The Anatomy Of A Lie
In the 2010 hit film, Inception, the lead character—portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio—explains to his protégé—played by Ellen Page, “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” The story centers around DiCaprio and his team kidnapping a corporate CEO, invading his dreams, and planting into his subconscious a false notion about why he should destroy his own company. The most effective lies—or disinformation—work in exactly this way.
What began as a simple false notion from the American Left―that the Russians hacked the 2016 presidential election to benefit Donald Trump’s candidacy―slowly evolved into a full-blown constitutional crisis. Soon, that false notion—that lie—could work its way from the far Left political fringe and into the political mainstream. If the lie is repeated enough times and by enough different voices that it becomes indistinguishable from other, more believable news (i.e., that Hillary Clinton used her family’s charity as a sop for illegal campaign donations when she was Secretary of State), then just as it did in the movie, the false notion will begin to consume the target audience. It will proceed until the target acts according to the dictates of that false notion—in this case, to impeach (or otherwise to turn against) President Trump.
It’s important to note when this story began. Because, as with all the best lies, there’s always at least an element of truth underneath the litany of falsehoods. This is to make the lie more easily digestible even to the most skeptical, well-informed observer. After all, if the false notion is immediately disregarded as patently false by the target audience, there would be no reason to engage in the perpetuation of political disinformation to begin with. A coherent timeline is thus essential to deciphering the truth.
Our story begins with a handful of loosely related threads that the Left slowly tied together in an impossibly complex, false, though nonetheless trafficable narrative. The first thread is that during the spring of 2016, the CIA received what it believed to be legitimate intelligence that the Russians were plotting to interfere in the presidential election. The Obama Administration immediately swung into action, directing its intelligence services to prevent such an outcome from occurring. Information came in from an unnamed Eastern European intelligence service, indicating that the Russians were funneling money through intermediaries into the Trump Campaign.
Meanwhile, a virulently anti-Trump Political Action Committee hired former British spy, Christopher Steele, to conduct deep opposition research on Donald Trump. It is believed that the PAC in question was a Republican group that was opposed to Trump’s candidacy in the contentious 2016 GOP Primary. Steele, who was previously a Russian expert assigned to Moscow for Britain’s top spy agency, MI6, made two key claims in his now infamous dossier on Trump.
The first claim was that while visiting Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe Pageant, Mr. Trump hired Russian prostitutes to service him while he stayed in the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow. The second claim in the dossier was that the Trump Campaign was, in fact, accepting illegal campaign donations from the Russians.
To Steele’s first indecorous claim, he believed that the FSB, Russia’s leading foreign intelligence service, had acquired compromising intelligence in the form of a recording—what’s known as “kompromat” in Russian—of Mr. Trump ordering his Russian fille de joie to micturate upon his Moscow hotel bed. The purported reason Trump paid for this lewd act was as a form of revenge against Barack Obama, who had humiliated Trump previously at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner (the Obamas had stayed in that very same suite on a diplomatic mission to Moscow not long before Trump’s stay there). Therefore, according to these grotesque rumors, Trump was in a way defiling the Obamas for wounding his ego.
Yet, when Western news services attempted to verify Steele’s salacious claims regarding the existence of the tape in question, they could not find any support for them. In fact, the BBC initially refused to report on the story because they were never able to view a copy of the video in question. Yet, somehow, these unsubstantiated claims ended up in an official CIA report to then-President Barack Obama, Congress, and Mr. Trump himself.
The second claim that Mr. Steele made in his dossier was to confirm the initial suspicions of the CIA that the Russians were funneling money into the Trump Campaign (this could be a case of confirmation bias, on the part of the CIA). Thus, the informal working group of five U.S. intelligence agencies that were already investigating the activities of a handful of Trump Campaign advisers, as well as Trump business associates, had further reasoning to expand their investigation.
Here’s the problem: There were several details within the Steele dossier that were simply wrong. For instance, Steele claimed that the Russians were using a legitimate system of sending money to Russian-American pensioners as a means of dumping cash illicitly into the Trump Campaign. Steele asserted that several Russian consulates in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Miami were “delivering tens of thousands of dollars” to Russian operatives who were then influencing the campaign. The only problem with this is that there are no Russian consulates in Miami. What’s more, it was later revealed that Steele never obtained a copy of the supposed kompromat that he was told of when he contacted his extensive web of Russian informants. There is no verifiable proof that Russian intelligence possesses such intelligence, let alone that such proof even exists.
