Never mind that no evidence of any collusion between the Russians and anyone on the Trump team has been found, despite millions of dollars spent by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and several Congressional committees.
With the growing sense that there’s no collusion to be found, the narrative lately had shifted towards a new story: maybe what the Russians were really doing was planting discord among Americans to exacerbate our social problems and destroy our faith in our democratic institutions.
So, for a measly few hundred thousand dollars’ worth of social media ads (many of them appearing after the election) on Facebook, Twitter, etc., Russian interests (we are never told who, exactly) aimed to “sow chaos and create divisions among Americans” – evidently in general, without any link to Trump or even particularly to help him. Among the favorite topics for socially divisive ads were left-leaning memes about Black Lives Matter and the environmental hazards of fracking, as well “a range of right-wing causes associated with Donald Trump’s campaign,” such as gun rights and illegal immigration. (Regarding the latter, let’s not forget that, while remaining an unreconstructed KGB commie, Putin is also a tiki-torch wielding Grand Dragon of the global Alt-Right white nationalist movement. He’s another Stalin and “literally Hitler” at the same time.) If not for dastardly Russian meddling, we would have no social problems at all, and everybody would be holding hands singing Kumabaya.
But now, with astonishing speed, just this week three stories have popped out that toss the whole Russian collusion tangle right back in face of Hillary Clinton and her party:
1. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid for a defamatory “dossier” against Trump allegedly based on Russian sources:
‘An explosive and salacious dossier alleging links between President Donald Trump and Russia was in part financed by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, according to a report Thursday.
‘Marc E. Elias, a lawyer who represented Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, retained Fusion GPS, an intelligence firm that commissioned the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to produce the dossier, The Washington Post reported. . . . It has previously been reported that the dossier was financed by anti-Trump Republicans during the 2016 primary before Democrats picked up the tab. [ . . . ]
‘The revelation comes amid increasing attempts by some Republicans on Capitol Hill to get Fusion GPS to reveal who financed the dossier. Last week, two Fusion GPS partners appeared before the House Intelligence Committee following a subpoena by the panel’s Republican Chairman Devin Nunes. However, the firm’s officials invoked their constitutional privilege not to answer any questions. [ . . . ]
The dossier, first published by BuzzFeed News in January, garnered widespread attention in part to a particularly salacious allegation. It claimed that the Russian FSB spy agency possessed a compromising video of Trump getting Russian prostitutes to urinate on a Moscow hotel room bed once slept on by Obama and his wife, Michelle.’ [Newsweek, October 24: “TRUMP-RUSSIA ‘PEE TAPE’ DOSSIER WAS PAID FOR BY HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: REPORT”]
2. Russian investors are said to have paid millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation and a half-million dollar speaking fee to Bill Clinton while Hillary, as Secretary of State, was considering approval of a controversial acquisition of a uranium-mining company:
‘Multiple congressional committees are investigating an Obama-era deal that resulted in a Russian company purchasing American uranium mines.
‘Lawmakers are also asking the Department of Justice to lift a reported gag order on a confidential informant who is expected to have more information about the agreement that allowed Russia to control about one-fifth of the uranium mining in the US – and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s involvement in it. [JGJ Note:The gag order was lifted shortly after this story was posted.]
‘President Trump called the Uranium One deal “the real Russia story” as federal investigators continue to probe Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election. And The Hill recently reported that Russian officials engaged in a “racketeering scheme” to further its energy goals in the US
‘In 2013, Russian company Rosatom acquired a Canadian uranium mining company, now called Uranium One, which has assets in the US Uranium is key to making nuclear weapons. Through the deal, Russia is able to own about 20 percent of US uranium production capacity. [ . . . ]
‘The agreement was approved by nine government agencies with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an inter-agency group that reviews how certain foreign investments can impact national security. Clinton’s State Department was one of those agencies, though the former secretary of state told WMUR-TV in 2015 that she was not “personally involved” in the agreement. [ . . . ]
‘Republicans have largely decried the deal, especially as some investors reportedly donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Former President Bill Clinton also received a $500,000 speaking fee in Russia and reportedly met with Vladimir Putin around the time of the deal.
‘The FBI had looked into the agreement and uncovered that some Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in nefarious dealings, which included extortion, bribery and kickbacks, The Hill reported. Evidence of wrongdoing by Vadim Mikerin, the Russian official overseeing Putin’s nuclear expansion in the US who was eventually sentenced to prison, was discovered by the FBI before the deal was approved, according to The Hill.’ [Fox News, October 25: “Obama-era Russian Uranium One deal: What to know”]
3. A firm linked to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, is reportedly under investigation by Mueller for influence-peddling on behalf of Russian interests:
‘Tony Podesta [John’s brother] and the Podesta Group are now the subjects of a federal investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, three sources with knowledge of the matter told NBC News.
‘The probe of Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm grew out of Mueller’s inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to the sources. As special counsel, Mueller has been tasked with investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
‘Manafort had organized a public relations campaign for a non-profit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU)… The ECMU was reportedly backed by the Party of Regions, the pro-Russian and oligarch-funded Ukrainian political party for which Manafort worked as a consultant, and which paid his firm millions.’ [NBC News, October 24:“Mueller Now Investigating Democratic Lobbyist Tony Podesta”]
At this point no one knows what impact these developments will have or how they relate to one another. But two things are certain. First, at least for a while Trump supporters and much of the Republican party, plus media like Fox News, will be dancing with glee, whooping it up that the Democrats have now been caught in their own “RussiaGate” snare. How much real change there will be in the political landscape, either in getting rid of the collusion cloud over Trump’s head or dragging down Hillary, the Podestas, and their cronies, remains to be seen.
Second, it’s already clear that Trump’s defenders are at least as thrilled to play the anti-Russian card as the Democrats have been:
- What does Democratic funding of the Christopher Steele dossier mean? The Democrats were implementing a Russian “Chekist provokatsiya” to smear Trump! (Never mind that there’s no evidence the Russians had anything at all to do with what may well be a total fabrication by Steele and his pals in the shadowy world of British intelligence. (Let’s not forget the possible role of GCHQ in monitoring then-candidate Trump.) Or maybe it’s the fruit of the warped imagination of the yet-to-be identified Republican who funded Steele. Or maybe the FBI, which also paid Steele.)
- Why did the Russians bribe Bill and Hillary with speaking fees? To get their filthy paws on American uranium and “corner the market” on “the foundational material for nuclear weapons”! (Never mind that no less than the United States, Russia – which sits right next to friendly Kazakhstan, the world’s top uranium producer – can make as many warheads as desired; access to sufficient uranium isn’t an issue. As for the bribes, why should it be a surprise that some Russians would play the same game as the Saudis, Emiratis, Qataris, Ukrainians, and others who “contributed” the coffers of the likely next, and highly corrupt, president of the United States?)
- What were the Podesta Group and Manafort doing working for an NGO supported by Ukraine’s Party of Regions? Peddling influence for Putin! (Just try to explain to anyone in Washington that working for Yanukovych and “Putin lobbying” weren’t necessarily the same thing.)
In short, whatever the fallout in terms US internal politics, the root of all evil, for Republicans and Democrats alike, will remain the vast Russian conspiracy and its demon mastermind in the Kremlin.