The Special Counsel’s investigation of Russiagate was supposed to end with the impeachment of President Trump and the termination of his illegitimate presidency. The Mueller Report, when it eventually saw the light of day, was going to expose Donald Trump as the arch-villain of all times. Not only did this charlatan happen to be a white-supremacist dog-whistler, sexual deviant and financial fraudster of the highest order, he was likely the greatest traitor in American history. This was the prevailing view expressed by the commentariat before the release of Mueller’s findings. The title of an article by Jonathan Chait, published in the New York Magazine on the eve of the 2018 summit between President Trump and President Putin, says it all: “Will Trump Be Meeting with His Counterpart—Or His Handler?” Ukrainegate, which is nothing but a reprise of Russiagate, reminds me of Karl Marx’s sardonic comment about Napoleon III: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”
This essay appears in December’s Quadrant.
Click here to subscribe.
And remember, Quadrant makes a great Christmas present
Coming up empty-handed after $45 million and two full years of scrutiny would suggest that the Great Kremlin Conspiracy had all along been nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Perhaps, offered the tinfoil-hat conspiracists, Donald Trump’s obstruction of justice had been so thorough that all evidence of a conspiracy was erased. Whatever. The mainstream media, Democratic politicians and former directors of intelligence agencies adopted the curious notion that if Candidate Trump did not engage in actual collusion, maybe he was guilty—in the words of Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper—of “passive collusion”. But how can anyone, including President Trump, be guilty of a non-crime, one without a definite time or location and unsupported by corroborating evidence? It is as if Donald Trump, like a character in a Franz Kafka story, is guilty of something, and even if nobody is entirely sure of the nature of the crime, that does not make him any less guilty of it.
Paradoxically, perhaps, even those not taken in by the Trump–Putin collusion delusion assumed that Mueller’s team, led by the Justice Department’s Andrew Weissmann, would deliver a game-changer. Something, to put it bluntly, more emphatic than the Mueller Report’s non-condemnation/non-exoneration. After all, Mueller, Weissmann and Co have form when it comes to using coercive, unlawful and unscrupulous tactics to achieve a decisive outcome, if Sidney Powell’s Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice (2014) is anything to go by. Surely Team Mueller could have unearthed some infraction of the law, however minor or obscure, during their inquisition. What about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting of Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr with a bunch of Russian lobbyists, including Natalia Veselnitskaya? No crime, according to Trump’s inquisitors, was committed. Weissmann did eventually nab Manafort on tax fraud unrelated to the Trump campaign. The feds put him away for seven and a half years. The anti-Trump brigade, to use the commentariat’s cliché of the time, talked up Manafort’s arrest as a sign that “the walls were closing in on Trump”, and yet those walls remained distant.
But before we move from the crumbly walls of Russiagate to the newly erected ramparts of Ukrainegate, some perspective. Matt Taibbi, an anti-Trumper and contributing editor to the trendily leftist Rolling Stone, an unlikely Great Kremlin Conspiracy denier, admonishes his peers for the damage they have done to democracy. They allowed themselves to be manipulated by James Comey (FBI), John Brennan (CIA) and James Clapper (NSA) at the time these Deep State figureheads presented President-elect Trump with the bogus Trump–Russia Steele dossier and simultaneously leaked it to the “trustworthy” CNN:
Imagine if a similar situation had taken place in January 2009, involving President-elect Barack Obama. Picture a meeting between the heads of the CIA, NSA, and FBI, along with the DIA, in which the newly-elected president is presented with a report compiled by, say, Judicial Watch, accusing him of links to al-Qaeda. Imagine further that they tell Obama they are presenting him with this information to make him aware of a blackmail threat, and to reassure him they won’t give news agencies a “hook” to publish the news. Now imagine if that news came out on Fox days later. Imagine further that within a year, one of the four officials became a Fox contributor.
Taibbi supposes that Democrats would “lose their minds” if the mainstream media ever allowed itself to be played by the intelligence community as they were in January 2017.
Taibbi’s 2009 counter-factual makes an important point and yet falls short of explaining the meaning of Russiagate. For starters, the mainstream media would have pushed back against any attempt by the intelligence community to frame Barack Obama as an agent of Salafi-jihadism. Anyone using unfounded opposition research to delegitimise Candidate Obama, be it a Republican opponent or well-placed officials in the Department of Justice or the Department of State or the Intelligence Community, would have been unmasked and ruined. We know the mainstream media would been on Barack Obama’s side in Taibbi’s hypothetical scenario because they were in real time for eight and more years. Any discrepancy between the mainstream media’s treatment of Obama and Trump, according to Taibbi, has to do with the fact that the former appears dignified and measured in public and the latter is a “pussy-grabbing scammer who bragged about using bankruptcy to escape debt”. President Obama avoided acrimony since he happens to be in the mould of a traditional authoritative figure, while President Trump will forever be “The Donald”.
