by Conrad Black
It is now clearer than ever that the whole Trump-Russia collusion argument, as many of us have been loudly proclaiming since it began, is a monstrous hoax, “a conspiracy so immense”—to use Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s infamous words in his attack upon General George C. Marshall in 1951—that it has been hard for the public to take it on board.
Of course, the assimilation of what has happened has been made more complicated by the extremely agitated political ambiance of the Trump era, which was to a large extent inevitable given the mandate this president received to make profound public policy changes and to assault the whole bipartisan political class in its entrenched positions.
As soon as the rock was pried off the fact that the much-touted Steele dossier was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the alarm bells rang on the smell-test monitor. Clinton’s memoir of the election, blaming everything on being “shivved three times by Jim Comey,” and on her opponent’s “treason” with the Russians, cited the Steele dossier several times as independent corroborative evidence of President Trump’s treachery and betrayal of the nation.
But the stark contrast in policy and personality terms between the president and the Democrats, and the bellicosity of the president himself, which can be embarrassing but may have been essential for him to get through the unprecedented effort to undermine him illegally, do not in themselves explain the very long fuse that is burning with excruciating slowness toward the powder keg of explicit revelation of Democratic law-breaking.
Comey has lied again in claiming that he has been cleared of leaking classified information, even though he is accused of leaking only a small amount of classified information to his lawyers, and that that is not in itself worthy of criminal prosecution. But the leakage of information that he had a serious professional obligation to treat discreetly, for the declared motive of provoking an investigation into matters that he knew to be wildly implausible and for which there was no believable evidence, is, as Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz described it, dangerous. Comey and his supporters have tried to represent this as an act of courage by a public servant genuinely distressed at the thought of Trump as president. In reality, the motive was rank partisanship against the president.
The country voted, the Electoral College met, and Comey knew that when he sought a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) warrant to “spy” (Attorney General Bill Barr’s mot juste) against the Trump campaign and transition team, on the basis of the Clinton campaign’s false and malicious dossier. Comey’s actions went “beyond” courage and were a grievous corruption of the FBI and a threat to American democracy. Trump did not believe Comey when he told the president he was not under investigation. Comey was responsible for Trump’s well-placed mistrust of him, which obviously justified his dismissal. Andrew McCabe, Comey’s assistant director at the FBI, already has been recommended for possible prosecution for providing false answers under oath and has been engaged as a commentator by CNN anyway.
Unlike anyone I have ever heard of at the FBI, I believe in the presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings. McCabe and Comey are entitled to it. But the action of CNN in hiring McCabe, who confirmed just a couple of months ago that he thought it was “possible” that Donald Trump was a Russian agent, confirms the fanaticism of their hatred of the president. The individuals in the executive and personnel of that network are of course entitled to their views. But there is both a professional responsibility to separate reporting from comment and to try to report fairly, and there ultimately will be a serious commercial penalty for such brazen approval of possible criminal election interference by the FBI.
The almost comically otherworldly Trump-haters in the chairmen of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees—Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)—will be back this week no doubt still trying to drum up interest in their still-born impeachment effort-their ludicrous mimicry of an investigation will be the last death rattle of the soon to be infamous Trump-Russian collusion fraud. It is not so surprising that a person’s acquaintances are often passionately hostile to this president, given that people in government and the media normally worthy of confidence in their sanity and up to a point their probity, are behaving so irrationally.
The former directors of central intelligence and national intelligence, John Brennan and James Clapper, obviously have lied to Congress about some aspects of their work, but that does not inhibit them for a moment from lining up behind Comey’s disgraceful conduct. “One man’s leaker is another man’s whistleblower,” said Clapper of Comey last week. But the “whistle-blowing” Clapper extols had to do with allegations about which Comey knew there was no evidence. He asked court approval for domestic espionage on a victorious presidential campaign for reasons, unless he was a completely incompetent police chief, he knew to be false.
All of those men participated in the creation of an artificial media echo chamber to lend credence to false allegations of great gravity, in the apparent hope of so destabilizing the incoming administration that it would be unable to function, and possibly would be deeply shaken by an unfounded impeachment of the new president.
It is clearer every week those who say what occurred was an attempted coup are substantially accurate. This is not only astounding and distressing, the extreme state of denial that grips the Trump-hating media makes it likely that the credibility of the national political press will be in tatters long after those responsible for the unconstitutional conspiracy to subvert and pervert the election have been exposed and legally punished.
Frauds and Failures
This past week, like most weeks, furnished typical illustrative episodes in this national political descent into the morally corrupt and absurd. One was MSNBC’s statement and retraction the next day that there might be serious evidence that President Trump had secured business loans from Deutsche Bank thanks to guaranties from Russian oligarchs. The other was billionaire Tom Steyer’s effort to buy his way into contention for the Democratic nomination race: when it failed as the cynical amateurism it was, he fulminated that President Trump is “a fraud and a failure.”
President Trump certainly has limitations and sometimes seems to be untruthful and acting in poor taste. But it would be hard to represent anyone rightfully elevated to the presidency in quite such strictures. He may be thought by many a bad president (though I think that is a difficult argument to sustain in a serious analysis). Then again, he is, by his own efforts, a multibillionaire, a former television star, and the 43rd successor to General George Washington in the great office his enemies so venomously begrudge him.
There are two gigantic unrealities, time-bombs that will detonate in the four months to the beginning of the delegate-selection process for nominees of the major parties to national office. The first is the gigantic eruption of the scandalous attempt to affect and undo the 2016 election. The second is the fact that when the public finally looks seriously at the Democratic candidates, the race will tilt like a teeter-totter when a 300-pound man sits at the opposite end to a child.
Every candidate in serious contention for the Democratic nomination, except Joe Biden, has championed tax, immigration, health care, and environmental policies that the great majority of Americans will not seriously entertain—and that is without getting into reparations for descendants of slaves and natives, and legalized infanticide. And the one prominent Democratic contender who can claim comparative sanity and civility—Biden—lacks the acuity for the office he now seeks and always has.
Almost the whole political class, except the president and his inner circle (if he has one), is somnambulating into an election that will be a fiery coruscation to all the outrages and enormities of the last three years. It is like an immense fireworks display, mounting inexorably to a tremendous climax of indictments and an electoral landslide.
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Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years, and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world as owner of the British telegraph newspapers, the Fairfax newspapers in Australia, the Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun-Times and scores of smaller newspapers in the U.S., and most of the daily newspapers in Canada. He is the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, one-volume histories of the United States and Canada, and most recently of Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other. He is a member of the British House of Lords as Lord Black of Crossharbour.