The Clinton Emails Caper

“Upon becoming President Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton improperly set up a private, non-secure system for email communications. It featured her own personal server, stored in her home and, later, maintained by a private contractor headquartered in Colorado. Secretary Clinton used this private email system for all of her official State Department communications, notwithstanding that doing so (a) violated government regulations (which, as the department head, she was responsible for enforcing); (b) violated governmental record-keeping and record-production obligations imposed by federal law; and (c) made it inevitable—due to the nature of her responsibilities—that streams of classified information would flow through and be stored in the non-secure system.

This lack of security meant that top-secret intelligence—some of it classified at the highest levels, some of it involving Clinton’s communications with the President of the United States and other top national-security officials—became accessible to people who were not cleared to see it. Accessible not just to those lacking security clearance, but also to hostile actors, including foreign intelligence services and anti-American hackers.

When asked, nearly two years after leaving office, to surrender copies of her emails (by an Obama State Department under pressure from congressional investigators and Freedom of Information Act claimants), Clinton caused tens of thousands of her emails to be destroyed. Not just deleted. Destroyed. As in: purged with a special software program (“BleachBit”) designed to shred electronic documents. The aim was to prevent their being recovered. Ever. By anyone.

In all, Clinton undertook to destroy over thirty thousand emails, even though some of them had been demanded by congressional subpoena. And this would not be a Clinton story if we failed to note that, in the time-honored family tradition, Hillary lied her head off about the substance of the destroyed emails: We were to believe that, in thousands upon thousands of email exchanges, one of the busiest public officials and most obsessively political creatures on the planet had lolled her days away gabbing about yoga routines, family vacations, and her daughter’s wedding.

The FBI was eventually able to reassemble portions of the tens of thousands of purged emails. “Several thousand,” the FBI’s then-director James Comey reported, were “work-related,” and at least three of them were classified.1 We will never have a final count because, in extirpating her correspondence, Clinton and her subordinates took extraordinary measures to defeat forensic investigation. And why not? After all, if you had discussed some earth-shattering development in yoga—perhaps a secret breakthrough in utthita trikonasana!—you wouldn’t just delete that, right? You’d want to make certain that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men—and all the prying FBI agents, the nosy congressional committees, and those ferrets down at Judicial Watch—couldn’t put those emails together again.

Doesn’t everybody BleachBit their deleted emails?

Even the emails Clinton deigned to turn over were rife with classified intelligence. They also contained other government information that, though not classified, is supposed to be kept on the government’s secure system because it is sensitive.

Mrs. Clinton’s misconduct appears to have transgressed several federal criminal laws. Among the most obvious are those making it a felony to mishandle classified information, convert and destroy government records, and obstruct congressional investigations. Plainly, while the classified information offenses are the most egregious, they are not the only crimes—just the only ones we ever heard much about.

Why? It was a brilliant play, really. Clinton-friendly government officials and media spoke only about the classified information in the emails Clinton surrendered. That she massively destroyed records of State Department business, and that the purge occurred after a congressional investigative committee issued a preservation letter and a subpoena, were largely ignored. It was a simple strategy: First, focus obsessively on classified information issues so that other misconduct would fade into trivia and irrelevance; second, find ways to undermine the classified information allegations so that the emails debacle would disappear as a source of potential criminal jeopardy; and finally, maintain that the lack of criminal charges erased Clinton’s national security recklessness and rules-don’t-apply-to-me arrogance as campaign issues.

President Obama took care of undermining any classified information prosecution. He had a deep interest in doing so: he had knowingly communicated with his secretary of state through the private system, and he had misled the public about it—claiming to have learned about Clinton’s private email practices from news reports, like everyone else. All of that could be neatly buried in two steps. First, invoke executive privilege (without calling it that—too Nixonian) to seal the Obama-Clinton emails from public view. Second, ensure that the Clinton emails case would never be prosecuted: if Clinton was never accused of criminal conduct, then Obama’s role as a minor participant would not become evidence in a criminal case.2

In April 2016, on national television, the president made clear that he did not believe an indictment should be filed against former Secretary Clinton, who, by then, was the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee. Obama explained that, in his considered judgment, Clinton meant no harm to national security. Plus, the intelligence involved, though technically categorized as “classified,” was not really, you know, the super-secret stuff—“There’s ‘classified,’” Obama scoffed, “and then there’s classified.”3 It was a classic Obama straw man. The criminal provisions pertinent to Clinton’s case did not require proof of intent to harm the United States, only that she was trusted with access to intelligence and nevertheless mishandled it, either intentionally or through gross negligence.4 Moreover, no one was accusing Clinton of trying to damage national security. That is a different, more serious criminal offense that was not on the table. It was as if Obama were claiming that a bank robber was somehow not guilty of the bank robbery because she hadn’t murdered anyone while committing it.

