The Democrats and the media are once again peddling their potions of fear, suggesting there is Russian influence over President Donald Trump.
The Russian fear-mongering is a narrative that journalists just can’t quit. The catalyst this time was a mistake apparently made by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.
Flynn came into the Trump administration on Jan. 20 with a huge target on his back. Flynn wanted to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal.
Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador on Dec. 29, the same day former President Obama installed new sanctions against Russia for alleged hacking into Democratic campaign email accounts.
Legal experts have told LifeZette that there was nothing improper about Flynn speaking to his foreign counterparts during the transition period. An incoming national security adviser should work the phones.
Of course, in the Dec. 29 communications, the sanctions came up, but it is unclear what Flynn said. The real misstep for Flynn was to tell Vice President Mike Pence that sanctions were not discussed. So on Jan. 15, Pence told journalists the issue never came up in the talks between Flynn and the Russian ambassador.
When several people began leaking Flynn’s transcripts to the media — a move described by intelligence committee members and staff on Capitol Hill and by lawyers as illegal — it became clear Flynn had misled Pence. Late Monday night, Flynn resigned.
Normally, when a troubled official resigns, that ends most of the story. But not this time. Liberals, Democrats, the media and Trump-bashers had Russian red-scare fever long before the election.
Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post compared the last few days to a dumpster fire. “Donald Trump’s White House is on the verge of a raging fire over Russia allegations,” Cillizza tweeted alongside an image of a raging garbage inferno.
And being completely serious, retired CBS News anchorman Dan Rather posted a long-winded diatribe on Facebook, suggesting the whole Russian issue (now revived against Trump for the fourth or fifth time) could be bigger than Watergate.
"Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now," Rather wrote on Tuesday. "It was the closest we came to a debilitating constitutional crisis, until maybe now. On a 10 scale of Armageddon for our form of government, I would put Watergate at a 9. This Russia scandal is currently somewhere around a 5 or 6, in my opinion, but it is cascading in intensity seemingly by the hour. And we may look back and see, in the end, that it is at least as big as Watergate. It may become the measure by which all future scandals are judged. It has all the necessary ingredients, and that is chilling."
But then Rather indicates what the attacks and criticisms of Flynn and Trump are likely about.
"We can all remember the Gen. Michael Flynn's speech from the Republican National Convention — 'Lock her up!' in regards to Hillary Clinton," Rather wrote. "If Hillary Clinton had done one-tenth of what Mr. Flynn had done, she likely would be in jail. And it isn't just Mr. Flynn, how far does this go?"
It's an amazing claim. No one has claimed there is definitely an underlying illegality to the Flynn issue.
Sean Spicer, Trump's press secretary, said on Tuesday that in the first step of the White House investigation into Flynn's Dec. 29 call, the White House found no legal issue at all.
But Clinton's use of a private email server — through which classified material flowed — was definitely illegal. Had a lesser federal employee used such a server at the State Department, that person would be in prison. Clinton escaped legal woes thanks to a pliant Democratic attorney general, with whom her husband met with while on a Phoenix airport tarmac days before the Justice Department ended the investigation.
Of course, Rather, in his partisan screed, has less credibility than he had in the 1970s and 1980s. He famously ran an investigation into former President George W. Bush in 2004, right before the presidential election, which suggested Bush had gone AWOL while in the Texas Air Guard.
The resulting fallout from that bogus claim and the associated fake documents led to Rather leaving CBS in 2005.
Also emboldened is The New York Times, which published an unsourced story on Wednesday alleging that Trump's advisers, during the 2016 campaign, had contacts with Russian intelligence officers. The Times explained that even their anonymous sources suggested no wrongdoing, as Russian spies often double as businessmen.
The Real Target
Flynn came into the Trump administration on Jan. 20 with a huge target on his back.
Flynn wanted to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal, and make it as public as possible. Remnants of the Obama administration may have been behind the illegal leaks, according to the Washington Free Beacon, in attempt to destroy Flynn and send a message to Trump.
The message is likely: Don't touch the Iran deal.
And while the media is busy spreading stories that the White House is in "chaos" and disarray, Trump himself seems ready to fight. Indeed, as in the past, he seems to savor the fights — to a degree.
"This Russian connection nonsense is merely an attempt to cover up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign," Trump tweeted Wednesday.
And not surprisingly, Trump took a Wednesday morning dig at the carpers: "The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. MSNBC & CNN are unwatchable. Fox and Friends is great!"