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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/8/17

The Trump Investigation: Essential Criminal Probe or Politically-Motivated Witch Hunt?

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From Counterpunch

"The strange sight of liberal America participating in a neo-McCarthyite assault on Trump appointees, not on the grounds of their inherent racism and stupidity, but because they have contacts with Russia, is among the more surreal spectacles of modern political history." -- John Steppling, Are You Now, or Have You Ever Been, a Secret Agent of Vladimir Putin?, CounterPunch

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If Donald Trump is found guilty of illegal behavior in his connections with Russia, then he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But shouldn't the same rule apply to Obama? Shouldn't Obama be held responsible if he authorized an illegal investigation of the Trump campaign in order to destroy a political enemy?

A widely-circulated article in the New York Times casts suspicion on the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia. The article titled "Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking" strongly insinuates that Russian "tampering" might have helped the campaign "tip the election in Mr. Trump's favor."

These are serious charges and Congress is currently taking steps to investigate whether there's any substance to the allegations or not.

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But a careful reading of the Times article also reveals disturbing details about the overzealous manner in which the White House attempted to build its case against Trump. Here's an excerpt from the piece:

"In the Obama administration's last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election -- and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians -- across the government." ("Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking," New York Times)

The opening sentence sounds innocent enough until we get more background later in the article. Halfway through the piece, we see that things are much more murky than they seem. Check it out:

"At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government -- and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information...There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress." (New York Times)

Let's paraphrase and readers can decide whether they think my analysis is fair or not:

In the final days of the Obama administration, White House officials made a concerted effort to spread unsubstantiated information about Russia's alleged attempts to influence the 2016 election. The administration also tried to uncover contacts between associates of Trump and Russia that could be used in future investigations or impeachment proceedings. Presumably, the contacts would be used to create the impression that Trump or his lieutenants were guilty of criminal wrongdoing even though, so far, there is no evidence of any impropriety. Since there was no proof that Trump or his colleagues were involved in anything nefarious, most people would be inclined to call the Obama investigation a "fishing expedition" which is an unfocused probe aimed at uncovering incriminating evidence.

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Aside from the fact that the Intel agencies were spying on the members of a presidential campaign without probable cause and without any evidence of criminal wrongdoing; the fact that they decided to release "raw intelligence" that was re-classified so that it could be disseminated as widely as possible, suggests that someone may have acted improperly if not illegally. At the very least, we must assume that higher-ups in the administration (The DOJ?) authorized the Intel agencies to "dig up dirt" on a political enemy in order to roll back the results of the 2016 presidential election.

Is that a fair reading of the two paragraphs in the Times?

More from the NYT: "There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress" (and to) "European allies."

Who made that decision? Someone (Obama, the DOJ, the CIA?) sought to disseminate as much damaging information as possible to as many people as possible to undermine the new administration and create a legal foundation for impeachment proceedings. The fact that the information they were disseminating was "raw intelligence" -- which was not necessarily reliable -- suggests that the primary objective was not to reveal the truth, but to use whatever tools that were available to sabotage the Trump presidency.

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Mike is a freelance writer living in Washington state.

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