However, little about Barack Obama’s presidency and ideology could be called “traditional”. Even a moment’s reflection on the demagoguery of Jeremiah “God Damn America” Wright, Obama’s spiritual guide for twenty years, or a cursory read of Stanley Kurtz’s Radical-in-Chief (2010), Obama’s ideological back-story, might explain why. Then again, you would think President Obama fast-tracking the USA’s submission to globalism by advancing a post-America agenda, as Mark Steyn outlined in After America (2011), would have motivated at least some mainstream commentators to scrutinise the Healer-in-Chief’s June 2009 mea culpa address to Muslim Brotherhood notables at Cairo University. After the 2015 San Bernardino massacre, in which Muslim Brotherhood acolytes Syed Rizan Farook and Tasheem Malik murdered fourteen people at a Christmas work-related function, opinion-shapers were more interested in condemning Candidate Trump’s criticism of open borders and unfettered Muslim immigration than investigating the connections between activist Salafism (the Muslim Brotherhood) and Salafism-jihadism (outright terrorism). There never was a bogus al-Qaeda dossier, and Barack Obama was never a traitor in the sense that he secretly supported al-Qaeda. He did, after all, terminate with extreme prejudice Osama bin Laden in 2013. Nevertheless, the mass media acquiesced with Obama’s attempted wooing of Islamic revivalists, from his “cautious optimism” about the Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government (2012-13), his inaccurate representation at the UN of the 2012 Benghazi attack, his administration’s continual release of radical Islamic terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, the 2014 Iraq nuclear deal, the arming of Salafi-jihadists in the Syrian civil war, and so on.
None of this could be called traditional and yet the commentariat sold Barack Obama’s appeasement as the new normal. You could almost imagine, as long as you closed one eye and squinted with the other, a delighted President Reagan welcoming home fifty-two hostages from Iran during President Obama’s televised celebration of the return of the “heroic” Bowe Bergdahl in June 2014. There never was an al-Qaeda dossier, but abundant evidence exists of President Obama adopting the “civil rights” rationale of the Muslim Brotherhood, which in America goes by many names including the Council of American-Islamic Relations, and can be summarised as follows: (a) linking terrorism in any way to Islam is racist and encourages discrimination and violence against Muslims; (b) linking terrorism in any way to Islam incites young Muslims to sympathise with terrorism; (c) mollification of expressly Muslim grievances promotes social (and global) harmony; and (d) allowances for unambiguously Muslim requirements prevents Muslim grievances. To transgress on any of the above, according to the Muslim Brotherhood, is to engage in Islamophobia, a form of bigotry and racism (even if the latter is a very long bow). Barack Obama bought into the Islamophobia ruse from start to finish, from his 2009 Islamic outreach tour in the Middle East and his account of a 2015 radical Islamic terrorist attack in France—“They randomly shot a bunch of folks in a Paris deli”—to his de facto recognition of the PLO’s rights to the Jewish Quarter of Old Jerusalem in the dying days of his presidency.
This is not to suggest that President Obama was a secret emissary of the Muslim Brotherhood or in any way supported “violent extremism” (to use his own terminology). Doubtless Barack Obama pursued his anti-Islamophobia agenda because he believed it reduced the dangers of global and domestic terrorism. The relevance of this to Russiagate and also Ukrainegate is that the leaders of the intelligence community shared the same anti-Islamophobia understanding as the Radical-in-Chief occupying the Oval Office. In 2011, for example, John Brennan, a long-time adviser to Obama, called on the FBI to discontinue its “offensive” counter-terrorism educational program which analysed the doctrines of “radical Islam” and linked them to terrorism. Not only did the FBI Director Robert Mueller (and later James Comey) comply, but in 2013 Obama handpicked Brennan to become the new CIA chief. Similarly, James Clapper, appointed Director of National Intelligence by Obama in 2010, praised Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement—in a 2011 address to Congress—as “largely secular” and motivated by “social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt”. In short, modern-day leftist ideologues such as Brennan and Obama believe the greatest danger to America’s national security is not the Muslim Brotherhood but those who, through their ignorance, bigotry and opportunism, fail to appreciate that the Muslim Brotherhood, not unlike Black Lives Matter, is a mainstay of a regenerated civil rights movement.
