In Brief: Russiagate Used to Justify FBI Election Interference
The false collusion narrative of 2016 became the pretext for the bureau to put its thumb on the scale for Joe Biden in 2020.
The last two presidential elections have been severely tainted with Democrat shenanigans. Interfered. Rigged. Stole. There are all sorts of words for it. Corrupt. That’s another. Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has a lengthy piece on how the corruption of 2016 led to FBI interference in 2020. We’ll pull only brief highlights.
Who was the archvillain of Russiagate? It’s an important question, considering the cocksure certainty of the national-security establishment that Russia is a mortal threat to our democratic process, and the fact that that certainty has been used as justification for thrusting the FBI into our electoral politics as a monitor of what is supposed to be our free press and robust political speech.
Short answer: “The surest Public Enemy No. 1 in the Russiagate saga is Julian Assange.” His leaks set off a chain of events that made leftist election interference possible.
But here’s the curious thing: For the most part, the indictment says Assange’s crimes ended in 2015 — the year before the 2016 election and the publication of the hacked DNC emails. In two counts at the end, the Justice Department tries to extend the Espionage Act offenses into 2019. I suspect that was done because, if Assange is eventually prosecuted on this indictment, his best defense may be the statute of limitations. For most federal crimes, it is five years; that could be a problem for prosecutors who waited until 2018 to allege misconduct that, in the main, happened eight years earlier. But in any event, the charges the government has strained to stretch into 2019 involve theft of government defense secrets. Assange is not charged with conspiracy to hack the DNC and divulge its emails and internal memoranda.
…. On the other hand, there could be a very good reason why Assange hasn’t been charged: The government cannot prove that Russia and Assange conspired to hack the DNC and thus interfere in the 2016 election.
The DNC hack was irrelevant to Clinton’s defeat. So was the laughably sparse and juvenile propaganda allegedly spewed out via Kremlin-backed “troll farms” and bots. Both the leaked emails and the propaganda were mere drops in an ocean of election-related rhetoric. They had no impact on the election.
Nevertheless, if you’re going to maintain, against all reason, that the DNC hack was of consequence to the 2016 election, the question of Russia’s culpability cannot be avoided. Alas, after Democrats insisted for months that there was solid evidence of both Russia’s guilt and Trump’s complicity, it turned out that the Russia evidence was iffy at best.
The FBI and the Obama Justice Department never seized or subpoenaed the DNC’s servers, which is a very odd way of treating the corpus delecti of what they told us was the crime of the century. Instead, government investigators relied on the analysis of a private firm, CrowdStrike. As a DNC contractor, CrowdStrike had the same motive as the Clinton campaign and the Democrats to pin the hack on Russia and, derivatively, Trump. But it turned out that, in 2017, the company’s president, Shawn Henry, admitted to the House Intelligence Committee that CrowdStrike’s analysis turned up no hard evidence that Russian operatives (or anyone else) actually “exfiltrated” data from the DNC’s system. Sure, CrowdStrike had a theory. It had some circumstantial evidence that hackers may have laid the groundwork to exfiltrate the data. Henry conceded, though, that it found no “concrete evidence” that hackers actually followed up and filched the DNC emails.
He then recounts the Mueller probe, which “with great fanfare” turned up precisely nothing, before concluding:
Finally, that brings us back to Julian Assange. The government indicts him, but they don’t accuse him of conspiring to hack the DNC, or of meddling in the 2016 election in any other way. They’re trying to extradite him from Britain, but they won’t accuse him of the crimes the U.S. and U.K. governments worked together to try to prove.
The Justice Department knows that Assange has always maintained that he did not get the stolen DNC emails from Russian sources. Now, it’s quite possible that he’s lying. It’s also possible that he just doesn’t know — Kremlin-directed hackers generally don’t pass out FSB business cards. But the fact of the matter is: If the Justice Department indicted Assange over the DNC emails, our government would not be able to prove that Russia is guilty, and Assange would get to take the witness stand and crow that Russia had nothing to do with it.
That wouldn’t do wonders for the “Russia hacked the election” narrative, now, would it?
Wading through this endless saga, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. At this point, what matters most is not the wayward history of the 2016 election. What matters most is what imperils our democracy: the government’s reliance on that history to justify abuses of power in the here and now.
Since 2016, the FBI has become much more aggressive in policing the free press and political speech. To justify this aggression, it has relied on the allegation, made by blatantly partisan current and former national-security officials, that Russia endangered American democracy through diabolical cyber machinations aimed at defeating Hillary Clinton. In the 2020 election, the bureau collaborated with congressional Democrats to push the bogus narrative that the Post’s reporting — its allegations that members of Joe Biden’s family leveraged his political influence into millions of dollars in foreign money — was “Russian disinformation.” Not content with that, the FBI also encouraged social-media platforms to suppress the reporting. And on the eve of the election, 51 national-security pooh-bahs followed the bureau’s lead, peddling the fiction that the Hunter Biden laptop was a Kremlin plant.
This was profound, counter-constitutional interference in our elections by our government. Yet, we’re expected to tolerate it because of Clinton-campaign-generated spin about Russian hacking that didn’t affect the outcome of the 2016 election, that the government’s lawyers refuse to raise even when — as in Assange’s extradition proceedings — raising it would seem to be in the government’s interest, that federal prosecutors apparently can’t prove, and that may not have happened at all.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not convinced that our totally nonpartisan, highly professional, utterly scrupulous government is being straight with us.
- Andrew McCarthy
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