A SMOKING GUN AT LAST, OR JUST MORE SMOKE AND MIRRORS?

13 08 2017

The latest round of accusations in the ongoing controversy over Russian interference in last year’s US election has produced what many in the media are calling “a smoking gun”: Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a woman described by the English national who set up the meeting as a “Russian government lawyer” who claimed to have “potentially compromising material on Ms. Clinton.”

There it is in plain black and white, we are told: the Trump campaign’s core members met with a Russian national and received “material aid” for the Trump campaign from her and her country. Ka-ching! Violations of US campaign finance laws!

Trial for Impeachment!

Trial for Treason!

Let’s step out of the roar of the crowd at this thrilling turn of events and consider what really happened, and what it means.

First of all, I think former US ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock has the most concise commentary on whether it is proper for representatives of a political campaign to speak with the diplomatic representatives of other countries:

Our press seems to be in a feeding frenzy regarding contacts that President Trump’s supporters had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and with other Russian diplomats. The assumption seems to be that there was something sinister about these contacts, just because they were with Russian diplomats. As one who spent a 35-year diplomatic career working to open up the Soviet Union and to make communication between our diplomats and ordinary citizens a normal practice, I find the attitude of much of our political establishment and of some of our once respected media outlets quite incomprehensible. What in the world is wrong with consulting a foreign embassy about ways to improve relations? Anyone who aspires to advise an American president should do just that.

In other words, the Democrats are attempting to sensationalize and criminalize just the kind of openness and communication, i.e., freedom, that the United States supposedly champions in the world, and that this country has pushed long and hard to establish in both the old Soviet Union and in the Russian Federation it has since become. What has turned the Democrats into such a bunch of soreheads? “Why do they hate us for our freedom?”

I think that the driving force behind that anger, and”Russiagate,” is  the Democratic National Committee’s frustration at having lost control of the narrative about Hillary Clinton, as not only Republican but left-wing non-mainstream news sources presented facts about her that disagreed sharply with the DNC’s presentation of her. “If only the Russians, and their allies and useful idiots in the American left, hadn’t publicized all that nasty stuff about her, some of which was totally made up, she would be President now instead of him. “

Well, yes, some of it was totally made up. That part came from Breitbart and the GOP. You know, Benghazi and all that…. Some of the rest came from leaks of private conversations in which she and other DNC insiders said what they really thought, and admitted to being less than unbiased in the way they ran the primary elections, which was quite different from the public image they spent a billion dollars cultivating. Quite a bit of what damned her, however, came out of her own mouth, in public, with the cameras rolling. To give just one example, unless the Russians are really devious, nobody tricked her into referring to Trump’s supporters as “a basket of deplorables.” The Democrats seemed to be clueless about the effect of their own arrogance. That remark alone may have galvanized enough voters to put Trump over the top. It certainly reached more people than all the articulate, scathing commentaries posted on various radical websites that, for all their (or should I say our) bravado, mostly preach to a rather limited choir.

So yes, there was a lot of genuine information out there that cast Ms. Clinton in a less-than-attractive light, and maybe, if somehow we could have been kept from knowing those things, maybe she would have received more votes. On the other hand, there’s the GOP’s monumental effort at voter suppression, and some obvious chicanery in the vote counting, but I’m not going to go into all that here. The question is, was it wrong for voters to know so much about Ms. Clinton’s blemishes?

As one of the founders of our country, a certain Thomas Jefferson, said, quote-an-informed-citizenry-is-at-the-heart-of-a-dynamic-democracy-thomas-jefferson-81-57-51 He also said “Whenever people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” and, on the other hand, warned, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Hmm….that could be a commentary on our times. And yes, dear reader, Mr. Jefferson’s attitudes about race and sex, while typical of his own time, are way out of sync with ours. He was enough of a visionary to see a world in which countries were not ruled by royalty. He was not enough of a visionary to see a world free of sexism or racism. One step at a time. But, I digress….

