The so-called Nunes memo prepared for the Republican majority on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, even if overblown, clearly suggests that there might have been an unwarranted and quite possibly illegal Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) surveillance of a former Trump staffer over his completely legal Russian business ties. Meanwhile, the nine month-long Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigation into Moscow’s possible interference in the US election has so far only demonstrated that it was Israel rather than Russia that meddled with the campaign by meeting with Trump associates and seeking favors. Notably missing is any evidence that the Russian government did anything beyond the usual probing that intelligence agencies worldwide do when confronted by important developments in another country that is either a competitor or adversary.
An aspect of the Republican memo that has been scarcely commented upon in the avalanche of news reporting centered on the story is how the mainstream media is continuing to exercise a dangerous obsession with Russia and is insisting that the Russiagate inquiry should continue even more aggressively in spite of the concerns raised by the Republican memo that the entire process has been politicized. There is absolutely nothing in the memo itself that indicates that Moscow actually tried to recruit any Trump associate as an agent or interfere in the US election. The raison d’etre for both the Congressional and Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigations appears to be lacking. It might eventually emerge that Russia did little or even nothing beyond the usual probing and nosing around that intelligence agencies routinely do.
President Donald Trump, who ran for office on a sensible pledge to seek better relations with Moscow, has provided only feeble resistance to the media and political class onslaught. He has recently allowed the Justice Department and Treasury to punish Russia’s two major news outlets operating in the United States, RT America and Sputnik. They both have been forced to register as foreign agents, even though no other non-American news service operating in the United States has been compelled to do the same, while new allegations about perfidious Moscow surface weekly.
Two recent news reports illustrate perfectly just how out-of-control the Russia inquiry has become. At the end of January, the US Treasury Department released the names of 210 alleged Kremlin insiders, including government ministers, who were being included on a list for possible sanctions, though it was also announced that no sanctions would be put in place pending further ongoing review of the behavior of those individuals under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The so-called “Kremlin List” was clearly designed to put pressure on the inner circle of the Russian government as many of those named have major business dealings with the United States and Western Europe that could be severely damaged through sanctions. The intention may have been to encourage those individuals to lessen their support for President Vladimir Putin in the upcoming Russian national elections, beginning on March 18th.
The Kremlin List is clearly an attempt to interfere in Russian internal politics and should be regarded as such. It comes on top of an obviously coordinated British government claim that Moscow intends to rip British “infrastructure apart, actually cause thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths,” and create “total chaos within the country.”
The second story, which is more bizarre than the first, describes how Congressman Adam Schiff told a University of Pennsylvania audience that Russian-promoted ads during the 2016 election encouraged people to exercise their Second Amendment rights to own guns. Per Schiff, “the Russians would be thrilled if we were doing nothing but killing each other very day, and sadly we are.”
Neither Congressman Adam Schiff’s meanderings nor the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act serve any conceivable United States national interest and the Nunes Memo demonstrates, if anything, that the evidence for Russian interference in the US election is somewhat elusive. If the alleged Russiagate conspiracy is never actually demonstrated, which looks increasingly likely, it would certainly disappoint the many American talking heads and media “experts” who have been making a living off of bashing Moscow 24/7, but it might also provide a window for the White House to fulfill its electoral promise to fix the Russia relationship.