From ‘secret societies’ to flawed FBI probes, the Russiagate narrative is imploding
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire,' How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. @Robert_Bridge
Russiagate – the ongoing American witch hunt that imagines the Kremlin behind everything, up to and including Donald Trump's presence in the Oval Office – is starting to resemble a Russian matryoshka stacking doll.
On the outer shell of this multilayered plaything, the media has painted for us an ominous image of Russia, which, they would have us believe, is the bogeyman responsible for hacking Hillary Clinton’s computer, and hypnotizing US voters over their Facebook and Twitter accounts, thereby giving Trump a free ride into the White House.
Yet as we begin to pry open each layer of this extremely convoluted story we discover to our surprise that there is absolutely nothing inside even remotely connected to Russia. Nothing. A big nothing matryoshka.
In the latest installment of this never-ending goose chase, Washington is now bracing itself for the release of a four-page memo by the House Intelligence Committee. Members of Congress say it reveals reported abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the Obama administration, which approved surveillance against Trump’s team on behalf of the Clinton campaign.
That announcement emerged shortly before the release of another sensational story involving two lovebirds at the FBI, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
Strzok, who served as Chief of the Counterespionage Section during the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a personal email server, and Page, a lawyer with the agency, were found to have exchanged numerous email messages expressing their strong disdain for the Republican candidate.
At one point, Strzok referred to Trump as an “utter idiot,” and told Page that Clinton “just had to win” the election. No bias there.
Although the story broke in December, it grabbed headlines last week when the Justice Department said it had no records of Strzok-Page messages between December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017. This represents a critical period in the investigation, encompassing Michael Flynn’s resignation and FBI Director James Comey’s firing.
The surprises did not end there. Strzok and Page also dropped mention of a “secret society” that was supposedly meeting behind closed doors to work against the Trump administration, an explosive claim if proven to be true.
“We learned today from information that in the immediate aftermath of his election that there may have been a secret society of folks within the Department of Justice and the FBI to include Page and Strzok to be working against him,” Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) told Fox News.
However, like so many things related to the Trump investigation, when you touch the FISA question, or claims of anti-Trump bias inside of the FBI, you get a reaction much like the mythical Hydra that quickly grows back a pair of heads for every one that is severed.
In the case of the memo that is causing fireworks in Washington, the Republicans allege that the FISA judge who signed off on surveillance warrants against individuals aligned with the Trump campaign “was not given full information about the Trump-Russia dossier,” according to a report by Manu Raju, CNN senior congressional correspondent
Indeed, there were some glaring problems with the dossier, which was carried out by Fusion GPS. As it has been revealed, the American research firm got its funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. To say that represents a conflict of interest is a serious understatement.
As Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky, a reporter with little love lost for Moscow, admitted, “private operative Steele couldn’t even offer his informants the thin protection that comes with working for a foreign intelligence agency, which might help a valuable agent if push came to shove.”
If the DOJ really made the decision to allow surveillance on any member of the Trump team on the basis of such a flimsy report, the Republicans certainly seem justified in demanding the release of this memo. Indeed, calls for the release of the memo are growing daily.
“The House must immediately make public the memo prepared by the Intelligence Committee regarding the FBI and the Department of Justice,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla, said. “The facts contained in this memo are jaw-dropping and demand full transparency.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who has even denied a request by the FBI to review the memo, said it would take over two weeks to process its release.
Meanwhile, the Democrats – none of whom, incidentally, voted to have the memo released – are in full damage control, blaming the hype over the memo not on its allegedly explosive contents, but rather on the ‘fact’ that – yes – the Russians are behind this latest development as well, manipulating social media to wreak havoc in Washington.
They are also betraying a high level of hypocrisy by fighting against the memo’s release. After all, the Democrats expressed no dismay when BuzzFeed made the unethical decision to publish a wholly unverified document. Nor did they rise up in protest when Senator Dianne Feinstein made the unilateral decision to release a 312-page transcript of a congressional interview with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson.
Feinstein said she released the transcript because “the American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves.”
But where is Feinstein’s commitment to transparency now when it comes to releasing the memo from the House Intelligence Committee? We’ll answer that question in a moment.
The fact that Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, who has on numerous occasions stated that collusion between Trump/Russia has not been found, would release testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way, totally without authorization, is a disgrace. Must have tough Primary!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2018
Responding to the sudden surge in popularity of the trending hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo, Democratic congressman Adam Schiff (D-California) placed the blame squarely on Moscow’s doorstep.
The Republicans have “made common cause once again with Russian bots because Russian bots are pushing their narrative out there,” he told CNN. “We have Assange and WikiLeaks and Russian trolls and bots saying, you know, hashtag whatever the GOP narrative is. That ought to tell you a lot about what’s driving this.”
On Tuesday, Schiff and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey imploring their assistance. The lawmakers said that Russia-linked social media accounts are “again exploiting Twitter and Facebook platforms in an effort to manipulate public opinion.”
We’ve seen such diversionary tactics before.
Last year, when questions began to surface over Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified government data on her personal computer – a federal offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison – the Democrats deflected public attention away from that primary question, alleging without evidence that Russia had “hacked” Clinton’s email.
The mainstream media took to that unsubstantiated story like fish to water, while everybody seemed to forget the main question: Why was Clinton using her personal server?
Before long, the media was engaged in a contest with itself to come up with the most outrageous claims against Russia – which ran the gamut from hacking the US power grid to posing as Black activists on Facebook to sow discord in the home of the brave. No story involving Russia could be considered too outlandish.
The circumstances involving the FBI’s Clinton probe become even more preposterous when it is remembered that the FBI never got close to the DNC computers. Instead, the FBI relied upon the findings of the security firm CrowdStrike as the basis for its probe.
Would it surprise anyone to know that the co-founder of CrowdStrike is Dmitri Alperovitch, who also serves as a nonresident senior fellow on the Atlantic Council, a think tank that would never be accused of being pro-Russia.
In other words, from the beginning of this virulently anti-Russia campaign, the Democrats have been granted carte blanche to organize and fund the very probes that have done so much to damage US-Russia relations.
With that in mind, it will be very interesting to see the content of the much-anticipated memo. That is, if it really does get released.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.