Election 2016

Marc Thiessen slavishly followed the conservative playbook in writing a Washington Post op-ed piece on Russian interference in the 2016 elections. He cooked the evidence and blamed the Democrats. The title of his article set the tone: “Democrats are crippling America’s response to Russian interference.”

As has repeatedly been pointed out —  and equally often ignored by Republicans —  the GOP controls both branches of Congress and the Presidency, so to claim the Democrats are throwing spanners in the works is absurd. So how does Thiessen do it? Here’s his take:

Republicans and Democrats should be working together in bipartisan way to confront it. So why is this not happening? Because Democrats have politicized the issue, weaponizing the Russia inquiry in an effort to delegitimize Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton with these unfounded collusion charges. They have put their partisan goal of bringing down President Trump ahead of what should be a national goal that unites both parties — uncovering and stopping Russia’s attack on our democracy.

It is chutzpah of high order to lay the discord between the parties at the Democrats’ feet. There isn’t enough time to get into whose fault it is — but for the sake of argument let’s blame both parties equally (I know what you’re thinking, but it’s just to move the diary along). Again I say the Republicans control the whole process, so any serious investigation doesn’t need the Democrats.

And casting ‘policiticization’ as a Democratic sin is silly. Republicans take the second seat to no one in politicizing what should be beyond the scope of politics. Say sex-ed, contraception, and science — even religion.

Thiessen spouts the party line when he says last Friday’ indictments present no evidence of collusion between the Russians and Trump. But in saying it, he gives evidence against his point.

Now the special counsel has issued an indictment that shows — at least with regard to this element of the Russian effort — that no collusion took place. 

Pay heed, “this element of the Russian effort”. He’s aware that no who knows what other indictments are in store and what charges they may carry. What has been revealed so far does not address what might be revealed in the future. Every photograph of the Titanic before it hit the iceberg show a ship that hasn’t hit an iceberg — but it still hit an iceberg.

After the Manafort indictments, the White House eagerly pointed out that the Mueller investigation was looking at financial crimes that occurred way before Manafort worked for Trump. That happy thought has now been shown to be desperate and wishful thinking. As the collusion denial might turn out to be. Although Mueller may well be teeing up more fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion charges.

Which brings up Theissen’s other chestnut that the Russian interference started in 2014 — way before Trump announced his candidacy — so how could it have had anything to do with Trump? We can dispose of that easily. The Russians knew they were going to interfere in the 2016 election. They just didn’t know who their useful idiot was going to be.

But like any sophisticated attack, it adapted to changing circumstances and had the added benefit of a Republican nominee who hired people who had a great enthusiasm for using any means, legal, dubious and possibly illegal to achieve their ends.

The Russians may not have known that Trump was going to run, let alone win. But they adapted easily to their incredibly good luck.

Lastly, Theissen defaults to the standard distraction. It was Obama’s fault.

For three years, President Barack Obama did virtually nothing in response to this attack on America. It’s way past time to address this threat, and we need to do it in a bipartisan manner.

Reasonable people may well make a case that Obama’s reaction was not robust enough. So be it. His defenders will counter that he was stymied by Mitch McConnell. Possibly. But it seems beyond doubt that he was very concerned he would be seen to be playing politics with the election — which is precisely the opposite to Theissen’s main thrust that the Democrats are playing politics with the investigation.

Regardless, Obama acknowledged there was Russian interference. Whereas – until the Mueller indictment more than a year into his presidency – Trump waffled on or outright denied Russian intervention. And more tellingly he gave the Republican congressional committees charged with investigating these things cover to pursue red herrings.

So I say to Theissen, I agree with your demand that the Russian investigation needs to be done in a bipartisan manner. But if you are serious, tell it to the Republicans.

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