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After Nine Months, Only Stale Crumbs in Russia Inquiry

The co-chairmen of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a press briefing Thursday on the status of their ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the American electoral process. Content-wise, the press briefing and the question and answer session were an exercise in information futility—they provided little substance and nothing new. The investigation was still ongoing, the senators explained, and there was still work to be done.

Nine months into the Committee’s work, the best Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), could offer was that there was “general consensus” among committee members and their staff that they trust the findings of the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of January 2017, which gave high confidence to the charge that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. The issue of possible collusion between Russia and members of the campaign of Donald Trump, however, “is still open.”  

Frankly speaking, this isn’t good enough.

[1]The 2017 ICA on Russia was conceived in an atmosphere of despair and denial, birthed by Democrats and Republicans alike who were stunned by Trump’s surprise electoral victory in November 2016. To say that this issue was a political event would be a gross understatement; the 2017 Russian ICA will go down in history as one of the most politicized intelligence documents ever, regardless of the degree of accuracy eventually afforded its contents. The very fact that the document is given the sobriquet “Intelligence Community” is itself a political act, designed to impart a degree of scrutiny and community consensus that simply did not exist when it came to the production of that document, or the classified reports that it was derived from.


This was a report prepared by handpicked analysts [2]from three of the Intelligence Community’s sixteen agencies (the CIA, NSA, and FBI) who operated outside of the National Intelligence Council (the venue for the production of Intelligence Community products such as the Russian ICA), and void of the direction and supervision of a dedicated National Intelligence Officer. Overcoming this deficient family tree represents a high hurdle, even before the issue of the credibility of the sources and methods used to underpin the ICA’s findings are discussed. Given the firestorm of political intrigue and controversy initiated by the publication of this document, the notion of a “general consensus” regarding the level of trust imparted to it by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee does not engender confidence.

It was this document that spawned the issue of “collusion.” While Sens. Burr and Warner can state that “collusion” is still an open issue, the fact of the matter is that, in this regard, Trump and his campaign advisors have already been found guilty in the court of public opinion, especially among those members of the public and the media who were vehemently opposed to his candidacy and ultimate victory. Insofar as the committee’s investigation serves as a legitimate search for truth, it does so as a post-conviction appeal. However, as the distinguished Supreme Court Justice Joseph McKenna noted in his opinion in Berger v. United States (1921):

The remedy by appeal is inadequate. It comes after the trial, and, if prejudice exist, it has worked its evil and a judgment of it in a reviewing tribunal is precarious. It goes there fortified by presumptions, and nothing can be more elusive of estimate or decision than a disposition of a mind in which there is a personal ingredient.

One need only review the comments of the various Democratic members of the Senate Select Committee, their counterparts serving on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as the various experts and pundits in the media, to underscore the degree to which prejudice has “worked its evil” when it comes to the issue of collusion and the Trump campaign in this regard.

The two senators proceeded to touch on a new angle recently introduced into their investigation, that of the purchase of advertisements on various social media platforms, including Facebook [3]and Twitter, by the Russians or their proxies. With regard to these advertisements, Senator Burr painted a dire picture. “It seems,” he declared, “that the overall theme of the Russian involvement in the US elections was to create chaos at every level.”   

No one wants to be told that they have been victims of a con; this is especially true when dealing with the sacred trust imparted to the American citizenry by the Constitution of the United States regarding the free and fair election of those who will represent us in higher office. American politics, for better or worse, is about the personal connection a given candidate has with the voter, a gut feeling that this person shares common values and beliefs.

Nevertheless, the percentage of Americans that participate in national elections is low. Those that do tend to be people who care enough about one or more issues to actually get out and vote. To categorize these dedicated citizens as brain-dead dupes who are susceptible to social media-based click advertisements is an insult to American democracy.

There is a world of difference between Russian intelligence services allegedly hacking politically sensitive emails and selectively releasing them for the sole purpose of undermining a given Presidential candidate’s electoral prospects, and mimicking social media-based advertisements addressing issues that are already at play in an election. The Russians didn’t invent the ongoing debate in the United States over gun control (i.e., the “Second Amendment” issue), race relations (the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri) or immigration (“The Wall”).

These were, and remain, core issues that are at the heart of the American domestic political discourse, regardless of where one stands. You either know the issues, or you don’t; it is an insult to the American voter to suggest that they are so malleable that $100,000 of targeted social media-based advertisements can swing their vote, even if 10 million of them viewed it.

