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Sargent writes: "One of the most comical - or perhaps deeply troubling - aspects of the massive effort by President Trump and his allies to create an alternate narrative to the Russia probe is that it continues unabated, even as the numerous conspiracy theories created to bolster it have, one after another, fallen like dominoes."

Representative Devin Nunes. (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Representative Devin Nunes. (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Devin Nunes's Laughable Spin to Protect Trump Crashes and Burns

By Greg Sargent, The Washington Post

09 February 18



ne of the most comical — or perhaps deeply troubling — aspects of the massive effort by President Trump and his allies to create an alternate narrative to the Russia probe is that it continues unabated, even as the numerous conspiracy theories created to bolster it have, one after another, fallen like dominoes.

This morning, Post fact checker Glenn Kessler offers a comprehensive look at various threads of this alt-narrative that helps illustrate just how buffoonish this whole effort has become. Kessler takes as his starting point a remarkable statement from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who is perhaps Trump’s staunchest bodyguard against accountability on Capitol Hill. Nunes said this in a radio interview:

“The truth is that they [Democrats] are covering up that Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians to get dirt on Trump to feed it to the FBI to open up an investigation into the other campaign.”

In a sense, this is a perfect one-sentence distillation of the whole alt-narrative, because it turns the facts entirely upside down: The story isn’t that the Trump campaign may have conspired with a concerted Russian effort to sabotage our democracy that has been documented by U.S. intelligence services. It’s that Clinton actually colluded with Russia to undermine the Trump candidacy — this is the real sense in which Russia sabotaged our democracy — and that the real role of the Deep State was to assist in that effort to swing the election, which, of course, continues today with the Deep State Plot to Remove Trump.

As Kessler shows, everything about this Nunes statement is a lie. The much-ballyhooed Nunes memo was supposed to illustrate that statement, by showing that Deep State operatives improperly obtained warrants to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page on the basis of information in the Democratic-funded “Steele dossier,” which was based on former British spy Christopher Steele’s Russian sources and is supposed to show the whole probe was tainted. In fact, the Nunes memo actually revealed that the genesis of the probe was information gathered earlier by the FBI about former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos, which completely gives the lie to Nunes’s claim that dirt on Trump from Clinton is what got the FBI to “open up an investigation.”

What’s more, the Nunes memo also stated that the warrant for surveillance had repeatedly been renewed, which accidentally demonstrates that judges repeatedly saw new evidence that justified continuing that surveillance. As Paul Rosenzweig puts it, this actually “validated the FBI’s investigation,” which further demolishes the Nunes narrative. Meanwhile, as Kessler demonstrates, it’s a huge stretch to claim the Steele dossier represented Clinton-Russia collusion to begin with, since Clinton was far removed from Steele’s reliance on Russian sources.

An ugly pattern

This is part of a pattern, in which one absurd conspiracy theory after another has crashed and burned. Let’s review:

  • The Nunes memo actually revealed that the genesis of the FBI probe of Trump-Russia collusion was the activity of a Trump adviser (Papadopoulos) who had been apprised of dirt gathered by Russia on Clinton. It predated the FBI’s use of the Steele dossier, which is at the center of the grand alt-narrative, and showed that the FBI probe had been repeatedly validated by judges.

  • Republicans release a September 2016 text between the FBI’s Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, which said Barack Obama “wants to know everything we’re doing.” This is supposed to demonstrate Obama interference in the FBI probe of Clinton. But there was no Clinton probe at the time — it had been resolved in July (and was only reopened in late October). What’s more, associates of Strzok and Page say Obama actually wanted information on Russian meddling. This makes much more sense — and, if true, it shows that this “scandal” is that Obama wanted information on Russian sabotage of our democracy, which Trump still often maintains never happened.

  • Republicans darkly said another Strzok-Page text containing the words “secret society” signaled deep FBI corruption. Then the full text was released, and it turned out to be about calendars and appeared to be a joke.

  • Congressional GOP investigators are preparing to interview an informant who supposedly has the goods on the Uranium One “scandal,” in which Clinton supposedly authorized a deal in which Russia obtained uranium extraction rights in the United States, in exchange for kickbacks to the Clinton Foundation. But top Oversight and Intelligence committee Democrats just released a letter claiming that the Justice Department privately briefed committee staffers and told them that the Justice Department had actually dismissed the reliability of this informant in a separate investigation. To be fair, this has not been confirmed. But as it is, the idea that the Uranium One deal is a scandal has already been thoroughly debunked. And independent reporting is likely to confirm that account soon enough.

