With concerns over attempts by foreign adversaries to influence the American political system at a fever pitch — notwithstanding that in the case of the president, the commentariat’s charges of certain treasonous Russian collusion have grudgingly been downgraded in slightly more sane quarters to dubious alleged campaign finance infractions — that the story of a Chinese spy in Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office has seemingly died is simply stunning.
From the start, this was a story the media had no interest in covering. Now it is apparent that our political class has no interest in probing it.
The reporting on Feinstein was limited to a few outlets — ignored by large newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, and major networks, excluding Fox News, which provided scant details as to what transpired and downplayed the potentially dire ramifications of the alleged breach.
The press took at face value boilerplate statements from Feinstein’s office seeking to dispel any suggestion that the Chinese had penetrated her office, with nary a question directed at the senator herself as she enjoyed her tranquil August recess.
The reporting also universally ignored, and thus concealed, the critical context that with even the smallest modicum of curiosity an observer would have unearthed regarding the fact that the alleged Chinese spy in her office was part of a much broader Feinstein-China mosaic.
Namely, reporters omitted that:
- Feinstein had cultivated a deep, longstanding, chummy relationship with China, including at the highest ranks of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), over a 40-year period. Or, perhaps, it was the other way around. Such ties dated back at least to the opening of a sister-city relationship between San Francisco and Shanghai, when then-Mayor Feinstein commenced a long friendship with her counterpart Mayor Jiang Zemin. Zemin would later rise to be the Xi Jinping of his day, sitting atop the CCP, and reportedly wining and dining Feinstein and her husband in unprecedented fashion at the residence of Mao Zedong. Zemin rose in tandem with Feinstein, who as U.S. senator would serve as a conduit to his government during the Clinton White House. The two remained close in spite of Zemin’s Marxist ideology and brutality in persecuting the dissident Falun Gong, among others.
- Feinstein doggedly lobbied for integrating China into the global economic architecture and normalizing trade relations with the U.S., untethering these benefits from Chinese human rights improvements. Feinstein thereby served as an invaluable asset in enabling China’s economic rise. The senator also frequently served as a dovish liaison to the Chinese government over contentious matters of foreign affairs. She took these positions all while repeatedly whitewashing China’s aforementioned human rights abuses, and seeking to draw shameful moral equivalency between Communist bloodshed and violent episodes in American history.
- Feinstein’s husband, investor Richard Blum, who, a la the Mao Zedong residence meal, frequently accompanied the senator to functions with high-ranking Chinese dignitaries, profited from both direct investments in China and those that appreciated alongside the rapid growth of the Chinese economy. China’s economic growth, and Blum’s profits, were both tied to America’s efforts to incorporate Beijing into the world trading system, and grant it access to U.S. consumers, businesses and technology — all staunchly supported by Feinstein.
Our story merely dug into the basic, public details of certain aspects of this history. An investigator, or even just an enterprising journalist, could surely discover far more worth scrutinizing.
Meanwhile, did it concern anyone that the alleged spy himself, Russell Lowe — a name you also will not find in the mainstream press, or see on television — is seemingly gallivanting freely in California, working for a non-profit outfit dedicated to the issue of “comfort women?”
This would surely please the CCP, who have engaged in a concerted campaign to leverage this issue as part of its anti-Japanese propaganda effort for years.
Was it too much of an effort to dig into the individual’s decades-long leftist, pro-China ties, and ask how this background might have impacted him in his position as “office director” and liaison to the Asian community in Feinstein’s office, his relationship with the senator and his interactions with Chinese officials including those in the its Ministry of State Security?
Lest one think these questions, and others previously raised on this issue are unreasonable, I asked a former longtime CIA operative what he made of China’s apparent efforts to infiltrate Feinstein’s office during a recent episode of the “Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten” podcast.
He described the foregoing as:
…incredibly troubling, and part and parcel of what they’re [the Chinese] doing across the board on a massive scale. And the response to this from [Feinstein’s] office, you know, where they acknowledged that this guy was dismissed … but claim he didn’t have technical direct access to classified information, is just mind-boggling. …
I mean, imagine that you have the functional equivalent in the Chinese government of somebody with her access, and we have an American source on our payroll sitting inside her office. We would consider that to be a coup of epic proportions. The access that individual would have, the conversations they would overhear, the documents they would see, the insights they would provide into mindset, meetings that were being held, I mean it’s just breathtaking to think about the access. So you know, saying something to the effect that technically he didn’t have classified access is just silliness.
By the way, the guy [presumed Chinese spy Russell Lowe] is still … actually apparently doing the bidding of the Chinese government. His big focus now is on what appears to me to be trying to, you know, work propaganda against the Japanese, stir up problems between the Japanese and Americans in that alliance, which seems to me to be pretty clearly the kind of thing that the Chinese would direct him to do.