Of course Mrs. Clinton hadn’t set out with a purpose to harm the country. Her purpose, with a 2016 presidential bid in the works, was to conceal her communications as secretary of state from Congress and the public. Hillary Clinton had been under criminal investigation before—indeed, when she was first lady in 1995, she was very nearly indicted for obstruction and making false statements by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.5 Mrs. Clinton knew that leaving a paper trail, especially one that documents conversations, is how shady characters get themselves jammed up with the law.

During her tenure, the State Department had an intriguingly cozy relationship with the Clinton Foundation, the enterprise through which Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had become fabulously rich by monetizing their outsize political influence. Do you suppose that maybe, just maybe, that could be a better explanation than yoga routines for why, when it came to her stored emails, Clinton decided to scorch the earth and poison the wells?

Several bureaucrats and military officials have been prosecuted and severely disciplined for failing to safeguard the national-defense intelligence to which they were given privileged access. None of them wanted to harm the nation. Lack of malevolent motive was no defense, however, because it formed no part of the offense they were cited for committing. Yet, for the putative Democratic nominee, the Obama administration effectively rewrote the law.

There was no way on God’s green earth that the Obama Justice Department was ever going to authorize a prosecution involving conduct that would embarrass the president. Nor was it ever going to indict Obama’s former secretary of state—certainly not after Obama, revered by Democrats and pundits as a first-rate lawyer, had pronounced her not guilty, had provided a legal rationale for exoneration, and had endorsed her as his successor. There was no way an indictment was going to be approved by Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch—the same Loretta Lynch who rose to prominence when she was appointed to a coveted U.S. attorney post by, yes, President Bill Clinton. The same Loretta Lynch who knew she stood a good chance of remaining attorney general if there were a President Hillary Clinton.

Approve an indictment? Lynch did not even allow the FBI to refer to its probe of Clinton as an investigation. She instructed Comey to describe it as a “matter,” as if the issue were a parking ticket, or maybe a yoga routine. “I guess you’re the Federal Bureau of Matters, now,” a colleague tartly ribbed the director.6 The Bureau could run down all the, er, matters it wanted (within severe limits imposed by the Justice Department). Hillary Clinton was not going to be charged, period. Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer who worked on the Clinton emails investigation (and who became a notorious figure during the Trump–Russia investigation), told congressional investigators that the Obama Justice Department repeatedly rejected the FBI’s efforts to make a case against Clinton for mishandling classified information.7

Wonder of wonders: The “no intent to harm the United States” rationale President Obama had glibly posited in insisting Clinton had done nothing wrong was echoed in the ensuing months by his subordinates. Justice Department officials leaked to their media friends that Clinton was unlikely to be charged because there was scant evidence of intent to harm the United States.8 Meanwhile, very shortly after Obama’s public statements about Clinton’s case, FBI Director James Comey and his closest advisors began drafting remarks exonerating Mrs. Clinton. Over a dozen critical witnesses, including Clinton herself, had not yet been interviewed. Salient evidence had not yet been examined. No matter. With the end of the story already written, the rest was just details. When Director Comey finally announced that Clinton would not be indicted, his rationalizations were indistinguishable from Obama’s.

Comey took a page out of Obama’s book. The director acknowledged that “several thousand work-related emails”—i.e., records of the United States Department of State—were among the thousands of emails Clinton had cordoned off from the government’s filing system, deleted, and ultimately destroyed. He claimed, however, that prosecution was not warranted because the Bureau “found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them.” As implausible as that rationalization was (Comey did not address the many motives Clinton might have to conceal documents she had gone to extraordinary lengths to cordon off from State Department recordkeeping), it was legally irrelevant. Just as the classified information laws do not require prosecutors to show a motive to harm the United States, the statute criminalizing the theft or destruction of government records does not require proof of a motive to conceal the records. Government officials, particularly those trusted to run government departments, are not allowed to embezzle or destroy records, period.9

Comey’s public exoneration of the former secretary of state took place right after Independence Day, with Election Day on the horizon. It was a press conference, held a little over a week after a shameful tarmac tête-à-tête between Attorney General Lynch and former President Clinton, and just three days after a perfunctory interview of Mrs. Clinton during which the Justice Department permitted Clinton’s co-conspirators to sit in as her lawyers. The press conference was a breathtaking departure from Justice Department rules: The FBI director cleared Clinton on the charges even though the Bureau has no authority to make charging decisions (that’s the Justice Department’s job). Yet he did so only after excoriating Clinton in a detailed factual description of her misconduct. This, notwithstanding that law-enforcement officials are generally barred from commenting publicly on the evidence against uncharged persons—in fact, they routinely refuse even to acknowledge the existence of any investigation.

