russian “scandal” will fade in all but the most fevered partisan minds.
But the national divide will remain deep.