It is no leap of logic to believe that the Obama administration would conspire with key elements in the intelligence community to save America from itself. After all, in 2013 even the New York Times lambasted the White House for abusing the Patriot Act in a massive phone-surveillance program under the pretence of preserving national security. We might assume, with the benefit of hindsight, that it was not the phones of San Bernardino’s Syed Rizan Farook and Tasheem Malik which were being monitored. That would be Islamophobic. Donald Trump, the unlikely leader of Tea Party 2.0, was another matter altogether. The very same American progressives who welcomed the Muslim Brotherhood-associated Arab Spring were not so keen about Candidate Trump and his use of the expression “radical Islamic terrorist” every time a radical Islamic terrorist slaughtered Americans, such as in the Pulse nightclub shooting of June 2016: “This is a very dark moment in America’s history. A radical terrorist targeted the nightclub not only because he wanted to kill Americans, but in order to execute gay and lesbian citizens, because of their sexual orientation.” CIA Director Brennan and his anti-Islamophobia comrade-in-arms President Obama must have privately fumed at Trump’s idiocy. Donald Trump in the White House would incite the entire Muslim world against America.
Attorney-General William Barr’s current examination of the genesis of Russiagate will, in all likelihood, expose a clique of Deep-Staters who used illicit means to “safeguard” America from Candidate Trump and his America First credo. Some will be more culpable than others. John Brennan, for instance, is already on record claiming he first read the Steele dossier in December 2016 despite informing leading members of Congress of its contents—under another guise—in August of the same year. A more likely scenario, one that can be verified by US Attorney John Durnham now his probe into Russiagate has become a criminal investigation, is that Director Brennan convinced Director Comey during the second half of 2016 that the Steele dossier was genuine by feeding him CIA-sourced compromising material that corroborated the salacious details highlighted in the Steele dossier. However, the reason Brennan’s successive reports to Comey so closely corresponded with the contents of the Steele dossier was because Brennan’s intelligence and the Steele dossier were one and the same. The truth will win out when the electronic traffic between the two intelligence directors in the latter part of 2016 is examined by John Durnham’s investigative team. The question then will be how all of this inter-agency conniving occurred during President Obama’s tenure at the White House.
And all of this might be merely scratching the surface. Inspector-General Michael Horowitz’s report on FISA abuse by the Obama administration will likely show that the Department of Justice/FBI used the unverified Steele dossier as a ruse for spying on Trump and his campaign team in 2016 and into 2017. Meanwhile, the indefatigable Sidney Powell is moving ever closer to proving that her client, Michael Flynn, momentarily the National Security Adviser to President Trump in early 2017, was set up by agents of the Deep State, some of whom were later members of Mueller’s investigative team. In fact, the Special Counsel might one day be remembered for perpetuating and legitimising the Trump–Kremlin collusion-delusion rather than unmasking actual high crimes and misdemeanours. Consider this, for example. Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jnr, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn and so on, were all surveilled and entrapped (successfully or otherwise) by the Deep State and yet these are the very same American citizens who came under scrutiny by the Special Counsel, which just so happened to involve anti-Trumpers with past and continuing connections to the Deep State.
Why are we to believe that Ukrainegate is any less a Deep State operation than Russiagate? According to Paul Sperry, in RealClearPolitics, the “whistle-blower” whose testimony generated Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s and Adam Schiff’s impeachment inquiry turns out to be the thirty-three-year-old analyst Eric Ciaramella, working at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. There was a time when progressive politics and civil libertarianism were supposed to be bedfellows. Patrick Flanagan’s Big Brother or Democracy? (1978), a left-wing admonition against extending ASIO’s surveillance powers, is a world away from today’s veneration of Big Brother. Margaret O’Mara, writing for the New York Times, in an article titled appropriately enough “The ‘Deep State’ Exists to Battle People Like Trump”, praised the whistle-blower for “raising alarms about the administration’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes” during the July 25 telephone conversation between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. The CIA operative, whose occupation O’Mara knew but whose name she insisted on keeping secret, was a “career civil servant” and the civil service existed as “antidote to the very kind of corruption that seems to plague this administration”. This insistence by Margaret O’Mara, an American historian and professor at the University of Washington, that democracy needs to be saved by an unelected fourth branch of government, by an agent of Big Brother no less, only confirms the suspicion that Russiagate and Ukrainegate are, as President Trump asserts at every opportunity, the product of an “unholy alliance of corrupt Democratic politicians, deep state bureaucrats and the fake media news”.