Notably, there was no excoriation of the president. Nor even mild criticism. Initially, the Bureau planned a mention of Clinton’s communication with “President Obama” from the territory of a foreign adversary (i.e., a place where an unprotected communication could easily be hacked). In the editing process, the reference to Obama was changed to “another senior government official.” When Comey finally made his public remarks, though, he omitted the episode entirely.” 10

Return to Ball of Collusion Table of Contents

Previous: Ball of Collusion Introduction

Next: Clinton’s Problem: Clinton

Fair Use Source: B079C2VT7Y

Clinton’s Problem: Clinton

“Thus “exonerated,” the former first lady was on her way to the Oval Office—this time as president. Or so she thought—as did the Obama White House, the Justice Department, the State Department, the FBI, the intelligence agencies, every progressive activist from Boston Harbor to Silicon Valley, and every political pundit from the Beltway to the Upper West Side. Alas, there was just one problem—a problem the president and his myrmidons could not fix for Mrs. Clinton.

That problem was Mrs. Clinton.

As would have been manifest to less politicized eyes, she was an atrocious candidate. Clinton was the same fundamentally flawed, deeply dishonest, broadly unpopular candidate she had been in 2008, when she couldn’t convince Democrats to support her. You may recall this as the reason there was a President Barack Obama in the first place. You say, “Hey, wait a second. Donald Trump was fundamentally flawed, deeply dishonest, and broadly unpopular, too.” Maybe so, but if hammering away at an opponent’s malignance is the path to victory, shouldn’t you perhaps nominate a candidate who doesn’t mirror his defects?

The only differences between the “It’s My Turn” Senator Hillary! of 2008 and the “Stronger Together” Secretary Clinton who expected a 2016 coronation was that she now had hanging around her neck the Benghazi debacle, a desultory tenure as secretary of state, a shades-of-2008 inability to convince Democrats that she was the preferable candidate (this time, not in comparison to a charismatic young progressive, but to a seventy-five-year-old self-proclaimed socialist who had joined the Democratic Party about five minutes ago), whispers that her health was deteriorating, and an email scandal that smacked of both national-security recklessness and rules-don’t-apply-to-me arrogance—precisely the kind of controversy that reminded Americans of how exhausting the last scandal-plagued Clinton administration had been.

The Obama administration’s exoneration gambit came up snake-eyes because of Clinton herself. Democrats can con themselves (and attempt to con everyone else) into believing that her failure is due to Vladimir Putin’s perfidy or Trump’s demagoguery. In the real world, though, Clinton lost because of her epic shortcomings. Trump acolytes maintain that their man is the only Republican who could have beaten Hillary Clinton. In truth, Democrats are right to wonder whether they managed to nominate the only candidate who could have lost to Donald Trump.

In the event, the American people disrupted Plan A. By a hair … not even with a popular majority. Democrats incessantly remind us that Mrs. Clinton “won the popular vote” (which is like a losing football team bragging that it gained the most yards, when the relevant metric is scoring the most points). Have you noticed, though, that Democrats and their media echo-chamber avoid saying Clinton won a popular majority? She didn’t. Every presidential election has a winner because the Constitution’s design assures it. This time around, though, no candidate could claim to be most people’s preference. Clinton amassed nearly three million more votes than Trump, but that was good for just 48 percent of the popular vote. A majority of American voters preferred someone else; or, in the minima de malis terms of the 2016 election, a majority of Americans opposed Clinton.11 Of course, looking at it that way, Trump was opposed by an even larger majority of Americans. Yet his 46 percent share consisted of sixty-three million voters, perfectly enough dispersed to win thirty states. These included the rustbelt battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where, had there been a shift of just 77,744 votes—about half a percentage point—we would not have been talking about a populist revolt, but about how a longtime pillar of the Washington establishment had cruised to the victory confidently predicted by all the polls.12

Trump’s haul was enough to cobble together a win in the Electoral College. That is the Constitution’s metric, and rightly so. The increasingly left-leaning power centers of the Democratic party want an electorate that reflects New York and San Francisco; our fundamental law, by contrast, demands one that reflects America, broadly. The Electoral College system invests our entire, richly diverse country, not just its urban centers, in the contest to lead our government. Columnist George Will states the matter with characteristic clarity: “[T]he Electoral College shapes the character of majorities by helping to generate those that are neither geographically nor ideologically narrow, and that depict, more than the popular vote does, national decisiveness.”” 13

Return to Ball of Collusion Table of Contents

Previous: The Clinton Emails Caper

Next: Trump and Russia

Fair Use Source: B079C2VT7Y

The Russia Collusion Fable

‘The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”

Thus spoke President Barack Obama just a couple of weeks before Election Day 2012. With the race still thought to be tight, he had come to the candidates’ final debate loaded for bear. Earlier in the campaign, his Republican rival, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, had had the temerity to pronounce that Russia was, “without question, our number-one geopolitical foe.” The incumbent president regarded this as an absurd anachronism. So that night, he brought the snark. Hadn’t anyone informed Romney that “the Cold War’s been over for twenty years”? Obama tut-tutted that this Republican nostalgia for the foreign policy of the 1980s was of a piece with the GOP’s desire to revive the “social policy of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”

Yes, that was your Democratic Party standard-bearer, what seems like only yesterday. No longer was this the party of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. To Obama-era Democrats, arguing that Russia was a real threat, that it longed for a return to Soviet hegemony, was akin to calling for the return of Jim Crow and the adoption of protectionist practices that helped ignite the Great Depression.

