GOP SICKLE

August 10, 2018

Russiagate refers to a series of allegations that the Russian state, or actors close to the Russian state, intervened or colluded with Donald Trump
in the 2016 US presidential election in a major way, causing or greatly contributing to his election as US president and are further attempting to disrupt US society and subvert its “democratic institutions”. Over the past year politicians and pundits, including Hillary Clinton, have called alleged Russian interference in the US election an “act of war” and the equivalent of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is the opinion of this author, that while she has no political support for Trump or Russian President Putin, the Russiagate allegations are largely unsubstantiated and are an orchestrated narrative for ulterior political purposes

An understanding of recent US/Russian relations is important for getting at the root of the Russiagate narrative. Russia is a country of vast natural resources, including enormous oil reserves. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, under the US recommended economic “shock therapy” the Russian economy faced a near total collapse. Living standards plummeted and predatory Western firms and newly created Russian oligarchs looted the country. Russia, once a rival super power to the US, saw its global power and stature vanish over night. NATO, the anti-Soviet alliance system created by the US and still seen by Russia as a geopolitical threat, was expanded to the borders of Russia. Under Putin there has been something of a revival, the Russian capitalist state has been strengthened, the military rebuilt, and the economy, now partially protected from Western penetration and control, has recovered, fueled by the low price of oil. The deterioration in Russian-American relations began after Russia began to reassert its international role after years of collapse. Tensions rose after the Russian-Georgian conflict in August, 2008 and the US backed coup, involving fascist elements, in Ukraine in 2014, as a result of which Russia annexed the Russian speaking region of Crimea. Relations further deteriorated after Russian military intervention in Syria, a historic ally, in September of 2015. While military assertion of a newly resurgent Russia was far below that of the former Soviet Union, it was blocking the geopolitical aims of the US. As Russia began to reassert itself it came under increasing demonization by the US corporate media.

The details and evolution of the Russiagate narrative are complex and involve a large number of people. On January 16, 2016 Wikileaks began releasing a series of leaked emails from leaders of the Democratic National Committee. A massive batch of 20,000 emails, released a few days before the Democratic National Convention in July 2016 were politically explosive and were highly embarrassing to Democratic Party leaders. They showed the supposedly neutral DNC favoring Hillary Clinton as the nominee during the primaries and revealed Democratic leaders openly conspiring to sabotage the campaign of Clinton’s opponent, Bernie Sanders, and planting news articles favorable to Clinton in media outlets such as CNN, Politico and the Wall Street Journal. In the wake of these revelations the already deeply unpopular DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced to resign shortly after the convention. Later leaked emails from John Podesta, Clinton’s main campaign manager, showed efforts to convince Trump to run in the GOP primaries, as an easier candidate to defeat in the general election.

In late July2016 Robby Mook, a Clinton campaign manager, claimed that unnamed experts believed that the leaks were the result of Russian intervention. Shortly after this, while the FBI was barred from investigating the DNC’s computer network, Crowdstrike, a private computer security firm hired by the DNC, claimed it had evidence of “an extremely sophisticated” Russian hacking operation. Knowledgeable technology experts have questioned Crowdstrike, saying that the “fingerprints” it claimed to have found would have been the result of sloppiness, not expertise.

The narrative continued to develop with the “Steele Dossier” written by Christopher Steele, a retired British intelligence officer, hired by Fusion GPS, a research firm initially hired by anti-Trump Republicans during the Republican primaries to find evidence connecting Trump politically and

financially to Russia. After Trump won the nomination Fusion was then hired by Democrats to continue the same research, three months before the Wikileaks revelations. Fusion and media outlets initially chose not to publish the document because its allegations were unverified and some of them seemed outlandish.

The Steele Dossier claimed, among other things, that Trump had colluded with the Russian government to influence the presidential election in return for not raising the Russian role in Ukraine as a campaign issue. The document also claimed that Trump had commissioned a “golden showers” show in which Russian sex workers urinated on a bed which Barack and Michelle Obama had slept in. These allegations have never been verified and the “golden showers” claim has been widely mocked. Several leftist and conservative writers believe that that much of the material from the Steele Dossier was based on material improperly taken from FBI /NSA databases. In January 2017 a leaked copy of the document was published by Buzzfeed, while Buzzfeed’s editor said there were serious reasons to doubt it’s allegations.

