WeeklyWorker

16.08.2019
Putin-Trump, Trump-Putin. Donald Trump began his presidency determined to repair relations with Russia ... but he was hardly a puppet of Putin

Russiagate and what it says about America

The US is in decline, writes Daniel Lazare, and making matters worse it is saddled with an antiquated constitution.

It is easy to make fun of the US Foreign Affairs magazine, bimonthly journal of the Council on Foreign Relations. It is staid, middle-brow and endlessly servile to the needs of capital. What it has to say would be appalling if its soporific prose did not cause eyelids to droop in mid-sentence.

But sometimes it comes within spitting distance of the truth, and the current issue, dated July-August 2019, is one such occasion. The cover shows a bedraggled bald eagle alongside the question, “What happened to the American Century?” Inside are a half-dozen articles surveying the wreckage, from foreign policy to Capitol Hill. “Some time in the last two years,” writes Fareed Zakaria, “American hegemony died.” Americans are “losing confidence in their own futures, their country’s future, and the ability of their political leaders to do anything about it,” laments Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution. Marquette University’s Julia Azeri says that “the structures of American democracy have failed to keep pace with the changes in politics and society”, while Jacob S Hacker and Paul Pierson, of Yale and Berkeley respectively, note that a dysfunctional political system “is generating a doom loop of polarisation, as partisan forces run up against institutional guardrails and emerge from the collision not chastened, but even more determined to tear them down”.

“How could things fall apart so quickly?” asks editor Gideon Rose. “In the early 1990s, the era of American post-war dominance segued into an era of American post-cold war dominance. Now that era is segueing into something else, as yet unknown. Sic transit gloria mundi.”

Yes, power is fleeting, and when an haut bourgeois organ like Foreign Affairs deigns to take notice, then some kind of Rubicon has definitely been crossed. Still, the issue falls short in two respects: it fails to explain why an array of mini-crises are coming together in such an explosive manner, and, notwithstanding its alarmist tone, it understates the problem.

The problem is more than polarisation. Rather, with Democrats still convinced that Trump is a Russian agent despite Robert Mueller’s verdict of no collusion, and Republicans equally persuaded that the president is the victim of an attempted FBI-CIA-National Security Agency coup d’état, US politics are coming apart at the seams. This is why the eagle is so bedraggled - because the republic is fracturing and dragging it down.

Diagnosis

But if Foreign Affairs is incapable of a diagnosis, Marxists are not. Structure is indeed the place to begin, as Julia Azari suggests. Other countries have their quirks: eg, parliamentary sovereignty in the UK or a quasi-monarchical presidency in France. But, as an 18th-century republic that has somehow survived into the 21st, the US is in a class by itself. It is not just a matter of failing to keep up, but of political institutions that are still stuck in the days of silk knee britches and powdered wigs.

Not everything is unchanged. Slavery has been abolished, and US senators are no longer appointed by their respective state legislatures. But much is the same, if not worse. An arcane system of checks and balances and separation of powers has grown increasingly unmanageable, as federal power has metastasised. Judicial review - a system that gives nine lifetime judges near-total political sway - has grown more and more undemocratic, as the Supreme Court’s role expands.

Then there is the Senate, which gives each state equal weight regardless of population and is now more malapportioned than at any point in US history. In 1790, the ratio between the most populous and least populous state - ie, Virginia and Delaware - was less than 12 to one. Today, the ratio between California and Wyoming is 68 to one and rising. The 54% of the population that lives in just 10 states finds itself outvoted four-to-one by the minority that lives in the other 40. In 20 years, the ratio will rise to 4.5 to one.1

It is an antiquated mess, yet what is worse is that it is absolutely unfixable within anything like the existing constitutional confines. While the preamble - the famous opening paragraph beginning with the words, “We, the people” - suggests that the constitution is a tool of the citizenry, article five, the so-called amending clause, sends a different message, which is that the constitution is not a servant, but instead is on top. The amending process is complicated, but the bottom line is that 13 states representing as little as 4.4% of the population can block any constitutional reform, no matter how minor, in perpetuity. The barrier is effectively insuperable, which is why, with one minor exception, the document has not been amended in half a century and why no significant structural reform has occurred since direct election of senators in 1912.2 “We, the people” are powerless to alter a document made in their name.