But then Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, and Democrats decided they’d best return that call from the 1980s, after all. Turns out Russia—the Russia against whose serial aggressions Obama took little meaningful action throughout his eight years in office—really is our Numero Uno geopolitical foe. Turns out the Cold War isn’t “so last century.” Since November 8, 2016, in ever-evolving Democratic dogma, Russia has gone from a quaint obsession of neo-con warmongers to an existential threat on the order of Climate Change!

As is generally the case, neither extreme of political posturing has been accurate. Romney was right that Putin’s Russia is a significant rival on the world stage. Whether it is “number one” on the tally sheet is debatable. To figure that out, we’d have to make judgment calls about all the threats we face—immediate versus long-term, forcible versus other forms of aggression, ideological versus transactional, and so on. No need to dawdle over that. It suffices to say that the Russian regime is a serious adversary. It has a formidable nuclear arsenal, as well as highly capable military and intelligence forces. Its default posture is anti-American (though it is biddable). It cooperates effectively with other anti-American regimes and factions. Its veto power in the United Nations Security Council complicates our government’s capacity to act in American interests. It has a Soviet iciness about the use of terrorism and forges alliances with terrorists in the pursuit of its interests. The regime is ruthless in its determination to remain in power, it has revanchist ambitions, and it is shrewd in testing the West’s resolve—or lack of same—to respond to incremental aggressions that implicate NATO and other commitments.

At the same time, Putin’s Russia is not the Soviet Union. The Cold War really is over. We are not in a bipolar global order, rivaled by a tyrannical Soviet empire. Modern Russia is a fading country. Its firstrate weaponry, armed forces, and intelligence agencies scarcely obscure its third-rate economy, declining population, pervasive societal dysfunction (high levels of drunkenness, disease, and unemployment), and lowering life expectancy.1 Behind the façade of democratic elections and constitutional restraints, Russia has less a principled system of government than a marriage of rulers, oligarchs, and organized crime. To endure, Vladimir Putin’s regime must terrorize the Russian people. Nevertheless, it is a pale imitation of the brutal Soviet behemoth that imploded nearly thirty years ago when the Berlin Wall fell, the Iron Curtain lifted, and tens of millions of enslaved subjects broke free.

Does Russia have the wherewithal to “interfere in our elections,” as the media–Democrat trope puts it? If by “interference”—or its frequently invoked synonym, “meddling”—we refer to the ability to inject propaganda and attempt to influence the campaign debate, then of course it can interfere. And it does. That is what capable governments do to other countries. It is not only what the Soviet Union always did, and what Putin’s Russia does throughout the West and in other parts of the world of consequence to Russian interests; it is what our own government does.

This calls for a bit of international-law throat-clearing. The United Nations has long proclaimed, “No State has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any State.2 Yet, interference is not deemed to rise to a prohibited intervention unless it not only involves a matter committed exclusively to another state’s prerogative, but is also coercive. That is, as Creighton Law School Professor Sean Watts observes, “the operation must force the target State into a course of action it would not otherwise undertake.”3 Russia, of course, is alleged to have interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign by such “cyberespionage” operations as hacking email accounts and social-media messaging. Hacking is clearly a crime, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s staff theorizes that internet electioneering and propaganda by foreign actors may also rise to the level of criminal conspiracy.4 As an international law matter, however, Russia’s election interference, provocative and obnoxious as it was, cannot conceivably be said to have “coerced” the United States.

We must concede, moreover, that the United States is among the most active participants in the election-interference game. “We’ve been doing this kind of thing since the C.I.A. was created in 1947,” Loch K. Johnson, an acclaimed scholar of U.S. intelligence, told The New York Times in 2018. “We’ve used posters, pamphlets, mailers, banners—you name it. We’ve planted false information in foreign newspapers. We’ve used what the British call ‘King George’s cavalry’: suitcases of cash.”5

Democrats, moreover, conveniently forget that they’ve historically welcomed such mischief-making. As historian Steven F. Hayward recounts, President Jimmy Carter used such emissaries as billionaire industrialist Armand Hammer and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski to seek Soviet accommodations that could help in the 1980 campaign against Ronald Reagan. This mirrored the tactics of the 1976 campaign, during which Democratic eminence Averell Harriman conveyed to the Soviet foreign ministry that Carter was anxious to negotiate and would be more agreeable to deal with than then-President Gerald Ford.6

