Sunday, April 2, 2017

Here's where to get clarity on all the threads in the tangled mess that is Russia's role in the 2016 election

David French at NRO admirably and succinctly examines all the factors and figures in the cluster of controversies surrounding the current administration, its immediate predecessor, Russia, and US politics. He lays it out in Q&A style, with the italicized questions representing the various aspects of the entire scenario about which the everyday American is curious. He covers it all: Manafort, Page and Flynn, the fakes-news phenomenon, the historically dismal approval numbers for both of last year's final candidates, the notion of a "deep state," what is problematic with the way Devin Nunes has behaved, what we do and don't know about Obama-era figures trying to hobble Trump from early on.

The way to give you a taste is with a look at the final question and answer:

Wait a minute, after more than 2,300 words, are you saying that we know Russia tried to interfere with the election, but we don’t know if Trump officials helped or colluded in any way, if Trump himself was involved in any way, if Obama officials have improperly unmasked or surveilled Trump’s team, or who any unlawful leakers were? Is this the least-helpful Q & A ever written?

The answer to all these questions except the last (I hope!) is “yes.” We don’t know the most important facts of the case, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t know anything important. It’s important and troubling to know that members of the intelligence community are seemingly leaking with impunity to damage Trump. It’s important and troubling to know that Trump has lost key aides because of their Russia ties, and that Trump and his team continue struggling to tell the truth about their Russian contacts. And it’s important and troubling to know that huge swaths of the American political establishment are being exposed as purely partisan.

The FBI is continuing its investigation, and so are the House and Senate intelligence committees (though Nunes’s House committee is in a state of chaos). Every major media publication is feverishly chasing the various threads of the story. It’s entirely possible that we’re not at the beginning of the end of this scandal, but rather at the end of the beginning. It’s also entirely possible that the end, when it comes, will leave political casualties on all sides, from bureaucrats who may face prosecution for unlawful leaks to public figures who may face ruin for unlawful or inappropriate foreign contacts.

One thing is clear: The Russian government has run one of the most cost-effective and disruptive espionage operations in history. Through a few simple hacks of the DNC, some basic online trolling, and garden-variety propaganda spread by modern means, the Kremlin has turned a superpower’s politics upside down. Its chief geopolitical rival is divided, with leaders obviously more furious at each other than at the foreign power who created the crisis. Russia may well face a day of reckoning for its attack on our democracy, but for now it has won, and the magnitude of its victory increases with each petty and partisan turn in Washington’s most consequential drama. 
Indeed. One big takeaway is that Russia is our adversary at best.

As I said the other day, though, LITD is not going to get mired in the latest supposedly hot development and run the risk of getting distracted by matters of speculation.

Big picture, folks, big picture.

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