Friday, October 20, 2017

Which Hunt?

One of the primary articles of Trumpism is that the Russia story "has failed" and the continuing investigation is a witch hunt on the part of Mueller--possibly motivated by revenge for the firing of his friend Jim Comey. Is this likely? Let's look.

Which Witch Is Witch?

There are several positions from which to call the Mueller investigation a "Witch Hunt." What are they?
  1. It Has Been Going on Too Long. In this formulation, the investigation has been continued well past where it logically could have turned anything up. This presumes that it investigated, found nothing, and persists because Muller won't stop without a conviction. Another version of this is that there are three investigations (House, Senate, Mueller) and, c'mon--why do we need three??
  2. The Range of the Investigation Has Become Too Broad. This theory is that Mueller started with the idea of secret meetings between Putin (?) and Trump--but, having found nothing, has expanded to years and years of Trump's taxes, people who were marginally affiliated with the campaign, and will eventually find its way to Meliana Trump body-doubles and Tiffany DUI conspiracies. 
  3. With All The Leaks, If They Had Anything We'd Know It. This supposes that the Intelligence Community and/or the FBI is categorically against Trump and is leaking to undermine him. If they had anything worth leaking . . . it'd have leaked. It hasn't, so there must not be anything.
  4. Mueller Is Obviously Corrupt. In this one, Mueller is (a) in a clear conflict of interests because he is besties with Comey and (b) is not investigating the REAL issue which is the Uranium One deal or the Murder of Seth Rich. 
Let's look.

Too Long and Too Many

The first use of the term Witch Hunt to refer to the Russia investigation was, what, July? August? Well after the first 100 days--right? Nope. It was Jan 6th. Now, just because Trump called it a witch hunt early on doesn't mean it can't be one--but the fact that Trump told his followers it was nonsense less than a month after the election should give everyone pause.

You can think it has gone on too long--but it is an incredible stretch to say there was nothing to investigate in the first place.

Also, has it gone on too long? The actual people who actually know this stuff point out that the investigations into Clinton and Reagan lasted over 2000 days each. Apparently this stuff takes some time. Finally, is three investigations too many? Benghazi got seven.

The Range Is Too Broad

The idea that Mueller is going beyond his remit by looking into Trump's distant, foggy past is tempting for those who want to claim overreach. After all, if Russia did "collude with Trump" wouldn't it have happened at the earliest at 2015?

No. Not necessarily--the allegations (in the dossier, from IC people) is that Russia long had a relationship with Trump of some kind--and definitely cultivates assets through its network of legitimate banks and organized crime. Wanting to know what kind of relationship Trump had with Russia is certainly fair game.

It's even more fair when you realize that Trump--unique among moderate general election candidates--refused to release his tax returns. If you think that's because he had something to hide (and, of course, he lied and said he couldn't because 'audit' and then that he 'would after the audit') then it certainly stands to reason that something that might have bearing on his presidency is, in fact, hidden in those returns or dealings.

Of course the idea that guys like Manafort, Page, and Flynn were incidental to the campaign is preposterous nonsense too. The Omnivore has been told that Manafort was "brought in just for a convention delegate fight." Kinda. But this makes it sound like Manafort joined in, like, early July. He joined the campaign at the end of March.

All these guys have been caught misleading on Russian contacts as well. That's not proof of anything exactly--but you can't say it doesn't look at least kinda suspicious.

If They Had Anything It'd Have Leaked

This logic is interesting: "The fact that secret data hasn't come out is proof it doesn't exist" is a special kind of leap. Firstly, the idea that the Mueller investigation leaks a lot of stuff is an unproven assertion by Trump-loyalists. It's more likely that Mueller's veteran team of all-stars is pretty tight. Secondly, the idea that the IC (and FBI?) are ideologically against Trump to an extreme degree doesn't pass the sniff-test:
  • The FBI has been described as Trump-Country (as is most law-enforcement)
  • The idea of "Obama-hold-overs" is far more myth than fact (Lois Lerner of IRS fame was, for example, a Bush hold-over!). 
  • If, in fact, the IC is leaking to get Trump that is, rather than being a reason to dismiss them as partisan, more a reason to absolutely fucking panic. Trump's tweeting isn't reason for these people to risk their freedom--if they feel he's The Enemy, IC would be in a position to know that. It's kinda their job.
However, even more importantly: a bunch of stuff has come out, only recently, that we sure didn't know early on. For example Don Jr's emails and the meeting.

But That Didn't Prove ANYTHING: Uh--you have to remember that prior to the release of emails, Don Jr. said this about allegations he had anything to do with Russia:
Well, it just goes to show you their exact moral compass. I mean, they will say anything to be able to win this. I mean, this is time and time again, lie after lie. You notice he won’t say, well, I say this. We hear experts. You know, here’s (INAUDIBLE) at home once said that this is what’s happening with the Russians. It’s disgusting. It’s so phony. I watched him bumble through the interview, I was able to hear it on audio a little bit. I mean, I can’t think of bigger lies, but that exactly goes to show you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win.”
Of course we have, by his own admission, proof that if Russia had offered information on Russia, Team Trump would "love it." We have statements from people there saying nothing happened--but do we believe those? Why would we? Lie-after-lie indeed.