By the 1984 campaign, it was the renowned “Lion of the Senate,” Ted Kennedy, pleading with Soviet leader Yuri Andropov for help in the Democrats’ futile effort to stop the Reagan landslide. The Hoover Institution’s Peter Robinson, a Reagan speechwriter, provided details of the unabashed quid pro quo, outlined in a 1983 KGB memorandum. Through his confidant, former Democratic Senator John Tunney, Kennedy told Andropov, “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations.… These issues … will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.” Kennedy offered to visit Andropov in Moscow to provide Soviet officials with pointers on the challenges of nuclear disarmament “so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.” Having thus offered to update their propaganda, Kennedy further proposed arranging to have television networks give Andropov air time for “a direct appeal … to the American people.” Tunney went on to advise the Russians that, while his friend wanted to run for president in 1988, “Kennedy does not discount that during the 1984 campaign, the Democratic Party may officially turn to him to lead the fight against Republicans and elect their candidate president.”7

Now that’s some collusion right there.

There is nothing unusual about it, though. President Bill Clinton labored to ensure that Russia’s reformer President (and Putin patron) Boris Yeltsin would not be defeated by a Soviet-style Communist in 1996.8 President Obama sedulously worked against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, first attempting to force progressives into his right-leaning governing coalition, then dedicating U.S. taxpayer funds to a failed effort to defeat Netanyahu in 2015. Nothing new there: Clinton had unsuccessfully tried to defeat Netanyahu nearly twenty years earlier, later telling Israeli television, “I tried to do it in a way that didn’t overtly involve me.”9

As these things go, it would have been shocking if Moscow had not attempted to meddle in our 2016 election. Putting aside the Russians’ general penchant for anti-American mischief-making, in 2011 Putin had publicly blamed then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for inciting unrest following Russia’s typically rigged Parliamentary elections.10 So, the 2016 campaign was not just business as usual. There was an element of score-settling. And Putin being a canny strongman, the point was to sow discord and make life difficult for what he fully expected would be the new Clinton administration. There are good reasons to doubt the sincerity of assurances by Kremlin-tied operatives that Putin wanted Trump to win. Russia’s modus operandi in the West is to agitate minority factions it believes are going to lose—whether it would prefer to see them to win or not. That is how Moscow sows discord in the society and makes it more difficult for the incumbent government to pursue its interests. But even if we accept at face value Russian assertions that Putin wanted Trump to win, there is no reason to think Putin believed Trump would win.

Nobody did. Not even Donald Trump himself.” 11

Return to Ball of Collusion Table of Contents

Previous: Trump and Russia

Next: Collusion with Russia: A Bipartisan Affair

Fair Use Source: B079C2VT7Y

Trump and Russia

“This particular act of national decisiveness was not the one the Beltway was banking on. Of course, if Clinton had prevailed as expected, we would never have heard tell of the collusion narrative. But unwilling to take defeat lying down, and aware that its anti-Trump machinations would be exposed once the new president took office, the fabled “deep state” responded by hyping an imaginary Trump–Russia espionage conspiracy.

I use the above scare quotes advisedly. Invocations of the “deep state” by Trump votaries are overkill. I first encountered the term, years before Trump entered electoral politics, while researching post-Ottoman Turkey. To have any chance of success, Kemal Ataturk’s experiment in secularizing an Islamic society required a notorious but surreptitious power center that prevented Muslim fundamentalists from undoing cultural and political Westernization. This “deep state” was an elite inner sanctum of top government, military, and judicial officials. Notwithstanding Turkey’s ostensibly democratic system, it stood ever ready to preserve the Kemalist establishment, whether by military coup or more subtle forms of intimidation.14

This book contends that the Obama administration, abetted by Washington’s politically progressive order, exploited its control of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies to help Clinton and undermine Trump. This was a scandalous abuse of power. That’s bad enough. There is no need to hyperbolize what happened into a deep state coup, or to trivialize what life in an authoritarian society with a real deep state is like. Let’s not forget: Trump is president. The officials who politicized their law-enforcement and intelligence duties have been removed, whether by dismissal or in the ordinary transition of power from one administration to the next. Trump’s political opponents would be delighted to remove him from office, but as a practical matter, that is a pipe dream. They will have to content themselves with a democratic election, and the result will stand regardless of how the political establishment feels about it.

Now that the special prosecutor has delivered his report, can we say the collusion narrative was a “hoax”? Many do, as does the president. There is a lot to be said for this assessment, particularly insofar as it relates to the essential allegation: a Trump–Russia cyberespionage conspiracy to “steal the election.” There has never been any real evidence of this, just the sometimes lurid, sometimes laughable innuendo known as the “Steele dossier,” a slapdash collection of “intelligence” reporting, crafted by a former British spy and his former journalist partners, the anti-Trump partisans Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson, whose work was commissioned by the Clinton campaign.