The mainstream media succeeded in keeping Eric Ciaramella’s name a secret, and thus his Deep State and DNC connections a secret, until after the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry was launched. Ciaramella’s past liaisons with former CIA Director Brennan are only now, thanks to the work of genuine investigative reporters such as Paul Sperry, coming to light. If it emerges that Ciaramella is linked to the CIA’s bogus Steele dossier, which will be in the purview of the criminal investigation being undertaken by US Attorney John Durnham, we might know with more certainty that Coup Number Two was hurriedly conceived after Coup Number One crashed and burned on the appearance of the Mueller Report. We already know, again thanks to Sperry, that Ciaramella was seconded to Obama’s White House and remained there, until mid-2017, when he was “let go” for “negatively leaking” to the media a fabricated story about Trump firing Comey because Putin, the US president’s “handler”, ordered him to do it. If this proves to be the case, as Sperry claims, Margaret O’Mara’s “career civil servant” has certainly played his part in advancing the cause of the anti-Trump “resistance”. We cannot be surprised that this Democratic Party partisan and trained dissembler would characterise the July 25 Trump–Zelensky tête-à-tête as “crazy” and “frightening” when (a) Ciaramella was not present for the conversation, and (b) President Trump later released the transcript of the call and it turned out to be entirely non-crazy and non-frightening. Compared to the counterfeit Kompromat in the Steele dossier, the tale of the “frightening” Ukraine call is a minor hoax.
The farcical Ukrainegate will not result in President Trump being found guilty of committing high crimes and misdemeanours in the US Senate, where the Republicans hold a healthy majority. Nonetheless, we might expect the House Democrats to impeach Trump on something, however irrelevant, obscure or nonsensical. A failure to impeach at this point would inflame their base, which has always regarded Donald Trump’s Election Day as illegitimate and in need of being revoked. Russiagate should have done the trick—Congressman Adam Schiff, for one, repeatedly assured excitable Democrat partisans for two years he had the goods on Donald Trump—but it all came to nought. Nonetheless, the Great Kremlin Conspiracy did have the effect of suppressing the Republican turnout at the mid-term 2018 elections, resulting in Nancy Pelosi’s team retaking the House and initiating the inevitable impeachment process at a propitious time of her choosing. Ukrainegate and the impeachment inquiry might not win the White House back for the Democrats in 2020, or even help them retain a majority in House, but it is a tactic of sorts and the percentage of Americans who favour censuring President Trump in the House, and then sending the case to the Senate, never falls far below 50 per cent. The House impeachment inquiry, as a successor to the Special Counsel, will ensure that Donald Trump, whatever his fate, will spend the greater portion of his first term in the White House being scrutinised by one Star Chamber or another. Some will call that a victory in itself even if President Trump were to be re-elected in 2020.
The real question, perhaps, is why progressives are determined to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency even if it means utilising all the dark arts at their disposal. President Trump himself seems unable to make sense of why the “unholy trinity of corrupt Democratic politicians, deep state bureaucrats and the fake news media” have it in for him: “The interesting thing out of all this is that we caught them spying on the election. They were spying on my campaign. So, you know? What is that all about?” Trump comes closest to answering his own question when he calls the mainstream media “the enemy of the people”. Naturally, commentators like Margaret O’Mara, or CNN’s Jeff Zucker—caught on video by Project Veritas imploring his staff to focus even more on Ukrainegate and impeachment—do not see themselves as “the enemies of the people”. They are dedicated to saving the American people from the mistake they made on Election Day 2016 and ending their nation’s Trumpian nightmare. Any means available—illegal surveillance, CIA disinformation, a weaponised civil service, agitprop-style news services, Hollywood celebrities, social media, a spurious impeachment inquiry and so on ad infinitum—must all be marshalled to bring down the Mobster-in-Chief who hijacked America.
An alternative view might be that America was hijacked some time ago by the very same people outraged by Donald Trump and his populist movement of America First “deplorables”. Nancy Pelosi is not embarrassed to be reminded that in 1998 she decried the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton on the basis that it was partisan. Her 2019 impeachment inquiry, with Republican Congressmen attempting to storm the basement of the Capitol building, makes 1998 look like a veritable convention of concord and Nixon’s 1973 impeachment process a harbinger of Harmony Day. But reaching across the aisles, or even pretending to reach across the aisles in the tradition of parliamentary protocol, is not the point. It is, in fact, the opposite of the point. Donald Trump—as George Clooney summed it up as early as 2015—is a “fascist xenophobe” and so tyrannicide has become the order of the hour. Democracy be damned.
Daryl McCann has a blog at http://darylmccann.blogspot.com.au, and he tweets at @dosakamccann. A regular contributor to Quadrant, he wrote on Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in the July-August issue