The result is a “frozen republic”, as this writer described it more than 20 years ago.3 The effect of such constitutional constriction on development has meanwhile been curious. Instead of hindering it, as one might expect, it channelled it in different directions. One is physical expansion - the one thing that political factions in Washington could agree on. Physical expansion first occurred to the south and west and then overseas with the formal closing of the frontier in 1890 and the acquisition of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines just eight years later. America’s vast natural resources, its super-strong legal framework and its incomparable geographic position - bounded, it is said, by insignificant powers to the north and south and fishes to the east and west - were among the factors that propelled it to superpower status in 1945 and then global hegemony in 1989. Generally, expansion abroad brought peace at home. But, since 1989, the formula has changed. Despite the heady utopianism that followed the fall of the Soviet bloc, the consequence domestically was a powerful rightwing offensive that soon had Washington in turmoil.

The 1994 ‘Republican Revolution’. in which the Grand Old Party (GOP) gained 55 seats in the House and nine in the Senate, thus led to back-to-back federal shutdowns, as speaker of the House Newt Gingrich tried to ram through his rightwing ‘Contract with America’ despite White House objections. Republicans followed up with the impeachment of Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair in 1998 and then, in 2000, with what has become known as the Brooks Brothers Riot, in which dozens of well-dressed GOP enforcers shut down the vote count in Miami, so that a Republican-controlled Supreme Court could steal the presidential election on behalf of George W Bush - even though he was trailing by half a million votes.

The ‘oughts’ saw worse with bigger wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and even more poisonous warfare on Capitol Hill. Barack Obama, who had opposed the invasion of Iraq (but not of Afghanistan), promised a respite, if only on the foreign front. But he allowed his neocon secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to take advantage of the 2011 Arab Spring by organising an air war against Muammar Gaddafi, which provided an opening for Saudi- and Qatari-backed Sunni jihadists, who soon reduced the country to anarchy. Obama then gave his secretary of state the go-ahead to organise a second Saudi-backed jihad - this time against the Ba’athist government of Syria, with consequences that proved even more devastating.

Following Clinton’s departure in February 2013, her successors backed a Nazi-spearheaded coup in the Ukraine that led to civil war and Russia’s takeover of the Crimea, while, in March 2015, the Obama administration greenlit a Saudi-UAE assault on Yemen that would soon bring that country to the verge of catastrophe as well. Along with the 2015 refugee crisis and terrorist outrages like the Bataclan theatre attack in Paris - a case of direct blowback from US wars along the southern rim - the effect was to spread death and chaos across the Middle East, while sparking a powerful nativist reaction in Europe, America and beyond.

Enter Trump

There was another effect as well: to pave the way for Donald Trump. Trump was regarded as little more than a joke when on previous occasions he threw his hat into the ring. But this time he had an advantage: he was the only Republican with any sense of the depth of the crisis. Consequently, he had no trouble barrelling past bland and vacuous establishmentarians like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, while, across the aisle, Bernie Sanders gave Democratic leaders a fright by nearly doing the same to Clinton.

Both candidates’ appeal was strongly ideological. Sanders offered a brand of reformist socialism that was mild by European standards, but shockingly radical from the point of view of the US Democratic elite. The programme that Trump assembled was more complex: a left-right amalgam with more than a dash of Bonapartism. Thrusting out his jaw like Mussolini, he railed against Washington, throwing a bone to conservatives by championing the second amendment, while attacking pillars of the conservative commentariat, such as Charles Krauthammer and George Will.

He promised to invest in infrastructure, swore to protect social security and vowed at one Republican debate: “I will not let people die on the streets for lack of healthcare” - a stunning statement in a hard-right GOP.4 Where Republicans usually try to out-hawk one another when it comes to foreign policy, Trump was different. Not only did he attack Clinton’s regime-change wars in the Middle East, but he defended Russian president Vladimir Putin and his efforts to rein in US recklessness.