The standard dictionary definition of hoax is “something accepted or established by fraud or fabrication.” A traitorous calumny largely based on fabricated intelligence fits that bill. Nevertheless, the word “hoax” is carrying a lot of freight in Trump World—a clean bill of health in which any hint that conduct was objectionable, that Russia ties were unsavory, is a ridiculed as a #NeverTrump hallucination. I think one should be able to see the president as exonerated on a libelous allegation that smacked of treason without sticking one’s head in the sand about his strange ingratiation of Putin; about the seamy dots connecting Kremlin cronies to Trump campaign officials and business partners; and about the fact that the Putin regime did offer, and the Trump campaign did eagerly hope to receive, campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton. The latter “collusion” did not rise to the level of a criminal agreement. But the facts that it was not consummated, and that Putin may very well have been playing Trump, do not erase the collaboration. That is why collusion is a weasel word that should not be confounded, or used interchangeably, with conspiracy.

Here’s what matters in our democratic republic: Trump’s blandishments toward Russia were not hidden from voters. Ties between the Trump and Putin orbits were not merely covered by the media; they were given a criminally corrupt spin, one that the evidence has not borne out. The problem for Clinton was that Russia was simply not a salient issue in the campaign. That is not easy for us to remember after two years of Democrat-media Russo-mania. In the event, however, Russia barely registered, not just because other issues were weightier but because raising it would have been counterproductive for Democrats.

Trump promoted his anticipation of a good relationship with the Russian strongman as a campaign asset. The candidate’s business dealings with Russian oligarchs were widely reported on. So was his skepticism about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the premier Western alliance formed to oppose the Soviet Union and the bane of Putin’s revanchist ambitions. That skepticism provoked stentorian opposition to his candidacy from both the globalist Left and elements of the Reaganite Right. Moreover, Paul Manafort was scandalously removed as Trump’s campaign chairman just three months before the election when the media exposed his lucrative lobbying work for Ukraine’s Kremlin-backed former president, whose ouster triggered the Russian aggression that continues to this day.

In addition, just weeks before the election, a Clinton campaign media blitz claimed that Russia’s hacking of Democratic National Committee email accounts could be part of a coordinated Trump-Putin strategy: Kremlin help for the Republican nominee in exchange for his lifting of economic sanctions against Russia if he won. The blitz was goosed along by Obama’s Central Intelligence Agency: The CIA’s then-Director John Brennan spun up then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) with allegations that Trump’s campaign was tied to the Russian government, while Michael Morell, a Clinton booster who had been the Agency’s Acting Director, publicly described Trump as an “unwitting agent” of the Kremlin.15

Political campaigns and elections are how we sort through such claims and policy disputes. We decide who is fit for office at the ballot box. The Justice Department, the FBI, and U.S. intelligence agencies are servants of the public, not a check on the public—much less a check on the public to be wielded by a presidential candidate’s political opposition. Personally, I found Donald Trump’s indulgence toward Putin, an anti-American dictator who runs his country like a mafia don, to be contemptible. That is one of several reasons why, out of seventeen potential Republican presidential nominees, Trump was much closer to the bottom than the top of my preference list. But nobody elected the federal government and its sprawling administrative state to decide whom to place at the top of the federal government and its sprawling administrative state. That is a decision for the sovereign, the American people exercising the franchise, not the administrators of the government they elect.

It is not that Trump’s take on Russia was popular. It is that 2016 voters decided that Russia was a low priority in the greater scheme of things. That should not surprise us because Democrats, too, regarded Russia as a trifling concern … right up until Mrs. Clinton lost and they unexpectedly found themselves in need of a scapegoat.

The investigation was thus “trumped up,” as it were. As president, Donald Trump has been refreshingly tough on Moscow—considerably tougher than his predecessors over the past quarter century. Yes, candidate Trump’s Russophilic commentary disturbed national-security conservatives, yours truly among them. Still, it is simply a fact that, in recent American history, a longing for conciliation with Moscow’s rogue regime has been standard fare. To be sure, Trump’s rhetoric—unabashedly solipsistic, off-the-cuff, and sometimes inattentive, uninformed, or flatly untrue—is more jarring than that of conventional politicians. Not content merely to hope aloud for better relations, he has gone so far as to defend Putin by drawing a moral equivalence between the Kremlin’s political assassinations of dissenters and our government’s covert national-defense operations.16 But while Trump’s logorrhea is often hair-raising, his policy positions (with a few exceptions not relevant here) tend to be quotidian. That should not surprise us either, the Democrats’ Chicken Little routine notwithstanding. President Trump spent most of his politically active life prior to running for office as a non-ideological centrist who thought “Bill Clinton was a great president,” and who donated mostly to Democrats (such as Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer) and moderate Republicans (such as the late John McCain).17 His “Let’s try to get along” approach to Putin during the campaign was utterly conventional.