In July 2016 the FBI announced that it was investigating the hacking of the DNC servers. Both the FBI and the CIA were under the supervision of James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence. In 2017 it was revealed that Carter Page, a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, with ties to the Russian oil company Gazprom, had been investigated under a secret FISA warrant, which in turn was thought to have been motivated by claims that Page had directly conspired with Putin in the Steele Dossier, a document paid for by the Clinton campaign. This raised questions of illegitimate use of FISA warrants for political purposes. No evidence of wrong doing on the part of Page has been found. A memo released in 2018 by the House Intelligence Committee alleged that surveillance of Page had been motivated by another former Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulas, who, after a night of heavy drinking at a London bar, told an Australian diplomat that he had ties with the Russian leadership and claimed he knew that the Russians had thousands of emails compromising Hillary Clinton. In October 2017 Papadopoulas pled guilty to charges of lying to Federal investigators about his contacts with the Russian government, although no direct evidence linking Trump with Russia was found.

In a presidential debate in October, 2016 Clinton called Trump a “Putin puppet” and claimed that all 17 US intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia was behind the leaks. This claim has been repeated many times in the corporate media but has been widely disputed. A New York Times June 2017 repeating this claim was later retracted.

James Clapper is widely believed to have been behind much of the Russiagate investigation. The journalist Max Blumenthal claims that Clapper had leaked the Steele Dossier to a CNN commentator, then lied about this to Congress. The respected late journalist Robert Perry in an article in Consortium claimed that the Russiagate assessment was put together in less than a month,using pre-cooked intelligence from three intelligence agencies. The independent journalist Caitlin Johnston said, “the 17 agencies were actually three agencies plus…James Clapper, which was actually two dozen agents from the CIA, FBI, and NSA that Clapper hand-picked himself”. Clapper has expressed anti-Russian racism and in a speech before the Australian Press Club claimed that Russians are genetically incapable of understanding Western democracy. In the wake of the Snowden revelations in 2013 Clapper faced a firestorm of criticism for lying before Congress about the extent of NSA surveillance and there were calls for his prosecution for perjury. In August 2017 Clapper took a job with CNN.

In late December 2016 Obama, in the twilight of his presidency, expelled 35 Russian diplomats and increased sanctions against Russia in retaliation, although none of the Russiagate allegations had yet been substantiated. Further developments in the Russiagate scandal dovetailed with the political incompetence of the new Trump administration. In May, 2017, in the wake of the political firestorm caused by Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the FBI investigation of the alleged Russian election interference. The corporate media praised Mueller for his “rock hard integrity” despite Mueller having lied before Congress about WMDs in Iraq in 2003 and as FBI Director having overseen what were essentially entrapment operations against leftists and Muslim-American youth.

The Russiagate narrative expanded from allegations that Russia was behind the DNC leaks to unsubstantiated allegations, given wide media circulation, that Russia was subverting both the US political system and its technical infrastructure. On February 16 Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three entities who were alleged to be part of a Russian “bot farm” interfering with the presidential election though ads on social media. The firms placed right wing and pro-Trump ads on Facebook. The wording of the indictment however appears to describe a commercial marketing venture which ran click-bait sites to generate ad revenue rather than sinister psychological warfare by the Russian government. Facebook’s vice president of advertising Rob Goldman said, “I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was not the main goal”. He added that most of the ads were purchased after the election and suggested that the real purpose of the narrative was US media propaganda. After criticism Goldman however disavowed his earlier comments.

The charges against the “bots” triggered widespread media hysteria. The liberal journalist Robert Kuttner claimed that Trump “literally became president in a Russian-sponsored coup d’etat” and several media pundits claimed that the “bot” intervention was an “act of war”. The Guardian mentioned that the Russian “bot farm” spent $100,000 on ads while the total spent on the 2016 election was a record $9.8 billion. A former Clinton press secretary wryly noted, “It seems like the creative instincts and the sophistication exceeds a lot of the US political operatives who do this for a living.”

