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The Left Will Never Let Go of Russiagate

By now, anyone with a political pulse knows that special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry has reached its conclusion. On March 24, Axios headlined [1], “Mueller investigation finds no Trump campaign conspiracy with Russia.” Later that night, CNN’s Chris Cillizza [2] dampened Democratic hopes by stating flatly, “Collusion is now off the board.” And the inimitable President Donald Trump declared in a tweet [3], “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.”

To be sure, Mueller found plenty of wrongdoing [4] by Trumpians and Russians. He did, after all, issue 34 indictments and secure seven convictions, with one trial (that of Roger Stone) still to come.

For its part, the loyal but hostile opposition is not giving up. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler tweeted [5], “Mueller did not exonerate the President.” Nadler wants to haul in Attorney General Bill Barr for a little heart-to-heart on Capitol Hill—with 200 TV cameras watching.

Still, no sound and fury is going to change the headline atop The Washington Post on Monday morning: “Mueller finds no conspiracy.”


Without a doubt, the mainstream media, which was so breathless in its pursuit of “Russiagate,” has now had the wind knocked out of it. And in the meantime, other journalistic figures and outlets, further to the left and also to the right, have the wind at their backs. As The New York Times’ lone conservative opinionator Ross Douthat [6] observed, Sunday was a good day for such ideologically disparate critics of the media as The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross, and The Federalist in toto.

As the Drudge Report admiringly blared on Monday morning, Greenwald’s post-Mueller Twitter feed [7] has been a symphony of I-told-you-so jabs at fourth-estate enemies. It must be said that Ross [8] and The Federalist [9] were busy, too, with triumphalist tweets of their own.

Still, nothing is going to stop the anti-Trump drumbeat. For instance, American Oversight, one of the many well-funded, left-leaning, opposition research watchdog groups on the Trump hunt, blasted out [10] with no small amount of self-regard, “The Corruption Continues: Mueller Has Finished His Work. American Oversight Has Not.” Of course, at the same time, the Right is free to mobilize its smaller army—at least so far—of dirt-diggers. One wonders what they’ll find on Hillary Clinton, the deep state, and any other possible colludeniks.

So yes, the events of 2016 will be hashed out for a long time to come. Yet in the wake of the Mueller report, the likeliest judgment is that the Trump campaign and the Russians were operating in parallel, not in tandem. That is, both Trumpians and Putinites wanted Trump to win, though they weren’t working together cooperatively. If that’s the case, then we should agree that coincidence of hope is not the same thing as conspiracy of action.

Admittedly, such a conclusion might not seem credible to a country that’s been marinated in Russian dressing for two years, but as they say about incredible things: if it’s true, it doesn’t have to be credible. So we might be reminded of what Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tells Watson in The Sign of the Four [11]: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” That is, if something is revealed to be the actual truth, that’s good enough to settle the question.

Well, maybe that’s not good enough. After all, one can point to an infinity of conspiracy theories that never end, facts notwithstanding, concerning everything from Pearl Harbor to UFOs to vaccines.

In each case—and in a hundred other cases—we learn that many people have an instinctive tendency to think the worst. Or, to put it another way, folks are inclined to believe in the most complex possible answer out of a general human desire to embroider the narrative.

This desire must be frustrating to the ghost of William of Ockham. Seven hundred years ago, foreshadowing Doyle and Holmes, the medieval sage put forth his famously logical razor: “plurality should not be posited without necessity”—that is, everything else being equal, keep it simple. And yet it seems these days that Ockhamite intellectual parsimony is particularly scarce. It’s conspiracy, not simplicity, that gets clicks—and book deals.

Sadly, such tabloid-y coverage can overlay—and probably exacerbate—obvious personal pain. For instance, in the half-century since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the King family has seemingly become convinced that the convicted assassin, James Earl Ray, was not, in fact, the murderer. They believe the “real killers” were connected to “government forces.”

In fact, in 1997, Dexter King met with Ray, then dying in prison. The two shook hands [12] as Ray assured King that he wasn’t the killer. To which King responded, “I want you to know that I believe you and my family believes you.”

Such absolution for Ray flies in the face of all the available evidence. So what’s going on? Dave Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of King, told [13] The Washington Post last year that “the King children are part of a larger population of American people who need to believe that the assassination of a King or a Kennedy must be the work of mightier forces” rather than “small-fry, lifetime losers.” Garrow added, “People need to see something of a balance between effect and cause. That if something has a huge evil effect, it should be the result of a huge evil cause.” So again, the human instinct to complicate defeats the Ockhamite mandate to simplify.