Ever since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, it has been bipartisan Beltway wisdom that Russia is an essentially normal country with which we can do business—a “strategic partner,” as President George W. Bush’s administration delusionally put it in May 2008 upon submitting to Congress its U.S.–Russian Civilian Nuclear Power Agreement, four months before withdrawing the pact in humiliation when Russia, being Russia, seized territory in neighboring Georgia. But not to worry: President Obama revived the agreement 2010—if you’re keeping score, that’s in between Russia’s annexations in Georgia and its annexations in Ukraine.18

From Perestroika through Putin, our government’s perception transformed from Red Menace to La Vie en Rose. From George H. W. Bush’s “Chicken Kiev” speech through Barack Obama’s hot-mic promise of “more flexibility” on the Kremlin’s agenda of hamstringing America, Washington has regarded the regime in Moscow as a democratically-reforming, capitalism-friendly potential ally. For a fleeting moment in the 2012 campaign, GOP nominee Mitt Romney had the temerity to limn Russia as “without question, our number-one geopolitical foe”; who could forget President Obama’s censorious retort: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War has been over for 20 years.”19

On Russia, as on many things, Trump can be his own worst enemy and it is hard to feel sorry for him. To paraphrase Lenin, his opponents are trying to hang him with rope that he supplied. But his blandishments were not criminal. Given the Beltway establishment’s canoodling with the Kremlin right up until his election, Trump was like the guy left without a chair when the music stopped.

Voters, however, were not fooled. Those who cared about Russia as an election issue knew that the incumbent Democratic administration had regularly kowtowed to the Kremlin, including in the cause of kowtowing to Iran. Secretary Clinton had been that administration’s point-person on relations with Moscow for four years. Among her “accomplishments” was the promotion of Skolkovo, a suburb of Moscow slated to evolve into Russia’ Silicon Valley. With the State Department’s guidance, American technology companies (most of them Clinton Foundation donors and Bill Clinton speech sponsors) joined with Russian backers (some of them also Clinton Foundation donors) to develop state-of-the-art tech for the venture. The result? The Defense Department and the FBI assess Skolkovo as a boon for Russia’s military and cyber capabilities.20 (Did I mention that our intelligence agencies attribute Moscow’s interference in political campaigns throughout the West to its military and cyber capabilities?)

Candidate Clinton and her husband had disturbing Russia ties, too. In an episode that oozed self-dealing, Secretary Clinton helped greenlight Russia’s acquisition of a fifth of U.S. uranium stock, through its state-controlled energy giant, Rosatom—even though the Justice Department had an active racketeering investigation against Rosatom’s American subsidiary, and even though the United States does not produce nearly enough uranium to meet our own energy needs.21 While approval was pending, a Russian bank that promotes Rosatom paid Bill Clinton $500,000 for a short speech in Moscow. The former president met with Putin and his factotum, Dmitry Medvedev, during the trip—which may have mooted a planned get-together with a Rosatom board member. The uranium stock sold to Rosatom had been held by Uranium One, a company controlled by Clinton backers. Their acquisition of the valuable uranium assets eventually sold to Russia was due to Bill Clinton’s intercession with Kazakhstan’s Kremlin-allied dictator in 2005, after which an eye-popping $145 million flowed into the Clinton Foundation.22

The public’s indifference to Russia as a 2016 campaign issue can be summed up in one word: Clinton. Again, it is the word that explains virtually every Democratic failure to exploit Trump’s vulnerabilities.

Until Trump was elected, indifference to Russia and the possibility of foreign interference in our political campaign was the standard government position, too. President Obama and his intelligence agencies were thoroughly informed about Russia’s cyber operations, which mostly—but not exclusively—targeted Democratic campaigns. Yet the administration took no meaningful action. Obama publicly scoffed at the notion that the Kremlin could affect the outcome of a presidential election. Clinton took great umbrage, during the final debate between the candidates, at Trump’s refusal to concede that the election could be anything but fair and legitimate—a message echoed by Obama. With Hillary a shoo-in to win, Democrats were not going to permit any intimation that the process was rigged.

Republicans knew all about Trump’s wheedling of Putin. It was not a secret. Indeed, many Republicans were chagrined over the nomination precisely because they detected in Trump’s Russia rhetoric traces of an isolationist streak, antithetical to GOP doctrine that America’s prosperity hinges on our standing as the fully engaged leader of the free world. That most of these Republicans “came home” on Election Day was not due to a sudden comfort level found with Trump, but to disdain for Clinton—particularly after eight years of a foreign policy marked by American retreat and decline, a policy she’d helped steer.

The Trump–Russia tale was no secret. Voters, however, were far more animated by the question of which candidate should be trusted to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016. Should it be the avowedly progressive Democrat, or the Republican who’d committed to appoint conservative jurists in the Scalia mold? The vacancy concentrated the electorate’s mind on the gravity of the Supreme Court’s work; the ideological deadlock that hamstrung its capacity to decide major cases; the advanced ages of several justices, making it highly likely that the next president would make multiple appointments and shape the philosophical bent of the judiciary for a generation to come.

