The debate about Russiagate and the fight against Trump

On social media, opinion sites, and online discussions, there’s a big battle between believers in and deniers of Russiagate. It’s highly politicized, with progressives like Glenn Greenwald supporting the views of Fox News and other defenders of the president.

For example, in the following youtube video, Greenwald seems to be gleeful in his ridicule of the Democrats’ efforts to tie Trump to Russia:

Russiagate skeptics are vindicated, but conspiracy theorists are rewarded (w/ Glenn Greenwald)


Greenwald said Mueller concluded “there there is no evidence to suggest that” American citizens were agents of the Russian government.  That’s not what the Mueller Report concluded. It concluded there were “numerous links” between the Trump campaign and Russians but there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. (See the summary from the Mueller Report below.)

There are two components of Russiagate: (1) whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and (2) whether the Trump campaign colluded.  My take is that the former part of Russiagate has been established beyond doubt.  The latter part is less clear, but Trump was not exonerated.

PolitiFact called denial of Russiagate (first part) the “Lie of the Year” for 2017.
2017 Lie of the Year: Russian election interference is a ‘made-up story’
“A mountain of evidence points to a single fact: Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election of 2016.”  And it criticizes Trump for denying Russiagate:

“This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won,” said President Donald Trump in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt in May.

On Twitter in September, Trump said, “The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?”

Likewise, PolitiFact summarizes the main findings of the Mueller Report: “The report’s key findings, though, are stated bluntly at the start: Russia did interfere; it favored Donald Trump and disparaged Hillary Clinton; it interfered through a social media campaign; and its agents broke into computer systems of Democrats, stole documents, then released them to the media.”

On the issue of collusion (second part of Russiagate), it’s hard to know what and who to believe.  I have friends on both sides.

For the record, the Introduction to the Mueller Reports summarizes:

“As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents. The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

That’s not the same as “no evidence.”

Cenk Uygur of The Yong Turks used to be skeptical of Russian collusion, but now he sounds like a true believer. In the following youtube video he describes apparent connections between Trump and Russian oligarchs via Deutsche Bank loans: MSNBC: Oligarchs Cosigned Trump’s Loans.   (BTW,Trump called the story fake news and MSNBC retracted its coverage, saying the story wasn’t backed up by enough evidence: Trump rips MSNBC’s O’Donnell after story retraction: ‘So bad for the USA!’)

Right wing media are lauding the book Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a Presidency, which says the Dems promoted a conspiracy theory about Trump and Russia. Also: The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump .   At my local library there are quite a few books that say Trump is valiantly fighting the Deep State and Democratic operatives embedded in the government.

A lot of (far left) progressives are so distrustful of the CIA, the FBI and the rest of the Deep State — with good reason — that they are eager to believe that the FBI’s findings about Russiagate are fabricated.  They also say that the “hysteria” about Russiagate promotes a renewed Cold War and is a distraction from the Democrats’ failures to serve the people, fight the oligarchy, and win elections.  They say Russiagate is being used by Democrats to distract from their own failings.

But the Russiagate deniers go too far.  The Mueller Report documented “numerous” points of contact between Russia and the Trump campaign.  I read the book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, which I found pretty convincing about contact between Trump officials and Russian businessmen and agents

Then there’s Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump’s International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy.

The last few paragraphs of this Washington Post article about former defense secretary Jim Mattis (who is critical of Trump but who is holding back his critique out of  a sense of duty) nail it. Dems were hoping for a silver bullet from Mueller, just as they’re hoping now for one from Mattis.

“[T]hose frustrated with Mattis and/or Mueller are aiming their fire in the wrong direction. Democrats, Republicans and independents need to challenge their fellow citizens who are still inclined to vote for him [Trump]. Candidates for office, elected officials and other public figures have no shortage of evidence that would highlight Trump’s unfitness. And we have no shortage of articulate and creative men and women to communicate in whatever medium they see fit. The problem is that a good chunk of the electorate is beyond persuasion. The solution then lies with the rest of the citizenry, which must rouse itself to vote Trump out. Mattis isn’t in charge of the get-out-the-vote operation for 2020; that’s up to the Democrats and all Americans.

We have no deus ex machina — not Mattis, not Mueller, not the 25th Amendment and not impeachment. We have “only” our democracy. If we cannot collectively figure out how to motivate people to vote Trump out, we might have reached the point at which we are incapable of rational self-governance. I don’t think we are there yet. In the meantime, we should stop pestering Mattis to turn over the silver bullet he does not have.”

A similar thing can be said about Mueller. It’s not that the Mueller report was an exoneration — the report is damning of Trump and Russian interference. Greenwald and his ilk go too far! It’s that its conclusions weren’t strong enough.  But it’s true that the Mueller report found no silver bullet that will slay the Trump monster.

Russiagate isn’t a distraction or a fabrication. But it mustn’t be the only approach to stopping Trump.

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