So, I find what seems to be the undercurrent of the Democrats’ freakout about Trump to be the rather scary and, to me, un-American notion that we would be better off if we didn’t know too much about candidates for public office. To that end, a well-publicized website called “Prop Or Not” has sprung up, creating the Democrats’ version of Catholicism’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum, defining which on-line news sources should be avoided by the faithful. This listed started with obvious fantasy sites like Alex Jones and Breitbart, but also included Truthout, naked capitalism, Black Agenda Report, Consortium News, Wikileaks, and Truthdig, coupled with assaults on the reputations of academics who disputed the “scary Russians” narrative, such as The Nation’s Stephen Cohen.  What really seems to be going on is an attempt to discredit any and all voices that are critical of the neoliberal world view, which is basically that the wealthy Western oligarchs know best. I think that view of the situation points to the possibility that the DNC has a secret, very powerful ally in its Russiagate campaign. More on that a little later.

In the specific case of Donald Trump, Jr.’s fateful meeting with the Russians,what the Democrats seem to be trying to do is criminalize the sharing of information on the grounds that information is worth money. Check out this statement from NPR’s Mara Liasson:

What’s significant is that to some legal experts, this meeting and the email chain that preceded it fits the definition of the kind of collusion or coordination that could be unlawful. There are laws that prohibit anyone from taking a foreign contribution for a campaign, including opposition research. There are laws that prohibit conspiring to obtain information from a foreign adversary.

Note that she says “to some legal experts” without saying which ones, as if “legal experts” don’t have biases. This is similar to the oft-repeated claim that “seventeen intelligence agencies signed off on the reality of Russian interference in US elections” when the reality is that the report was approved by representatives of just three agencies, representatives handpicked for their known anti-Russian bias. But the whole quote raises a couple of other questions for me:

When The Supreme Court proclaimed that “money is a form of speech” in the Citizens’ United decision, was the corollary that “speech is a form of money”–and can therefore be restricted, First Amendment and consistency be damned?

Just when did Russia become “a foreign adversary”? During the Obama Presidency, and on into our current reign of error, the US and Russia have freely shared intelligence on “radical Islamist groups” that both are seriously interested in suppressing, and also share information on whose warplanes and troops are doing what in Syria, in order to avoid starting World War III, which, even though it hasn’t happened yet, we can already think of as “The Last World War.”

Hmm…Democrats thoroughly roasted Trump for sharing intel on “Middle Eastern Terrorists” with Putin, and generally stirred up such a fuss that the Trumpster ordered missile strikes on a Syrian airbase, and the US shot down a Syrian war plane in Syrian airspace. Acts of war! The main damage that was done was that the agreement to share intel on troop and airplane movements in Syria was briefly a smoking ruin. (When push came to shove, nobody directly involved, Russian or American, really wanted to, as I pointed out, risk WWIII.) Apparently, if Russia isn’t our country’s “adversary,” the Democrats will do whatever it takes to make sure Russia becomes our adversary. But why? I’ll lay out my theory on that in a little while. But first….

Let’s get back to Trump, Jr.’s meeting with some Russians in New York. Just what did the Russian lawyer have to say to Trump’s team? According to The New York Times, quoting the younger Mr. Trump:

After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting.

No. Meaningful. Information. Got that? All that angry talk about the illegality of “political campaigns accepting items of value from a foreign national”? More hyperventilation. Nothing of value was offered, and what was offered was not accepted. The “meaningful information” was just a ploy to get Team El Donaldo’s attention about the sanctions issue. I think the technical term for that is, “bait and switch.” And all the Russians’ alleged talk about how much their government supported Trump and wanted to help him? That’s called “buttering up the customer.”  Those remarks were as sincere as the words of that car salesman who’s telling you how wonderful your children are as they track snot, mud, and ice cream across the back seat of the car he’s trying to sell you.

music: Eurythmics, “Ministry of Love

The Russians’ real interest, the sanctions issue, AKA “The Magnitsky Act,” is worthy of some attention. It’s named after a Russian who died in a Russian prison. The US says his human rights were violated by the Russian government, and The Magnitsky Act levies sanctions against certain Russian officials whom the US believes were responsible for those violations. There is also, of course, a dispute about whether he was justly or unjustly imprisoned.  I don’t know. Russia has been very unhappy about this, and has retaliated in various ways, mostly by placing restrictions on US diplomatic personnel in Russia. The US doesn’t have a lot of commercial dealings with Russia, so, other than that, there isn’t really a lot they can do.