In late December, 2016 the Washington Post, which had been foremost in pushing the Russiagate narrative ran an article claiming that Russia had hacked the power grid in Vermont.The article was widely criticized for being based on inaccurate information and supposition and was later retracted.

The FBI has made repeated claims, from 2016 to 2018 that Russia was attempting to hack into US voting machines. There have been reports that voter records in Illinois and Arizona were hacked into and that 90,000 voter records were stolen, including drivers license and social security information. Identity theft of this nature against large corporations has been common in the past few

years and such information can be lucrative on the “dark web”. Media accounts blame Russia but tech journals have mentioned that there is no forensic evidence linking Russia to this.

There are holes in allegations that the Wikileaks emails came from Russia. John Podesta left his phone, with access to his email account, in a taxi and then changed his email password to “p@ssw0rd”. Another time he opened himself to a “ping attack”, something a computer savvy high school student would be capable of, by clicking on an insecure email. This inattention to basic internet security shows a staggering level of incompetence by the manager of a major US political campaign.

The corporate media has widely derided allegations that Seth Rich was the source of the leaks as a fringe conspiracy theory but the mysteries surrounding his murder have never been explained. Rich was a voting tabulation expert employed by the DNC. He was found shot in the early morning of July 10, 2016 and died a few hours later. His wallet, with cash and credit cards, was found on him, indicating his murder was not a robbery. An independent investigation by George Washington University journalism students claimed that Rich was murdered by a hired killer. The FBI has admitted that it has never carried out an investigation of the murder. The veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersch claims he has a source within the FBI that has confirmed that Rich was the leaker, although this has not been verified.

Much of the Trump Administration has close ties with finance capital. It is not unlikely that many Trump personnel, and perhaps Trump himself, have ties to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs. While certainly not excusable, profiting from foreign contacts has not been uncommon among the US political elite. The Clinton Foundation has been accused of profiting from insider deals with Saudi Arabia, Russia and other countries. Whatever the truth surrounding the Russian “bots”, such intervention is also not uncommon. Israel is believed to maintain a large number of “hasbara trolls” to push a pro-Israeli narrative. The online journal +972 says that the hasbara program, originally under the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has up to 100,000 volunteers promoting pro-Israeli views on social media. The Russiagate narrative has come entirely from the Democratic Party and US intelligence agencies, both with their own political agendas, with no independent verification.

William Blum in Killing Hope describes US intervention in dozens of countries, some on a massive level, and many of which have had horrifically bloody consequences. US government agencies, banks and consultancies heavily intervened in the Russian election of 1996, an election marked by corruption and vote rigging, in support of Boris Yeltsin. US foreign policy under Trump has remained hostile to Russia, with military aid to Ukraine increasing, punitive sanctions against Russia and Trump ordering an attack on a Russian military base in Syria.

Several recent academic studies describe the undemocratic nature of US politics. Only two parties, which despite rhetoric have few substantial differences, are allowed to compete in US elections. Voter suppression and gerrymandering are common. Massive amounts of money usually determine the outcome of elections. It was the highly undemocratic Electoral College which threw the election to Trump. It seems absurd to blame Russia for subverting something which barely exists.

The US political system is in crisis, with expensive interminable wars, vast income inequality and growing social unrest. Trump faces widespread revulsion for his horrific treatment of undocumented immigrants, his race-baiting and encouragement of fascism, his corporate looting, and his unhinged war mongering, Russiagate serves to defect blame and attention from the corruption of the Democratic Party and its role leading to Trump’s election. Elements to the left of the Democratic Party, including the Standing Rock protests, Black Lives Matter, and independent critics are being connected to Russia in the media. The narrative, which opposes Trump from the right instead of the left, serves to mobilize the population in the interests of finance capital and the gargantuan military industrial complex. The narrative has given support to agencies such as the FBI and CIA, which have a long history of repression, domestically and overseas. Russiagate encourages people to side with historic forces of control and repression in what is essentially a vicious faction fight within the ruling class. Any effective fight against the very real horrors of the Trump administration must place Trump in the context of the decades long degeneration of the US political system, of which the Democrats are an integral part

financially to Russia. After Trump won the nomination Fusion was then hired by Democrats to continue the same research, three months before the Wikileaks revelations. Fusion and media outlets initially chose not to publish the document because its allegations were unverified and some of them seemed outlandish.