When Russia intervened in Syria to prop up Bashar al-Assad, Trump was unconcerned: “I say there’s very little downside with Putin fighting Isis. And Putin wants to keep Isis out of Russia, and therefore he’s become very active with respect to Isis, and I think that’s to our benefit.” When Fox News host Bill O’Reilly countered that Russia’s real aim was to take over Syria and “own” it, Trump replied: “Do you want to run Syria? Do you want to own Syria? I want to rebuild our country. I want to rebuild our bridges.”5

It is hard to count the number of foreign-policy canons the candidate managed to violate in the course of a seven-minute television interview. He showed sympathy for a man with whom America was virtually at war. He said that Putin wanted to fight Islamic State when the official White House line was that Russian intervention was a ruse because Putin, Assad and Isis were all somehow on the same side. He suggested that Assad was preferable to US-backed ‘moderate’ rebels and expressed support for keeping Isis out of Russia despite CIA support of Islamist forces in the Russian province of Chechnya.6 He was remarkably insouciant about the prospect of Syria falling into Moscow’s hands.

To say that the foreign-policy establishment was taken aback would be an understatement. GOP leaders were “gobsmacked”, while former acting CIA director Mark Morell labelled Trump “an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation” in a New York Times op-ed.7 In its desperation to overcome voter resistance, Democrats had run through dozens of slogans, each one emptier than the preceding:

 

But nothing clicked until Clinton began taunting Trump as Putin’s “puppet” in the final presidential debate.9 Then people took notice.

Convenient

When Clinton lost in November 2016, she had any number of potential targets for her ire. She could have blamed the Electoral College for naming Trump the victor even though he trailed by nearly three million popular votes. She could have blamed the constitution for saddling the country with an 18th-century mechanism that was impossible to remove. She could have even blamed herself for not campaigning in Wisconsin - a state Democrats took for granted until it went for Trump.

Instead she blamed Russia. According to one campaign account,

That strategy had been set within 24 hours of her concession speech. [Campaign manager Robby] Mook and [campaign chairman John] Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centrepiece of the argument.10

With Trump on shaky ground by virtue of losing the popular vote, the way was cleared for a constitutional crisis of the first order. Russiagate was the belief, shared by millions of liberals, that Putin had intervened in the 2016 election to block Clinton and that Trump had colluded in the effort. Corporate media outlets flogged the story day and night, with the four horsemen of the Russiagate apocalypse - CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post - publishing some 8,500 articles on the collusion theme in all, according to a White House count.11 Chance encounters with the Russian ambassador or with a Russian graduate student were touted as treasonous. Feverish speculation mounted about a secret communications link between Trump Tower on New York’s Fifth Avenue and a Russian bank or about secret meetings in Prague. “I am so depending on our special counsel Robert Mueller to connect the dots so that he can prove the collusion,” Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, said in 2018.12

Democrats were therefore speechless when Mueller announced that, after 22 months of looking, “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government”. But they took solace from the fact that the special prosecutor’s report found that Moscow had waged a “sweeping and systematic” interference campaign, even if Trump was not party to it.

But even this was misleading and overblown. To be sure, the Internet Research Agency (IRA) - a St Petersburg troll farm owned by a Russian billionaire named Yevgeny Prigozhin - did purchase misleading ads in Facebook. But not only was the roughly $44,000 that the IRA spent paltry compared to Clinton-Trump social-media expenditures of $81 million, but the ads themselves were so amateurish and inept - eg, a drawing of a muscle-bound Bernie Sanders in a Speedo or a picture of Jesus arm-wrestling a pro-Clinton Satan - that it is hard to believe anyone was persuaded at all.

Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch testified before Congress that 470 phony IRA accounts “collectively made 80,000 posts between January 2015 and August 2017” (ie, 10 months after election day) and that the posts may have “reached as many as 126 million persons”. Ominous as this may seem, he also testified that American Facebook users received a total of 33 trillion posts over the same period - a figure more than 400 million times greater. The IRA ads were a drop in the bucket.13

Moreover, there was no evidence that the Russian government was involved. Mueller’s February 2018 indictment of the company made no mention of a Kremlin connection and, while his report 14 months later described the IRA effort as a “Russian interference operation”, it provided no evidence - at least not in the expurgated version made public in April - other than a single New York Times article stating that Prigozhin is known as “Putin’s cook”, because the Russian president dined at a restaurant he owns a few times in 2001-03.14 So glaring was the discrepancy between the indictment and the report that a federal judge presiding over the trial of an IRA sister company recently threatened to hold Mueller in contempt if he made any more statements about a supposed Kremlin link.15

The other half of the interference campaign involved Russian military intelligence’s efforts to hack the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The claim may be true: cyber security was so poor that any number of intruders may have rummaged through the DNC’s files.16 But Mueller’s contention that it was responsible for a massive Wikileaks email dump that seriously damaged Clinton’s campaign rests on a timeline that does not add up. Here are the key elements:

 June 12 2016: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange announces on British TV that “leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton” are on the way.

 June 15: Guccifer 2.0 - allegedly a stand-in for the Russian military-intelligence agency known as the GRU - goes online to claim credit for the hack.

 June 22: Wikileaks establishes contact with Guccifer via his Twitter account.

 July 14: Guccifer sends Wikileaks an encrypted file.

 July 18: Wikileaks confirms it has opened the file up.

 July 22: Wikileaks releases some 28,000 emails and other electronic documents indicating that the DNC rigged the nominating process to block Sanders.17

But how could Wikileaks announce that leaks were forthcoming before hearing from the source? Why would it release a massive file just eight days after receiving it and as little as four days after decryption? How could an organisation known for its meticulous curatorship ensure that the material was genuine? “If a single one of those emails had been shown to be maliciously altered,” observes blogger Mark F McCarty, “Wikileaks’ reputation would have been in tatters.” Quite right - and four to eight days are hardly enough for a thoroughgoing review. Bottom line: the chronology does not make sense, which is why Assange’s insistence that “our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party” remains uncontroverted.18

Nothing adds up about Mueller’s case - not collusion and not Russian interference either. In the end, what we are left with is a case of mass hysteria involving politicians, the press and innumerable TV talking heads.

Role of CIA

But then there are the intelligence agencies, which is where the depths of the American breakdown come fully into view. Although the Mueller report manages to say nothing about the entire topic, we already know a good deal from other sources.

According to a report in The Guardian, for instance, intelligence agencies in Estonia, Poland and Germany were exchanging chatter about Trump-Russian contacts by late 2015. The Guardian is not the most reliable source, obviously.19 But there may be something to it, since various intelligence assets were swinging into action by the following March. This is when a 28-year-old London-based energy consultant named George Papadopoulos signed on as an unpaid Trump foreign-policy advisor and found himself befriended by an Anglo-Maltese academic named Joseph Mifsud, who wined and dined him and told him that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails”. Although the Mueller report hints that Mifsud is a Russian asset, the opposite seems to be case: his contacts with western intelligence were far-ranging and deep.20

A couple of weeks later, a diplomat friend invited Papadopoulos to have drinks with Alexander Downer, Australia’s high commissioner, or ambassador, to the UK, who also appears to have intelligence links. (He is a former director of a private London intelligence firm known as Hakluyt and Co, which is closely associated with ex-MI6 chief Richard Dearlove.) After Papadopoulos let slip about Clinton’s emails, Downer informed Canberra, which informed Washington, thereby triggering a formal FBI investigation.

