Maybe it will be remembered as the weekend when, at long last, the media-Democrat complex overplayed its hand on the “Collusion with Russia” narrative. They are still having so much fun with the new “Jared back-channel to the Kremlin” angle, they appear not to realize it destroys their collusion yarn.
Their giddiness is understandable. The new story is irresistible: President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a December 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the ubiquitous Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, discussed setting up a communications “back-channel” between the incoming administration and the Kremlin.
There is now the inevitable Kush-said-Kis-said over exactly who proposed the back-channel. For Trump’s critics, the meeting itself, as well as the contemplated (but apparently never consummated) line-of-communications, are a twofer against Trump: a) the amateurish attempt to insulate the transition’s discussions with an important foreign power from monitoring by the Obama intelligence agencies, and, b) the naïve sense that the Russians would keep their discussions discrete rather than humiliate Trump at the first opportunity.
As if that were not enough, more cause for media-Democrat excitement: Reports that Kushner’s outreach to Kislyak resulted in the former’s being passed along to a shady Russian banker—a close Putin crony with roots in Russia’s intelligence services.
For anti-Trumpers of all ideological stripes, the story is a much needed gap-filler. For all the hype in D.C. and the Democrats’ coastal enclaves, the collusion story is flagging in most of the country. It lacks what a scandal needs to sustain itself: evidence. There is none: not when it comes to anything concrete that the Trump campaign may have done to aid and abet the Russian “interference in the election” project―a project that, though probably real, is more a matter of educated intelligence conjecture than slam-dunk courtroom proof.
For anti-Trumpers of all ideological stripes, the story is a much needed gap-filler. For all the hype in D.C. and the Democrats’ coastal enclaves, the collusion story is flagging in most of the country. It lacks what a scandal needs to sustain itself: evidence.
The latest episode in the Trump-Kislyak follies may divert attention from this omission for a few days. But sooner or later the new angle must be recognized for what it logically is: the death knell of the collusion narrative. Once that dawns on the commentariat, maybe we can finally get around the real collusion story of the 2016 campaign: The enlistment of the U.S. government’s law-enforcement and security services in the political campaign to elect Hillary Clinton.
Let’s start with the ongoing collusion farce. National-security conservatives harbored pre-existing reservations about Donald Trump that were exacerbated by his Putin-friendly rhetoric on the campaign trail. It is no secret that many conservatives who supported Trump in November―or at least voted against Hillary Clinton―preferred other GOP candidates. All that said, we’ve found the collusion story risible for two reasons.
First, to repeat, there is no there there. The “there” we have is a campaign by politicized intelligence operatives to leak classified information selectively, in a manner that is maximally damaging to the new administration. Democrats and their media friends have delighted in this shameful game, in which the press frets over imaginary crimes while colluding in the actual felony disclosure of intelligence. Such is their zeal, though, that we can rest assured we’d already have been told about any real evidence of Trump collusion in the Russian 2016 campaign project. Instead, after multiple investigations, a highly touted (and thinly sourced) report by three intel agencies (FBI, CIA and NSA), and a torrent of leaks, they’ve come up with exactly nothing.
Second, the eight-year Obama record is one of steadfastly denying that Russia posed a profound threat, and of appeasing the Kremlin at every turn. This even included a hot-mic moment when Obama explicitly committed to accommodate Putin―to America’s detriment―on missile defense.
It could scarcely be more manifest that the collusion narrative is strictly political. Were that not the case, there would be no bigger scandal than the Clinton Foundation dealings with Russia that lined Bill and Hillary Clinton’s pockets while the Russians walked away with major American uranium reserves.
The truth of the matter is that Obama, the Democrats, and their media megaphone had no interest in Russian aggression and duplicity until they needed a scapegoat to blame for their dreadful nominee’s dreadful campaign.
The truth of the matter is that Obama, the Democrats, and their media megaphone had no interest in Russian aggression and duplicity until they needed a scapegoat to blame for their dreadful nominee’s dreadful campaign. Until the fall and The Fall, the Left’s default mode was to ridicule Republicans and conservatives who took Putin’s provocations seriously―like Obama’s juvenile jab about the 1980s wanting its foreign policy back when, at a 2012 debate, Mitt Romney correctly cited Russia as a major geo-political menace.
Palpably, the point of the collusion storyline is to damage Trump politically. It is not good faith alarm over Putin’s regime.
The latest revelation about Kushner’s contacts with Russia underscores the emptiness of the collusion narrative. The contacts took place weeks after the election was over. Put aside the Trump transition’s foolishness in deputizing the young, green Kushner to negotiate with Kislyak, a wily former Soviet apparatchik. We’re talking collusion in the election here. If there had been such collusion―if the story the Left has been peddling for six months were true―there would have been no need for a discussion in December about opening communications channels. The lines of communication would long have been up and running.
Thus, the latest Kushner brouhaha strongly suggests that the Trump campaign did not have a collusive relationship with Kremlin operatives during the 2016 campaign, much less one specifically aimed at influencing the 2016 campaign.
Of course, that hardly means there was no collusion.
Kushner’s Trump transition companion at the December 2016 meeting with Kislyak was none other than retired army General Michael Flynn. His presence is significant, but not because of the now familiar Flynn-as-Putin-puppet caricature.