The people of Russia must have a warm place in their hearts, knowing the US is penalizing their government (and them, sorry for the collateral damage!) for its certainly dubious record on human rights, just as we have taken the Turks to task for their treatment of the Kurds and all other opposition parties, cut off arms exports and oil imports with the Saudis for their severe oppression of their own women and the entire country of Yemen, ended our once-close relationship with Israel over its treatment of the native people of Palestine and its secret nuclear weapons program, and maintained a long-standing total trade embargo with China due to their invasion of Tibet and the kind of oppression, exploitation, and censorship to which they subject their entire population. So, imposing sanctions on Russia for human rights violations is totally consistent with the broad outlines of US foreign policy, right? And so it’s totally cool that the US government, in a rare show of bipartisanship, overwhelmingly approved even more sanctions on Russia, as well as on Iran and North Korea! (More on that a little later, too.)

But I digress…somebody is saying, “those Republicans lie like rugs. They get caught at it all the time. They’re always acting guilty as hell about something–so they must be guilty of something–why wouldn’t it be Trump’s ties with Russia?   How can we trust that they are telling the truth about anything?”

First of all, yeah, they’re guilty of plenty of things. Money laundering, influence peddling, fraud, bribes, you name it. It looks to me like they’re every bit as cluelessly selfish as you’re afraid they are, although they also happen to love their spouses and children just as much as you or me. But, Russiagate? Let’s look at the results of Junior’s meeting with the Russians. There are none. The GOP never did drop a big bombshell about Ms. Clinton, or her campaign, violating US campaign finance laws in Russia–or anywhere else, for that matter. The “lock her up” chants did not get louder. They just kind of faded away as the campaign went on. There has been no move by the Justice Department to investigate her, although it would seem to be an obvious tactic to counter the Russiagate offensive. There is simply no evidence that the Russians gave the Trump campaign anything “of value” on this, or any other, occasion.

If the Russian lawyer had offered evidence of serious lawbreaking by Ms. Clinton, and the Trump campaign for some hard-to-fathom reason decided to sit on it, why, then, they should certainly be prosecuted for, as I understand the law, obstruction of justice. Hiding evidence that Russian nationals were funding the Democrats involves two clearly illegal activities, while the illegality of some Russians telling the Republicans about this campaign finance law violation seems dubious to at least some Constitutional lawyers.

So, perhaps there are legal grounds for prosecuting both Trump and Clinton-for the same thing! I don’t think I am the only one who would applaud a bipartisan effort like that.

But…if attending a meeting with Russians here in the US in hopes of coming up with incriminating information about your opponent is “treason,” wouldn’t sending an envoy to Russia to solicit the Russian government for such information, be a more active form of that same kind of treason?

SPECIAL_HILLARY_TRUMP.jpg

“Yeah, Bill, that’s a great idea–Hillary and I run against each other for President. The marks will eat it up!” Donald Trump Sr. and Melania Trump Wedding, January 22, 2005 Credit: Maring Photography/Getty Images

Glenn Greenwald pointed out on Democracy Now that, in June of 2016. as Donald, Jr. was meeting with a couple of Russians in New York, the Democrats were actually sending emissaries to Russia and soliciting Russian Intelligence for dirt on Trump, and what they found, aka “The Steele Dossier,” inaccurate as it may be, was most definitely used in the campaign:

The Steele dossier that everybody got excited about, that claimed that the Russians had incriminating videos of Trump in a Moscow hotel and other dirt on Trump, that came from somebody who was getting first paid by Republicans and then by Democrats, going to Moscow and getting dirt about Donald Trump from Kremlin-affiliated agents in Moscow. In other words, he went to Russia, talked to people affiliated with the Russian government and said, “Give me dirt about Donald Trump,” and then, presumably, got it and put it in the memo. Similarly, there’s an amazing Politico article from January of this year that describes how allies of the Clinton campaign, including somebody being paid by the DNC, met with officials of the Ukrainian government, which was desperate to help Hillary Clinton win and Donald Trump lose, and get information incriminating about Trump from Ukrainian officials. In other words, Ukraine was meddling in our election by giving Democrats incriminating information about Trump…..

AMY GOODMAN: —breaking campaign finance laws or campaign laws that have to do with getting something of value, not necessarily financial, from a foreign entity, a state or nonstate actor.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. And there’s, I think, a lot more lawyers and a lot more campaign finance lawyers who have said that just getting information about a candidate would not constitute something of value…..

…..part of my discomfort with this whole thing all along—and as a lawyer, I know this really well—is that when you get bits and pieces of information leaked through the media without the full context of what’s taking place, it’s very difficult to assess what it actually is. ….

….I think it’s clear the Russian government wanted Donald Trump to win. I don’t think that’s particularly surprising. Nor do I find it surprising that Donald Trump Jr., when told that the Russian government wants to give him information that can help his father shed a bad light on Hillary Clinton, he was willing to do that. Why do we consider that surprising, let alone criminal? Again, I do think it bolsters the Democrats’ view that the Russians—the theory that Russians wanted Trump to win and that the Trump campaign was willing to take help from the Russians. But that’s still—there’s still a lot more steps that need to be completed before we get to any kind of evidence of an actual crime being committed. And that’s why I don’t think that this revelation, interesting though it may be, is as significant or a smoking gun when it comes to the impeachment or the prosecution case.

I have been writing this piece over the last several weeks. Every morning, one of the things I think about is that today, something may break open in this case that will prove that I am, and have been, wrong in my assertion that serious, consequential Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election is a figment of the Democratic National Committee’s imagination. So far, that hasn’t happened.

There have been three major developments, two very much in the public eye, and the other largely out of it.

One  was that Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor assigned to investigate the case, has impaneled a grand jury, signaling that he expects to indict at least one person. This sounds as if it could be the start of something definitive, but I think it’s only intended to sound that way. The joke in the legal profession is that “A grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if the prosecutor asks them to,” and the twin lists of those who have been prosecuted unjustly, such as community organizers, whistle blowers, and falsely accused spies,  and, on the other hand, those who committed injustices but were never prosecuted for them, such as banksters, politicians, and torturers, is long. Consider Mr. Mueller’s record: he has overseen US government torture of both domestic and foreign Muslims, he knew Cheney’s “evidence” of Iraqi WMDs was false, but said nothing, he has condoned an illegal level of domestic surveillance, and that’s just the top of his rap sheet. To put it even more bluntly, Nazis who had behaved similarly to Mr. Mueller were executed or imprisoned after World War II. Mueller is getting a promotion. Mueller has committed war crimes on behalf of our government. I suspect that, in the Russiagate investigation as with everything else in his career, he will go along to get along, whatever that may turn out to mean.

What might it turn out to mean? I think it’s relevant to note here that Exxon-Mobil was just fined for violating the US embargo of Russia. A certain Mr. Tillerson, who has since become the Secretary of State of this country, was Exxon-Mobil’s CEO at the time.  Our government fined the company two million dollars for this indiscretion. That may sound like a lot of money,  it’s pocket change to a company with two hundred billion dollars in annual revenue. but I digress…

Another well-publicized twist to the story is the much-ballyhooed bipartisan, nearly unanimous passage of a bill imposing further sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Our President, bless his tiny heart, was not happy about this, but Congress’s overwhelming support for the bill would have made a veto futile. So much for Putin’s hopes that Trump would soften the US’s confrontational attitude towards Russia, eh? Those Democrats and Republicans sure showed him and the Russkies where to stick that notion!