Thus, western intelligence assets appear to have planted the seeds for Russiagate and then enlisted the FBI. Three other such assets tried to cultivate Papadopoulos as well: Stefan Halper, an ex-CIA man who still took on jobs for the agency; Sergei Millian, a Belorussian-American, who was a source for the Christopher Steele ‘golden showers’ dossier; and an Israeli-American businessman named Charles Tawil, whom a 2006 diplomatic cable describes as a US intelligence source. Halper paid Papadopoulos $3,000 to write a paper about oil drilling in the eastern Mediterranean and then flew him to London. Millian offered to pay him $30,000 a month under the table if he continued working for Trump. Tawil presented him with $10,000 in cash, which Papadopoulos was smart enough to leave with a Thessaloniki lawyer before flying to Dallas, where an FBI team was waiting to place him under arrest.21

The obvious goal was to entrap Papadopoulos and then use him to entrap other Trump campaign workers. Papadopoulos says Mifsud introduced him to a young Russian named Olga Polonskaya, whom he falsely billed as Putin’s niece (the Russian president does not have a niece). He says Halper bombarded him with leading questions:

It’s great that Russia is helping you and the campaign, right, George? George, you and your campaign are involved in hacking and working with Russia, right? It seems like you are a middleman for Trump and Russia, right? I know you know about the emails.

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about,” Papadopoulos says he replied.

Halper introduced him to an attractive woman as well - a research assistant calling herself Azra Turk, who the New York Times would later confirm was an FBI spy.22

Coup d’état?

Mueller mentions none of this in his report. He also says nothing about Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 agent whose ‘golden showers’ dossier drove Russophobia to new heights when it was leaked in January 2017. Yet people like these - assets, ex-agents, informants, etc - were ubiquitous throughout the Russiagate saga, as they fed information to the press and urged on Democrats on Capitol Hill.

The result had all the earmarks of a classic CIA disinformation campaign - one whose ultimate goal may have been a ‘seven days in May’ scheme to force Trump to step down. The New Yorker reported last year, for instance, that one plan was for super-hawk John McCain to confront the president-elect with the Steele dossier “in the hope that Trump would resign”.23 It is hard to figure out what then FBI director James Comey was up to when he confronted Trump with Steele’s more salacious allegations just 10 days prior to inauguration - a strange incident that attorney-general William Barr is now looking into - but the goal may have been the same end. Trump’s dismissal of Comey prompted acting FBI director James McCabe and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to hold a series of ‘crisis meetings’ in May 2017, in which they also discussed forcing out Trump - this time via the 25th amendment.

Such a remedy may seem constitutional, but it is not. The 25th amendment - adopted two years after the 1963 Kennedy assassination - deals with the problem of presidential incapacitation due to illness, injury or the like.24 It outlines a complex procedure, in which the vice-president and a majority of the president’s cabinet must first certify that “the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and which Congress must then confirm by a two-thirds vote. But what is important is that incapacitation was the last word to describe Trump at that point - a man who, in the eyes of his critics, was all too capable of selling out the country to the Russians. This may seem like an academic fine point. But twisting the clear meaning of the constitution in order to force out a sitting president, while sidestepping the impeachment mechanism, means putting a legal gloss on what is little more than a coup d’état. Attorney Alan Dershowitz described it as “a despicable act of unconstitutional power-grabbing”25 - one that was only forestalled when Trump agreed under extreme duress to appoint Mueller as special prosecutor.

Dershowitz’s name is poison in certain quarters, but on this he could not have been more correct: the McCabe-Rosenstein discussions show the degree to which normal constitutional procedures were coming undone. The bureaucracy was in revolt, the FBI was contemplating seizing the reins of power, while ex-CIA director John Brennan was muttering darkly on Capitol Hill about treason in high places: “Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late,” he told the House intelligence committee.26 And it was all because Trump was allegedly soft on the empire’s enemy du jour.

Overstretch

A once-mighty republic was in growing disarray. Thirty years earlier, historian Paul Kennedy had warned of the problem of “imperial overstretch” in his bestselling Rise and fall of the great powers. He was ignored, as American power ascended to new heights. Now, however, we can see that Kennedy was right and that America’s triumph over the Soviets merely put off the reckoning to another day.