Nonetheless, the story gained traction after Senator John McCain (R-AZ), an avowed “Never Trumper,” obtained a copy of the dossier and fed it to then-FBI Director James Comey. Rather than question Steele’s sources and methods, Comey took the report at face value. Even to an untrained observer, it was clear that the Steele dossier on Trump was based on rumors, innuendo, and outright falsehoods. The FBI had vouched for Steele on the grounds that he was a former intelligence operative of the highest repute. Yet, his dossier was bought and paid for by an openly anti-Trump political group; his entire raison d’etre was to find damaging information on Mr. Trump—which is exactly what he did (veracity of his claims be damned).
During this period, Hillary Clinton was undergoing her own problems as a candidate. She could not seem adequately (or fairly) to lock up the Democratic nomination―thus prompting the Democratic National Chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, in effect to rig the DNC primary vote in Hillary’s favor. Meanwhile, the FBI and Department of Justice were maintaining their own investigations into reported improprieties not only with Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information while she was Secretary of State, but also with illicit donations to the Clinton Global Initiative during her time as Secretary of State.
Way back in March of 2015, Hillary Clinton took to the stage (strangely at the United Nations) to announce that there was nothing to the scandal surrounding her e-mails. Soon thereafter, then President Barack Obama took to the press, in an attempt to exonerate her from any wrongdoing. By March 25, 2015, however, Hillary Clinton’s narrative was already beginning to buckle from the modest pressure of CNN’s Brianna Keilar. Keilar had asked Mrs. Clinton whether she chose to delete 33,000 (of what she claimed were) private emails from her server before or after March 4, 2015. It was discovered that Clinton deleted the bulk of those emails after March 4. This is important, because on March 4, the House Select Committee on the Benghazi Attacks subpoenaed all of Clinton’s emails from her private server. The bulk of those emails are still unaccounted for.
Even still, the Clintons maintained that there was nothing to the claims that she mishandled classified information when she was Secretary of State.
By June of 2016, a self-styled hacker going by the name of Guccifer 2.0 took credit for a major hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s servers. Guccifer 2.0 then handed his findings to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, where the emails subsequently were published. Nearly 20,000 emails from January of 2015 until May of 2016 were leaked. They were hugely embarrassing for the Democrats. Indeed, they proved that the DNC had rigged the primary for Hillary. This disenfranchised much of the Democratic Party’s Leftist base (who supported the self-described “Democratic Socialist” candidate, Bernie Sanders) and caused a major shakeup within the DNC leadership at a critical time in the campaign. With egg on the DNC’s face, the Democrat-led Intelligence Community then decreed that the hacking was the result of a Kremlin-backed cyberattack. Of course, neither the FBI nor anyone else in the Intelligence Community could fully verify this claim, since the DNC refused to hand their servers over to the FBI for inspection. Instead, strangely, the DNC hired a private firm, CrowdStrike, to conduct the internal investigation. It was CrowdStrike who determined that Russia hacked the DNC servers.
Of course, the larger question is why would the DNC refuse to cooperate with the FBI? That would be like refusing to cooperate with the police after your home was burgled and choosing to hire a private investigator to determine who perpetrated the crime. It certainly didn’t help the DNC’s credibility problem.
There was no doubt, however, that Hillary and the DNC leadership conspired to steal the primary vote away from the base’s preferred candidate, Bernie Sanders.
Also during this period in July, then FBI Director James Comey took to the press to detail the extent of Hillary Clinton’s corruption. In a stunning press conference, Comey outlined every single charge that was lobbed at Mrs. Clinton. Although Comey concluded that no prosecutor would press charges, based solely on the evidence at hand, his presentation—on top of the DNC hacking evidence—was extremely damaging to the Clinton Campaign.
Intramural Russian Roulette Thins Talent Pool
With this in mind, we can shift over to the next thread in the timeline. As the investigation into Trump associates and illicit Russian financial connections was underway, the Trump Campaign was preparing for what was to be a highly contentious floor fight at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. In need of strong talent to manage his Campaign’s desperate battle to keep as many skittish Republican delegates onboard the Trump train as possible, Trump sought out the best GOP campaign talent he could find.
Unfortunately, Trump was the dark horse in the 2016 election―as evidenced by McCain’s aforementioned role in spreading disinformation about Trump vis-à-vis the Steele dossier―and the reputed “best-and-brightest” campaign staff in the GOP were withholding their resumes. As a former campaigner and Republican Congressional staffer, I can tell you that the GOP was warning anyone who was interested in their long-term career prospects to stay as far away from the Trump Campaign as possible. Under these restrictive conditions, Trump had to find the best talent in a very limited pool of talent. He fell upon Paul Manafort.
Manafort has a long and controversial career in Republican politics. He cut his teeth in the famous Republican National Convention floor fight between former President Gerald R. Ford and conservative California Governor Ronald Reagan in the Presidential election of 1976. Manafort was instrumental in saving Ford’s candidacy. Given that the Trump Campaign assumed a similar ordeal was about to unfold at the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the fact that Manafort had a long working history with Trump’s first campaign manager (and personal friend), Roger Stone, Trump hired Manafort in March of 2016.