The take away from the press briefing given by Senator’s Burr and Warner was two-fold: One, the Russians meddled, and two, we don’t know if Trump colluded with the Russians. The fact that America is nine months into this investigation with little more to show now than what could have been said at the start is, in and of itself, an American political tragedy. The Trump administration has been hobbled by the inertia of this and other investigations derived from the question of Russian meddling. That this process may yet vindicate President Trump isn’t justification for the process itself; in such a case the delay will have hurt more than the truth. As William Penn, the founder of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, so eloquently noted:

Delays have been more injurious than direct Injustice. They too often starve those they dare not deny. The very Winner is made a Loser, because he pays twice for his own; like those who purchase Estates Mortgaged before to the full value.

Our law says that to delay Justice is Injustice. Not to have a Right, and not to come of it, differs little. Refuse or Dispatch is the Duty of a Good Officer.

Senators Burr and Warner, together with their fellow members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and their respective staffs, would do well to heed those words.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. He is the author of “Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West’s Road to War” (Clarity Press, 2017).

27 Comments (Open | Close)

27 Comments To "After Nine Months, Only Stale Crumbs in Russia Inquiry"

#1 Comment By Cassie On October 9, 2017 @ 1:30 am

Despite Warner’s presence on the Select Committee, it seems the Chair, Burr, is still more interested in protecting Trump. Reports are that his insistence on having Steele testify to the committee has more to do with who paid for the Dossier rather than its contents.

Bob Mueller has the dossier, and materials associated with it. I have more confidence in the results of Mueller’s investigation than in the Senate’s.

(And the House investigation, which has been thoroughly compromised by the likes of Nunes, can be discounted altogether.)

#2 Comment By SteveK9 On October 9, 2017 @ 9:30 am

Boring and depressing to even read a story about this obvious pile of garbage. The ‘story’ is not about Russia at all … they aren’t even involved, since they did nothing. The story is about who runs America, and this ongoing episode makes it very obvious that it is the ‘War’ party … the MIC, the intelligence community, and the banks.

#3 Comment By Fran Macadam On October 9, 2017 @ 9:42 am

The Empire crumbles; but never fear – we didn’t do it to ourselves, it’s those malevolent wreckers in that faraway gas station.

#4 Comment By BCZ On October 9, 2017 @ 10:19 am

Oh please. Trump is saddled and stymied by his own ineptitude, not these Russia rumors that matter only to Democrats.

If Trump hadn’t seemed so up Putin’s rear end throughout the campaign I am pretty confident he would be in better shape. But, he made his choice.

What isn’t good enough if is POTUS still has access to twitter on the regular, that he uses to – among other things – suggest committing crimes against humanity… a practice that if Obama had done in even a mild degree would have been met by hysterics by the writers of this publication.

#5 Comment By Winston On October 9, 2017 @ 10:21 am

Took two years to get Nixon. These things take time. I don’t recall Mr. Ritter complaining that Republicans launched multiple investigations, all for naught, over Benghazi. Election fraud strikes at the heart of our democracy, especially regarding the presidency. The only people served by a quick wrap are the suspects and by proxy, the politicians of the GOP. One would think that sane politicians would want something unearthed so a rational person could take over.

#6 Comment By Dan Green On October 9, 2017 @ 11:45 am

With Hunt. More dysfunction on display in the swamp.

#7 Comment By connecticut farmer On October 9, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

Even the very left-wing Chris Hedges believes that the Russian angle is maximum humbug. What a waste of time and money!!

#8 Comment By p wren On October 9, 2017 @ 12:16 pm

The Watergate investigation took two years and with far fewer actors involved. Have a little patience.

#9 Comment By Albert Marsico On October 9, 2017 @ 2:30 pm

Scott Ritter obviously has other motives than honest commentary.

Mueller is far more capable in many disciplines to handle this probe with care and full exposure of the facts. This takes time. But note, from nearly the outset, he hired a team of prosecutors not only investigators. He convened two Criminal grand juries.

This will be spun by neo cons as Mueller starting with a conclusion of guilt then spending all this time collecting supporting info and testimony.

In fact, he is gathering all facts to devise a rock-solid dismissal (not likely) or case of undeniable facts and fully honest, multi corroborated testimonies to prove seditious conspiracty between trumsters and the Russian government in many layers of cyber tactics, which in themselves have already been proven of the Russians and of the key cyper operative for the trump campaign in last night’s 60 Minutes insterview.

We need to see only the proof of the cooperation between the two parties in those horrific Anti-American Activities.
I would bet big that Mueller already has proof and is compiling responses to predictable attacks on his work … shoring up any and all weaknesses in the evidence and proof.

#10 Comment By Gina On October 9, 2017 @ 2:45 pm

The Watergate investigation began with an actual crime.

#11 Comment By ChrisNJ On October 9, 2017 @ 2:53 pm

This article will age badly.

