It’s worse than we thought.
Six years after the start of sustained attempts to frame Donald Trump and associates as rogues colluding with Russia to steal the 2016 election, we’re now learning those efforts allegedly included spying on a sitting president in the White House.
Court filings from Special Counsel John Durham last week in the government’s case against Michael Sussmann appeared to suggest that the campaign paid a tech firm that “exploited” the servers at Trump Tower, Trump’s Central Park West and even the Executive Office of the President. Conducting surveillance on Mr. Trump’s internet traffic was purportedly designed to mine for derogatory information tying him to Russia.
Watergate was minor by comparison — a third rate burglary to spy on the Democratic National Committee in 1972. And that led to President Nixon’s resignation.
While Durham’s investigation remains in progress, the statute of limitations has mostly expired after only three people have been indicted.
While those three played important roles, they weren’t top players nor household names associated with Russiagate. And they were only charged on narrow grounds for false statements, not some grand conspiracy or espionage.
Kevin Clinesmith, an FBI attorney, pleaded guilty to altering an e-mail from the CIA in order to indicate Trump associate Carter Page was not a source, thus removing exculpatory information while pursuing a FISA warrant. Clinesmith merely received probation from a Clinton-appointed judge and has already been readmitted to “good standing” with the Washington, D.C. Bar.
Igor Danchenko, a primary source of the Clinton campaign-funded Steele Dossier which drove the media’s Trump-Russia witch hunt for years, was similarly only charged with false statements.
Michael Sussmann was charged with lying to FBI General Counsel James Baker that he wasn’t there to see him in 2016 on behalf of clients, though the indictment alleges he was billing them.
While those three faced justice, both legally and politically, a dozen or so big names in Russiagate and their top aides went on to score major book deals, speaking gigs and become fixtures on cable television outlets like CNN and MSNBC. They were hailed as heroes by many. It’s unlikely any will be charged.
Others who played less visible roles have been promoted from previous government posts and continue to serve. At this point, they probably won’t be indicted either.
Hundreds more who hyped Russiagate on television, in newspapers and via activist organizations still appear on those same platforms without consequences except for lousy ratings today and soiled reputations forever. They’ll avoid justice despite torching the lives of Americans who did nothing wrong.
When the lines between journalism and information warfare against fellow citizens are so badly blurred, democracy itself becomes unstable.
Buzzfeed, which first published the discredited Steele Dossier, hasn’t seen tough pushback yet, even if Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team took the highly unusual step of debunking their reporting in the midst of its investigation.
One major political party allegedly spying on the other, and worse, that party using the power of government and mass media to destroy innocent people has caused irreparable harm to American democracy.
Since the Electoral College results were so close in 2016 and 2020 — just 77,000 and 44,000 votes made the difference out of 137 million and 159 million cast respectively, it is possible 2024 may be similar.
Though it’s true that the 2000 presidential election was decided by only a few hundred votes hand counting “hanging chads” on Florida ballots and then a Supreme Court ruling, our country still saw a peaceful transition of power. That was never in doubt. Tragically, America is more polarized and volatile now, worsened by the disastrous Capitol riot last January and divisive aftermath over a year later. Repairing our democracy will be difficult, but not impossible.
To start, Republicans should make “Remember Russiagate” the centerpiece of 2022 and 2024 elections. Otherwise, half the country won’t know the ugly details as they’re memory-holed or lied about by complicit media covering their own tracks. And history will repeat itself. Just change the names and faces as America slides into the abyss.
Those behind Russiagate should never be allowed near the levers of power again. And those who would follow in their footsteps should be powerfully deterred from doing so.
J.D. Gordon is a former National Security & Foreign Policy Advisor to Republican leaders Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee and Herman Cain. Previously, he served as a Pentagon spokesman during the George W. Bush Administration and is a retired Navy Commander.