Today’s Observer View focuses on the Announcement by Robert Mueller that they are indicting 13 Russians and 3 Russian companies for “interfering” in the 2016 Presidential election. It is, unsurprisingly, full of misleading language, lies by omission and just straight up lies. It is also anonymous, and since it’s impossible to imagine Jonathan Freedland ever being too ashamed to put his byline on propaganda and smears…it’s probably just a press release from the foreign office.
Let’s dive right in. Emphasis, through-out, is ours.
Although the charges levelled against 13 Russians and three Russian entities are extraordinarily serious…
FALSE: They’re not. At all. They are barely crimes, if they are crimes at all. Moon of Alabama has done an excellent breakdown of this. The primary charges of “fraud” are, essentially, that these 13 Russians did internet PR through sock-puppet accounts. This is a marketing tool as old as the internet itself, and not illegal. The British army has an entire section devoted to it. As does Israel. In fact, the Guardian reported on a massive American operation to do the same thing back in 2011.
The secondary charges of “failing to register as a foreign agent” are more serious…but only as a precedent. The idea that foreign nationals have to register as agents before expressing opinions about domestic politics is absurd. George Soros wrote a column for the Guardian last week. Barack Obama begged Scotland to vote “No”, and campaigned against Brexit. Neither of them are British citizens, or (I’m guessing) registered with Her Majesty’s government as foreign agents.
American politics are often the subject of global discussion. We’re not all registered foreign agents. Should we have to be? Isn’t that an incredibly autocratic and dangerous idea? Does that include Israeli and Saudi DNC donors?
The author feels the need to skirt around how ridiculous it is that only 13(!) Russians are meant to have swung the election, combating the highest paid and most advanced state security agencies in the world, so so will we.
…they do not directly support the central claim that Trump and senior campaign aides colluded with Moscow to rig the vote.
TRUE: This is the first true thing in the article. It could, however, be truer. For example, they could point out that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein went out of his way, during his press conference, to underline that there was no evidence that “any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity.” It was quite clearly a message – they have nothing on Trump.
But Trump is not off the hook. Far from it. His oft-repeated argument, contradicting US and British intelligence agencies, that stories of covert Russian meddling were “fake news” has been exposed as false.
FALSE: No, they haven’t. Thirteen Russians doing viral marketing is not “rigging”, or “collusion” or “hacking”. For months now we’ve heard that the FSB colluded with Trump to steal that election – something there is still precisely ZERO evidence to support – the FBI indicting some low-paid marketing shills means nothing. Actually, the very fact that – after all this time, money and effort – the only charges are about some internet PR firm means that they could find nothing else. This is the biggest fish available, and it’s not worth the bait.
The US, like other western countries, is incontrovertibly under sustained assault from the Kremlin.
FALSE: There is nothing linking the “Internet Research Agency” to the Kremlin. None of the people indicted are employees of the Russian government. That’s very basic journalism. Leaving that information out is a deliberate lie.
Why does Trump continue to defend Russia? With Trump, it is difficult to talk about credibility. What little he does retain has just measurably diminished.
MISLEADING: Trump hasn’t “defended Russia”, he has defended himself, claiming there was no collusion. He said if Russia did anything, he didn’t know about it and it didn’t swing the election. The indictments echo this sentiment, which the author concedes…
The justice department stressed that any collaboration between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the 13 named Russians was “unwitting” and that these activities did not change the election’s outcome.
TRUE: The Justice Dept. has admitted there is no evidence of collusion. In a sane world, that brings the matter to a close.
But despite Trump’s crowing about vindication, that does not mean there was no collusion. It does not mean there was no wider conspiracy. Nor does it mean there was no impact on the election.
FALSE: Yes it does. That is literally exactly what it means.
Mueller’s investigation is ongoing. He already has extensive evidence of contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. For example, the president’s eldest son sought political dirt to use against Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent, from a Russian lawyer.
FALSE: This is untrue, Trump Jr. never SOUGHT dirt, he was (allegedly) OFFERED it, but never received it or paid for it. This is in contrast to, say, Hillary Clinton’s campaign – who we know paid a foreign national (Christopher Steele) to dig up (aka, fabricate) dirt on Donald Trump. In fact Hillary Clinton paying a British spy to make up stuff is the only reason this investigation ever happened.
Mueller has obtained two guilty pleas, from Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and from a former campaign adviser. They admit lying to federal authorities about their Russian government connections.
MISLEADING: This is highly dishonest. Flynn’s “Russian connections” consisted of two meetings with the Russian ambassador, both of which happened AFTER the election. Neither of which were to do with collusion. The first was about protecting Israel from UNSC condemnations, the second about retaliatory sanctions. Once again, this was all after the election, none of it was illegal or even improper.
Trump’s former campaign chairman has been charged with crimes including money-laundering.
Totally and completely irrelevant.
Steve Bannon, his disaffected former strategist, was interviewed at length this month.
TRUE: Yes, he was. And THIS MONTH the Justice Dept. “stressed that any collaboration between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the 13 named Russians was “unwitting” and that these activities did not change the election’s outcome.” Ergo, Bannon told them nothing.
And the special counsel has yet to announce his findings concerning Russian hacking of Democratic party email systems…
MISLEADING: WikiLeaks, who published the DNC e-mails, said the e-mails were leaked, not hacked. They were very specific about that. There is no evidence of hacking at all. Also, to talk about the DNC e-mails, without referencing the blatant internal corruption they uncovered, or the DNC staffer who was killed in mysterious circumstances shortly afterwards, is blatant lying by omission.