The Steele Dossier claimed, among other things, that Trump had colluded with the Russian government to influence the presidential election in return for not raising the Russian role in Ukraine as a campaign issue. The document also claimed that Trump had commissioned a “golden showers” show in which Russian sex workers urinated on a bed which Barack and Michelle Obama had slept in. These allegations have never been verified and the “golden showers” claim has been widely mocked. Several leftist and conservative writers believe that that much of the material from the Steele Dossier was based on material improperly taken from FBI /NSA databases. In January 2017 a leaked copy of the document was published by Buzzfeed, while Buzzfeed’s editor said there were serious reasons to doubt it’s allegations.

In July 2016 the FBI announced that it was investigating the hacking of the DNC servers. Both the FBI and the CIA were under the supervision of James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence. In 2017 it was revealed that Carter Page, a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, with ties to the Russian oil company Gazprom, had been investigated under a secret FISA warrant, which in turn was thought to have been motivated by claims that Page had directly conspired with Putin in the Steele Dossier, a document paid for by the Clinton campaign. This raised questions of illegitimate use of FISA warrants for political purposes. No evidence of wrong doing on the part of Page has been found. A memo released in 2018 by the House Intelligence Committee alleged that surveillance of Page had been motivated by another former Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulas, who, after a night of heavy drinking at a London bar, told an Australian diplomat that he had ties with the Russian leadership and claimed he knew that the Russians had thousands of emails compromising Hillary Clinton. In October 2017 Papadopoulas pled guilty to charges of lying to Federal investigators about his contacts with the Russian government, although no direct evidence linking Trump with Russia was found.

In a presidential debate in October, 2016 Clinton called Trump a “Putin puppet” and claimed that all 17 US intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia was behind the leaks. This claim has been repeated many times in the corporate media but has been widely disputed. A New York Times June 2017 repeating this claim was later retracted.

James Clapper is widely believed to have been behind much of the Russiagate investigation. The journalist Max Blumenthal claims that Clapper had leaked the Steele Dossier to a CNN commentator, then lied about this to Congress. The respected late journalist Robert Perry in an article in Consortium claimed that the Russiagate assessment was put together in less than a month,using pre-cooked intelligence from three intelligence agencies. The independent journalist Caitlin Johnston said, “the 17 agencies were actually three agencies plus…James Clapper, which was actually two dozen agents from the CIA, FBI, and NSA that Clapper hand-picked himself”. Clapper has expressed anti-Russian racism and in a speech before the Australian Press Club claimed that Russians are genetically incapable of understanding Western democracy. In the wake of the Snowden revelations in 2013 Clapper faced a firestorm of criticism for lying before Congress about the extent of NSA surveillance and there were calls for his prosecution for perjury. In August 2017 Clapper took a job with CNN.

In late December 2016 Obama, in the twilight of his presidency, expelled 35 Russian diplomats and increased sanctions against Russia in retaliation, although none of the Russiagate allegations had yet been substantiated. Further developments in the Russiagate scandal dovetailed with the political incompetence of the new Trump administration. In May, 2017, in the wake of the political firestorm caused by Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the FBI investigation of the alleged Russian election interference. The corporate media praised Mueller for his “rock hard integrity” despite Mueller having lied before Congress about WMDs in Iraq in 2003 and as FBI Director having overseen what were essentially entrapment operations against leftists and Muslim-American youth.