This is just a partial list. To be clear, serious congressional oversight with regard to the intelligence services’ use of surveillance is absolutely appropriate and desirable. But if anything, that only confirms just what a massive abdication we’re seeing here: In GOP hands, this oversight activity is being perverted into a kind of weaponized obfuscation and misdirection campaign designed to guard Trump and his associates from accountability, which is a serious abuse of power and the public trust in its own right. This keeps getting demonstrated again, and again, and again. Yet it continues, unabated and undaunted. your social media marketing partner


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-35 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-02-09 18:25
It is interesting to see the Wash Post's all out campaign to capture the narrative following the release of the Nunes memo. I sometimes watch news on youtube and the Wash Post is saturating youtube with short (3 to 5 minute) lectures very much like this article above.

The Post's efforts are not stopping the turn away from Russia and toward the Intelligence community and the Clinton Campaign. Obama is also being drawn in, following the Stzrok-Pages texts referring to FBI briefings of Obama on this issue. Of particular importance is the Senate committee memo to Jeff Sessions requesting a criminal investigation of Christopher Steele. The Senate committee has discovered some very troubling information about Steele.

The Wash Post is now playing an inverse-Waterga te role. It is trying hard to persuade all of us that nothing happened. There was no conspiracy of the Clinton campaign to illegally surveil the Trump campaign. In spite of the Wash Post, this is a high-tech Watergate DNC office break in. It is just that this time the Wash Post is saying that nothing happened, just like Nixon and his supporters did way back when.

For a much better analysis check out Stephen F. Cohen,

"Russiagate or Intelgate?"
-16 # Wally Jasper 2018-02-10 08:01
The comments section of RSN demonstrates that we're in a new era of readership. Rodion is getting negatives for not jumping on the Democratic Party bandwagon in the partisan mud-slinging spectacle that only detracts from how corrupt and self-serving both parties are. None of this intrigue is about anything that really matters, like our fragile and faltering democracy or escalating economic inequality and wealth gap, or the environmental devastation and headlong rush into climate apocalypse. Thanks, Rodion, for helping expose mainstream media's role in contributing to our national insanity.
-1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-02-10 12:27
W.J. Thanks. Even though I'm attacked by lots of "democrats," I've always said that I'd prefer almost any democrat to almost any republican. Russiagate is a losing campaign strategy. It will make democrats lose more in 2018 than they did in 2016. Why are we following the really incompetent Hillary campaign managers who effed up so badly in 2016? Following them in this Russiagate parade is true insanity. Sanders did not do this, although he is being co-opted now.

The pressure to follow Russiagate is really intense. You can see it on this board. If you don't follow blindly, you will be thumbed down and called all kinds of names. That is peer pressure and bullying. It is much worse for journalists. Bill Blum tells of his encounter with David Cay Johnson, a really good reporter, but who has drunk the Russiagate Kool-Aid. When Blum questioned him, he got angry and cut him off.

The leaders of the democratic party and their backers in the CIA, Soros, and others in the Deep State have decreed that we will all sing the hymns of Russiagate loudly and clearly as we march toward the cliff. We will also be commanded to sing as we plunge into the abyss. Then republicans will control everything.
+4 # Wally Jasper 2018-02-10 21:24
And while the Dems are singing the hymns of Russiagate, the Repubs will be sneakily gerrymandering, cross-checking, deleting Dem. voters and electronically switching votes in Dem. precincts. That's the real story that both parties are covering up. Yes, our elections are being interfered with but it's not through any foreign entity. Doesn't this prove that Repubs and Dems are posing as two parties but really serve the same system run by the .1% oligarchy? (And yes, of course, the Dems. at least pretend to care about regular people. But they're off in neoliberal la-la land. Only Bernie and a few others are real.)
+2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-02-11 11:35
Exactly right. Sanders and his faction in the Democratic party are doing the right things. It would be nice to see them simply out ballot the hymn singing Clinton choir in the primaries. It could happen.
+1 # librarian1984 2018-02-11 13:24
The same thing happened during the primary. Sanders supporters here said there was polling evidence that Sanders was a stronger opponent against Trump, but anyone who said so was called a Hillary-hater etc.

Reason is rare in both parties.

I understand that it's convenient for the establishment leadership to spin this narrative, but why are Dem voters willing to go along? How can they be manipulated SO easily? All these years we've criticized GOP voters for going against reason and self-interest -- and here we are doing the exact same thing, even when it's explicitly pointed out.

Russiagate is scoffed at by respected analysts like Chomsky, Klein, Greenwald, VIPS, etc but people ignore them. It necessitates defending the intel agencies we've long mistrusted. It involves a complete reversal from Obama, who laughed when Mitt Romney said Russia was our biggest problem, and Hillary, who brought Putin the big red reset button -- but they seem to have forgotten. Relevant news is ignored by the msm.