The interesting thing about Manafort is that he was not only a long-time Republican political operative (who can claim, along with Roger Stone, to have been among the first political consultants that the successful Reagan Campaign of 1980 hired), Manafort also has extensive business ties with unsavory political figures from around the world. Notably, Manafort is closely linked with the controversial (because of his extensive ties to the international Russian mob) Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska.
Deripaska is not only closely linked to the Russian mob, he is known to be a close personal friend of Vladimir Putin. In 2014, according to a Cayman Islands bankruptcy court, Deripaska gave Manafort’s business $19 million to purchase Black Sea Cable, a Ukrainian television company. Yet, as per the court findings, Manafort purportedly ripped off Deripaska. When Manafort was named part of the Trump Campaign, Deripaska and his representatives took to the press publicly to accuse Manafort of fraud, vowing to recover his lost $19 million.
Writing on this issue, Mark Hemingway of The Weekly Standard, stated that he believed Manafort and Deripaska were actually part of an international money laundering operation. The plan was for Manafort to rip off Deripaska, allowing for the latter to sue the former in a country with weak enforcement mechanisms. Given the weak enforcement mechanisms, Deripaska could then declare a financial loss and he would make even more money than he had originally lost (since the $19 million was not actually “lost” but merely redistributed).
Of course, Manafort’s dealings with Deripaska go back years. His Black Sea Cable deal in 2014 was but one of several. As Martin Longman of the Washington Monthly recently speculated, his longtime relationship with Trump ally, Roger Stone, is likely the cause of him being hired over other, less controversial Republican campaign talent. Needless to say, whatever talents Manafort had as a convention floor manager for Trump, he brought with him incredible amounts of baggage.
This baggage is the link in the chain that lends a modicum of credence to the Left’s great lie—their false notion—about Trump’s illicit ties to Russia, Russia’s undue influence on the 2016 campaign, and the “stealing” of the election from Secretary Hillary Clinton.
How shocked are we supposed to be that hired political guns are often less than scrupulous about their clients and associates? Is this unique to Trump’s hires or is it ubiquitous? To ask is to answer.
But even then, how important was Manafort to the campaign? After all, Trump announced his candidacy in June of 2015. Manafort was brought on at the end of March 2016. His most pivotal role was at the convention in July. And, while he was suddenly promoted to the position of Campaign Manager shortly after the convention (because then-Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski brought negative press upon the campaign for reportedly assaulting Michelle Fields, and was subsequently fired), Manafort did not last long in that role. Indeed, he and Trump never quite gelled the way that Trump had with either Lewandowski or Roger Stone (or, eventually and finally, with Kellyanne Conway). In fact, by early August, Manafort resigned entirely from the Campaign (in part, because of his purported illicit ties with Russia). Yet, no connection between Trump or Russia ever existed.
Also, in March of 2016s, Trump announced his foreign policy team. As with hiring Manafort, those more-well-known Republican leaders and foreign policy intellectuals refused to sign on to the Trump Campaign. So, Trump pulled more unorthodox Republican figures to head his foreign policy team. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) became a key Trump confidant. Through Sessions, the Campaign’s foreign policy team was assembled. Of note, a man named Carter Page, who was virtually unknown in most foreign policy circles, was named as the number two man on the Trump Campaign’s foreign policy advisory panel. Carter Page, like Manafort, is believed to have questionable links with Russian agents of influence.
Yet, Page’s role in the campaign was not especially important. While he was listed as a part of the advisory panel on foreign policy, Trump did not rely on that panel for foreign policy advice. This is a fairly typical practice in high level national campaigns. Teams of “experts” are assembled and their advice is collected, but it’s just as likely to be politely ignored as actively sought. Further, Trump reportedly never met Page. What’s more, soon after having joined the campaign, Page was asked to leave. Thus, his impact and influence was quite minimal. Now he, like Manafort, is at the center of the FBI’s investigation into illicit Russian connections. However he, like Manafort, had relationships with Russian agents of influence that did not and do not extend to President Trump at all.
In fact, Page’s connections with Russian agents in New York City were not the result of him being an agent of influence, but rather, of Page happening to be in the same room with a Russian undercover operative. In 2013, while he lived and worked in New York City, Carter Page was a featured lecturer at an energy policy summit in Manhattan. He was approached by Evegeny Buryakov, a high-ranking member of a notorious Russian spy ring in New York City that the FBI was monitoring. The Buryakov (and two others) presented themselves as legitimate players seeking greater information on energy policy. As many academics do when meeting people who show an interest in their work, Page allowed them to view the opening slides of his pending lecture. The slides were based on open-source information and pertained to his views about where things were going in the energy sector. Page neither had access to classified U.S. intelligence nor was he an agent of the U.S. government. By 2015, the FBI investigation into his purported relationship with the Russian spy ring was ended when the FBI determined that he was not a spy.