The Russiagate narrative expanded from allegations that Russia was behind the DNC leaks to unsubstantiated allegations, given wide media circulation, that Russia was subverting both the US political system and its technical infrastructure. On February 16 Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three entities who were alleged to be part of a Russian “bot farm” interfering with the presidential election though ads on social media. The firms placed right wing and pro-Trump ads on Facebook. The wording of the indictment however appears to describe a commercial marketing venture which ran click-bait sites to generate ad revenue rather than sinister psychological warfare by the Russian government. Facebook’s vice president of advertising Rob Goldman said, “I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was not the main goal”. He added that most of the ads were purchased after the election and suggested that the real purpose of the narrative was US media propaganda. After criticism Goldman however disavowed his earlier comments.

The charges against the “bots” triggered widespread media hysteria. The liberal journalist Robert Kuttner claimed that Trump “literally became president in a Russian-sponsored coup d’etat” and several media pundits claimed that the “bot” intervention was an “act of war”. The Guardian mentioned that the Russian “bot farm” spent $100,000 on ads while the total spent on the 2016 election was a record $9.8 billion. A former Clinton press secretary wryly noted, “It seems like the creative instincts and the sophistication exceeds a lot of the US political operatives who do this for a living.”

In late December, 2016 the Washington Post, which had been foremost in pushing the Russiagate narrative ran an article claiming that Russia had hacked the power grid in Vermont.The article was widely criticized for being based on inaccurate information and supposition and was later retracted.

The FBI has made repeated claims, from 2016 to 2018 that Russia was attempting to hack into US voting machines. There have been reports that voter records in Illinois and Arizona were hacked into and that 90,000 voter records were stolen, including drivers license and social security information. Identity theft of this nature against large corporations has been common in the past few

years and such information can be lucrative on the “dark web”. Media accounts blame Russia but tech journals have mentioned that there is no forensic evidence linking Russia to this.

There are holes in allegations that the Wikileaks emails came from Russia. John Podesta left his phone, with access to his email account, in a taxi and then changed his email password to “p@ssw0rd”. Another time he opened himself to a “ping attack”, something a computer savvy high school student would be capable of, by clicking on an insecure email. This inattention to basic internet security shows a staggering level of incompetence by the manager of a major US political campaign.

The corporate media has widely derided allegations that Seth Rich was the source of the leaks as a fringe conspiracy theory but the mysteries surrounding his murder have never been explained. Rich was a voting tabulation expert employed by the DNC. He was found shot in the early morning of July 10, 2016 and died a few hours later. His wallet, with cash and credit cards, was found on him, indicating his murder was not a robbery. An independent investigation by George Washington University journalism students claimed that Rich was murdered by a hired killer. The FBI has admitted that it has never carried out an investigation of the murder. The veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersch claims he has a source within the FBI that has confirmed that Rich was the leaker, although this has not been verified.

Much of the Trump Administration has close ties with finance capital. It is not unlikely that many Trump personnel, and perhaps Trump himself, have ties to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs. While certainly not excusable, profiting from foreign contacts has not been uncommon among the US political elite. The Clinton Foundation has been accused of profiting from insider deals with Saudi Arabia, Russia and other countries. Whatever the truth surrounding the Russian “bots”, such intervention is also not uncommon. Israel is believed to maintain a large number of “hasbara trolls” to push a pro-Israeli narrative. The online journal +972 says that the hasbara program, originally under the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has up to 100,000 volunteers promoting pro-Israeli views on social media. The Russiagate narrative has come entirely from the Democratic Party and US intelligence agencies, both with their own political agendas, with no independent verification.

William Blum in Killing Hope describes US intervention in dozens of countries, some on a massive level, and many of which have had horrifically bloody consequences. US government agencies, banks and consultancies heavily intervened in the Russian election of 1996, an election marked by corruption and vote rigging, in support of Boris Yeltsin. US foreign policy under Trump has remained hostile to Russia, with military aid to Ukraine increasing, punitive sanctions against Russia and Trump ordering an attack on a Russian military base in Syria.