That’s why conspiracy theories thrive: they fill a human need for a larger narrative that lifts an event beyond merely the small and the sad. Admittedly, that’s not the most optimistic view of the human capacity for rational thinking. But then, the truth doesn’t have to be rational—it simply has to be true.

Still, amidst the permafog of life, opportunities for enlightenment nevertheless exist. For example, Blake Hounshell, one of the big dogs at Politicowrote [14] of the Mueller conclusion, “It seems quite clear now that Trump did not collude with Putin to throw the 2016 election. Why he still seems to want to collude with Putin to reshape U.S. foreign policy remains a mystery” (emphasis added).

Leaving that loaded “c” word, collusion, out of it, the writers and readers of TAC might be able to help Hounsell solve his mystery. That is, plenty of folks in these parts—including this author [15]—believe, and have argued, that American policy towards the world should be pointed in a more realistic direction. Quite on our own, we have concluded that America needs and deserves a better, wiser, and more restrained foreign policy.

It appears that Trump, who was talking like a retrenching realist as far back as the 1980s [16] when Putin was just a KGB nobody, is on our side. At least most of the time.

James P. Pinkerton is an author and contributing editor at The American Conservative. He served as a White House policy aide to both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

65 Comments (Open | Close)

65 Comments To "The Left Will Never Let Go of Russiagate"

#1 Comment By One Guy On March 28, 2019 @ 4:33 pm

Why? Because the president has secret meetings with Putin and won’t say what he promised to Russia.

#2 Comment By MM On March 28, 2019 @ 10:00 pm

Balgor: “It’s a useless term that shouldn’t be used because it’s never used in a balanced, objective way.”

Sorry, can’t agree, it is being used correctly in this particular case. Now that the facts have been gathered and Mueller has submitted his report, the people who have been making unsubstantiated claims about Trump/Russia collusion, coordination, conspiracy, etc. for the past 2 going on 3 years now, have been shown to be conspiracy theorists and liars who pushed a fictional narrative to attack the foundations of the Republic and delegitimize the free and fair election of a President they despise.

That’s the MOST balanced and objective use of the term. But it requires patience and withholding judgment until the official investigation has been completed, which it is.

#3 Comment By Sid Finster On March 29, 2019 @ 10:22 am

One Guy wrote: “Why? Because the president has secret meetings with Putin and won’t say what he promised to Russia.”

Diplomacy, how does it work?

Meanwhile, others have provided a very partial list of the things the Trump administration has *done* that are most definitely *not* in any way in the interests of Russia.

Seriously, to say anything that absurd, you’d have to be looking very hard for facts that you can force into a predetermined narrative.

#4 Comment By Sid Finster On March 29, 2019 @ 10:57 am

For Conspiracy Ken, Conspiracy Gene and the other conspiracy theorists:


The link may be ZeroHedge, but it is lavishly sourced.

#5 Comment By MM On March 29, 2019 @ 1:02 pm

One Guy: “Why?”

Welcome, our newest member of the ongoing conspiracy theory.

Back in the real world, the Trump administration has literally done the following things:

– Pressuring Germany to stop buying Russian natural gas
– Seeking regime change in Venezuela, opposed by Russia
– Withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, opposed by Russia
– Bombing targets in Syria, including bases used by the Russian military
– Sending lethal defensive weaponry to the Ukraine, opposed by both Russia AND the Obama administration

And you guys will remain in denial of every single thing that contradicts the conspiracy theory mindset.

Fascinating, all this coming from that wing of the political spectrum that claims a monopoly on facts, logic, and reason.

Maybe you guys ought to nominate Oliver Stone for President? Oh, wait, he’s too cozy with Putin also, right?


#6 Comment By MM On March 29, 2019 @ 2:43 pm

I can’t believe Sid and I are in agreement on this rubbish that continues to be peddled!

Don’t people realize, the Russian goal was chaos in America, and they succeeded far beyond what they imagined.

One of the two biggest political parties in the country hasn’t reconciled with WHY it lost an election that should’ve been a slam dunk. It resorted to the worst kind of red-baiting to explain things.

This tops birtherism, no doubt about it. Not 9/11 truthers, though, but definitely any Obama era conspiracy from the right.

#7 Comment By MM On March 29, 2019 @ 3:02 pm

I shouldn’t have been surprised to see One Guy show up. Back during the Kavanaugh affair, he alleged that Lindsay Graham’s vociferous defense of the nomination was motivated by “Russian-linked money”:


He was referring to Len Blavatnik, an American citizen, born in the Ukraine, and Jewish. Beyond the hypocrisy of employing whataboutism, poorly I might add, conspiracy theorists often have anti-semitic tendencies.