It's crazy and irrational. People aren't willing to talk about facts, just knee-jerk accuse any dissent as suspect, putting the lie to liberal values of tolerance and reason.
+1 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-02-10 09:23
"Russiagate or Intelgate?"

Are you supposing both could not be valid simultaneously?
+2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-02-10 12:18
I am supposing that the both could not. Russiagate was a total fabrication of the FBI, CIA, DOJ, and the Clinton campaign. Remember the description in the book "Shattered: Inside Hillary's Doomed Campaign," the story is told about the origin of Russiagate:

"That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument"

Presumable, had Hillary and the campaign conceded defeat and let the Russiagate campaign tactic die, the FBI and DOJ would also have let it go. But no one did. They doubled-down on it, as they are now doing once again in the wake of the Nunes memo. See here -

"‘This is Nuts’: Liberals Launch ‘Largest Mobilization in History’ in Defense of Russiagate"
February 9, 2018
Coleen Rowley and Nat Parry

"Exclusive: Hundreds of thousands have pledged to take to the streets if Special Counsel Robert Mueller is removed, reflecting misplaced priorities and some fundamental misunderstandin gs. . . ."

The article above is part of this doubling-down on Russiagate.

I agree with Stephen Cohen -- this is a case of the intelligence Agencies meddling in a US election.
-1 # dbrize 2018-02-10 16:43
Quoting Kootenay Coyote:
"Russiagate or Intelgate?"

Are you supposing both could not be valid simultaneously?

Have you read the Cohen piece?

If yes, the question is superfluous. If no, you are getting ahead of yourself.
+1 # Salus Populi 2018-02-10 18:55
Thanks for the link, Rodion; the headline highlighted and linked at the end, about the hiring by the ostensibly "free" mainscream tedia's hiring the likes of Brennan, Clapper, and other warwishers and violence addicts to "neutrally" comment on the news for pay -- as they have been doing for a long time as "guests" for free -- is also an excellent read. It's truly a pity that, even without "net neutrality"'s jamming the communication networks, and Google's designing its new algorithms to exclude the radical left, the "pwogwessives," as Alex Cockburn used to call them, have signed on as unpaid cheerleaders for the vile mass murderers and criminals who make up the enforcement arm of our secret police state.
+12 # chrisconno 2018-02-10 04:00
Trump in as vindictive as they come. He doesn't like women and he especially doesn't like them when they are smarter and not so attractive. He also finds them easy scapegoats because we have a patriarchy. Trump also needs plenty of cover because he has never met an honest person he liked. Trump is as corrupt as they come and Hillary fits all his requirements for an easy target for cover.
-17 # 2018-02-10 10:18
Trump has an exemplary record on promoting and supporting women (and not just the pretty ones) during his private sector career. This chatter about his sexism is a fabrication made up by those who need to see the world in black and white terms -- "how could my political enemy be good on gender issues?" He may indeed have behaved badly in personal relationships but so did JFK, WJC and many more politicians.

And Trump is definitely not "vindictive." We have watched him do 180 degree turns on numerous rivals in the past year and a half.

I didn't vote for him and I disapprove of many of his political policies but there is no need to smear him on subjects where he is innocent.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
-12 # 2018-02-10 10:25
Trump is incorrect about the Nunes memo "exonerating" him. The Nunes memo information has no impact on the Mueller investigation -- as most Republicans have noted.

The Nunes memo very properly criticizes the FBI leadership and the secret FISA court process. It is becoming clear that the FBI deprived Carter Page of his constitutional rights. Using flimsy, inaccurate, and/or unverified evidence to support their case, the FBI spied on an American citizen who also happened to be a former Trump campaign volunteer. This information says nothing about Trump but a huge amount about the abuse of power at the FBI.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-02-10 12:38
LN -- "The Nunes memo information has no impact on the Mueller investigation"

I disagree with this. The Nunes memo exposed Rod Rosenstein as a part of the FBI and DOJ team that cooked up Russiagate and possibly defrauded the FISA court. He is now implicated in the scandal. He will be under investigation pretty soon. He will have to recuse himself from supervising Mueller's investigation. How could he objectively and fairly supervise the investigation when he was a key part of launching it? With Rosenstein gone, Meuller might get some controls placed on him.

We have to remember, Mueller is not an "independent prosecutor." That law expired in 1999. Mueller is a prosecutor in the Justice Dept. He takes orders from his bosses. They can direct his work or even cancel his work if they choose. Rosenstein is now taking orders from Mueller because Mueller is a friend of Comey. That will go when Rosenstein resigns or recuses himself.

Watch this. Rosenstein is toast!