Several recent academic studies describe the undemocratic nature of US politics. Only two parties, which despite rhetoric have few substantial differences, are allowed to compete in US elections. Voter suppression and gerrymandering are common. Massive amounts of money usually determine the outcome of elections. It was the highly undemocratic Electoral College which threw the election to Trump. It seems absurd to blame Russia for subverting something which barely exists.

The US political system is in crisis, with expensive interminable wars, vast income inequality and growing social unrest. Trump faces widespread revulsion for his horrific treatment of undocumented immigrants, his race-baiting and encouragement of fascism, his corporate looting, and his unhinged war mongering, Russiagate serves to defect blame and attention from the corruption of the Democratic Party and its role leading to Trump’s election. Elements to the left of the Democratic Party, including the Standing Rock protests, Black Lives Matter, and independent critics are being connected to Russia in the media. The narrative, which opposes Trump from the right instead of the left, serves to mobilize the population in the interests of finance capital and the gargantuan military industrial complex. The narrative has given support to agencies such as the FBI and CIA, which have a long history of repression, domestically and overseas. Russiagate encourages people to side with historic forces of control and repression in what is essentially a vicious faction fight within the ruling class. Any effective fight against the very real horrors of the Trump administration must place Trump in the context of the decades long degeneration of the US political system, of which the Democrats are an integral part.

…Suppositions of trump corruption, while not entirely unfounded, appear to have been used in an orchestrated campaign for several ends.The narrative ake and redirect it for purposes unrelated to opposing Trump.

, Hersh saus he

“fair and free electionbs”

purpose of corporate meduia is to persude people to buy things, been used many times for political purppose and to mobilze people in support of wars. It is not at all surpring that the media would be enlisted in a campaign black agenda report

lack of democracy in the us is well known and has been the subject of respected scholarly research.

The leaks have already proven collusion of the corporate media, which is heavily pusshing the russiagate narrative, in promoting hillary clinton during the 2016 primaries.

The idea that Putin is responsible for becoming US pres is odd, given that it was the electoral college

If Hersh’s source inside the FBI is to be believed, the FBI has known for over a year that Seth Rich was a Wikileaks source, and has kept this knowledge secret. The FBI states that they have not participated in the investigation of Seth’s murder — thereby tacitly implying, without saying so directly, that they have not examined his computer. Given that Assange, who presumably has direct knowledge on the issue, has hinted as strongly as possible that Seth was one of his sources, the FBI would be severely derelict if indeed it has not examined Seth computer(s).

Since Trump’s election, we’ve been told Putin was all or partly behind the lot of it: the Catalan independence movement, the Sanders campaign, Brexit, Jill Stein’s Green Party run, Black Lives Matter, the resignations of intra-party Trump critics Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, Sean Hannity’s broadcasts, and, of course, the election of Trump himself.

The published indictment gives support to our long held believe that there was no “Russian influence” campaign during the U.S. election. What is described and denounced as such was instead a commercial marketing scheme which ran click-bait websites to generate advertisement revenue and created online crowds around virtual persona to promote whatever its commercial customers wanted to promote. The size of the operation was tiny when compared to the hundreds of millions in campaign expenditures. It had no influence on the election outcome.

financially to Russia. After Trump won the nomination Fusion was then hired by Democrats to continue the same research, three months before the Wikileaks revelations. Fusion and media outlets initially chose not to publish the document because its allegations were unverified and some of them seemed outlandish.

The Steele Dossier claimed, among other things, that Trump had colluded with the Russian government to influence the presidential election in return for not raising the Russian role in Ukraine as a campaign issue. The document also claimed that Trump had commissioned a “golden showers” show in which Russian sex workers urinated on a bed which Barack and Michelle Obama had slept in. These allegations have never been verified and the “golden showers” claim has been widely mocked. Several leftist and conservative writers believe that that much of the material from the Steele Dossier was based on material improperly taken from FBI /NSA databases. In January 2017 a leaked copy of the document was published by Buzzfeed, while Buzzfeed’s editor said there were serious reasons to doubt it’s allegations.