If this is much ado about nothing, then why is no one asking any of the myriad questions about what occurred in Feinstein’s offices or putting a microphone in Lowe’s face?
Now, the media’s incuriosity in this story is not all that surprising, though it does expose as wholly disingenuous its conniptions over foreign meddling. To turn its attention to Feinstein would 1) distract from the constant drumbeat of stories the media deems detrimental to Trump and the Republican Party in the 2018 midterm election, 2) provide oxygen to the fire Trump himself stoked over this issue and 3) involve challenging a long-beloved Democrat, who in spite of her sagging popularity among progressives in California is among the senior-most U.S. senators, facing a general election challenge from her left.
As for the political class, sadly, it is not worth entertaining the possibility that Democrats would investigate their colleague. But why the GOP establishment remains mum on Feinstein and China however is an issue that deserves deeper scrutiny.
In terms of election year politics, it may well be that congressional Republicans view Feinstein’s opponent, California state Senate Majority Leader Kevin de León, as even worse for its agenda than Feinstein. So why engage in an investigation that might damage her politically? Further, the establishment may believe it politically advantageous to let fester the intra-party fight between the Left and the far Left.
This might explain why the only response by senior members of the GOP to the Feinstein-China revelations has been to highlight the double standard between the FBI tipping Feinstein off, for at least the second time, as to China’s efforts to influence her office, and its silence — not to mention embedding of spies within the Trump presidential campaign team — regarding Russia’s alleged efforts to influence then-candidate Trump. Relatedly, the president himself raised the broader hypocrisy of Feinstein’s pursuit of the Trump-Russia investigation while she herself appears to have had a foreign spy in her house.
The issue of a double standard in treatment between Feinstein and Trump by law enforcement is legitimate, and one can understand why Trump would highlight Feinstein’s hypocrisy.
But these claims concern secondary matters. The heart of the Feinstein-China issue are the dire national security implications of a high-ranking senator — with access to the most sensitive and highly classified information — potentially having her office penetrated by a Chinese spy, while she held sensitive assignments as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
What does it say about our political class that as far as we are aware, the lone representative to inquire into the merits of the issue was Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, who sent a letter to the FBI — to little fanfare and as of yet zero major public amplification — posing the most basic of queries?
Today I sent a letter to the @FBI Director requesting details on the threat posed by Senator Feinstein’s staffer who was reporting to Chinese officials while she headed the Senate Intelligence Committee. There are far more questions than answers at this point. pic.twitter.com/unakVN8StK
— Jim Banks (@RepJimBanks) August 14, 2018
If members of Congress do not care to pursue the truth purely because of 2018 political calculations — and incidentally, their investigation into Feinstein might only bolster her campaign (for a seat that will go Democrat regardless) by rallying her base in her defense — that is a sad commentary that they are prioritizing politics over national security.
If their lack of care is not political, this suggests one of two things: (a) Congress is privy to information we are not, indicating there is nothing to be concerned about regarding Feinstein-China, or (b) Congress does not wish to investigate Feinstein-China.
There is little to indicate the former based on what few comments we have seen from Republican officials.
On the latter, why might Congress not wish to investigate Feinstein-China? First, just as law enforcement and intelligence community officials constantly invoke the need to “protect the institutions,” our elected officials are members of a bureaucracy too, to which they are beholden. They will close ranks and protect their own just like organs of the administrative state. This is a bipartisan reflex. Second, and relatedly, to investigate Feinstein might lead to the exposure of others in Congress with questionable ties to foreign powers — ties that may reflect similarly symbiotic relationships, whether incidental or not, involving political support resulting in personal enrichment, and, yes, potentially disastrous penetration.
Look, after all, at what has happened in the case of the Awans, who breached sensitive congressional systems while working in the offices of prominent representatives who served on the House intelligence committee and appear to be facing minimal penalty for it, with letters of support from the offices of the representatives themselves, to the degree to which you have even heard of the story.
Regardless, that virtually the entire political class remains mum on Feinstein-China illustrates that their fear-mongering over foreign meddling was just that, fearmongering. Rather, their sole interest was in using allegations of Russian foreign meddling vis-à-vis Trump — Clinton-Fusion GPS-Steele-Russian ties be damned — as a pretext to undertake a limitless fishing expedition designed to distract, hamstring and ultimately topple a president.
This is most devastating for our republican system of government. Of all the areas that must remain free from corrosive politicization, national security and foreign affairs sits right at the top alongside the justice system because it deals with matters of life and death.
While it was clear during the Obama years that politics was engulfing our institutions in chilling ways, such as in the weaponization of the IRS, the backlash by the institutions against Trump, lest he upset the status quo under which it retains power, has shown that politics has truly triumphed.
That Congress has shown zero desire to investigate the alleged Chinese spy in Feinstein’s office is another symptom of this politicization, an indictment of both parties and an indictment of the institution itself.
The silence on Feinstein-China is deafening.