From Consortium News
The intensifying hysteria over Russia has pushed Official Washington over the edge into outright madness. On one side of this asylum, you have the Democrats, neoconservatives and mainstream media, while on the other, you have the embattled Trump administration. Both sides have been making grave allegations with little or no evidence to support them.
The Democratic/neocon/MSM side has pushed the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russians to put the real-estate mogul in the White House, but there is, as yet, no evidence that such a thing happened.
Even one of the top advocates feeding this Russia frenzy, New York Times correspondent Thomas L. Friedman, acknowledged on Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "I agree, there is no evidence," but then added: "which is why we need a special prosecutor or an independent commission to get to the bottom of it."
But that is not how investigations are supposed to work. You're supposed to have evidence of wrongdoing and then examine it in the investigative phase to see if the evidence withstands scrutiny. What Friedman is suggesting is more like a "fishing expedition" or a "witch hunt."
The drip-drip of this investigative water torture finally got to President Trump last week as he flew down to his winter home at Mar-a-Lago. He joined the crazy melee early Saturday morning by sending out a flurry of tweets accusing President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower in New York City in the weeks before the Nov. 8 election. Trump also offered no evidence while demanding an investigation to get to the bottom of this.
By contrast, in all the major investigations that I have handled as an investigative reporter, such as Oliver North's secret White House paramilitary operation; the related Nicaraguan Contra drug trafficking scandal; Richard Nixon interference with President Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam peace talks in 1968; and Ronald Reagan's campaign sabotage of President Jimmy Carter's Iranian-hostage negotiations in 1980 -- there was substantial evidence from eyewitnesses and documents supporting the suspicions before the story was published.
At no point would I have argued that just because Oliver North met a Contra leader that it was time to investigate whether he and his Reagan administration superiors were breaking the law. I first found multiple insiders, including people in the U.S. government and the Contra movement, describing how North was running his back-channel war. In some of these investigative situations, we had two dozen or so sources describing detailed aspects of these operations before we made any allegations in print.
Now the argument is that because some people suspect something, even without evidence, major investigations are warranted. That is usually what a conspiracy theory sounds like. Someone claims not to understand how something could have happened a certain way and thus a full-scale inquiry is needed into some highly unlikely and speculative scenario.
In the case of the Russia investigation, the opening salvos came from President Obama's intelligence agencies, which alleged that Russia had "hacked" Democratic emails and slipped the contents to WikiLeaks, but the agencies offered nothing in the way of U.S. government evidence to support that supposition.
The two reports that were issued were heavy on the word "assesses" -- which in intelligence jargon usually means "guesses" -- but short on anything that could be checked out or verified.
The Jan. 6 report, issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, admitted as much, saying, "Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents."
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks representatives denied getting the two batches of Democratic emails from Russia, suggesting that two different American insiders had leaked the material.