In July 2016 the FBI announced that it was investigating the hacking of the DNC servers. Both the FBI and the CIA were under the supervision of James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence. In 2017 it was revealed that Carter Page, a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, with ties to the Russian oil company Gazprom, had been investigated under a secret FISA warrant, which in turn was thought to have been motivated by claims that Page had directly conspired with Putin in the Steele Dossier, a document paid for by the Clinton campaign. This raised questions of illegitimate use of FISA warrants for political purposes. No evidence of wrong doing on the part of Page has been found. A memo released in 2018 by the House Intelligence Committee alleged that surveillance of Page had been motivated by another former Trump campaign advisor, George Papadopoulas, who, after a night of heavy drinking at a London bar, told an Australian diplomat that he had ties with the Russian leadership and claimed he knew that the Russians had thousands of emails compromising Hillary Clinton. In October 2017 Papadopoulas pled guilty to charges of lying to Federal investigators about his contacts with the Russian government, although no direct evidence linking Trump with Russia was found.

In a presidential debate in October, 2016 Clinton called Trump a “Putin puppet” and claimed that all 17 US intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia was behind the leaks. This claim has been repeated many times in the corporate media but has been widely disputed. A New York Times June 2017 repeating this claim was later retracted.

James Clapper is widely believed to have been behind much of the Russiagate investigation. The journalist Max Blumenthal claims that Clapper had leaked the Steele Dossier to a CNN commentator, then lied about this to Congress. The respected late journalist Robert Perry in an article in Consortium claimed that the Russiagate assessment was put together in less than a month,using pre-cooked intelligence from three intelligence agencies. The independent journalist Caitlin Johnston said, “the 17 agencies were actually three agencies plus…James Clapper, which was actually two dozen agents from the CIA, FBI, and NSA that Clapper hand-picked himself”. Clapper has expressed anti-Russian racism and in a speech before the Australian Press Club claimed that Russians are genetically incapable of understanding Western democracy. In the wake of the Snowden revelations in 2013 Clapper faced a firestorm of criticism for lying before Congress about the extent of NSA surveillance and there were calls for his prosecution for perjury. In August 2017 Clapper took a job with CNN.

In late December 2016 Obama, in the twilight of his presidency, expelled 35 Russian diplomats and increased sanctions against Russia in retaliation, although none of the Russiagate allegations had yet been substantiated. Further developments in the Russiagate scandal dovetailed with the political incompetence of the new Trump administration. In May, 2017, in the wake of the political firestorm caused by Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the FBI investigation of the alleged Russian election interference. The corporate media praised Mueller for his “rock hard integrity” despite Mueller having lied before Congress about WMDs in Iraq in 2003 and as FBI Director having overseen what were essentially entrapment operations against leftists and Muslim-American youth.

The Russiagate narrative expanded from allegations that Russia was behind the DNC leaks to unsubstantiated allegations, given wide media circulation, that Russia was subverting both the US political system and its technical infrastructure. On February 16 Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three entities who were alleged to be part of a Russian “bot farm” interfering with the presidential election though ads on social media. The firms placed right wing and pro-Trump ads on Facebook. The wording of the indictment however appears to describe a commercial marketing venture which ran click-bait sites to generate ad revenue rather than sinister psychological warfare by the Russian government. Facebook’s vice president of advertising Rob Goldman said, “I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was not the main goal”. He added that most of the ads were purchased after the election and suggested that the real purpose of the narrative was US media propaganda. After criticism Goldman however disavowed his earlier comments.

The charges against the “bots” triggered widespread media hysteria. The liberal journalist Robert Kuttner claimed that Trump “literally became president in a Russian-sponsored coup d’etat” and several media pundits claimed that the “bot” intervention was an “act of war”. The Guardian mentioned that the Russian “bot farm” spent $100,000 on ads while the total spent on the 2016 election was a record $9.8 billion. A former Clinton press secretary wryly noted, “It seems like the creative instincts and the sophistication exceeds a lot of the US political operatives who do this for a living.”