Flynn was Donald Trump’s top adviser in the 2016 campaign, particularly regarding intelligence about the threats confronting the United States throughout the world. He had also been the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency until Obama fired him in 2014. Flynn’s conflict with the White House boiled down to one thing: He believed the administration had politicized the intelligence community―i.e., that Obama’s top intelligence officials were altering fact-based assessments made by the analysts in their agencies in order to support rosy administration narratives that downplayed threats to the United States.
Flynn laid this case out in the bestselling 2016 book he co-authored with historian Michael Ledeen, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies. Remarkably, despite Flynn’s travails, his book is virtually never mentioned in the collusion coverage.
Or maybe it’s not so remarkable. After all, Flynn’s book argues that the Putin regime, along with its Iranian ally, forms the core of a global challenge that confronts the United States on multiple fronts, including through the jihadist groups it supports. That is, Flynn’s book not only undermines the “Putin puppet” claims; it contends that Obama’s foreign policy was an abject failure in refusing to factor the reality of Russian hostility into dealings with the Kremlin on areas of mutual interest.
The Field of Fight also includes passages like this one:
In 2014, I was fired as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency after telling a congressional committee that we were not as safe as we had been a few years back. Others who want to tell the truth about the war are fighting back against their censors. In the late summer of 2015, dozens of military analysts protested that their superiors at CENTCOM—the Central Command for the war in the Middle East—were blocking or altering their reports on the true course of events. That allegation was then investigated by the Pentagon’s inspector general. The story was leaked, and congressional hearings were held. This book shows that the censorship isn’t new; it has been going on for years, and threatens our ability to win.
It is a theme of Flynn’s argument that the Obama administration put American intelligence―its credibility and its capacity to shape narratives―in the service of the Obama political agenda. Can there be any doubt that this is true?
Do we really need to wonder whether our intelligence agencies were exploited this way in 2016 when it is undeniable that they were so exploited in 2012? Do we really need a reminder that during the two months between September 11, 2012, and Election Day, when Obama was locked in a tight race, the White House and the intelligence community colluded to defraud the electorate into believing the Benghazi massacre was the result of a “protest” run amok over an anti-Muslim video, rather than an epic failure of Obama’s policy of empowering sharia-supremacists in Libya?
So what do we know about the 2016 election so far?
- The Obama Justice Department bent over backwards to avoid charging Hillary Clinton with patent violations of law―involving mountainous evidence of the mishandling of classified emails and destruction of thousands of government records―while simultaneously investigating the Trump campaign with great zeal over what appears to be vague suspicion.
- The Obama White House, State Department and intelligence community shrouded the Iran deal in secrecy, hiding risible terms, cash ransom payments to the mullahs, and Tehran’s violations, in order to preserve the arrangement without harming Clinton’s campaign.
- The NSA and FBI have both been cited by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for flouting court-ordered restrictions against accessing and exploiting intelligence about Americans gathered under foreign intelligence-collection authorities.
- Foreign intelligence-collection authorities were used to investigate Trump campaign and transition officials, at least some of whose identities were “unmasked” even though they should presumptively have been concealed under court-ordered restrictions.
- The New York Times, based on classified leaks, reported that the FBI was consulting with “Obama advisers” while the Bureau investigated Flynn’s communications with Kislyak—communications that were appropriate given that Flynn, as Trump’s incoming national security adviser, was communicating with various foreign officials as the new administration prepared to take power. “Obama officials” pressed the FBI on whether Flynn had discussed a “quid pro quo” with Kislyak—i.e., the possible dropping of sanctions in exchange for Russian cooperation of some kind. The FBI conceded that he had not.
- In a strangely timed order just days before his administration ended, President Obama loosened the restrictions on access to raw intelligence, allowing the NSA to share it throughout the community of intelligence agencies before sanitizing it to protect American identities in accordance with privacy protections. This would geometrically increase the likelihood of leaks of classified information involving American citizens.
- A former Obama Defense Department official, Evelyn Farkas, let slip in an interview that the administration and its allies were encouraging Congress to demand disclosure of classified information, especially intelligence pertaining to Trump and alleged ties to Russia. This, again, would dramatically enhance the likelihood of selective, unlawful disclosures of top-secret intelligence. Or, as Ms. Farkas put it, “That’s why you have all the leaking.”
- Finally—I know you’ll be shocked to hear this—there has been a spate of classified leaks since Election Day, clearly designed to undermine Trump’s capacity to govern and advance the agenda on which he campaigned.
Should Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn have met with the Russian ambassador without alerting the Obama Administration and its intelligence apparatus? No. They should have known our spies would learn about their communications by monitoring Russian operatives―and, probably, that those Russian operatives would put out misinformation about the meeting for the purpose of embarrassing Trump. (Memo to POTUS: for the umpty-umpth time, Russia is not your friend.)
But to concede that Kushner and Flynn used bad judgment is not to say they didn’t have their reasons. There is abundant cause for concern that the Obama administration tore down the wall between the missions of law-enforcement and foreign-intelligence, on one side, and partisan politics, on the other. The White House and its politicized security services wanted Hillary Clinton to become president, and they do not want to let Donald Trump be president.
There’s a collusion story here, but it’s got nothing to do with Russia.