Like a particularly obstinate toe eczema, or a risible sequel of the Star Wars franchise, the Russia hysteria is back, just in time to poison the well before the elections. A new article (written by four reporters, no less!) for The New York Times claims that five unidentified “intelligence officials” apparently warned that the Russians were interfering to get President Trump re-elected.
This ostensibly made President Trump unhappy. He then rightfully complained that the matter was leaked, as it would be used against him. This came a couple of days after Richard Grenell, the pugilistic former U.S. ambassador to Germany, was appointed as acting director of national intelligence. Naturally, Twitter exploded.
The report states that five unidentified intelligence officials headed by election czar Shelby Pierson, who has been harshly critical of Moscow, briefed lawmakers on the charge that Moscow is interfering in the 2020 election, with the particular aim of re-electing Trump.
I am not privy to the raw data dump, but this type of deterministic prediction is very unlikely in intelligence circles, something even the intelligence guys in the NYT article seemed to agree on: “Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying the conclusions could have been delivered in a less pointed manner or left out entirely to avoid angering Republicans. The intelligence official who delivered the briefing, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire and has a reputation for speaking bluntly.”
This took a more urgent turn after Grenell was appointed DNI. Grenell has acquired somewhat a reputation of an imperial viceroy due to his hard-nosed realpolitik in Europe as the ambassador to Germany. He was instrumental in a $100-billion increase for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s budget since Trump came to power, critical of increasing German- Russian gas pipelines, and the force behind selling weapons to Ukraine to deter Russia.
His appointment absurdly started a panic in the left Twittersphere. John Brennan, the disgraced former CIA director under Obama, said the appointment means America is under a full-blown national security crisis, while Michael McFaul, a U.S. ambassador to Moscow under Obama and the architect of the failed Russian reset, hinted in a sinister tone that there’s nothing more dangerous than politicizing intelligence. More regular offenders butted in with no sense of irony.
The story has since reached a level of absurdity that eclipses Greek satires. Senior intelligence officers complained to CNN’s Jake Tapper about the misleading NYT story, saying, “What’s been articulated in the news is that the intelligence community has concluded that the Russians are trying to help Trump again. But the intelligence doesn’t say that.”
They also said what is amply clear, that the Russians prefer a détente with the United States and are willing to work with anyone who will work for peace. This was dutifully mischaracterized by Pierson then leaked by ideological actors within U.S. intelligence agencies, who are not clearly interested in any détente with Russia.
“It’s more that they understand the president is someone they can work with, he’s a dealmaker. But not that they prefer him over Sanders or Buttigieg or anyone else. So it may have been mischaracterized by Shelby,” Tapper says the national security official told him. Then reports made the rounds that Russians are also apparently helping Bernie Sanders’s campaign. That did not, however, dissuade Hillary Clinton from tweeting that “Putin’s Puppet is at it again, taking Russian help for himself. He knows he can’t win without it. And we can’t let it happen.”
Lawmakers are also baffled at this blunt intel assessment. According to Tapper, “Rep. Will Hurd, R-Tx, methodically asked why ODNI official Shelby Pierson asserted that the Russians had a ‘preference’ for Trump in 2020 election, what was the intelligence behind such an assertion?”
It seems to be a valid line of questioning, given that this administration has been the harshest on Russia since the end of the Cold War, from arming Ukraine to smoking out Russian mercenaries in Syria, as Chris Stewart, R-Utah, and Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, also noted. Even Democrats like Rep. Adam Schiff seemed skeptical of the new info and pushed back the ODNI, saying that they would like to see the intelligence supporting the assertion, given how politically sensitive and charged it is.
Given that the Trump administration has pursued the Magnitsky Act against Vladimir Putin and his associates, expelled Russian diplomats, started a new European base in Poland, funded and armed Ukraine, and engaged in small-scale proxy conflict with Russian-backed forces, it is only logical to conclude this is an attempt to “poison the well” by the pro-Clinton faction within the media.
There is no question that Moscow remains an adversary, but given its limited reach and geopolitical capability, and that there are no tangible proofs of collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign or any evidence of an actual vote sway due to a few hundred bots on Twitter, this constant hysteria seems to be a desperate attempt to delegitimize the elections in case Trump wins again.
Moscow didn’t select Tom Perez as the Democratic National Committee chair, Moscow didn’t screw up the Iowa caucus, Moscow didn’t create a company called ACRONYM with an app named Shadow, and Moscow is not letting Sanders fly away with the nomination. Moscow is not pushing radicalism within the Democratic Party, from gun confiscation, to homelessness in California, and lax law and order for alien drug gangs and Antifa, to private property bans for billionaires, to the green new deal, to socialism, to higher taxes, to transgenderism and drag story hours, to socialized health care.
Moscow is doing what all great powers do: see which president will be more peaceful and persuadable towards a détente. In 2012, it was President Obama, but then you didn’t hear much from either the media or intelligence leakers about this, as Obama was the chosen one and stacked his intel agencies, something Trump failed to do in his early days.
With the Sanders nomination approaching, Grenell positioned to start a much-needed house-cleaning, and Republicans finally waking up to another delegitimizing attempt, panic among establishment Democrats, and their partners in the media and state, can be expected. One can, therefore, anticipate more such stories in the coming days.