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30 Oct, 2017 17:21

Is Russiagate dead? Paul Manafort & Kiev caught up in FBI dragnet, Kremlin not mentioned

Is Russiagate dead? Paul Manafort & Kiev caught up in FBI dragnet, Kremlin not mentioned

Russiagate – an elaborate work of bad fiction built on the shifting sand of fake news – claimed what may be its first political victims. And the punch line is that Ukraine – not Russia – is the focal point of the indictment.

Donald Trump, who, in a twist of tragic irony, just last week approved the release of archived documents related to the JFK assassination, is now suffering the sting of the first bullet, as it were, in the relentless Russiagate saga that seems determined to bring down his own presidency. 

The other irony is painfully obvious on the very first page of Robert Mueller’s indictment against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates: there is absolutely nothing related to so-called “Russian collusion.”

Paul Manafort, the first sacrificial victim in the ongoing Russia witch hunt, works as a lobbyist, political consultant and lawyer who once served as Trump’s campaign chairman. On Monday morning, he walked through the front doors of FBI headquarters after being ordered to “surrender” to federal authorities.

Together with his long-time business partner, Manafort will now be processed, fingerprinted and arraigned like any common criminal before the special counsel. The charges: “conspiracy against the United States, money laundering and other charges.” In other words, serious stuff.

As mentioned, however, the name ‘Russia’ barely appears in the indictment, whereas ‘Ukraine’ is mentioned dozens of times. 

“Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. In order to hide Ukraine payments from United States authorities, from approximately 2006 through at least 2016, Manafort and Gates laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts,” the opening page of the report reads.

Wasn't this promised to be a probe into Russia somehow hijacking US democracy like a thief in the night? So where is the Russian connection in the indictment? It's not to be found. This 'oversight' is already resonating in the Russian capital like a bad joke. Yet few people are laughing, because Russia has been dragged through the hot coals for over a year, enduring a slew of sanctions, reckless media reports, diplomatic disasters – even NATO encroachment – over empty claims of “Russian meddling” in the US presidential elections on behalf of Donald Trump.

The indictment against Manafort and Gates goes on to say, in connection once again to Ukraine, that “[I]t is illegal to act as an agent of a foreign principal engaged in certain United States influence activities without registering the affiliation.”

Well, that's interesting. A very good lawyer could probably level the very same charge against US Senator John McCain and Victoria Nuland, former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, both of whom showed up in central Kiev, agitating the masses amid the Maidan protests. That certainly seems to qualify as "influence activities." But I digress.

This is not the first time Manafort has been manhandled by the FBI, and I can’t help but think - call it a hunch - it is due to his Trump affiliations.

In July, for example, Manafort and his family were rudely awakened in a pre-dawn FBI raid that was a bit over the top, to say the least.

Even CNN, rarely sympathetic to the Trump camp, described it as “an unusually hard-nosed tactic in a probe that centers on possible tax and financial crimes.” FBI agents stormed into the Manafort home “with guns drawn” as the family was still asleep. The FBI even insisted on searching Kathleen Manafort for weapons, the sources told CNN.

Now compare the way Trump affiliates are being treated, on the basis of exactly nothing, to that of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which attracted enough dirt to keep the FBI busy for many decades.

The most publicized ‘indiscretion’ was the shocking revelation that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had conducted government business over her home computer system.

As the Associated Press delicately described it, the “unusual practice of a Cabinet-level official running her own email server would have given Clinton…significant control over limiting access to her message archives. The practice also would complicate the State Department’s legal responsibilities in finding and turning over official emails in response to any investigations, lawsuits or public records requests.”

In an investigation conducted by former FBI Director James Comey, of the approximately 30,000 emails Clinton turned over in 2014, the FBI found “110 emails, in 52 email chains, have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was ‘Top Secret’ at the time they were sent; 36 of those chains contained ‘Secret’ information at the time; eight contained ‘Confidential’ information at the time.”

It is also worth noting that while Clinton was secretary of state in 2010, a US soldier, Chelsea Manning, stole 250,000 diplomatic cables and handed them over to WikiLeaks, which happily dumped them into the public realm.

Despite all that, not only did Comey issue a statement exonerating Clinton for organizing her government emails through a private server, he allegedly did so before completing the investigation, according to two Republican senators. 

This is just one of many incidences of wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton and the DNC that has been categorically ignored, while Russia continues to get tarred and feathered on the basis of groundless accusations that it somehow handed the election to Trump right under the noses of the American people. Never mind the fact that the US voting machines aren’t even connected to the internet. But no matter.

Clearly, there appears to be two separate standards influencing the scales of justice in the United States. On the one side, there is the scale that judges the behavior of Hillary Clinton, who has broken the law on more than one occasion, yet remains beyond the arm of the law and the disfavor of the media.

The other much more sensitive scale is being used 24/7 against the Trump administration, despite the total absence to date of any solid evidence connecting Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election to Russian “meddling.”

The question now is, how far will this anti-Russia inquisition go, especially considering that Mueller’s investigation has done nothing to prove the year-long media farce of "Russia collusion."

It is critical to put to rest this Russophobic nonsense, which is not only disastrous for US-Russia relations, but to the future of America’s two-party political system, which has been hanging in the balance ever since Trump entered the Oval Office.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.