Three weeks ago I wrote a piece for The Duran in which I suggested that the corner appeared to have been turned in the fake ‘Russiagate’ scandal.
What was a tentative conclusion then can now be firmed up.
Though the leaders of the US security services have denied the President’s allegation that they wire-tapped him – though they were careful not to deny that they mounted surveillance on him and his associates – the President’s claim that they did, in effect smoked them out.
Thus former DNI James Clapper admitted that he had seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians up to the point of his retirement on 20th January 2017, and former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell more recently has publicly trashed the whole story of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Possibly the single most important admission that no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians has been found came however from within the FBI itself, though it has gone almost completely unnoticed.
This came in the form of information deriving from an anonymous leak which appeared in an article in The New York Times on 5th March 2017. This leak almost certainly originated with FBI Director James Comey himself. The relevant sentence in the article reads as follows
In addition to being concerned about potential attacks on the bureau’s credibility, senior F.B.I. officials are said to be worried that the notion of a court-approved wiretap will raise the public’s expectations that the federal authorities have significant evidence implicating the Trump campaign in colluding with Russia’s efforts to disrupt the presidential election.
(bold italics added)
In my article of 6th March 2017 discussing this comment I said the following
This is very twisted language which shows that The New York Times is not reporting this part of the story straightforwardly. However the meaning is clear enough. The FBI is worried that the more discussion of its investigation there is – extending all the way to discussions by no less a person than the President himself of court approved wiretaps – the more people will fall for the false ‘no smoke without fire’ argument, and will feel let down by the FBI when it eventually announces that its investigation has drawn a blank.
This is an entirely valid concern, and is one of several reasons why such investigations are supposed to be confidential.
This is the second confirmation within a few hours from people who have held posts within the national security bureaucracy that the endlessly repeated claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia are not supported by evidence. The first was made by Clapper (see above) and the second was made anonymously to The New York Times by officials of the FBI.
These admissions follow a continuous pattern of admissions from officials within the national security bureaucracy now stretching back months that inquiries into claims of collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia are drawing a blank.
A further sign that the ‘Russiagate’ scandal is flagging is the way its supporters are latching on to non issues in order to keep it going.
Thus following the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday 20th March 2017 the militantly anti-Trump news media latched on to FBI Director Comey’s formal confirmation that an FBI investigation was looking into the allegation of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, as if this was news, and made it the big story, even though the existence of this investigation has been public knowledge and the topic of exhaustive discussion in the media for months.
No doubt this was done in order to avoid mentioning the fact that the Committee on 20th March 2017 heard no evidence even slightly damaging to the President, but did hear evidence which appeared to confirm the truth of the President’s claim that he and his campaign team had been placed under surveillance during the most critical months of the Presidential election campaign.
Then there was the way Representative Adam Schiff used in his opening statement at the Committee hearing the discredited ‘Trump Dossier‘ – shot through with obvious falsehoods, uncorroborated by the intelligence agencies, and trashed by no less a person than Michael Morell – as his frame story for his whole narrative of secret collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. This is desperate, and shows how evidence-less and fact-free the whole ‘Russiagate’ story actually is.
Then there are the claims – almost certainly originating in Ukraine – about the supposedly nefarious activities of Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort.
Not only have these claims been emphatically and authoritatively denied by the two people involved – Manafort and Deripaska – with Manafort asking to give evidence to the House Intelligence Committee to put the record straight and Deripaska threatening to sue anyone who repeats them, but since they involve alleged actions which took place years before Donald Trump launched his Presidential campaign, and have no connection to him, their relevance to the ‘Russiagate’ scandal is not obvious.
Lastly, there is the wholly bogus non-scandal around House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes, who is obviously being targeted by the Democrats because of his increasingly openly expressed and entirely justified skepticism about the whole ‘Russiagate’ story.
To be clear, Nunes’s decision to share information about surveillance of the President and his team during the transition period with the White House before he shared it with his Committee colleagues was no doubt a mistake – and one which Nunes has apologised for – but it is hardly a serious one, or one which would justify removing him from his chairing of the Committee.
To my mind what this episode shows is how sensitive the Democrats are about the raising of the whole surveillance issue. This lends further strength to my opinion – which I note is coming to be increasingly widely shared – that it is the surveillance carried out during the election of Donald Trump and his campaign team which is the real scandal in this affair, and that the fake ‘Russiagate’ scandal is the smoke-screen concealing it.
Having increasingly given up on the House Intelligence Committee, the proponents of the ‘Russiagate’ scandal now seem increasingly to be resting their hopes on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
They will be equally disappointed there. These attempts to use Congressional committees as investigative and prosecutorial instruments suffer from a basic misconception: these are oversight committees, not investigative or prosecutorial committees, and they cannot be used in that way. They cannot magic up evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia that the actual investigation – the one carried out by the FBI – says is not there.
The single most important fact about the last few weeks, and the clearest possible sign that the ‘Russiagate’ scandal is flagging, is that there have been no more leaks from within the intelligence and security agencies since the ones at the beginning of March about Jeff Sessions’s meetings with the Russian ambassador.
That suggests that the former Obama administration officials, who I suspect were the people who were physically communicating the information in the leaks to the media, are no longer being fed information about Donald Trump and his associates or about the progress of the FBI investigation by their sources within the intelligence and national security bureaucracy.
That could be because people within the intelligence and national security bureaucracy are being deterred by the investigation into the leaking of classified material which the President has been calling for but which the House Intelligence Committee hearing on 20th March 2017 suggested FBI Director Comey is resisting (almost certainly because people within the FBI were involved in the leaks), or it could be because increasingly there is no damaging information to leak.
Regardless of what the explanation is, in the absence of any more leaks there has been nothing over the last few weeks for the supporters of ‘Russiagate’ to work with. The result is that in the absence of anything new the effort to keep the ‘Russiagate’ scandal going and in the public eye is flagging.
My best guess is that it will collapse entirely by early summer.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.