Pause for a moment and imagine you are so gullible that you believe one of the biggest political stunts of all time—that your mind is so incurious and facile that you’ve fallen for a crackpot conspiracy theory force-fed to you by fabulists in the media for two solid years. Still bitter about the defeat of your presidential candidate, you hallucinate about why your side lost, and convince yourself that the current occupant of the Oval Office is there as a result of some illegitimate or nefarious scheme.
That isn’t an imaginary scenario. Sadly—or laughably, take your pick—it’s a state of mind shared by tens of millions of your countrymen.
According to a recent poll, nearly 70 percent of Democrats actually admitted out loud they think the Russians helped sway the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.
When asked if it was true that “Russians tampered with vote tallies to in order to get Donald Trump elected,” 67 percent of Democrats replied that yes, it was true. Eighty-five percent of Democrats think Russia hacked the emails of Democrats to help Trump; nearly 90 percent of Democrats think Russia “created and spread fake news stories to help Donald Trump win the election.”
The active imaginations of those on the Left are guided by one overriding delusion: That the Trump presidential campaign conspired with the Kremlin to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. No villain is too improbable, no CNN-sourced story is too far fetched for this crowd to believe. “Without evidence!” they wail at Trump as they cling to an evidence-free Trump-Russia chimera that pollutes their thoughts and consumes their time.
Let me help them: More than two years after Barack Obama’s FBI launched an investigation into the presidential campaign of one of his most despised political foes, there is no evidence Donald Trump or anyone on his team colluded with the Russians to sway the election. Eighteen months after Trump’s own Justice Department appointed a special counsel to probe ties between the president’s campaign and the Kremlin, not one individual has been charged with a collusion-related crime. Congressional inquisitions also have come up empty.
On Tuesday, the president himself finally submitted written answers to questions from Robert Mueller’s team. “The special counsel has been provided with more than 30 witnesses, 1.4 million pages of material, and now the president’s written responses to questions,” Trump’s lawyers said. “It is time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion.”
Unfortunately, with Democrats taking control of the House in January and threatening to re-energize dormant investigations on Capitol Hill, it’s unlikely the curtain will close on the Trump-Russia drama anytime soon.
So, who is to blame for the fact so many Americans still believe Putin stooges phished John Podesta to help Trump and then hypnotized voters with memes on Facebook as they rigged voting machines in Kenosha? There are plenty of culprits, including a vicious and vindictive American press corps, deep-pocketed Democratic activists, and dishonest, camera-hungry Democratic lawmakers such as incoming House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
But what’s truly infuriating is that Republicans—including the president himself—also share the blame.
As the GOP prepares to relinquish the gavels of powerful committees, it’s clear they have failed to effectively debunk the phony Trump-Russia plotline, let alone hold responsible those who unleashed the unprecedented use of federal power to spy on a rival presidential campaign and sabotage an incoming administration.
Post-election, jittery Republicans spent most of 2017 helping Democrats weaken the new administration; they let off key conspirators, including Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey, even after they refused to answer questions about the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign. Comey admitted to Congress that he violated congressional protocol when he failed to notify top lawmakers about the investigation. Republican congressional leaders did nothing.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself for flimsy reasons and Republicans did nothing to dissuade his successor, the conflicted Rod Rosenstein (he once worked for Robert Mueller and served in the Clinton Justice Department), from appointing a special counsel in May 2017. Even when it was clear Mueller’s team was filled with biased prosecutors, and the special counsel was overstepping his original charging orders, Republicans continued to defend him.
In what was perhaps their stupidest and and most damaging move, House Republicans—at the behest of congressional Democrats—signed off on a bogus ethics investigation into House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) allegedly for leaking classified information. That capitulation delayed for eight months Nunes’s efforts to expose FISAgate, ceding valuable time to his foes and sullying his reputation. Naturally, Nunes was cleared of all allegations.
The February 2018 Nunes memo set the table for Republicans and the president to go after all the former and current officials tied to the scheme. A group of House Republicans demanded that Sessions appoint a second special counsel in May. That request went nowhere.
Rogue FBI agents and top Justice Department officials were discovered to have engaged in political activity—clear violations of the Hatch Act among other concerns—and only one, Andrew McCabe, is under criminal investigation. A criminal referral of dossier author Christopher Steele was sent to the Justice Department in January of this year. Nothing has happened.
The president also is at fault. For unknown reasons, he’s sided with Rosenstein even as the deputy attorney general repeatedly stonewalled Congress and even as reports surfaced Rosenstein was part of a plan to oust Trump from office. (Rosenstein also signed the final FISA renewal on Page.)
Trump said in September he would declassify more portions of the FISA application on Page along with other materials sought by Nunes’s committee. He hasn’t done it. Now Nunes is asking for another set of documents, classified emails between FBI and Justice Department officials that prove they had exculpatory evidence on Page that would have undermined their FISA request.
“It is real evidence that people within the FBI withheld evidence from the FISA court,” Nunes said Sunday.
But the delays by Trump and other Republican leaders have already caused irreversible damage. Former federal prosecutor Joe diGenova blamed the midterm election losses on the Republicans’ failure to hold anyone accountable. He blasted House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) for his last-minute subpoenas on Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“These subpoenas are an embarrassing joke,” diGenova raged earlier this week. “The fact that he buckled to pressure for a year and a half not to issue subpoenas is an insult to every Republican.”
Trump still can declassify all the documents and Senate Republicans can continue or open up new investigations into the corrupt FISAgate scandal. But public interest is waning and there’s no way to go back in time and erase the damage that’s been done since the start of 2017. This could go down as one of the most infuriating examples of Republicans’ abdication of power in U.S. history.
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