#12 Comment By Robert Charron On October 9, 2017 @ 3:20 pm

But isn’t anyone impressed that Senator Burr and his committee had read hundreds of thousands of pages during their investigation. Naturally they can’t reveal anything as their investigation is ongoing, but they have been working very hard reading all the material that they had gathered and are gathering.
Senator Burr also could not show us any of the ads that Russia had placed on our social media a that was part of the investigation and could not be released to the public. and then I read that Titter and Facebook also cannot release any of these ads that appeared on the social media as they are not authorized to make them public. So we the public are not going to be allowed to see these damaging Russian ads for ourselves that APPEARED ON THE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM PLATFORMS!!!!!! Imagine showing some of these damaging Russian ads to the public to prove Russian perfidy, because the investigation will tell us all we need to know. They can’t show these ads to the public it seems. Hmm.

#13 Comment By Ken Zaretzke On October 9, 2017 @ 3:25 pm

This analysis doesn’t bode well for Robert S. Mueller’s investigation. Has anyone noticed the parallels between Mueller and Alfred E. Neuman?

Alfred’s motto is, “What, me worry?”; Mueller’s motto is “Trump better worry.”

Alfred is the creation of *Mad* magazine; Mueller is the creation of Rod Rosenstein.

Alfred is omnipresent in popular culture; Mueller is omnipresent in Washington, D. C.

Alfred is the prototype of the “Aw, shucks” American who makes people bend over with laughter; Mueller is the prototype of the “Shock and Awe” prosecutor who makes Paul Manafort’s fingers bend over the back of his hand.

Alfred’s people offer amusing hyperbole about Trump and his associates that appears in America’s legendarily juvenile magazine; Mueller’s people offer amazing hype about Trump and his associates that appears in America’s legendarily jejune newspapers.

#14 Comment By GregR On October 9, 2017 @ 3:53 pm

First no one is publicly saying what they know right now so its all speculation. But to claim this was all a political witch hunt is just nonsense. At a minimum Trump’s campaign manager is going to jail, Flynn is going to jail, and beyond any doubt we know that the Trump Campaign (his son) was willing to collude with Russia we just don’t know if they were successful.

Trump has tapped his campaign funds to the tune of half a million dollars so far to pay for his criminal defense lawyers, half of the White House has hired white collar defense firms, and the investigation is still ongoing. Even Ken Star came out this weekend and said he thinks there will be indictments.

Will Trump be indicted? I tend to think no, just because he is to stupid to have kept quiet this long if he had any direct involvement, but there are plenty of people surrounding him that will be going to jail by the time this is over.

#15 Comment By Jeff K On October 9, 2017 @ 5:39 pm

“The fact that America is nine months into this investigation with little more to show now than what could have been said at the start is, in and of itself, an American political tragedy”.

No, Trump himself is a political tragedy. The fact that this incredibly dirty con man, with his history, had the cajones to think he could keep his dirty past hidden away is an American political tragedy. Only surpassed by Trumps’ incredible narcissistic ego.

Would you prefer continual leaks of every bit of incriminating evidence that Mueller finds? My money is on Mueller and the team of prosecutors he has gathered together. He will probably go down in American history as a very important person that stepped up when times were tough.

Trump has done an incredible number of incredibly stupid things related to this Russian investigation. The wise action for him to have taken if he and his election team didn’t do anything wrong was to just sit back, be quiet, and let Mueller bring this to conclusion.

Instead, he has derided all of the participants of the investigation and has generally made an ass of himself (Fake News! Fake News!). He reminds me of a dim grade school child that doesn’t have the sense to keep quiet about his bad behavior.

I believe that Mueller will drop one heck of a bombshell report detailing some level of collusion with the Russians by members of Trumps’ election team. And I believe it will be very thoroughly and meticulously documented, with very few weaknesses to poke at. I believe that Trump will find his bully boy tactics will come up quite short.

At the end of the day the Republican House and Senate will have to swallow hard and remove this crap stain from the presidency.

There will be much noise and energy expended by the Always-Trumpers. And many will probably leave the Republican party. So be it. I am a registered Republican, and the party left me years ago.

Just as a forest fire clears out all the rotting and dead wood, a spring always follows with shoots of healthy new growth.

Let’s just hope this president does not drag us into a war to end all wars, after which there will be no new growth, and, as has been said ‘The living will envy the dead’.

#16 Comment By Johann On October 9, 2017 @ 5:43 pm

If there were any real evidence of colluding with Russia, does anyone think it wouldn’t have been leaked to one of the two Democrat propaganda arms (WaPo or NYT)?

The only proof we have so far is that someone paid a retired British intelligence agent who then paid some Russian intelligence agents for dirt on Trump.