These people have no shame, and their opinions deserve no serious consideration…

#8 Comment By wake On March 29, 2019 @ 5:23 pm

Sid Finster says:
March 29, 2019 at 10:57 am
For Conspiracy Ken, Conspiracy Gene and the other conspiracy theorists:


The link may be ZeroHedge, but it is lavishly sourced.

Zerohedge is a russian propaganda site

#9 Comment By Dale On March 29, 2019 @ 6:01 pm

Report has not been released so nobody knows what Trump and his minions have done with respect to Russia.

Second, want to talk about conspiracy theories? How many have been proven to be true?

I guess Sibel Edmonds was just a conspiracy theory; that she has never existed.

Remember the conspiracy about flying the Saudis out of the US during commercial flights were prohibited he few days after 9/11? Turned out to be true didn’t it?

Remember the conspiracy theory that there were no WMD or Al Qaeda connections in Iraq. Turned out to be true.

Remember the conspiracy theory that Israel stole weapons grade uranium from the US. True – it happened.

Remember the USS Liberty and the conspiracy theory that Israel did know it was a US ship? Another that ended up being true.

Remember “Team B” and how Reagan & Bush used it to inflate the estimates of how much the Soviets were spending on defense to justify an unnecessary increase in defense spending? I know, that was just a conspiracy theory.

Chapter V
Estimating Soviet Military Intentions and Capabilities


#10 Comment By Stuart Davies On March 29, 2019 @ 7:03 pm

Your headline cracked me up. The left never fell for “Russiagate” in the first place. Don’t confuse Dems with the left, they are well right of center. The New Republican Party, I call ’em.

#11 Comment By MM On March 30, 2019 @ 9:02 pm

wake: “Zerohedge is a russian propaganda site.”

Whether they are or aren’t, at least they cite their sources.

Which is infinitely better than you conspiracy crackpots.

Get some help, guys. You’re only making Trump’s reelection next year more and more likely.

#12 Comment By Sid Finster On March 31, 2019 @ 5:28 pm

@wake: evidence, please.

As for and others have noted, the link I provided is lavishly sourced.

If you have a beef with said sources, please explain what you think is fake and what makes you think so.

#13 Comment By quizil donor On March 31, 2019 @ 5:29 pm

A simple, superficial analysis, and one almost certainly false in its conclusions, sees only black and white – good guys vs. bad guys. The reality is almost always the gray area of competing interests serving their own purposes, and in victory writing themselves a history that becomes the state sanctioned historical legacy.. over time.

Central question – Is a Secret Court system – i.e., a central defining hallmark of tyrannical and despotic regimes across time immemorial – compatible with a Constitutional Republic?

A ‘court’ system that has no meaningful oversight, no notice to the accused, no appeal, no opportunity to confront ones’ accuser(s), obfuscated actions dictated by unelected and shielded affiant and adjudicator. What we are seeing are simply the fruits emerging of what had been planted. We are reaping the produce of what we allowed those eager to stoke the “fires in the minds of men”, to sow. FISA itself is the alpha / omega of the underlying issue, that is only tangentially about Trump.

“An established system is not to be tried by those tests which may with perfect correctness be applied to a new theory. A civilized nation, long in possession of a code of law, under which, with all its inconveniences, they have found a means to flourish, is not to be regarded as an infant colony, on which experiments in legislation.. may be hazarded. – Sir Walter Scott”

The central concern going ignored –

If the President of the United States, who happens to be a Billionaire (or all least control Billions in assets) who has a personal legal staff on perpetual retainer, who has the means to field his own investigatory personnel, who ALONE among the citizenry has gained control over the LE power invested in the Executive branch, who controls and directs the flow of Justice Dept. funding…. IF THIS UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL cannot defend himself against a Secret Court system….

What chance does the average American citizen stand against such a star chamber that is unaccountable and beyond notice of targeting, let alone a means of appeal?

In Trumps’ case, he actually received a initial deference that is seldom if ever allocated to anyone else within the FISA system – certainly as an offshoot of his prominence and candidacy. Almost uniquely in his single case the Secret Court system took the unusual step of REFUSING a initial surveillance request seeking to target his entourage. The number of such refusals is negligible within this Secret system, and any request is normally functionally paramount to an approval, statistically.

Trump has a second notable exception in that he (at the bidding of a lot of the same advisors currently competing for 1st-in-show ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’) re-upped expiring FISA provisions, after he had himself been abused by FISA process. The duty to pull up the roots of the system that was used against your own personal interests is certainly no more than the duty to protect the rights of those who have none of the resources or means to defend themselves that Trump does in fact possesses.

So, what we are really taking about here largely amounts to the Uniparty Hyena clan’s battling once again over the head and haunches of the defenseless Springbok they have mutually sunk teeth into. The legal system central to this matter, which has no notice / no ability to confront one’s accuser, it allows no appeal system, it operates by legalizing the illegal, this system is in no jeopardy, let alone any voiced concern. Only its internal partisan actors and affiant’s are selected out for scrutiny to the degree that they offend or concern a select hyena clan’s interests in controlling said system of herd management.

The one lesson that we should have all learned by now, at the loss of many American lives, is that a nation cannot protect itself from external threats unless it is in full control, and scrupulously limits, who is admitted to its interior. Any Secret Court promising otherwise runs afoul of the viability tests long ago observed by Rudyard Kipling.

Any Secret Court foisted on a people has no real effective purpose or intent other than Totalitarianism, under the guise of some legalistic procedural framework. While a Secret Court can adopt the trappings of a ‘justice’ system, it has stripped out all the procedural common law safeguards that act to check the avarice of its creators. Its track record shows in our case – as would be fully expected – that it is a complete failure at policing itself given the astronomical approval rate of such requests, and negligible refusal rates.

I think, at a minimum, you also need a policy that effectively makes known to any ‘cleared’ accused, any sources / reports, ‘tips’, or paid/un-compensated informants information, to any Federal Agency or Court(s), after a reasonable period of time has passed to allow a basic investigation of such claims, not to be longer than 12 months. The Court or Agency is then required to give notice to the target that a claim was made against them that was found to be false/malignant/based on illegal actions or intent, and offer them FOIA access to the accusers claims and documentation.

The rationale behind FOIA is that the public as well as those named (falsely) by a deceptive or scheming affiant, have a right to prevent manipulation of process by the corrupt and well connected. If a corrupt affiant is acting under the color of a 1811 status or a FCC License, it makes no difference as in either case Federal power is directed at the individual through a system designed to permanently en-veil its actions within a secret process.

I think there is likely a pretty viable case to be made for multiple indictments in the case involving Trump’s FISA, dating back to the first application.

In my observation, some of the more hysterical observations that would even bring the matter into FISA courts are intent-disprovable on their face. The Trump Tower meeting with the crew of Russian nationals who promised ‘dirt’ and showed up murmuring about adoption tell you several different things –

The goal cannot have been to arrange Russian state assistance to the Trump campaign, because at the minimum, they would have endeavored to arrange further talks and negotiate terms for cooperation. The goal cannot have been to recruit his staff as agents in that meeting, since they made no such effort. The seemingly over-riding intent and goal of the meeting, was to simply to have such a meeting. To have on record a meeting of the Russian national’s entourage WITH the Trump campaign, and its upper echelon (and if possible a curious Trump himself).

This entire meeting can really only be explained in my view as a citation in a FISA app, and for the fairly simple purpose of being able to state the the meeting itself took place in such an application. There is no suggestion at any attempt to dangle promises of information once they were in the door meeting, only to get through the door in the first place.

Because the structural underpinnings of due process are stripped out of FISA star-chamber courts, once the citations are accepted and the FISA application approved, the lone major obstacle is bridged. I dont think we merely have a Trump Coup attempt problem. What exists is instead a Secret Court system that has little to no proven ability to affect foreign intelligence gathering as long as Tsarnaev-grade ‘refugees’ are trucked in wholesale, but has a millenia long track record of proven negative outcomes to unfortunate populations who fall under such draconian controls.

This has been brought to light only because this system of well-paid, un-supervised Feudal petty Lords finally felt adequate in power and imperviousness to take out the wealthy and powerful, and to target the head of the executive branch itself. Trumps case shines a light on the folly of corrupt politicians crafting secret ‘legal’ systems marketed as a protector of liberty – but only as a component part in demonstrating the abuses it cannot help but devolve into. The Kraken has many tentacles, but one head.

#14 Comment By Sid Finster On March 31, 2019 @ 5:33 pm

@Dale: the conspiracies you cite weren’t – the conspiracies were on the establishment side, and the burden of proof on those asserting the existence of the conspiracy, not those debunking it.

To give but one example, Iraqi WMDs. This also was a popular establishment conspiracy theory, and like russiagate, all lies.

#15 Comment By MM On April 1, 2019 @ 11:53 am

Side: These guys are never going to give up their conspiratorial beliefs, because they put so much time and effort into it from the start.

The dossier is their new Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the Mueller report will be their new Warren Report.