In late December, 2016 the Washington Post, which had been foremost in pushing the Russiagate narrative ran an article claiming that Russia had hacked the power grid in Vermont.The article was widely criticized for being based on inaccurate information and supposition and was later retracted.

The FBI has made repeated claims, from 2016 to 2018 that Russia was attempting to hack into US voting machines. There have been reports that voter records in Illinois and Arizona were hacked into and that 90,000 voter records were stolen, including drivers license and social security information. Identity theft of this nature against large corporations has been common in the past few

years and such information can be lucrative on the “dark web”. Media accounts blame Russia but tech journals have mentioned that there is no forensic evidence linking Russia to this.

There are holes in allegations that the Wikileaks emails came from Russia. John Podesta left his phone, with access to his email account, in a taxi and then changed his email password to “p@ssw0rd”. Another time he opened himself to a “ping attack”, something a computer savvy high school student would be capable of, by clicking on an insecure email. This inattention to basic internet security shows a staggering level of incompetence by the manager of a major US political campaign.

The corporate media has widely derided allegations that Seth Rich was the source of the leaks as a fringe conspiracy theory but the mysteries surrounding his murder have never been explained. Rich was a voting tabulation expert employed by the DNC. He was found shot in the early morning of July 10, 2016 and died a few hours later. His wallet, with cash and credit cards, was found on him, indicating his murder was not a robbery. An independent investigation by George Washington University journalism students claimed that Rich was murdered by a hired killer. The FBI has admitted that it has never carried out an investigation of the murder. The veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersch claims he has a source within the FBI that has confirmed that Rich was the leaker, although this has not been verified.

Much of the Trump Administration has close ties with finance capital. It is not unlikely that many Trump personnel, and perhaps Trump himself, have ties to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs. While certainly not excusable, profiting from foreign contacts has not been uncommon among the US political elite. The Clinton Foundation has been accused of profiting from insider deals with Saudi Arabia, Russia and other countries. Whatever the truth surrounding the Russian “bots”, such intervention is also not uncommon. Israel is believed to maintain a large number of “hasbara trolls” to push a pro-Israeli narrative. The online journal +972 says that the hasbara program, originally under the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has up to 100,000 volunteers promoting pro-Israeli views on social media. The Russiagate narrative has come entirely from the Democratic Party and US intelligence agencies, both with their own political agendas, with no independent verification.

William Blum in Killing Hope describes US intervention in dozens of countries, some on a massive level, and many of which have had horrifically bloody consequences. US government agencies, banks and consultancies heavily intervened in the Russian election of 1996, an election marked by corruption and vote rigging, in support of Boris Yeltsin. US foreign policy under Trump has remained hostile to Russia, with military aid to Ukraine increasing, punitive sanctions against Russia and Trump ordering an attack on a Russian military base in Syria.

Several recent academic studies describe the undemocratic nature of US politics. Only two parties, which despite rhetoric have few substantial differences, are allowed to compete in US elections. Voter suppression and gerrymandering are common. Massive amounts of money usually determine the outcome of elections. It was the highly undemocratic Electoral College which threw the election to Trump. It seems absurd to blame Russia for subverting something which barely exists.

The US political system is in crisis, with expensive interminable wars, vast income inequality and growing social unrest. Trump faces widespread revulsion for his horrific treatment of undocumented immigrants, his race-baiting and encouragement of fascism, his corporate looting, and his unhinged war mongering, Russiagate serves to defect blame and attention from the corruption of the Democratic Party and its role leading to Trump’s election. Elements to the left of the Democratic Party, including the Standing Rock protests, Black Lives Matter, and independent critics are being connected to Russia in the media. The narrative, which opposes Trump from the right instead of the left, serves to mobilize the population in the interests of finance capital and the gargantuan military industrial complex. The narrative has given support to agencies such as the FBI and CIA, which have a long history of repression, domestically and overseas. Russiagate encourages people to side with historic forces of control and repression in what is essentially a vicious faction fight within the ruling class. Any effective fight against the very real horrors of the Trump administration must place Trump in the context of the decades long degeneration of the US political system, of which the Democrats are an integral part.