When the history of the whole Russia investigation is finally written, I suspect it will look a lot like the October Surprise investigation in 1992, only with less substance and a lot more ridiculous. Like the October Surprise investigation, it is designed to damage a Republican president by drumming up ridiculous charges that are nearly impossible to refute. Where the October Surprise contributed to Bush losing in 1992, this abomination threatens the next four years of Trump’s presidency. Be that as it may, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York has a great article on this ongoing Russia probes and what is important. It is a good start but I think flawed in many aspects:
1) Substance is what matters, Part 1. From the very beginning, there was only one central question in the investigation: Did Donald Trump or his associates collude with Russians in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election?
This is obviously the central point but it is difficult to imagine any evidence emerging that escaped the notice of the intelligence community before the election. If collusion between some Trump campaign staffers and Russian contacts in regards to the election is proven I’m not really sure where that gets us. The obvious aim of these probes is to damage Trump. If you have any doubt review the testimony of the lackwit former FBI agent the Senate heard from last week who basically said that Trump quoting bogus news sources meant he was acting on behalf of the Russians. Get ready to see more morons like that trotted out.
2) Substance is what matters, Part 2. In recent weeks, a second Big Question has emerged: Did the Obama administration spy on the Trump campaign and/or transition team?
I think York’s framing of this issue is all that correct. The charter of the House committee says they are looking into who revealed Mike Flynn’s name to the press. The documents Nunes reviewed this week don’t, to my understanding, claim that the Obama administration spied on Trump or his transition, per se. The claim is that the intelligence surveillance of some legitimate targets was used as a subterfuge to target Trump team personnel. This latter issue is a subset of the Flynn leak investigation as it is the same issue. The critical factor here is how that information was disseminated and how diligently were the identities of US persons protected. The answers right now seem to be a) widely and b) perhaps intentionally exposed in some cases.
3) When either side yells about process, they’re holding a weak hand.
I suppose York is trying to be even-handed here in his tu quoque conflation of the widespread leaking of Flynn’s name (an obvious felony) which, as I noted, is something included in the investigative charter of this committee, with Nunes going to the NSC SCIF to view classified documents the intelligence community wouldn’t allow him to see. But it is sort of silly. He’s right in his statement but it isn’t Nunes complaining about the process.
4) Everyone should see the Nunes documents.
5) Mike Flynn’s request for immunity is no big deal.
6) Don’t fetishize “sources and methods.”
This is critical and I think if Trump is smart he has a significant role to play here. He can order documents declassified and he should start doing so. The Democrats have created an investigation that has the stated intention of delegitimizing him and removing him from office. He needs to order Comey and Rogers and Pompeo to testify in open session about what exactly led the intelligence community to claim that Russia had tried to aid him. Not just what analysts claim but the actual intelligence (remember the intelligence community analysts have claimed that Russia always favors Republicans). In particular, he needs to bring Comey to heel with the cute little games he’s playing and if he won’t cooperate without reservation he needs to find other employment. It doesn’t take a genius to see that this investigation will satisfy absolutely no one. No matter what the testimony says the Republicans are going to say nothing happened and the Democrats are going to claim Trump takes dictation from Putin. Trump owes it to us to put the evidence into the public record.
7) Don’t forget Manafort and Stone.
Stone, charitably, is a poseur. The sole nexus with Stone is his boasts of having been in contact with “Guccifer 2.0” which is alleged to be affiliated with Russian intelligence. He’s claimed to have a “back channel” to WikiLeaks, which WikiLeaks denies. Stone is an attention seeker and, as Ben Smith of BuzzFeed notes, he has a history of claiming he’s done stuff that actually he was not involved in:
It is true that Stone has made a career of claiming credit for incidents — Florida 2000, Spitzer — to which his connection was unclear https://t.co/CricaqZusC
— Ben Smith (@benyt) March 27, 2017
If Stone testifies in public the shoddy credibility of this investigation will be utterly destroyed.
Alleged Russian mob fixer and alleged money launderer Paul Manafort is a different kettle of fish. If there is any fire at all in this mess, Manafort will be at Ground Zero but I think Manafort’s vulnerability is going to be in financial crimes.
8) Say yes to Clapper, Brennan, and Yates.
Because nothing makes for credibility like three Obama appointees, one of whom is suspected of being the key leaker of a lot of information designed to hurt Trump, testifying.
9) Watch what the Senate Judiciary Committee does on the issue of the Christopher Steele dossier.
Here he’s talking about the FBI’s scheme to pay Steele for his dossier while he was providing oppo to the Clinton campaign and he’s talking about the two unanswered letters Grassley has sent to Comey.
10) Yes, what Evelyn Farkas said is important.
We haven’t touched the story here on RedState so this is the story in a nutshell. Farkas was a political appointee in Obama’s DoD. She was on MSNBC on March 2 and made a startling statement. I’ll quote York’s synopsis:
“…[Farkas] described how, during the transition, she urged her former colleagues to compile and distribute classified information regarding the Trump team. Farkas said she feared “that the Trump folks — if they found out how we knew what we knew about their, the Trump staff, dealing with Russians — that they would try to compromise those sources and methods.”
The operative word here is “how” and the implication is that she knew what was happening in regards to surveillance of Trump’s campaign even though she was out of government. Her being concerned with the “how” and even having knowledge of this happening looks very bad and requires an adequate explanation.
11) In the end, it’s probably all going to be about process.
This is part of a conscious campaign focused on making Trump an illegitimate president. Unless Trump takes decisive action, he loses. The committees can’t prove a negative and the Democrats are already locked into their insistence that Russia was the reason Trump won. It is about the process but the process is the weapon the Democrats are using.