Advertisements

Fusion GPS Goes Public at Last

One of the main subplots of the “Russia thing” soap opera, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is a dossier of information compiled by a former British intelligence agent alleging that President Donald Trump had a long history of shady business dealings with various Russian organizations and that the Russian government worked diligently to get him elected. It also had some very salacious stories about Russian prostitutes, which delighted all the late night comics, and it’s gotten a lot of attention.
To Trump’s die-hard defenders, what was scandalous about the dossier was its very existence. Although it was first commissioned by the right-of-center Washington Free Beacon, which was hoping to stave off Trump’s insurgent campaign for the Republican party’s presidential nomination, and then funded by some unknown Republican donor who still held out faint hope in latter stages of the primary race, it was eventually funded by the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Hillary Clinton, and that’s enough to taint it on talk radio. The former British intelligence agent relied on the sources he’d developed as the MI6 agency’s top Moscow spy, and apparently that’s what Trump means when claims that Clinton and the Democrats colluded with the Russians. There were a couple of quickly proved errors, too, and much was hard to verify.
What Trump’s defenders called the “dodgy dossier” or the “debunked dossier” and even the mainstream news is now calling the “infamous dossier” quickly became it’s own scandal. It was alleged that the dossier was the evidence presented to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to open the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s counter-intelligence probe into Russian meddling in the American presidential election, and therefore all of its findings should are the fruit of a poisoned tree. Last summer that Republicans on the Senate intelligence committee hauled in the top two people at Fusion GPS, the private investigating firm started by former Wall Street Journal investigative reporters that had hired the former British intelligent agent, and grilled them for ten straight hours of a closed hearing. Information about the testimony was leaked that allowed the talk radio hosts to paint the pair as a couple of conspirators out to smear Trump’s stellar reputation, and their dossier as “dodgy” and “debunked” and at the very least “infamous.”
On Monday the top two Republicans on the Senate intelligence committee, chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, even referred that British intelligence agent to federal law enforcement for criminal investigation. That was apparently a step two far one of the committee’s top Democrats, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who audaciously defied her Republican colleagues and longstanding tradition by releasing all 300 pages of that long ago testimony by the two guys at Fusion GPS.
The two guys at Fusion GPS had always insisted their testimony be made public, and so had a lot of other people who suspected that they’d made a better case for themselves than the talk radio talkers suggested with the selectively leaked information. As it turns out, it’s clear why they wanted the testimony made public and the Republicans didn’t.
They credibly deny any political motivations, rightly noting they offer their opposition research services to both Republicans and Democrats, testified they found reasons to believe federal law enforcement also had sources warning of Russian meddling in the election, and noted that Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent they’d hired, had an excellent reputation with America’s intelligence agencies. Recent reports suggest that one of those sources was the Australian ambassador to the United States, who reported to the American former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Popadopoulos had been drinking with him one evening and bragged that his candidate had dirt on his Democratic rival straight from the Russian government, reports indicate that others who listen in on Russian calls had passed along similar warnings, and that happened before Steele started snooping around.
We’re not clear what criminal acts Grassley and Graham think that Steele might have committed, but he doesn’t seem convincing as the bad guy in the whole “Russia thing.” Despite the aforementioned quickly proved errors in what he frankly acknowledged was raw and unfinished intelligence gathering, and even though a lot of it has not yet been verified by a subpoena-wielding special counsel probe, much of it holds up well. Steele’s early allegation that the Russians were making a concerted effort to help Trump in the election is now the consensus opinion of America’s intelligence community, Trump’s Central Intelligence director has blamed the Russians for the hacking of the DNC, his Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged Russian hacking attempts on 20 state election offices, all the social media sites have testified to Congress that the Russians used them to spread propaganda, and Trump himself begrudgingly mumbles his slightly equivocating agreement. Steele called the FBI to warn them of Russian meddling, which is more than Donald Trump Jr. did when some Russians he knew to be connected to the Kremlin offered dirt on Clinton, and even the talk radio conspiracy theories are based on the assumption that his word was good enough for the FBI and the FISA court.
There’s also been a lot of solid reporting by respected publications and broadcast programs around the world that backs up Steele’s accounts of Trump’s shady dealings with Russians, the aforementioned idiot Trump Jr. has bragged to the press about all the Russian money flowing into the family’s still wholly-owned businesses, and the special counsel team of investigators includes some lawyers famed for their past money-laundering and Russian mob prosecutions. The special counsel already has a couple of guilty pleas, including the aforementioned idiot Papadopoulos, as well Trump’s short-lived and very Russia-connected national security advisor Mike Flynn, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is currently contesting a variety of Russia-related charges, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner is clearly in the investigative cross-hairs, and the special counsel has reportedly requested an interview with Trump himself.
Trump’s lawyers will probably protect him from anything short of some written answers to written questions, and his defenders on “Fox & Friends” and talk radio and the Senate intelligence committee will surely come up with some spin, but from our seat on the sidelines the “Russia thing” doesn’t seem likely to end soon. We’ll not venture any predictions how it all turns out, and it may all turn out to be a grand conspiracy between the “deep state” and the “globalists” to prevent Trump from making American great again, but we don’t expect that those Fusion GPS guys and that former British intelligence agent turn out to be the bad guys.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