#17 Comment By Dale McNamee On October 9, 2017 @ 10:39 pm

Those who are involved in this farce should be made to repay the money that was, and is to be, wasted, to the American taxpayers…

#18 Comment By SC_Birdflyte On October 10, 2017 @ 7:18 am

Denial is not a river in Egypt.

#19 Comment By Michael Kenny On October 10, 2017 @ 10:11 am

Why is Russiagate spooking the spooks? Were US intelligence agencies somehow involved in manipulating the presidential election?

#20 Comment By Dan Green On October 11, 2017 @ 9:04 am

If no progress points to ammunition for impeaching Trump, my guess is, CNN will need turn the dial up on something else.

#21 Comment By Professor Smartass On October 11, 2017 @ 9:50 am

It’s odd that they are focusing on this collusion story when there’s low hanging fruit like Trump’s mob ties and fraudulent business practices like Trump University.

Maybe they aren’t going after those because too many politicians in DC are guilty of similar things.

That doesn’t make Trump a better person, it just underlines that we are normally ruled by sociopaths who cover their tracks better.

#22 Comment By David Smith On October 11, 2017 @ 12:02 pm

We survived 40 years of the Cold War. I think we can handle a few Facebook ads.

#23 Comment By Anthony Wicher On October 12, 2017 @ 6:09 pm

Robert Mueller is a hatchet man for the deep state oligarchy that runs this country no matter which party is in power. It controls our secret police, euphemistically called our “intelligence community” and the mass mass media that surrounds us with their propaganda. Mueller is also guilty of having covered up the involvement of Saudi Arabia and its friends in the U.S. government in the 9/11 attacks. Scott Ritter is a most honorable man, who told the truth about the IRAQ WMD and has come under heavy pressure by the likes of dirty cops such as Mueller. He speaks the truth now. “Russiagate” is a despicable fraud, a crime against democracy and the American people, and those who have perpetrated this lie are nothing less than traitors. Scott Ritter, you have my highest respect.

#24 Comment By Anthony Wicher On October 12, 2017 @ 9:45 pm

Robert Mueller is a hatchet man for the deep state oligarchy that runs this country no matter which party is in power. It controls our secret police, euphemistically called our “intelligence community” and the mass mass media that surrounds us with their propaganda. Mueller is also guilty of having covered up the involvement of Saudi Arabia and its friends in the U.S. government in the 9/11 attacks. Scott Ritter is a most honorable man, who told the truth about the IRAQ WMD and has come under heavy pressure by the likes of dirty cops such as Mueller. He speaks the truth now. “Russiagate” is a despicable fraud, a crime against democracy and the American people, and those who have perpetrated this lie are nothing less than traitors. Scott Ritter, you have my highest respect. I don’t know why, but the editors did not publish this comment the last time I posted it here. I will give them one more chance. Here are the facts about Mueller. [4]

#25 Comment By Fayez Abedaziz On October 19, 2017 @ 2:26 am

Look at the Democrats in the houses in lobbyville-D.C-corrupt city.
A bunch of no backbones.
Go away Hillary, go away phony ‘liberal’ democrats.
For crying out loud, the Democrats go along with this phony Russia involvement, which was not real?
Anyway, the Hillary supporters are being dishonest when they act fanatical.
She would have been even more a war monger than Trump, and he is a know nothing when it comes to American history and that of the world, even of the past 30 years.
Americans must be proud-Trump, Hillary, that other ‘kill ’em from drones’ Obama the lame, and oh, McCain the moral and Presidency loser.
Hell, it makes a Kennedy and McGovern liberal supporter like me wish that even old Ron was back-you know, my old friend Reagan.
I’m convinced that if either John Kennedy was here, or the ‘gipper,’ they would both kick
…you know what with these Repubs and Dems that are ruining everything for America.
Like Paul and Art said, in that song, from the movie the Graduate-‘anyway you look at it you lose.’
Thanks for nothing you weirdos in D.C.
As for sincere voters who are being fooled all the time-
Have a nice day

#26 Comment By EliteCommInc. On October 19, 2017 @ 7:21 am

The problem for me is that prosecutors have o much power and can create even a laugh as some kind of evidence of law breaking, anything is possible. It shouldn’t be, but the breadth and cope of the prosecutor is far too broad and this is made worse in the case of a Special prosecutor.

I like to think of this Pres as getting the royal black treatment. I am not sure he gets what that means.

#27 Comment By Rugeirn Drienborough On November 5, 2017 @ 9:07 pm

Here’s some “stale crumbs” for you:




And by the way, check out this additional bunch of “stale crumbs”: