Friday, February 16, 2024

The latest right wing conspiracy theory: Trump/Russia was a CIA hoax and Putin actually favored Clinton

There have been a lot of big news stories lately, but a major focus has been on Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. 

  • CNN reported that a 10-inch binder containing highly classified information related to Russian election interference went missing at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency.
  • Tucker Carlson interviewed Putin and is traveling around Russia telling us how everything is so much better there than it is here in the U.S.
  • Donald Trump said that he would encourage Russia to ‘do whatever the hell they want’ to any NATO country that doesn’t pay enough.
  • After the Senate passed the national security supplemental, including funding for Ukraine, Speaker Mike Johnson declared that it was "dead on arrival" in the House and sent representatives home for a couple of weeks.
  • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny died in prison - with the assumption being that Putin had the 47 year old murdered.
  • Putin said that Russia would prefer to see Biden win a second term, describing him as "more experienced and predictable."
If you believe that last one, then Matt Taibbi, Michael Shellenberger, and Alex Gutentag are in the midst of telling a tall tale that you will love. I'm not going to link to the articles they've published over the last three days because they're behind a paywall and I'm certainly not going to spend any money going after them. 

But these guys are basically saying that the entire Trump/Russia story was a hoax perpetrated by former Obama CIA Director John Brennan - who they accuse of doing two things:
  1. Kicking off the whole "Russia hoax" by asking our allies ("Five Eyes" intelligence services) to spy on 26 Trump associates in early 2016.
  2. Cooking the intelligence behind the January 2017 assessment of Russian activities to suggest that Putin aspired to help Trump when he really favored Hillary Clinton for the "continuity and stability" she would bring.
Here's Shellenberger on point #1:

And here he is on point #2: 

I'm not going to get into the weeds on all of the lies articulated in those two claims. But just to give you one example, in the second video Shellenberg says:

[The CIA] used the Steele memo, the infamous political document commissioned by the Hillary Clinton campaign, to cook the intelligence...for the early January 2017 intelligence community assessment claiming that the Russians favored Trump falsely. That relied on the Steele memo.

As a fact check on that one, let's actually go back and look at what Fox News reported in July 2020. There we learn that, in preparing the January 2017 report, it was Comey and the FBI who wanted the Steele dossier woven in, over objections from Brennan and the CIA. The compromise that they all agreed to was to avoid any use/reference to the dossier and simply attach it as an appendix. 

Shellenberger, Taibbi, and Gutentag didn't produce a single document to corroborate their claims. Instead, on several occasions they refer to their "multiple credible sources," but don't name them. They suggest that these sources are knowledgeable because of their involvement with the investigation done by the House Select Committee on Intelligence - the one that was initially chaired by Devin Nunes and staffed by Kash Patel

To assume that there is any credibility to these claims, all you have to do is take the word of people like that over the following:

The story these guys are trying to sell hasn't made it into the mainstream media. But it's not just showing up on Fox. It's also landed at places like The Federalist, the Washington Times, the Daily Wire, and RealClearPolitics. Apparently, Taibbi will be on Don Trump, Jr's. podcast tonight to talk about it. So of course, Jonathan Turley is also weighing in.

If this nonsense goes the way that other rightwing conspiracies have developed, it is very likely that we'll be hearing it from Republican politicians soon. So the question becomes, why now? I suspect it has something to do with all of those stories I listed at the beginning of this piece up above. So I'll be watching how it plays into all of the other lies Putin/Trump are trying to sell.

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