God on the Left

God was back in the news this week, and even for those of us who believe He is omnipresent He was popping up in some unexpected places.
The Almighty made a few cameo appearances, for instance, at the presidential inaugural. This will come as no surprise to those who believe that President Barack Obama is the Almighty, but more skeptical observers such as ourselves were startled to hear God mentioned so often during the inaugural address. Obama modestly credited God with the gift of our freedom, but added that “It must be secured by His people here on earth,” and he apparently had it on the highest authority that this could only be achieved by full implementation of the Obama agenda. He then implored the country that “a little girl born into the bleakest poverty” should know that “she is equal not just in the eyes of God but also in our own,” and given the increased numbers of little girls in poverty since Obama’s first inauguration the plea seems especially urgent. Obama also said that his oath was to “God and country,” and ended with the traditional presidential request that God bless America, but God’s most prominent appearance came when the president claimed that his “green jobs” program “is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.”
Nobody in attendance booed any of the mentions of God, as they did at the Democratic National Convention that nominated Obama, but the president’s decidedly secular base of support must have felt a bit uncomfortable. Several of the more ardent Obama fans of our acquaintance have assured us such talk is merely shtick intended for the rubes, that the president is far too smart to really believe any of that God nonsense, and such prominent supporters as the professional blasphemer Bill Maher have said the same thing, but these same people were fashionably insouciant about the president’s “spiritual mentor” bellowing a plea for God’s damnation on America. We do not claim to know Obama’s true religious beliefs, but we suspect he does believe he has God’s blessing for his hugely expensive and disastrously ineffective “green” boondoggles. With science offering little support for Obama’s claims about climate change causing “the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms,” he will have to find a more persuasive argument in theology.
We have lately come to think of California as the most godforsaken place in the union, but God also made an appearance in the gubernatorial inauguration there. He even got a co-starring role along with Montaigne and Yeats in the oration by Gov. Jerry Brown, who re-told the Genesis story of Pharaoh’s dream of seven cows and Joseph’s sage interpretation that Egypt should set aside a portion of the coming seven harvests for the subsequent seven years of famine. California is currently flush with cash from the recent soak-the-rich tax hike that “Gov. Moonbeam” championed, and will be back to yearly deficits just as soon as the state’s last remaining rich people can re-locate to Texas or Florida or some other temperate and income-tax-free jurisdiction, so Californians would be wise to heed this ancient Hebrew financial advice, but we doubt that the free-spending Democrats of the Assembly will be persuaded by some Old Testament scripture.
God also weighed in on the gun control debate, in form of the National Cathedral’s Very Rev. Gary Hall, and it turns out He does not approve of the Second Amendment. Hall offered a statement to that effect at a press conference for Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a state that is apparently in the grips of a full blown religious mania, as she unveiled her unprecedent gun-grabbing bill. This should be sufficient to keep the secularists from objecting to the very existence of a National Cathedral, which does seem slightly antithetical to the First Amendment’s prohibition of any law respecting an establishment of religion, and we expect that the anti-gun nuts won’t object to having God along so long as He’s on the right side of the issue. Any ministers who cite Jesus’ admonition to the apostles that “he that has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one” should expect to be chided for dragging God into the matter.
There is something satisfying about hearing people on the Left acknowledge God’s existence, and we hope that to whatever extent their beliefs are sincere they will be enriched by religion in their personal lives, but we’d hate to see them gain any political advantage by claiming God’s endorsement. The left is bossy enough in its cocksure belief that they’re bringing heaven to earth, and if they got it in their heads that they’re also bringing social justice to heaven it would be unbearable. We close with the words of C.S. Lewis, who looked deeper into the wisdom of God’s word than most.
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satisfied; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

— Bud Norman