Beyond that, the attention of Americans was consumed by the future of health care, the challenges of border security and illegal immigration, safety from terrorist attacks, the weak recovery from the financial crisis, the tension between maintaining low crime rates and addressing calls for criminal-justice reform, the opioid crisis, and the anxieties of middle-class Americans. The question of which candidate was apt to be weaker on Russia, a shell of its former Soviet self, was a comparative non-factor. It’s not that nobody knew. Nobody cared … least of all Democrats, for whom the matter of Russian aggression would have been shoved right back in the appeasement drawer the moment Clinton’s slam-dunk victory was announced the night of November 8.

But she lost, so we’ve had three years of collusion narrative.

This is a book about that narrative. It is a complex, fascinating story about storytelling: about how critical it is in Information Age politics, and how dangerous it can be when the government dabbles in it, politicizing intelligence and putting its partisan thumb on the scale of electoral politics.

Writing a book about a still-moving target means having to break off a piece for study while history is still unfolding. Shortly before we went to press, Special Counsel Mueller published his voluminous report. Like Mueller’s appointment, which we address toward the end, the report marks a significant shift in focus from collusion to alleged obstruction. The obstruction allegations will not be grist for courtroom prosecution, and my own view is that they are not prosecutable. In our constitutional system, responsibility for addressing alleged presidential misconduct is vested in Congress, in the impeachment process—the subject of my 2014 book, Faithless Execution. The obstruction and impeachment dynamic is still playing out. It is beyond the scope of this book … except to the extent that collusion is what got us there. It is the collusion narrative by which Donald Trump’s opponents hoped to defeat him, and if they could not defeat him, to undermine his presidency—in hopes of defeating him next time.”

Return to Ball of Collusion Table of Contents

Previous: Clinton’s Problem: Clinton

Next: The Russia Collusion Fable

Fair Use Source: B079C2VT7Y

Ball of Collusion Table of Contents

  • Ball of Collusion Introduction
  • Chapter: 1: The Russia Collusion Fable
  • Chapter: 2: What Investigation … and What Started It?
  • Chapter: 3: An Old Story: Beltway Consultants as Agents of the Kremlin
  • Chapter: 4: Intel … the Obama Way
  • Chapter 5: ‘An Institutional Lack of Candor’
  • Chapter 6: Collusion: Foreign Governments, the Obama Administration, and the Clinton Campaign
  • Chapter 7: A Maltese Professor, an Australian Diplomat, and a Sap … in London
  • Chapter 8: The Brennan Clearinghouse
  • Chapter 9: Narrative as ‘Intelligence’ as Disinformation:The Steele Dossier
  • Chapter 10: There’s No Collusion Case … Just Ask Julian Assange
  • Chapter 11: Crossfire Hurricane
  • Chapter 12: I Spy
  • Chapter 13: Amateur Hour
  • Chapter 14: Insurance Policy
  • Chapter 15: FISA Warrants: Targeting Trump, Not Page
  • Chapter 16: ‘Flood Is Coming’
  • Chapter 17: Not a Suspect?
  • Chapter 18: Nine Days in May
  • Notes
  • Index


Chapter 1:

Chapter 2:

Comey Wins – The United Spot – Meme War 2.0 – 2019-08-29. #DeepState #ObamaGate #SpyGate #ClintonBodyCount


Trump suggests on 9/11/2001 bombs were used in WTC

President Donald Trump saw the same day that bombs must have been used on the WTC towers on 9/11/2001. He quickly knew that the official Bush Story of 9/11 (BS911) was a lie. From his experience building steel sky scrapers, he knew they were built to be strong, even against a jet. He stated to the reporter that bombs must also have been involved. Donald showed what a nice guy he is, as he called his competitor Larry Silverstein to see if he was OK. He did not suspect Larry let 3000 of his tenants die for over $4 billion from insurance.

Never investigated by George Bush’s 9/11 Commission:

  • Controlled Demolition: Thermitic explosive residue has been found in the WTC dust by scientists.
  • WTC Building 7: Collapsed at near free fall speed at 5:20 pm and not hit by a plane
  • Ace Elevator Company in the shafts 1994 – 2001 the perfect place to plant explosives next to columns
  • LVI Services removing illegal asbestos above the ceiling panels, another perfect place to plant explosives
  • SecuraCom: the security guard company with his brother Marvin Bush on the Board of Directors
  • Larry Silverstein purchased landlord rights a few months before 9/11 doubled the insurance was not in his usual office and received over $4 billion
  • Remote Control Take Over: Boeing’s patented technology that would look, from outside, just like a hijacking from inside – Remote Control Take Over – key to 9/11

Proposal to Donald for a new investigation of 9/11: Political action to inform Donald: Scientific research questioning 9/11: Note: This was an audio-only interview by reporters at Channel 9. Rolland Smith, Alan Marcus The photo in the thumb nail is actually from another interview by a German reporter on 9/11/2001, who looks similar to Alan.

Original same day news interview: Trump interview on 9/11/2001 full: