Liddick: The not-so-scary red scare (column)
October 16, 2017
Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has finally got it. In his hand he's got the names of 205 known Russian agents in the Trump administration. As proof, he's releasing the ads Russian front groups bought on Facebook and Twitter.
We are now in the decadent phase of the political elite's Trump derangement meltdown. Only in the through-the-looking-glass world of today's Washington can ads be seen as "proof" of anything other than media's willingness to sell its bandwidth to the highest bidder. But in the ignorance-is-strength Bizarro World on the Potomac, it is evidence of the darkest betrayals.
Not only that, the stuff is secret: Rep. Schiff said the committee planned to work with Facebook to "scrub" personally identifiable information from the ads before allowing them to be seen. But Senate intelligence committee chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina said he didn't want his committee to release anything, arguing that documents turned over to the committee were sensitive and should not be made public.
Remember, they are talking about advertisements which, by definition, have to be public to have any effect.
But wait, there's more! Assuring Trump's victory seems to have evaporated as a motive since, after investigations now running more than a year, no evidence has been found of the much-ballyhooed "collusion" between Trump and Vlad the Terrible. Both lawmakers and Facebook representatives now say instead that the apparent goal of the ads in question was to ramp up discord by fanning tensions over hot-button political issues like race, immigration and gun rights. One wonders if, as our solons search for evidence that social media has been exploited to foment political discord, they realize they are now among this discord's chief agents? Well done, gentlemen.
It's worse on the Senate side. The Oct. 4 press briefing by Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Virginia's very own Mark Warner was an extravaganza of process: 250 hours spent! 100 people interviewed! 11 open hearings! 4,000 transcript pages! 100,000 document pages read! And a trollish reference to 80 copies of "War and Peace." But no product: no real evidence, no conclusions. Still looking. No end in sight.
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What was in sight was the secondary motive for Senator Warner's interest: together with Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar, he is drafting a law to regulate internet advertising. You know, to protect us heartland nitwits from our uninformed selves. He expects "broad bipartisan consensus," which is only natural, since disdain for the public at large is widespread among those who represent us. He also promises "a light touch," but federal regulation and "light touch" do not have a good history.
Meanwhile, Special Counsel Mueller's investigation continues tunneling into tax and business records, desperately searching for something, anything, that can be used to pressure former Trump associates to "confess." His team has even "spoken with" Christopher Steele, creator of the infamous "Trump dossier," a compendium of outlandish speculations and groundless claims that was shopped around Washington for months before the election, and rejected as fantasy by everyone who saw it. Now, both Mueller and Senate investigators want to know about "sources and financing" for the document, treating it as though it was at least based on truth. Here's a clue: Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele, has been on the Democratic Party payroll to do opposition research since at least 2012. Here's another: In April, Steele admitted that his accusations about a Russian tech firm hacking the Democratic party were not quite…right. The man's a fraud, and so are his products.
Fusion GPS is also under suspicion for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act while representing a Russian government-connected firm. One of its acts of representation was to broker a meeting between a Russian lawyer representing the firm and — you guessed it — Donald Trump, Jr. Nevertheless, Senator Richard Blumenthal demanded Fusion GPS officers testify in a public hearing because they could know about "…Trump's collusion with Russian meddling and possible obstruction of justice."
So here we are, more than a year into investigating the president and his ephemeral "collusion" with Russia, and we have…advertisements. Secret ones. And for this, we've squandered how much of the public's money? For this, we've kept the public roiled while the business of the state grinds to a halt? Those who continue to giggle with glee over the false accusations and balks to action should stop and think hard. What happens when the shoe is on the other foot — which it will be?
Remember, there's no real evidence. There's no memoranda, no paper trail. It would be awesome to have a video of the president privately telling the Russian leader, "After the election, I'll have a freer hand…" But that was the last guy.
Refresh my memory: What happened to him?
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily.
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