The Missing Logic of Russia-gate
Robert Parry, Consortium News, Mar 20 2017
As Rep Adam Schiff tries out for the lead role in a remake of the Joe McCarthy hearings by maligning specific Pindosis as suspected Russian moles, some of the actual evidence argues against the Demagog notion that the Russians own Pres Trump and other key Thugs. For instance, Demagogs last week circulated a report showing that Lt-Gen (retd) Michael Flynn, who served briefly as Trump’s national security adviser, had received payments from several Russia-related entities totaling nearly $68k. The largest payment of $45,386 came for a speech and an appearance in Moscow in 2015 at the tenth anniversary dinner for RT.com, with Flynn netting $33,750 after his speakers’ bureau took its cut. Demagogs treated this revelation as important evidence about Russia buying influence in the Trump campaign and White House, but the actual evidence suggests something quite different. Not only was the sum a relative trifle for a former senior government official; Bill Clinton received $500k for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin, the NYT reported in 2015. But also, the WaPo reported, RT negotiated Flynn’s rate downward. Deep inside its article on Flynn’s Russia-connected payments, the WaPo wrote:
RT balked at paying Flynn’s original asking price. ‘Sorry it took us longer to get back to you but the problem is that the speaking fee is a bit too high and exceeds our budget at the moment,’ Alina Mikhaleva, RT’s head of marketing, wrote a Flynn associate about a month before the event.
So if you accept the Demagogs’ narrative that Putin is engaged in an all-out splurge to induce influential Pindosis to betray their country, how do you explain that his supposed flunkies at RT are quibbling with Flynn over a relatively modest speaking fee? Wouldn’t you think that Putin would have told RT’s marketing department that the sky was the limit in paying off Flynn, because the ever-prescient Russian president knew from his Ouija board in 2015 that Flynn would be the future national security adviser under President Trump? After all, it’s become one of official Faschingstein’s favorite group-thinks that RT is nothing but a Russian propaganda front designed to destroy the faith that Pindosis have in their democratic process, as if the sleazy and shameful political campaigns financed with hundreds of millions of dollars from billionaires need any help from RT. But RT-bashing is always in season. The DNI’s report on Jan 6, with its evidence-free “assessments” that Russia was engaged in undermining Pindo democracy, included a seven-page appendix dating from 2012 that described how RT was contributing toward that goal by portraying the Pindo electoral process as undemocratic. The “proof” behind the DNI’s accusation included RT’s articles on “voting machine vulnerabilities” although virtually every major news organization ran similar stories in that time frame. The DNI report also took RT to task for covering the Occupy Wall Street movement and for reporting on the environmental dangers from “fracking,” topics cited as further proof that the Russian government was using RT to weaken Pindosi public support for Faschingstein’s policies. Again, these are topics of genuine public interest. To further demonstrate how RT was carrying out the Kremlin’s goal of spoiling Pindosis’ faith in the Pindosi democratic process, the DNI report noted:
RT broadcast, hosted and advertised third-party candidate debates. The RT hosts asserted that the Pindosi two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.’
Apparently, the DNI’s point was that showing Pindosis that there are choices beyond the two major parties was somehow seditious. Yet polls have shown that large numbers of Americans would prefer more choices than the usual two candidates and, indeed, most Western democracies have multiple parties. But somehow RT’s suggestion that other voices should be heard constituted an assault on Pindosi democracy. As for Flynn, the report on his finances showed that he also received payments of $11,250 from the Pindosi subsidiary of Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cyber-security firm, and $11,250 from a Pindosi air cargo company associated with the Volga-Dnepr Group, owned by a Russian businessman. Rep Elijah Cummings, who was the chief defender of former Sec State Hillary Clinton when she was subjected to the over-the-top Benghazi investigations of the Thugs, switched positions in publicizing the news about Flynn’s post-government work related to Russia. Cummings was suddenly the accuser, writing in a letter to Pres Trump, ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis and James Comey:
I cannot recall any time in our nation’s history when the President selected as his National Security Advisor someone who violated the Constitution by accepting tens of thousands of dollars from an agent of a global adversary that attacked out democracy.
Cummings thus became another Demagog pouring gasoline on the smoldering tensions between nuclear-armed Russia and Pindostan. For the Demagogs, any dealing with any entity that had some connection to Russia is now prima facie evidence of disloyalty. The context of these contacts has become almost irrelevant, subordinated to the larger goal of ousting Trump, whatever the cost, even transforming the Demagog Party into the party of the New Cold War and the New McCarthyism. Yet further undercutting the new certainty that Putin lined Trump’s pockets with rubles as a way to ensure his allegiance to the Kremlin is the story of Trump’s failed luxury hotel project intended to be built in Moscow several years ago. A source familiar with those negotiations told me that Trump had hoped to get a half interest in the $2b project but that Russian-Israeli investor Mikhail Fridman, a founder of Russia’s Alfa Bank, balked because Trump was unwilling to commit a significant investment beyond the branding value of the Trump name. Again, if the Demagog narrative that Putin controls all the businesses in Russia and wanted to pay off Trump is to be believed, it’s hard to understand why the hotel deal fell through, or for that matter, why RT was nickel-and-diming Flynn. The other problem with the Demagog narrative is that it always assumes that Putin could foretell that Trump would rise in 2016 to win the Pindosi presidential election, and thus there was value in corrupting Trump and his entourage with money and other favors. The fact that almost no political pundit in Pindostan shared that prediction even last year would seem to demonstrate the kookiness of the Demagog assumptions and the flaws in the Pindosi Intelligence Community’s “assessments” about alleged Russian “hacking” and distribution of the DNC + Podesta emails. Those “assessments” also assume that Putin’s motives were to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign, boost Trump and as FBI Director Comey added on Monday, turn Pindosis against their democracy. But there is a counter-argument to that thinking: Assuming that Putin read the polls like everyone else, would he risk infuriating the likely next POTUS, Hillary Clinton, by embarrassing her with an email leak that would amount to a pinprick? Clinton herself blamed her surprise defeat on Comey’s decision to briefly reopen the investigation into whether she endangered national security by using a private email server as Sec State. Unless one assumes that Putin’s Ouija board also predicted Comey’s actions, or perhaps that Comey is another Russian mole, wouldn’t it be a huge risk for Putin to anger Clinton without ensuring her defeat? There’s the old saying that “if you strike a king, you must kill him,” which would seem to apply equally to a queen, but logical thinking no longer applies to what’s going on in official Faschingstein.