By Greg Godels
April 1, 2019
The RussiaGate conspiracy theory, which came unwound over a past weekend, underscores the truth that the rot in the US political system includes the security services and the monopoly media, as well as the Democratic and the Republican Parties. Of course that comes as no surprise to the too few of us on the left who loudly cried foul when the anti-Russia hysteria reached painful levels.
Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald, two who earned the right to gloat over Mueller’s conclusion of no Russian collusion with Trump, promptly exercised that right. Taibbi recounts many of the more ridiculous claims assembled to form the fictitious mountain of evidence for the Trump/Russia connection. Greenwald has mounted a media blitz (e.g., here and here), rubbing the nose of the establishment media in the RussiaGate excrement.
In response, Joshua Frank, managing editor of CounterPunch, engages in a nitpick with Taibbi and Greenwald and their choice of comparisons and superlatives. Frank crows that the RussiaGate debacle can’t hold a candle to the Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction deception preluding the Iraqi invasion of 2003, as though pointing that out is of itself of any great significance. It must be remembered that CounterPunch went into a public meltdown in 2017-18 when they were allegedly victimized by an internet poseur. The late Alexander Cockburn– a founder of CounterPunch— would have simply moved on, but the RussiaGate hysteria drove CounterPunch into a paranoid frenzy over the “Alice Donovan” affair. Consequently, CP tread very carefully around the RussiaGate question.
In an ironic twist, Frank’s snarky response counts as a further example of how damaging the RussiaGate fiasco was to media independence, objectivity, and integrity.
Obviously little was learned from the Judith Miller/WMD episode that brought shame on a lap dog media in the run-up to the Iraqi Invasion of 2003. Today, as then, there is little contrition shown in the backwash of a near-total media debacle. Today’s generation of budding media stars– elite educated and fast-tracked into media prominence– seems to have the same deference to the rich and powerful, the same servility to conformity as its forbearers.
So it’s not surprising that many caught on the wrong side of the Mueller report are redesigning the rules of the game, rather than accepting defeat.
One writer for a major RussiaGate-promoting magazine decided that the evidentiary bar was set entirely too high for Mueller to draw proper conclusions from the data collected by his large team of lawyers and FBI agents.
But that is absurd. The Justice Department charge to the Special Council (Order 3915-2017) was shockingly broad: “…to conduct an investigation…including:
(i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and (ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and (iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).
Rather than too high, the evidentiary bar was virtually non-existent. Mueller could report whatever he wanted on whatever he wanted.
Apparently lacking any sense of whimsy, a Bloomberg writer begged social media not to punish the RussiaGate conspirators by banning them for their transgressions. He noted a Republican commentator calling for the ban and pleaded mercy for his irresponsible colleagues.
Another reporter stung by the RussiaGate outcome argued that the sainted Robert Mueller was too good, too principled, too objective to operate in this corrupted world. The former FBI director was a man of nuance and fair play, and his report’s conclusions should not overshadow the “knowable facts” embedded in his report.
Of course this is nonsense: a bizarre brew of metaphysical “facts” revealed mysteriously to the author and a cloyingly fawning portrait of a player previously compromised by the weapons-of-mass-destruction lie.
Sainthood ill-fits Robert Mueller. He knew last summer that he had no evidence for collusion, but strung the investigation on to benefit the Democrats in the interim elections. As I noted last June:
That certainly captures the allure of the Mueller investigation to the big corporate media– it is the gift that keeps on giving, until it doesn’t. And it seems, more and more, that it has stopped giving. That would likely be the meaning of Senator Mark Warner’s comments last week at a retreat with important fellow Democrats: “If you get me one more glass of wine, I’ll tell you stuff only Bob Mueller and I know,” Warner reportedly told the 100 or so guests, according to the Boston Globe (6-25-18). “If you think you’ve seen wild stuff so far, buckle up. It’s going to be a wild couple of months.”
Warner knows better than most that Mueller and Russiagate are the only meatless bones that the Democrats have tossed to the ravenous corporate media. Also, he knows that the Democrats need the issue to stay alive for the next “couple of months” to help the Democrats in the interim elections.
But most significantly, he knew when he spoke that confidence in the Mueller investigation had waned and was in need of some juice. As The Hill reported on June 13: Mueller’s public image sinks to all-time low in new poll. “The Politico–Morning Consult poll found that 40 percent of voters believe that Mueller’s probe has been handled unfairly — a 6-point increase from February…”, and a greater number than those who thought the investigation to be fair…
…And in an opinion piece in The Hill, former National Security Prosecutor, Joseph Moreno, hopes to let the faithful down gently with Prepare to be disappointed with Russia investigation conclusion (6-26-18).
Clearly, this mini-series is losing the public, a development that backs the Democratic Party into an awkward corner. The Democrats needed wildly sensational stories to court the sensationalist monopoly media and to cover the embarrassing loss to a vulgar entertainer who makes Ronald Reagan look like a seasoned, measured diplomat.
The final act in the Mueller play was to place the private parts of three despicable Trump associates– Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone– in the judicial vise. As a modern-day torture, nothing secures cooperation more effectively than tightening the vise with the threat of more and more legal indictments, regardless of their merit. Yet despite the Inquisition-like pressures, the Mueller team was unable to generate Russian collusion.
Mueller closed the shop. Like former FBI head, James Comey, Mueller doesn’t like his reputation to be sullied. Therefore, $20-40 million later, no evidence of Trump/Russia collusion, no conclusion on obstruction, and case closed.
The “journalists” who have been hustling the RussiaGate conspiracy have taken a big hit in popularity. Ratings for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow– the Queen of RussiaGate– are down over 20% in the wake of the Mueller Report. Her network and CNN are being appropriately punished for their role in fueling a wildly unhinged smear of Russia and Putin.
The beneficiary of the collapse of RussiaGate, of course, is Donald Trump. While the media and the Democrats spun their fairy tales, Trump pressed on with his sordid agenda. Instead of battling military spending, wars, bitter sanctions, tax increases, destruction of social programs, immigration, etc., the Democrats offered two years of fear-driven distraction. Instead of constructing a program around Medicare-for-all, taxing the rich, relief of the cost of education, minimum-wage reform, etc., the Democrats and the sensation-hungry media indulged in two years of gossip, innuendo, and lies.
Trump couldn’t dream of a greater gift.