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I’m sure you’ve noticed that conservatives and Republicans (no, they are not necessarily the same) enjoy playing the counter-factual game of “What if?”
- What if a Republican had presided over Benghazi instead of Ms. “At-this-point-What-Difference-Does-It-Make” Clinton?
- What if a Republican administration had intervened to prevent Arizona from enforcing federal immigration laws?
- What if a Republican had decided to enforce provisions of the Affordable Care Act selectively, omitting, for the time being, those that were politically inexpedient?
- What if a Republican had made a deal with Iran that all-but guaranteed their acquisition of nuclear weapons within a few years?
- What if a Republican administration had spied on a rival presidential candidate, who then, to the surprise of wise men everywhere, became the disfavored president-elect?
- What if a Republican administration had illegally leaked, from classified intelligence reports, the names of private citizens to the media?
- What if, what if, what if?
You know the answer: The well-oiled outrage machine of the media-industrial complex would have been wheeled into action. Oh my God, Mitt Romney once carried his pet dog on the roof of his car! Can you believe it? There are reports that he was mean to a kid in his high school! Obviously the heartless bastard is not qualified to be president. When asked in 2012 what was the most serious national security America faced, he said Russia. Russia! What a rube. And there was Barack Hussein Obama, really letting him have it: Now the 1980s are calling and asking for their foreign policy back! Yuk, yuk, yuk.
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Well that was w-a-y back in 2012. Now all of a sudden it’s Russia morning, noon, and night.
Mike Flynn talked to the Russian ambassador! Three-alarm fire.
There is nothing wrong with Flynn talking to the Russian ambassador, by the way, but just how do you know that he did so?
Er, intelligence documents were, ah, leaked.
Isn’t that a felony?
The Russians hacked the election! Trump colluded with the Russians!
Well, you probably know how this ends.
If you don’t, I’ll tell you:
No evidence whatsoever has been adduced for the “Trump colluded with the Russians” meme. Were the Russians deeply interested in the outcome of the US election? You betcha. Just as they’ve been interested in every U.S. presidential election since at least 1944.
And just as, by the way, the United States has been interested in and has, behind the scenes (or almost behind) attempted to influence other people’s elections. Just ask Benjamin Netanyahu.
Somebody—maybe the Russians—hacked the DNC, hoovered up some of John Podesta’s emails and revealed . . . what? That the DNC had conspired against Bernie Sanders just as Bernie’s supporters had said. There is no evidence, none that Russia manipulated the vote anywhere.
Somebody, maybe the Russians, also tried to penetrate the RNC servers, but the RNC was slightly more careful about handling and protecting sensitive material, yoga routines, and wedding plans, than were the Dems—right Hillary?
But just as that would-be scandal is fizzling out like a punctured tire on a hot road, another narrative is assembling itself like one of those science-fiction contraptions that start off looking like an ordinary automobile but suddenly transform into a stone crushing monster.
Who will rid me of this turbulent priest? Henry II is probably thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t employ loose-tongued morons like Evelyn Farkas, former Defense Department employee under Obama, then consultant to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and now Atlantic Council employee and TV-show blabbermouth.
Early last month, Farkas went on MSNBC with Senator Debbie Stabenow, (D., natch, MI). Sen. Stabenow was shocked, shocked that Donald Trump had yet to release his tax returns. For her part, Farkas had this to say about some of the surveillance efforts against the Trump organization:
I was urging my former colleagues and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill, it was more actually aimed at telling the Hill people, get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration. . . . Because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior [Obama] people who left, so it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy … that the Trump folks—if they found out how we knew what we knew about their … the Trump staff dealing with Russians—that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we no longer have access to that intelligence.
As Andrew Klavan pointedly asked, reflecting on this extraordinary statement, “Farkas was already out of the administration and advising Hillary. Why the hell did she know anything about secret intelligence?”
Klavan goes on to remind us of another story that has been making the rounds, that Hillary Clinton and six of her aides retained access to top secret documents even after she had left the State Department. (How would you like to play “What if?” with that one?)
This story is in the process of putting itself together even as I write. Klavan is correct that what we are looking at here—“that the Obama Gang was using intelligence on Republicans to try to thwart a Trump administration from erasing Obama’s legacy”—is a “huge story.” He says “almost as big as the fact that Obama used the IRS to decimate the Tea Party movement.” In fact, it’s much, much bigger.
On Thursday, Kimberly Strassel wrote a blistering piece in The Wall Street Journal describing how 1) House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes saw and reported on classified information detailing such surveillance, 2) How Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the Committee, went into full flak mode, emitting a storm of obfuscations, non sequiturs, and procedural cow patties, and 3) how the cold-light-of-day finger of accusation is pointed directly at the heart of the Obama administration. “Mr. Nunes,” Strassel wrote, “has said he has seen proof that the Obama White House surveilled the incoming administration—on subjects that had nothing to do with Russia—and that it further unmasked (identified by name) transition officials. This goes far beyond a mere scandal. It’s a potential crime.”
Big time. As Michael Goodwin put it in The New York Post on Sunday, “If it can be proven that a sitting president used government authorities to spy on a candidate who then became president and orchestrated leaks of classified material, Watergate, by comparison, really would be a second-rate burglary.”
Actually, Watergate was a second-rate burglary. That fact stands behind the oft-enunciated point: “It wasn’t the scandal, it was the cover up.” But how about the weaponization of America’s intelligence services for partisan political purposes? Is that OK?
Goodwin quotes some of the same bits from Evelyn Farkas that I quoted above and includes this bit: “We have good intelligence on Russia . . . That’s why you have the leaking. People are worried.”
Meaning—what? That she or someone she knows did the leaking of classified material, “unmasking” along the way the names of US citizens? As Goodwin notes, Farkas’s next speech “should be to a federal grand jury.”
I write on Sunday night. By the end of the week, and very likely sooner, this story will either be definitively discredited (which I doubt) or we will be looking at one of the biggest political scandals in American history. If it is shown to be true, then the question is: will the ruling consensus get away with it? Or will the forces that brought Trump to power strike out and put an end to this arrogation of power to a largely unaccounted bureaucratic elite?
As I say, I think Ted Cruz was right that the “Trump-colluded-with-Russia” meme was a giant “nothing burger.” The “Obama tapped my wires” meme, however, which Trump dropped on March 4, is looking more and more like a five-course meal with all the fixings.
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