McCarthyism describes an event in American history where a Senator claimed to have in his briefcase evidence that high-ranking government officials were colluding with Russia. Lives were destroyed based solely on the accusation.
Finally, when people had had enough, the attorney representing the U.S. Army turned to the Senator and said, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” That ended it.
The present Russian investigation hit its “have you no sense of decency” moment last week when Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians for defrauding America. By all appearances, they are the sort of unsophisticated internet trolls who, with clunky English, implore social media users to do stupid things.
There is no evidence that they influenced anything. A significant portion of the objectionable activity, including the bulk of the Facebook ads and the attempt to organize a Trump rally, happened after the election.
The ubiquitous “Tasty – Pull Apart Garlic Rolls!” Facebook post has had more likes, shares and smiley faces than anything Russia did to affect the election. The indictment is killing a fly with a sledge hammer.
President Obama knew about the trolling in 2014 and that was his judgment, too. He told Putin to cut it out. It was not worth bothering international relations over. As Commander-in-Chief, he was permitted to assess Russian social media activity and roll his eyes. Because that’s how America works.
Except in the age of Trump. If you think it strange that President Trump controls all armies in the field, the diplomatic corps, the intelligence agencies, but an unelected Justice Department appointee is setting American foreign policy over Russian internet trolling, here’s how that happened.
In 2016, the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election. Attorney General Sessions recused himself because people told him he may be a spy and he said, sure, why not.
The second in command, Rod Rosenstein, advised the president to fire the FBI director. Then, when people got mad at him for that, he appointed a special counsel, Robert Mueller, to investigate the president because the firing suggested that he was a Russian spy.
Confused yet? It gets better.
There was no crime to investigate because counterintelligence investigations are not criminal proceedings. The special counsel statute requires the referral to identify a crime. Rosenstein got by this legal requirement by ignoring it. Mueller was appointed not to investigate a specified crime but to stroke his chin and look into Russian interference in the election.
During the special counsel’s tenure, the House and the Senate uncovered oodles of evidence that foreign nationals were providing Hillary Clinton with opposition research meant to influence the election.
A British subject, Christopher Steele, coordinated with seedy Russians to produce a salacious and unverified dossier that was leaked to the press and caused tremendous disruption in the Trump campaign. Hillary Clinton paid millions of dollars for it.
That’s some pretty effective Russian meddling, right there. The special counsel, though, ignored it and instead indicted the hapless internet trolls.
The indictment does say, “Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”
One does not have to be too great a cynic to surmise that the purpose of this indictment was to make that out-of-context statement. Trump’s political opponents needed some official looking document to bolster their collapsing narrative, and that quote has supplied a weekend’s worth of headlines. The whole thing has the look and feel of a rank political gesture disguised as law enforcement.
The purpose of the indictment certainly is not to bring criminals to justice. The accused are in Russia, laughing – and are not going to come to the United States to defend themselves.
Too bad the Russians will not extradite themselves to face prosecution because if they did, they would have some pretty good defenses.
They could say that nothing prevents them from opening Facebook and Instagram pages under false names to engage in political activity. I am on Facebook, and 20% of my “Friends” (I would guess) are using some combination of their first and middle name, or mother’s maiden name, or in one case, first name and favorite vegetable, to make even political statements.
They could point out that foreign nationals try to influence American elections all the time, but they were singled out for exercising their right to free speech, guaranteed even to foreigners by the U.S. Constitution.
They could introduce evidence that millions of illegals in American – yes, even the Dreamers –were organizing, marching, and otherwise helping Hillary Clinton in the last election. They could go deep on the Clinton Foundation, and show that its foreign donors were paying money that one way or other impacted the election. They could point to the dossier and ask why they were treated differently than its author and contributors, who were also foreign nationals.
Americans elected Trump because they are convinced that Washington has so lost touch with reality that it needed to be led by a reality show host. This Russian collusion stuff has Washington in a tizzy, but to everyone else it has always been a fantasy. This indictment confirms that.
Have you no sense of decency, Robert Mueller, at long last? Please stop issuing unrelated and un-prosecutable indictments and just admit that you have nothing in the briefcase.