It’s important to remember, the only PROVEN cheating in the 2016 Presidential election was carried out by the DNC. The person responsible for this cheating resigned in disgrace, only to be immediately hired by Clinton’s campaign.
…which Trump publicly encouraged in 2016.
MISLEADING: That was a joke. It is intellectually dishonest to the point of absurdity to pretend other wise. Watch it. He’s joking.
Trump will have the chance to repeat his denials when, as anticipated, Mueller interviews him under oath. This interview, if it happens, could be Trump’s High Noon. There is a slight air of Gary Cooper about the tall, spare figure of Robert Mueller and an air of sleazy desperation about Trump.
This comparison is actually unintentionally apt. High Noon was released in 1952, the height of Hollywood’s “red scare” and is clearly an allegory for McCarthyism in Hollywood. The screenwriter/producer, Carl Foreman, was a former member of the Communist Party USA. He was called before HUAC and asked to name other communists, he refused, was labelled an “uncooperative witness”, blacklisted and fled to Britain. He didn’t return to the country of his birth for 30 years. His producer credit was taken off High Noon, and when his later work – Bridge on the River Kwai – won an oscar, it was not in his name.
This was McCarthyism in action. People having their livelihoods destroyed by rumor and gossip, being “tainted” by communism in the “land of the free”. Just 4 or 5 years ago the Western world looked back on this era as absurd paranoia, today suddenly it doesn’t seem so ridiculous. Today we have McCarthyism 2.0. Anonymous editorials blaming the Russians for everything and anything they can think of.
What happened to Gary Cooper, you ask? The film star to whom our anonymous Observer editor so aptly compares Robert Mueller? Well, he happily testified in front of HUAC to protect his career. Unlike Mueller, he at least had conscience enough to look ashamed of himself.
The latest indictments do not explicitly say the Russian government directed the election conspiracy, but there is plenty of reason to believe it did and that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, was personally involved.
FALSE: There is not plenty of reason to believe this, as evidenced by the total lack of sources cited to support this assertion.
Given the way Putin runs his country with an iron hand(sic), it is risible to suggest such an audacious and risky operation was mounted without his knowledge. Putin is already deeply implicated in numerous other “hybrid conflict”, cyber warfare and disinformation campaigns against European democracies, including Britain.
FALSE: This is nothing but scare-mongering. There has been no evidence collected that Russia took any part in any “cyber warfare” anywhere in Europe. Quite the opposite.
The head of French cyber security said there was “no trace of Russian hacking” on the French Presidential election – which Macron won. Youtube, Facebook and twitter all said they saw “no evidence” Russia had influenced the Brexit vote. The New York Times even had an article wondering why Russia hadn’t “hacked” the German election.
Under his leadership, Russia is actively working to undermine western democracy.
FALSE: Again, there is no evidence of this. Certainly none linked in this article, which apparently doesn’t believe in sources or citations.
It has made a mockery of international law in Ukraine.
MISLEADING: Russia’s proven involvement in Ukraine is one bloodless referendum. I would suggest the nameless author(s) of this editorial google “Iraq 2003”, “Libya 2011”, “Gaza”, “Gitmo”…you know, the usual. If Russians are “mocking” international law, the Israelis have tarred and feathered it, and the American’s took it out behind the barn and shot it in the head. This level of hypocrisy is nauseating.
It is daily involved in the callous slaughter of Syrian civilians.
This would more accurately be phrased as “It is winning a war against ISIS and other coalition armed proxies, whom we fund and train to execute regime change.” Syrians are returning to Syria, ISIS are all but beaten.
And next month, Putin will effectively steal his own presidential election. It is possible that Mueller, like High Noon’s Marshal Will Kane, will blow Trump away.
“Effectively steal” meaning, in this instance, “win”. Russians support Putin, even Shaun Walker admits that in his absurd “goodbye Russia” article.
In summary, this editorial completely misses the point of these indictments. They are not the first domino to fall, this isn’t the sign of a coming impeachment. Far from it, it’s an admission hidden in an accusation. After all this time, and all this hysteria, they have shown they have nothing. The apparent budget of the Internet Research Agency was 1.2 million dollars. The Pentagon spends that much on stationary. Is this the extent of Russian “hacking” we heard so much about?
Because foreign interference doesn’t look like 13 people with fake facebook names.
Real “Foreign interference” looks like rigged elections for underdog candidates. “Foreign interference” costs five billion dollars and has leaked phone calls to prove it. It looks like £700,000 from a billionaire foreign national to push their own private agenda. It results in military coups of democratic presidents. It looks like armed contras selling cocaine to the American public. It looks like Yemen and Honduras and Iran and Venezuela. El Salvador, Cuba and Vietnam.
This is what “foreign interference” looks like:
…how do we confront the Putin menace?
This is what dangerous, dishonest war-mongering looks like.
The following points are mentioned in the indictments, but never brought up by The Observer. We consider them important.
- The Russian “interference operation” was started in 2014, well before Donald Trump announced he was running for President.
- The Russian indictees and their “co-conspirators” are accused of campaigning for Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders as well as Donald Trump.
- The accusations state that the Internet Research Agency held both pro- and anti-Trump protests in the same city, on the same day, after the election.
- …they also apparently promoted black lives matter and others.