Flashback: That Time When Barack Obama Secretly Reached Out To Russia And Iran

Matt Vespa
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Posted: May 31, 2017 1:15 PM
Flashback: That Time When Barack Obama Secretly Reached Out To Russia And Iran

It’s getting to the point where one has to wonder if the liberal news media forgot that Barack Obama was president, if they ever read a Tom Clancy novel, or both. The latest non-troversy is top Trump aide Jared Kushner reportedly wanting to set up a secret back channel with the Russians. Fox News’s Catherine Herridge reported that a source told her that no back channel discussion ever came up. Regardless, let’s rehash the fact that back channels are not unusual. The Obama administration and other past administration have used them—and yes, they’ve mostly been conducted in secret. Should we have a special counsel look into that as well? All of this noise feeds into the ongoing drama over whether Trump officials colluded with the Russians during the 2016 election.

On the ABC’s This Week, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that back channels are acceptable and normal functions of diplomacy. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has not only reiterated that there is no evidence of Russian collusion, but back channeling is a “long standing practice.”

Josh Rogin, who was then with Bloomberg, wrote that during the Obama presidency, the White House secretly reached out to the Russians (gasp!) over their recent aggression in Ukraine three years ago. It was largely unsuccessful, but given how some Democrats are reacting to meetings Trump officials had with Russians, all of which have thus far been legal and proper, we need another commission to look into Obama’s actions because it's only fair that we do so, right?

President Barack Obama's administration has been working behind the scenes for months to forge a new working relationship with Russia, despite the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown little interest in repairing relations with Washington or halting his aggression in neighboring Ukraine.

[…]

Leading the charge has been Secretary of State John Kerry. This fall, Kerry even proposed going to Moscow and meeting with Putin directly. The negotiations over Kerry’s trip got to the point of scheduling, but ultimately were scuttled because there was little prospect of demonstrable progress.

In a separate attempt at outreach, the White House turned to an old friend of Putin’s for help. The White House called on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to discuss having him call Putin directly, according to two officials. It’s unclear whether Kissinger actually made the call. The White House and Kissinger both refused to comment for this column.

Oh my God—this was done “behind the scenes.” It’s time for a special prosecutor. The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel also threw cold water on this back channel hysteria on NBC’s Meet the Press, noting that then-candidate Obama sent William Miller, a former diplomat under Bill Clinton, to Iran to tell that government should Obama win the 2008 election—there will be friendlier terms. Fareed Zakaria also wrote about this rendezvous in The Washington Post (via Real Clear Politics):

KIM STRASSEL: I think we are having a discussion that is absolutely divorced from reality this week. It is astonishing. Let me set the scene for you. It's 2008. We are having an election. And candidate Obama, he's not even president-elect, sends William Miller over to Iran to establish a back channel and let the Iranians know that should he win the election they will have friendlier terms.

Okay, so this is a private citizen going to foreign soil obviously in order to evade U.S. intelligence monitoring and establishing a back channel with a sworn enemy of the United States who was actively disrupting our efforts in the military in the Middle East.

So is that bad judgment? Is that a bad thing that happened? Back channels are completely normal. They happen all the time. Reagan did them. Obama did them. Everyone did. So I'm not quite sure why supposedly having, at least the president's now elected, setting up a back channel with the Russians is somehow out of bounds.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid noted that it’s different because Iran wasn’t trying to interfere in our election, citing the intelligence community’s report that Russia tried to interfere though state-funded news outlets and social media trolls. That’s not hacking by the way.

And she’s right that Iran and Russia are different; Iran is just actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Reid cites the Reuters story, where it was discovered that there were 18 undisclosed contacts Trump officials had with the Russians in the last seven months of the campaign. I guessed she didn’t get to the buried part of the story, where it showed that none of these meetings point to collusion or wrongdoing.

“The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far,” reported the news organization.

Also, it’s not like the intelligence community didn’t know this was happening. They knew. Of course, they knew, but they did nothing. Former CIA Director John Brennan contacted his Russian counterparts and told them to stop. After that, the Obama administration did nothing. When former FBI Director James Comey wanted to write an op-ed about Russian interference in the summer of 2016, the Obama administration also stopped him.

Again, there is zero evidence of Russian collusion. Election interference, while troubling, is not uncommon. We’re no angels in this department. Between 1946-2000, the United States interfered in 81 elections from other countries. At the end of the day, much of the Russian collusion drama, some of which is Neo-McCarthyite hysteria, is rooted in Liberal America’s inability to cope with Hillary Clinton losing the election. If Clinton had won and tried to create a back channel with Russia, she would have been lauded as someone trying to "reset" her reset in Russian-American relations.