As a final note: What the IC would have on hand would be raw intelligence. The problem with leaking that is that it isn't evidence and it reveals the crown-jewels of sources-and-methods. In other words, the most damning potential evidence can't be leaked.

Mueller Is Obvious Corrupt

This one is based on some of the shakiest ground yet. In order to believe that the Assistant AG would appoint a blatant "hit man" requires that: (a) he is ready to throw away his career on Day 1 (b) that Congress--which contains numerous lawyers--cannot see what various pundits think is obvious and can do nothing to stop this, and (c) that the plan to get Trump relies on picking a friend of Comey rather than a veteran lawman with (until now) unimpeachable credibility.

In other words: No, he doesn't have a 'conflict of interest.' It just looks like that to Trump-supporters and laymen. The actual experts in Washington know that's not the case (compare this to the people who felt that the case for Impeachment against Obama was clear and obvious--and just could not understand why a Republican congress wouldn't take it up! Must be because they're corrupt. Nope: it's because there wasn't a plausible case).

Still, let's look in a little more detail.

Muller vs. Uranium One

This one at least has an actual event under it--during the Obama years, a Russian group bribed its way into a big uranium deal in the US. This was accepted by the State Department under Hillary--her husband's foundation received millions of dollars in donations. That sure sounds like a scandal, right?

It was--kinda. It was prosecuted in 2014 (bribery, etc.). The deal, however was approved before the investigation was started. Did they know the dealings were dirty? Possibly. Possibly not.


  1. The company, Russian controlled or not, only sells Uranium in the US. It can't sell our vital resources to rogue nations.
  2. The deal doesn't threaten strategic reserves. Even with the large size of the deal, we have more uranium than we'll use in 100 years at current rates and trying to price-restrict things like uranium or rare earth elements usually backfires (China tried it with the latter and ramped up extraction in the US).
  3. Lots of people gave a lot of money to the Clinton foundation--probably with hopes of influence. Charitable giving often helps the giver in ways like that (companies fund charities because it gives them positive influence with consumers, for example). The Clinton Foundation got very good ratings from charity watch-dogs and there's no evidence that, other than taking meetings, Clinton was influenced. Now, it's not like this hasn't been investigated to hell and back--but the idea that it won't be investigated again is proof of conspiracy?

Muller vs. Kim Dotcom

The other story The Omnivore is told (on Twitter) is that Muller is obviously complicit because he hasn't responded to the conspiracy theorists pushing the #SethRich murder story. The always-truthful Kim Dotcom claimed he had proof that Rich leaked the Wikileaks stuff and was presumably murdered for it. He'd give up his evidence if Mueller gave him immunity.

This is, of course, bullshit--and real, professional investigators know better than to waste time with this nonsense. Kim Dotcom used his story of forthcoming revelations to sell his new music album.

Worse is the Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher shopping around Wikileaks talking points. He says he can get proof from Assange that Russia didn't hack America! Why isn't Mueller investigating that?

Well, the problem is that Rohrabacher has long been thought to be under the influence of Russia. This is before all this Russian hacking stuff too. In other words: him coming to the defense of Russia in the election-hacking-mess is exactly what you would expect if Russia was guilty and using their easily influenced congress-people to try to drive a story.

This makes Russia and the GOP look more guilty--it makes Mueller look less guilty.

A Final Note On The Dossier

Before we close out, we should ask if the infamous Steele Dossier has been discredited and is an obvious hit-job by GPS Fusion. The answer, of course, is "No, it hasn't been discredited and isn't an obvious hit-job by the Democrats."

How can The Omnivore say that??

  1. The guy behind it is, apparently, solid in the IC world. That's the first clue that it shouldn't be dismissed as a partisan hit-job. The idea that people with any basis will be utterly corrupted by that bias is one of the most destructive articles of faith among Trump-supporters. It leads to absurd conspiracy theories that well regarded people with sterling reputations will always throw that away to pursue politics is absurd.
  2. The dossier is raw intel from someone in the spook-world. This, by definition, is the kind of thing that will be hard for news orgs to validate (they are not in the spook-world). It is also the kind of thing that will contain errors--since it is from the murky world of intelligence and propaganda. We should expect errors--but that doesn't invalidate the whole thing.
  3. Some of it has been corroborated
  4. It was started by a Republican donor--it only continued under the Democrats later in life.
The blanket statement that the dossier is a Democratic hit-job which has failed is propagated by people repeating what they get from right-wing outlets--it isn't the actual state of play.


None of the above means Mueller will "get" Trump. None of it is proof Trump (especially Trump-himself) colluded with the Russians--but it is proof that the investigation is, at this point, on-going and essentially legitimate. This post hasn't gone into all the reasons that Trump could be rightfully investigated (firing Comey and telling NBC and the Russians it was because of Russia-gate? Issuing an intentionally misleading statement about his son's emails? Large swaths of his staff being shown to have all kinds of dealings with Russia they didn't disclose? Not releasing his emails? Evidence mounting that Russia definitely wanted to hurt Hillary by helping Trump? Etc.

There are plenty of reasons for this to happen--not the least of which is to determine what happened in 2016. People who don't acknowledge that are being disingenuous. 


  1. You're being kind by saying folks who don't acknowledge the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation are being "disingenuous". I'd just say they're being rubes.

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  3. I think South Park nailed the essence of this dynamic last night: "Let's not turn this into a witch-pursuit thingy."


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