The upshot is not only an imperial crisis, in which the US is weighed down by wars in the Middle East that are constantly threatening to explode into something worse, but much else besides: a constitutional crisis; a social crisis, as ‘diseases of despair’ like suicide and opioid addiction proliferate; a technological crisis, thanks to climate change and overreliance on fossil fuels; a housing crisis, as armies of homeless descend on cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco; an economic crisis due to a widening gap between rich and poor; and so on seemingly ad infinitum. All involve an archaic republican structure that is over-extended and therefore breaking down - and, in the process, is taking society down with it. The US has not collapsed yet, but the outlines of a terminal crisis are becoming apparent.

At root, America is caught up in a legal tangle of almost mind-bending complexity. The claim that “we, the people” established the US constitution is a convenient fiction. Meeting in secret, America’s founders in fact invoked the people in order to give the proposed new government an air of legitimacy, and it was only after this sleight of hand that a new nation arose. Rather than the people creating the constitution, in other words, the constitution created the people - which means that it is hard to imagine what would be left of American identity if the constitution were somehow removed. It would be rather like Islam without the Qur’an or Christianity without the Gospels - the concept would simply collapse.

Similarly, article five - the clause that allows just 4.4% of the population to veto any and all constitutional change - is not just a law either, but holy writ that the chosen people have no choice but to obey. If it says that fundamental structural change is out of the question, that abolishing the Electoral College or democratising the US is impossible, then that is that - in the absence of a higher authority, there is no basis for appeal. Americans cannot democratise the political structure, because a few dozen merchants, lawyers and slaveholders forbade them to some 230 years ago.

But this is impossible as well. No parchment document can prevent a society from saving itself. The only question is when and how events will force the people - led, of course, by the working class - to do the unthinkable by removing archaic institutions that are dragging it down. No-one knows, although the process is unquestionably accelerating, thanks to the Russiagate debacle and Trump.

Be practical - demand the impossible. It is out of such contradictions that revolutions are born.

Daniel Lazare blogs at https://Daniellazare.com


  1. Based on projections by the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, 52.6% of the US will live in just nine states by the year 2040. Instead of 68 to one, the ratio between the most and least populous state - by this point California and Vermont - will be nearly 79 to one. The Senate is thus growing more unrepresentative, hence more anti-urban, racist, homophobic, etc, etc, rather than less. See https://demographics.coopercenter.org/index.php/national-population-projections.↩︎

  2. The exception is the 27th amendment, which shows how ridiculous such hoary old procedures have become. Drafted by James Madison in 1789 as part of the original Bill of Rights, it says that, while members of Congress can raise their own salaries, the change cannot go through until after the next election. The measure initially failed to win approval from enough states. But then Ohio signed on in 1873, while other states clambered on board, beginning in the 1970s. A University of Texas student named Gregory Watson wrote a paper about it in 1982 - for which he received a ‘C’ - and then began circulating it among state legislatures. It finally passed the 38-state threshold in 1992 - more than two centuries after it was drafted.↩︎

  3. D Lazare The frozen republic: how the constitution is paralyzing democracy New York 1996.↩︎

  4. See www.newsweek.com/trump-breaks-orthodoxy-435751; www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/02/01/the-duel-faceoff-ryan-lizza; https://qz.com/625552/for-a-moment-donald-trump-was-the-most-compassionate-candidate-in-tonights-debate.↩︎

  5. For the full exchange, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=367&v=gdhgmb0iBRo.↩︎

  6. Top neocons who have lined up behind the Chechen rebels include Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, Kenneth Adelman, Midge Decter, Frank Gaffney, Michael Ledeen and R James Woolsey. See www.theguardian.com/world/2004/sep/08/usa.russia. For a detailed overview of the US role, see https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/russia-united-states-chechen-war-geopolitical-battle.↩︎

  7. See www.politico.com/story/2015/12/gop-trump-putin-216949; www.nytimes.com/2016/08/05/opinion/campaign-stops/i-ran-the-cia-now-im-endorsing-hillary-clinton.html?_r=0.↩︎

  8. A Chozick Chasing Hillary: ten years, two presidential campaigns and one intact glass ceiling New York 2018, p101.↩︎

  9. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwjgpsahLa8.↩︎

  10. J Allen and A Parnes Shattered: inside Hillary Clinton’s doomed campaign New York 2017, p395.↩︎

  11. www.nytimes.com/2019/03/25/business/media/mueller-report-media.html?searchResultPosition=32.↩︎

