What times we live in now that Donald Trump is president. I’m serious. We have the American Association of Retired Persons running an ad campaign featuring the president in a positive light, though conservatives were probably put off by it since it rehashes Trump’s pledge to not touch Social Security and Medicare. We have rabid anti-gunner Piers Morgan defending Trump from the media’s attacks - never thought I would ever find myself giving a hat tip to this person. And now the left wing publication The Nation is saying that the Democrats’ obsession with Russia is pretty much “neo-McCarthyite furor.” Katrina vanden Huevel, the editor and publisher of the left wing magazine, was very open last week about how she felt former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was unqualified for the position. Flynn resigned from the post after intelligence leaks revealed he had misled the vice president. She also said that an independent commission should be formed to look into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
Vanden Heuvel then reiterated the claim: that Russia-backed hackers infiltrated the Democratic National Committee’s servers and the email of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and leaked information with the intention of damaging her presidential campaign. The U.S. intelligence community said that the Kremlin conducted a concerted propaganda campaign through state-funded media outlets and social media trolls to influence the election.
Yet, she noted that what we know of the report, most of which remains classified, is “threadbare,” and “contained no information about how the agencies had collected their data or had come to their conclusions.” A concerted propaganda campaign isn’t necessarily a hack, and Facebook noted that the fake news spread on the social media program didn’t sway the election. The Economist also reported on a study that said fake news played no pivotal role during the race.
Circling back to Flynn, misleading the VP is grounds for you to be shown the exit, but it appears that Flynn didn’t do anything wrong concerning the discussions with the Russian ambassador, especially regarding any Logan Act violations. Vanden Huevel lamented how congressional Democrats are viewing any contact with Russia as an act of subversion, which fans the flames of this “neo-McCarthyite furor.”
According to intelligence agency leaks, intercepted conversations between Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Flynn, then the incoming national security adviser for President-elect Trump, suggest that Flynn may have urged the Russians not to overreact to the Obama sanctions. Putin chose not to respond in a traditional tit for tat. According to the leaks, intelligence agencies went to acting attorney general Sally Q.Yates with concerns that Flynn might be subject to Russian blackmail. She took those concerns to Trump. Weeks later, Flynn was fired for misleading Vice President Pence, among others, about the substance of his conversations.
But the Times editorial board and others suggest that mere contact with Russian officials is somehow nefarious, if not criminal — and that to suggest better relations are in the offing with a new president is virtual treason.
This is simply bizarre. Trump spoke positively of Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout the campaign, stating he would seek to enlist Russia in the fight against the Islamic State. If Flynn was reassuring the Russian ambassador that Obama’s sanctions wouldn’t dissuade Trump, he was doing what any national security adviser might do for a president-elect.
In the targeting of Trump, too many liberals have joined in fanning a neo-McCarthyite furor, working to discredit those who seek to deescalate U.S.-Russian tensions, and dismissing anyone expressing doubts about the charges of hacking or collusion as a Putin apologist. But, as the Nation has editorialized, “skepticism isn’t treason; instead it’s essential to establishing the truth.”
Foreign interference in U.S. elections is unacceptable. Leaks of secret intelligence to discredit an elected president are bad precedent. We need an independent investigation that reports publicly on what happened and what steps are necessary to protect against both. What we don’t need is a replay of Cold War hysteria that cuts off debate, slanders skeptics and undermines any effort to explore areas of agreement with Russia in our own national interest.
The House Intelligence Committee hasn’t finalized the scope of their investigation, but Russian interference and the leaks are on the priorities list. Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) said there’s no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign as of now, while ranking member Adam Schiff (D-CA) said that no conclusions can be made. Most of what Vanden Huevel says I disagree with, but she’s right about the liberal hysteria over Russia. It’s a tad odd since in 2012, Democrats laughed at Mitt Romney for calling Russia our biggest geopolitical foe. Remember when Obama told Romney that the 1980s called and they want their foreign policy back. My have the tables have turned.
And then, there's Podesta saying that there's some sort of fifth column within the FBI who wanted Clinton to lose. How about the Left just admit she was a terrible candidate and move on?
Addendum: As Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under siege by congressional Democrats over two undisclosed interactions with the Russian ambassador, it’s increasingly looking like a stretch. Moreover, it looks as if Democrats are trying to retroactively say that they were asking Sessions during his confirmation process if he met with anyone from the Russian government during the election—but that’s not what they asked him (via WaPo) [emphasis mine]:
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D-MN): CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week, that included information that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” These documents also allegedly say “there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so, you know.
But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?
JEFF SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.
FRANKEN: Very well.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sends Sessions a lengthy letter asking about Russia (and a number of other things).
“Several of the President-Elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after Election Day?”
Upon The Washington Post’s article noting two undisclosed contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Sessions’ statement said, “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
One of the rendezvous occurred at a Heritage Foundation event about European relations in July, where 50 ambassadors were present, including Kislyak. Sessions spoke with some of them one-on-one; Kislyak was one of them—but we also have to remember that Sessions was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. These sort of interactions are common.
The Post’s Philip Bump, who compiled the timeline, noted that Democrats might be overplaying their hand on this one. Scores of Democrats have called on Sessions to resign, while Republicans and some Democrats are beginning to urge the AG to recuse himself from pending probes into Russia’s activity during the 2016 election.