Mr. Tiny Hands was right, for once. The sanctions bill is stupid. The North Koreans have been saying for years that if the US would just stop holding war games on their border, they would happily quit developing nuclear weapons. The US ignores this. The Iranians have been complying with the nuclear disarmament agreement that was made with them, and everybody knows it, so slapping them with sanctions was an even more gratuitous provocation.

And the Russia sanctions? Western Europe gets a large percentage of its natural gas from Russia. They’re neighbors, y’know? The US sanctions bill attempts to stop that. The French, Germans, Italians, English, et al., are going to have to ignore this US attempt to order them around. After getting all red in the face accusing Trump of sabotaging NATO at the Russians’ behest, by voting for sanctions the Democrats enthusiastically helped sabotage NATO themselves. Republicans ain’t gonna out-patriot them, by Gawd!

So the sanctions, if not their disastrous unintended consequences, have been very much in the public eye. The story that has been largely ignored is that Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, former Presidential National Security Advisor Ray McGovern’s group, the folks who called foul on the phony “weapons of mass destruction” claims that Cheney, Powell, Robert Mueller, and friends were making about Iraq, published the results of an independent forensic examination of the DNC’s computer server, which concluded that the supposedly “hacked” data was transferred out of the DNC’s computer so quickly that it must have been moved onto a thumb drive, because the internet can’t move that fast. It’s agin the laws of physics, ya know? The forensic exam also found that “telltale signs” meant to indicate that Russian hackers had penetrated the DNC’s computers were planted by somebody on the East Coast of the United States. This key information has simply been ignored by “mainstream media.”

“Wow! A Russian agent inside the DNC!” was one Democratic Party friend of mine’s response. But….why would a Russian agent, having successfully and anonymously penetrated the DNC, go out of her or his way to plant information that made it look like it was a “Russian hacking job”?

But the mainstream media have no use for such disconfirming evidence. The DNC is determined to pitch a fit, and won’t back down until it/they get their way. What that means is a climate of mounting emotionalism, falsehoods repeated as if they were true, new, ever-changing accusations made, based on those oft-repeated falsehoods, calls for Trump’s impeachment (as if there were someone who would steer the country in a saner direction who might conceivably replace him), and the demonization of Vladimir Putin and the Russian “oligarchy,”  as if there is not a demonic American oligarchy, as if that oligarchy doesn’t “meddle in our elections,” as if the Russians are the  ones who must bear the onus of corrupting our sacred democracy, not our own domestic oligarchs.

It’s a classic propaganda/disinformation campaign, and, while its true believers remain fervent and unshakable, it is no more true than the litany of alleged Polish crimes and provocations the German propaganda machine was churning out in the Summer of 1939. The current propaganda campaign is not, I believe, solely the product of the Democratic Party. I think that our country’s “intelligence” agencies have unleashed a domestic psyops/disinformation campaign, as they have been empowered to do since Obama signed the 2012 Defense Authorization Act, which authorized the military to employ

“electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations (PSYOP), military deception, and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own….”

…..right here in the good ole’ USA. I think that is what we are seeing in “Russiagate.” As Richard Wolff put it, the flap over “Russian interference in US elections” is “drowning us in a sea of irrelevance.” His emphasis was on the irrelevance. My own focus is more on the “drowning us” part. Those pushing Russiagate are implacable. They know they don’t have to be consistent as long as they are persistent, because repeating lies loudly, with a strong emotional component, in this case fear and anger, causes those who hear those lies to start to accept them as if true. I have compared this effort to the Nazi propaganda campaign that led up to the outbreak of WWII. I could also compare it to the conditions that might have existed in the world of George Orwell’s 1984 around the time of the triumph of Ingsoc and the establishment of the Ministry of Truth, the Ministry of Love, et al., and just before the implementation of universal surveillance. I think that, if I am correct and we are being subjected to a massive psy-ops attack, its goal is the total control over information and society that Orwell’s nightmare government achieved.

Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.

music: Eurythmics, “Doubleplus Good” A second, equally deserving video is available here.

Putin-Eurasia

But, unlike Orwell’s dystopia, at least so far, our own 1984 crew seems to be losing, not gaining, traction. A recent poll revealed that large majorities of Americans feel they have yet to see credible proof of Russian interference, and think the investigation has been a distraction that has, as the Russians are charged with doing, interfered with the conduct of US democracy. And, unlike the apparently steady ecological state of Orwell’s world, our culture’s demands on this planet are fast outstripping the planet’s ability to meet them, which will result in the collapse of the level of technology we take for granted, and that technology is what makes the kind of control the NSA dreams of possible. When the electric grid goes down, the net will go down, and if we continue on our current trajectory, the electric grid will go down.

These times are also different from, and even more dangerous than, the world of 1939. Promoting hostility and distrust between nations at this point in our history doesn’t just threaten a devastating world-wide “conventional” war. Being distracted into military adventures at this point not only raises the threat of nuclear war to unheard of levels, it ignores both the ticking climate time bomb and the ticking resource depletion time bomb. Navigating these crises will take all the friendly co-operation humans, and our nations, can muster. This is no time for the small minds that populate our current government, or the equally small minds that seem to constitute the best-publicized, if totally disingenuous, opposition to that government. “Big Sister” is not an appropriate alternative to “Big Brother.”

So, what I’ve just laid out is mostly the bad news about our current situation. What’s the good news? The good news is that plenty of people aren’t fooled by this charade. The American oligarchy, Republican and Democratic wings alike, is losing credibility with every twist of this tale. More and more people are not just looking for a saner culture, they are creating it from the ground up. The fact that the oligarchy can still fend off frontal attacks like Bernie Sanders or the Green Party does the big “O” no good in the long run, because what is rising all around the country, and all around the world, is too big, too widespread, and too decentralized to be stopped. “Russiagate” is one of the last gasps of a dying paradigm. The future belongs to us.

Music: Bob Marley, “Babylon System

Susan Shannm “The Final Word

 

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2 responses

14 08 2017
Caz Loth

Here’s what I thank although I’m not following the drama very closely. Trumps and Putin are in collusion. Putin wanted Trump to win, and this was prearranged, because he could the remove the sanctions on oil exports and would flood their pockets with billions of dollars, or not.

27 08 2017
brothermartin

First of all, a disclaimer: I am not doing this in defence of the reprehensible people who have been installed as our government.

No, you’re clearly not following the drama very closely. There is, as yet, no proof that Drumpf and Putin are in collusion, although Mista P was probably rooting for Mista T, since Miz C clearly has it in for him. In fact Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, the folks who called foul on the “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction” “intel,” had computer experts analyze the “DNC hack,” and proved conclusively that the data was transferred to a thumb drive within DNC headquarters, and that “Russian fingerprints” were inserted by “someone in the US Eastern Time zone.” This whole thing is a wild goose chase.

“Prearranged?” By whom? How?

Meanwhile, the sanctions have not been removed. Democrats and Republicans united to ramp them up and make it so Mista T can’t lift ’em without Congressional approval(apologies to the original Mista T for borrowing his name). But…the sanctions are pissing off our NATO allies, who import most of their natural gas from Russia. So, the folks who are accusing Drumpf of colluding with the Russians to break up NATO (among other things) are the ones who have actually done a deed that could tear NATO apart….an organization, as one wag commented, that, at this point, largely exists to manage the karma it creates by existing…..

There’s billions in oil money involved, alright, but the bone of contention is whether it should go into the hands of our oligarchs, or Mr. Putin’s. Under his Western-friendly predecessor, Mr. Yeltsin, the money was moving West. Now it’s staying in Russia, and that’s a big problem for the big O. They got a money habit you wouldn’t believe. They mainline it. They snort it. They smoke it, and they take enemas with it, and they still can’t get enough. My heart bleeds for them. :-)

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