Rosenstein is clear that he is in charge of the Mueller investigation. The Nunes memo makes clear that Rosenstein is part of the Comey, Strzok, Mccabe, Ohr, cabal. He's toast.
-1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-02-10 12:39
Forgot the link to the Rosenstein congressional testimony.
+3 # Salus Populi 2018-02-10 11:40
Why is RSN continually republishing the drivel of the BrainWashington Pest, "the CIA's favorite newspaper," as it has been known since at least the early eighties, when its then-publisher told the CIA that there were things that the government does that it is not appropriate for the public to know, and that the task of the mainstream media was precisely to keep the public in the dark about things that were none of their business?

Katherine Graham, that publisher, who considered Nancy Reagan a close friend, was instrumental in supporting the lies of the Reagan administratoin, as well as the far-right warmongers of the Cheney-Bush administration on Iraqi WMDs, though unlike the New York Times, her paper was never called to account.

The paper's reputation for "liberalism" rests entirely on Watergate, which removed the last president to favor detente with the Soviet Union and ushered in the era of Team B, Scoop Jackson's Committee on the Present Danger, and the return to Cold War perceptions about the only country with the power to inhibit U.S. aggression against the rest of the world.

Noam Chomsky has called Nixon the "last liberal president," and he has a point. Today's "liberals" are well to the right of Reagan, in his time the most right-wing president ever, with the possible exception of the authoritarian reactionary [also considered by our court historians to be a "great" president"] Woodrow Wilson.

Whatever happened to the nominal "left"?
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-02-10 12:50
Salus -- thanks. great post. Russiagate or Hillary's loss has really transformed RSN. It now mostly publishes mainstream media -- Wapo, NYT, Guardian, Politico, Daily Beast, ThinkProgress. Rarely does it publish independent media or any of the great left-wing websites.

Here's an important story on the Wash Post and the CIA's operation Mockingbird. The program of the CIA to take over news in the US was cooked up by Frank Wisner and Philip Graham who were OSS buddies.

Also, does anyone wonder why Carl Bernstein of the famous Woodward and Bernstein duo dropped out of sight. It is because following Watergate, he began to investigate the CIA's influence in news organizations. He made himself unemployable.

And so RSN has become a franchise retailer of the CIA and its disinformation campaigns. Truly amazing. I really wish RSN would wake up. Someday we will all wake up and the Russiagate story will be gone. It will be disappeared down the memory hole and there will be no trace. But right now it is useful in keeping Democrats in line behind the party's leaders.
-1 # Salus Populi 2018-02-11 00:01
Thanks again for the links and for your posts in general. Bernstein wrote a list published in the Rolling Stone around 1976 of the 600 [!] mainstream media outlets that had served as willing cat's paws for the CIA.

You're right; unlike Woodward, who went on to become a favorite of the Reicht with his fawning portrait of Duhbya as a Churchillian war statesman, he kept to his beat, and disappeared.

Woodward, not so incidentally, before joining th ePost as a lead reporter with virtually no reportoial background -- hired by Ben Bradlee, who in the early fifties served as a witting asset of the CIA in France, proclaiming the guilt and the justifiability of the execution of the Rosenbergs, who as Jews so soon after the Nazi pogroms, and in light of the refusal of FDR's administration to admit boatloads of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, excited worries in Europe that the U.S. was taking up where the Nazis left off.

Woodward had previously served in Naval Intelligence under General Alexander Haig, whom some suspect, despite the very late and convenient confession of the ex-FBI agent a few years ago, of being Deep Throat and engineering Watergate on behalf of the far right, which was upset with Kissinger's "back-door" negotiations with Mao, and with detente in general. Haig, you may remember, later was made Reagan's first Secretary of State.
-2 # harleysch 2018-02-10 14:06
The author claims that Russian sabotage of the U.S. election "has been documented by
U.S. intelligence services."

WHERE? There has been no documentation, only non-stop allegations. The VIPS report proves the so-called hacking of the DNC emails was actually an inside job. The Jan. 6, 2017 statement by intel agencies, stating they were "highly confident" that there was Russian meddling, has never been proven.

Nunes makes a mistake by accusing Clinton of colluding with Russian intelligence. In fact, her collusion is with British intelligence, as the Washington Post (ironically) confirms in their article on Christopher Steele, "Hero or Hired Gun?" The article shows he was ultimately deployed by the former head of MI6, Dearlove, to bring his dossier to the FBI. Some savvy readers of RSN may remember Dearlove as the one who provided an earlier "dodgy dossier" to Tony Blair, who gave it to Bush, to bolster the case for attacking Iraq. Yes, the same MI6 Director who pushed the wmd line (no doubt he was "highly confident" in its findings, was backing Steele.

It would be highly beneficial for RSN's progressive credentials to give up posting articles from WaPo. I wonder if the Post's "fact-checker" ever checks the claims made by their reporters!
+1 # tpmco 2018-02-10 14:51
Speaking of laughable, this article is it.

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