Attorney General William Barr appears before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to make his Justice Department budget request, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Now that the popular consensus in the nation has shifted from “Trump is Putin’s tool” to “Trump didn’t want to help Mueller destroy his presidency” it is interesting to see some of the folks claim that they never ever supported the whole Russia hoax. There are a lot out there on the right. National Review’s David French, for instance, says: “I specifically say that I do not buy the collusion story peddled in left-wing media.” His byline says There Is Now Evidence That Senior Trump Officials Attempted to Collude With Russia. One expects the Vichy wing of the GOP to do such things because for all the bullsh** they spin about ‘muh principles’ there is exactly one principle they hold dear…other that checks clearing…and that is sucking up to the left for any scrap of approval they can glean.
What shows that Steele dossier is looking more and more Chernobyl-like is the fact that the left is beginning to run from it. Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton University and New York University, who is also Mr. Katrina vanden Heuvel, definitely a lefty, and a contributor at The Nation, thinks that Bill Barr might be onto something. In fact, it is hard to imagine a more eye-popping opening paragraph:
It cannot be emphasized too often: Russiagate—allegations that the American president has been compromised by the Kremlin, which may even have helped to put him in the White House—is the worst and (considering the lack of actual evidence) most fraudulent political scandal in American history. We have yet to calculate the damage Russiagate has inflicted on America’s democratic institutions, including the presidency and the electoral process, and on domestic and foreign perceptions of American democracy, or on US-Russian relations at a critical moment when both sides, having “modernized” their nuclear weapons, are embarking on a new, more dangerous, and largely unreported arms race
Cohen lays out alternative series of scenarios to explain how the hoax came to be: It was actually collusion; it was a Russian information operation; and, it was a coup attempt.
I think that Cohen is much too facile in laying aside option two, the dezinformatsiya and refuses to attack a strawman of the argument rather than what anyone is actually saying (see my post If This New York Times Reporter Suspected The Dossier Was A Fraud Why Is He Only Reporting On It Now and the internal links). Where Cohen really gets down to business is on option three.
The third possible explanation—one I have termed “Intelgate,” and that I explore in my recent book War With Russia?: From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate—is that US intelligence agencies undertook an operation to damage, if not destroy, first the candidacy and then the presidency of Donald Trump. More evidence of “Intelgate” has since appeared. For example, the intelligence community has said it began its investigation in April 2016 because of a few innocuous remarks by a young, lowly Trump foreign-policy adviser, George Papadopoulos. The relatively obscure Papadopoulos suddenly found himself befriended by apparently influential people he had not previously known, among them Stefan Halper, Joseph Mifsud, Alexander Downer, and a woman calling herself Azra Turk. What we now know—and what Papadopoulos did not know at the time—is that all of them had ties to US and/or UK and Western European intelligence agencies.
Then Cohen comes in for the surprising kill:
But Barr’s thorniest problem may be understanding the woeful role of mainstream media in Russiagate. As Lee Smith, who contributed important investigative reporting, has written: “The press is part of the operation, the indispensable part. None of it would have been possible…had the media not linked arms with spies, cops, and lawyers to relay a story first spun by Clinton operatives.” How does Barr explore this “indispensable” complicity of the media in originating and perpetuating the Russiagate fraud without impermissibly infringing on the freedom of the press?
Ideally, mainstream media—print and broadcast—would now themselves report on how and why they permitted intelligence officials, through leaks and anonymous sources, and as “opinion” commentators, to use their pages and programming to promote Russiagate for so long, and why they so excluded well-informed, nonpartisan alternative opinions. Instead, they have almost unanimously reported and broadcast negatively, even antagonistically, about Barr’s investigation, and indeed about Barr personally. (The Washington Post even found a way to print this: “William Barr looks like a toad…”) Such is the seeming panic of the Russiagate media over Barr’s investigation, which promises to declassify related documents, that The New York Times again trotted out its easily debunked fiction that public disclosures will endanger a purported US informant, a Kremlin mole, at Putin’s side.
This has been my position from Day One. The allegations were transparently bogus and improbable. It was a string of factoids held together by a ribbon of lies spun by the media. The media did this for ratings but also because they had sufficient animus against Trump that they were willing, time and again, to run stories that were often debunked within minutes rather than days that were damaging to Trump and his administration and they were wiling to make long term deals with intelligence leakers who had burned them before.
The media, however, is already closing ranks to try to shout down Barr’s investigation and that shows that unless Justice brings down the Wrath of God on leakers, our media lacks the discipline or introspection to repair itself.