By Nebojsa Malic, senior writer at RT
‘Russian meddling’ in the 2016 US presidential election has become an article of faith, not just among Democrats but many Republicans as well, thanks to the endless repetition of vague talking points, none of which hold water.
It all began with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) claiming in June 2016 that Russia hacked their computers, after documents were published revealing the party’s rigging of the primaries. This was followed by Hillary Clinton accusing her rival for the presidency, Donald Trump, of “colluding” with Russia by asking Moscow for her emails – the ones she deleted from a private server she used to conduct State Department business, that is.
With a little help from the mainstream media, which overwhelmingly endorsed Clinton and predicted her victory, her efforts to cover up her email scandal turned into Russia “hacking our democracy,” eventually spawning the ‘Russiagate’ investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and a series of failed attempts to derail Trump’s election and oust him from the White House.
Lie #1: Russia hacked the DNC
The infamous US intelligence community assessment (ICA) of January 2017, and the Senate Intelligence Committee report based on it – as well as ‘analysis’ by actual election meddlers, among others – all claimed that the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin personally were behind the “hack” and publication of DNC documents. These have always been assertions, and no evidence was ever provided.
Last week’s declassification of 50+ interviews in the probe conducted by the House Intelligence Committee revealed that the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, brought in by the DNC lawyers to fix the “hack,” did not have evidence either.
CrowdStrike’s president, ex-FBI official Shawn Henry, testified that they “saw activity that we believed was consistent with activity we’d seen previously and had associated with the Russian Government.” [emphasis added]
In the same testimony, Henry also testified that CrowdStrike never had any evidence the data was actually “exfiltrated,” i.e. stolen from the DNC servers.
CrowdStrike’s feelings about the hack remain the only “evidence” so far, since the FBI never asked them or the DNC for the actual server, as Henry also confirmed. Meanwhile, former NSA official and whistleblower William Binney argued back in November 2017 that actual evidence showed a leak from the inside, not a hack.
Lie #2: Russia hacked Podesta’s emails and published them in collusion with WikiLeaks
There is likewise zero proof that the Russian government had anything to do with the private email account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chair, which a staffer admitted had been compromised when someone fell for a phishing scam.
Instead, the key argument that WikiLeaks was somehow ‘colluding’ with Russia over the publication of the emails rests on a conspiracy theory promoted by the Clinton campaign staff, after RT reported on a fresh batch of emails before WikiLeaks got around to tweeting about them – but after they were published on the website and available to anyone willing to do actual journalism.
In fact, the existence of RT has been a major “argument” of Russiagaters; a third of the ICA intended to show ‘Russian meddling’ consisted of a four-year-old appendix about RT that was in no way relevant to the 2016 situation but lamented its coverage of fracking and ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests, for example.
Lie #3: The Steele ‘pee tape’ dossier was irrelevant
As it later emerged, Clinton’s claims about ‘Russian collusion’ were based on a dodgy dossier her campaign commissioned through the DNC and a firm called Fusion GPS from a British spy named Christopher Steele. It said that the Kremlin was blackmailing Trump with a tape of depraved sex acts in a Moscow hotel, with prostitutes supposedly paid to urinate on a bed President Barack Obama had slept on.
It was clearly ridiculous and entirely evidence-free. Democrats claimed it played no role in Russia investigations. Yet the FBI paid Steele for information from the dossier, and used it to justify a FISA warrant for the surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page – and with him the campaign itself – starting right before the election, and renewed three times.
By January 2020, the DOJ had formally disavowed the dossier and all four FISA warrants, along with any information obtained from them, saying “there was insufficient predication to establish probable cause.”
Lie #4: General Michael Flynn treasonously colluded with Russia and lied about it to the FBI
Trump’s first national security adviser was hounded out of the White House after less than two weeks on the job, after media leaks insinuated he had improperly discussed sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, violating the Logan Act, and then lied to the FBI about it.
After FBI Director James Comey was fired by Trump in May 2017, he told the media the president had urged him to drop the investigation of Flynn, which was quickly construed as “obstruction” and used as one of the pretexts to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel into Russiagate.
When actual evidence was finally coaxed out of prosecutors, however, it showed that the FBI sought to frame Flynn in a perjury trap, and that the people involved were Comey himself, his deputy Andrew McCabe, disgraced lovers Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and others. All charges against Flynn were dropped.
Flynn didn’t even lie to Strzok and the other agent interviewing him – and the memo of that conversation had been first heavily edited, then destroyed. Basically, everything about the Flynn case has been as false as ABC’s December 2017 bombshell report about his “collusion” with Russia that got Brian Ross fired.
Lie #5: Mueller found collusion, or at least Russian meddling
When Mueller’s final report came out, in the spring of 2019, it found zero evidence of “collusion” but insisted there had been Russian “meddling” in the election. The only trouble was that he had no proof of meddling, basing it entirely on the above-mentioned intelligence “assessments” and his own indictments.
A Russian company named in one of the indictments actually contested it in a US court and won. First, a federal judge slapped down Mueller’s prosecutors for violating rules by presenting allegations as “established” and “confirmed” facts and ruling that no link was actually established behind a catering company accused of “sowing discord” on social media – a far cry from hacking the DNC! – and the Russian government.
The DOJ quietly dropped that particular case in March, just as coronavirus shutdowns were starting across the US, using “recent events” and a change in classification of some of its evidence as a face-saving excuse.
Lie #6: Paul Manafort was Trump’s conduit to Russia
Paul Manafort, who ran Trump’s campaign between March and August 2016, was convicted of multiple counts of conspiracy against the US and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. However, despite repeated attempts by the media to present him as some kind of liaison between Trump and Russia, the entirety of things that got him in trouble with the law had to do with tax evasion on money he made lobbying for and in… Ukraine.
During the two trials against Manafort, it emerged that he and his business partner Rick Gates had worked with Podesta’s brother Tony to fleece Ukrainian oligarchs for years, and stash the profits in tax havens.
The Ukrainian officials who leaked the so-called “black ledger” implicating Manafort to the US media were even convicted of election meddling by a court in Kiev, and the whole thing may have been solicited by a Ukrainian-American DNC contractor… The US media have been curiously uninterested in that particular “collusion,” needless to say.
Peel back all these layers of misinformation, like an onion, and what’s left is an empty talking point, endlessly repeated by Democrats like Adam Schiff (D-California), that “Russia hacked our democracy.”
The charge is vague enough that it can mean anything, and deliberately so. No evidence is ever offered, because there isn’t any – as the years of investigations and boxes full of documents have clearly shown.