From Consortium News
Robert Mueller, special counsel for FBI Russia probe
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Fads and scandals often follow a set trajectory. They grow big, bigger, and then, finally, too big, at which point they topple over and collapse under the weight of their own internal contradictions. This was the fate of the "Me too" campaign, which started out as an expose' of serial abuser Harvey Weinstein but then went too far when Babe.net published a story about one woman's bad date with comedian Aziz Ansari. Suddenly, it became clear that different types of behavior were being lumped together in a dangerous way, and a once-explosive movement began to fizzle.
So, too, with Russiagate. After dominating the news for more than a year, the scandal may have at last reached a tipping point with last week's indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three Russian corporations on charges of illegal interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. But the indictment landed with a decided thud for three reasons:
-- It failed to connect the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the alleged St. Petersburg troll factory accused of political meddling, with Vladimir Putin, the all-purpose evil-doer who the corporate media say is out to destroy American democracy.
-- It similarly failed to establish a connection with the Trump campaign and indeed went out of its way to describe contacts with the Russians as "unwitting."
-- It described the meddling itself as even more inept and amateurish than many had suspected.
After nine months of labor, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller thus brought forth a mouse. Even if all the charges are true -- something we'll probably never know since it's unlikely that any of the accused will be brought to trial -- the indictment tells us virtually nothing that's new.
Yes, IRA staffers purchased $100,000 worth of Facebook ads, 56 percent of which ran after Election Day. Yes, they persuaded someone in Florida to dress up as Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform and stand inside a cage mounted on a flatbed truck. And, yes, they also got another "real U.S. person," as the indictment terms it, to stand in front of the White House with a sign saying, "Happy 55th Birthday Dear Boss," a tribute, apparently, to IRA founder Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the convicted robber turned caterer whose birthday was three days away. Instead of a super-sophisticated spying operation, the indictment depicts a bumbling freelance operation that is still giving Putin heartburn months after the fact.
Not that this has stopped the media from whipping itself into a frenzy. "Russia is at war with our democracy," screamed a headline in the Washington Post. "Trump is ignoring the worst attack on America since 9/11," blared another. "...Russia is engaged in a virtual war against the United States through 21st-century tools of disinformation and propaganda," declared the New York Times, while Daily Beast columnist Jonathan Alter tweeted that the IRA's activities amounted to nothing less than a "tech Pearl Harbor."
All of which merely demonstrates, in proper backhanded fashion, how grievously Mueller has fallen short. Proof that the scandal had at last overstayed its welcome came five days later when the Guardian, a website that had previously flogged Russiagate even more vigorously than the Post, the Times, or CNN, published a news analysis by Cas Mudde, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, admitting that it was all a farce -- and a particularly self-defeating one at that.
Mudde's article made short work of hollow pieties about a neutral and objective investigation. Rather than an effort to get at the truth, Russiagate was a thinly-veiled effort at regime change. "[I]n the end," he wrote, "the only question everyone really seems to care about is whether Donald Trump was involved -- and can therefore be impeached for treason.
With last week's indictment, the article went on, "Democratic party leaders once again reassured their followers that this was the next logical step in the inevitable downfall of Trump." The more Democrats play the Russiagate card, in other words, the nearer they will come to their goal of riding the Orange-Haired One out of town on a rail.
This makes the Dems seem crass, unscrupulous, and none too democratic. But then Mudde gave the knife a twist. The real trouble with the strategy, he said, is that it isn't working:
"While there is no doubt that the Trump camp was, and still is, filled with amoral and fraudulent people, and was very happy to take the Russians help during the elections, even encouraging it on the campaign, I do not think Mueller will be able to find conclusive evidence that Donald Trump himself colluded with Putin's Russia to win the elections. And that is the only thing that will lead to his impeachment as the Republican party is not risking political suicide for anything less."
Other Objectives of "Russiagate"