  12. Adam Schiff, the California congressman who served as the Democratic point man on Russiagate, was equally convinced: “Well, look, there’s clear evidence of an attempt to collude,” he said in 2017. “The evidence is pretty clear that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” added a no-less-confident Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. See www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/two-years-of-obsessive-media-coverage-later-the-russian-collusion-conspiracy-theory-falls-apart.↩︎

  13. Stretch’s testimony before the Senate judiciary committee can be found at www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/10-31-17%20Stretch%20Testimony.pdf. See also https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/01/russian-facebook-ad-spend.↩︎

  14. www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/world/europe/prigozhin-russia-indictment-mueller.html.↩︎

  15. D Lazare, ‘Concord management and the end of Russiagate?’ Consortium News July 12: https://consortiumnews.com/2019/07/12/concord-management-and-the-end-of-russiagate/#comments. See also www.law.com/nationallawjournal/2019/07/08/judge-warns-prosecutors-about-public-statements-in-case-against-russian-firm.↩︎

  16. “The DNC had a standard email spam-filtering service, intended to block phishing attacks and malware created to resemble legitimate email. But, when Russian hackers started in on the DNC, the committee did not have the most advanced systems in place to track suspicious traffic, internal DNC memos show” (www.nytimes.com/2016/12/13/us/politics/russia-hack-election-dnc.html?searchResultPosition=8).↩︎

  17. Special counsel Robert S Mueller III Report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election Washington 2019, Vol 1, pp42-46: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5955118-The-Mueller-Report.html.↩︎

  18. See https://caucus99percent.com/content/how-did-crowdstrikeguccifer-20-know-wikileaks-was-planning-release-dnc-emails. For an excellent summary of the holes in Mueller’s account, see www.realclearinvestigations.com/articles/2019/07/05/crowdstrikeout_muellers_own_report_undercuts_its_core_russia-meddling_claims.html.↩︎

  19. See www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/13/british-spies-first-to-spot-trump-team-links-russia. Luke Harding, the author of Collusion: secret meetings, dirty money and how Russia helped Donald Trump win (New York 2017), was one of the authors of that article and he was also the lead writer on an equally spurious Guardian story alleging that Paul Manafort met repeatedly with Assange inside Ecuador’s London embassy. See www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/27/manafort-held-secret-talks-with-assange-in-ecuadorian-embassy; and https://theintercept.com/2019/01/02/five-weeks-after-the-guardians-viral-blockbuster-assangemanafort-scoop-no-evidence-has-emerged-just-stonewalling.↩︎

  20. Stephan Roh, a Swiss-German lawyer who hired Mifsud as a consultant, writes in a self-published book that he has “only one master: the western political, diplomatic and intelligence world, his only home, of which [sic] he is still deeply dependent”. Mifsud has been photographed with Boris Johnson and veteran diplomat Claire Smith, a top British intelligence official, with whom he taught a course for Italian military and law-enforcement personnel in Rome. See SC Roh and T Pastor The Papadopoulos case: an investigative analysis London 2018, chapter 4; see also the Mueller report, Vol 1, p83.↩︎

  21. G Papadopoulos Deep state target: how I got caught in the crosshairs of the plot to bring down president Trump New York 2019, pp99-111, 114, 161-63. For the diplomatic cable describing Tawil as a US source, see www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06PRETORIA5018_a.html.↩︎

  22. Ibid pp101, 105, 107; see also www.nytimes.com/2019/05/02/us/politics/fbi-government-investigator-trump.html?searchResultPosition=1.↩︎

  23. www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/12/christopher-steele-the-man-behind-the-trump-dossier.↩︎

  24. Full text available at https://constitutionus.com/?t=Amendments.↩︎

  25. For the full exchange, see www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=168&v=Tqfzz7odWfs.↩︎

  26. www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/us/politics/john-brennan-russia-trump-campaign-cia.html.↩︎