But, don’t let that stop the Democrats from casting aspersions and spreading their false narrative.
Just when the false notion of Trump-Russian collusion could not get any more obnoxious, FBI Director James Comey took to the stage yet again in October of 2016, when previously deleted Clinton emails were discovered on the hard drive of Anthony Weiner’s computer. Weiner was the disgraced former Democratic politician and husband of Hillary’s long-time chief of staff, Huma Abedin. The concern was not only that Abedin and Weiner were sharing classified information (Weiner did not have a security clearance and was, by definition, a security risk) but also that there might be new evidence implicating Hillary Clinton in dangerous incompetence (as well as obstruction of justice, since she deleted those emails from her server in March of 2015 after having those emails subpoenaed by Congress).
Keep in mind, that in July of 2016, another Clinton-related scandal erupted when former President Bill Clinton decided to pay then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch a social call aboard her plane, on a tarmac in Arizona. At the time, Lynch’s Department of Justice was heading up a separate investigation into the Clinton Global Initiative, for potential pay-to-play abuses from Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State. Essentially, there was some concern that Mrs. Clinton was using her position as the senior diplomat in the Obama Administration to get foreign actors and corporate entities to give her family’s charitable foundation massive donations in exchange for access to her as Secretary of State.
Comey’s decision to reopen his investigation into Hillary Clinton prompted consternation on the Left. Indeed, former Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), wrote a scathing letter to Comey’s office in which he chided the quixotic FBI Director for not releasing “explosive” information on illicit ties between Russia and Donald Trump. On top of the discovery of the Weiner emails, in October, WikiLeaks began disseminating pilfered emails from senior Clinton adviser, John Podesta. Like the other leaks about hacked emails from the Clinton and DNC servers, the Podesta emails were especially troubling because they proved the existence of potential conflicts of interest. In this case, a conflict of interest between the Clinton Global Initiative and Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.
Even with the heat on the Clintons at an all-time high, the actual narrative of possible Trump-Russian “collusion” did not gain any significant traction. It was always in the background; always on the far fringes of the Left. Yet, it was there, percolating. The story never gained traction, likely because most assumed that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump even though Clinton’s sclerotic campaigning was endemic of a candidate who was simply going through the motions. This was strange considering that Trump and his team were on the campaign trail nonstop. But, of course, Hillary was considered inevitable.
November Shock Waves
It should be noted that by the time November rolled around, the U.S. intelligence community had been in deep investigations of all aspects of Trump’s business associations, political relationships, and personal background for any illicit Russian ties. Absolutely none could be found. Meanwhile, more and more evidence was popping up that proved just how corrupt and incompetent Hillary Clinton was. This, on top of the scandalous details about the DNC’s rigging of the primary vote, compounded to form a nearly insurmountable public relations nightmare for Mrs. Clinton (a PR nightmare that she stubbornly refused to acknowledge).
On November 8, 2016 the great shock of Donald Trump’s unlikely election victory began to roll through the mainstream and left-leaning commentariat (to say nothing of aggrieved and forsaken Republicans). It was “unlikely” not because of undue Russian influence, but because of how stacked the deck was against Donald Trump from within the American political establishment. Everyone assumed that Hillary was a shoo-in. When she did not win, rather than accept her loss gracefully, Mrs. Clinton refused even to speak to her downtrodden supporters. It was in this crucible that the old, handy narrative of Mrs. Clinton as the victim of Vladimir Putin and his stooge, Donald Trump, became a mainstream argument.
The paper trail had been laid for months. The government investigation that was occurring going back to the spring; the source of the Guccifer 2.0 hacks; the nebulous connections between a couple of Trump campaign aides and Russia; Harry Reid’s angry letter to Comey; the unsubstantiated Christopher Steele dossier; the fact that a few years prior Trump had visited Russia and, at one point, may have accepted money from a company owned by Russian emigres, these were the sources of the Trump-Russia scandal. Note the utter lack of actionable evidence.
Following her devastating defeat, Hillary Clinton is said to have been approached by a consortium of Left-leaning computer science experts and election lawyers insisting that her loss was statistically impossible. According to computer scientist, J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan and election expert, John Bonifaz, evidence existed that actual vote tampering took place during the election and that it was Russia’s fault.
Initially skeptical, the Clinton team opted to distance itself from these ideologically motivated “experts.” So, the cabal of Left-wing “experts” went to fringe Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, and got her to call for recounts in the three pivotal states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Accordingly, the Clinton team raced to federal court to validate Jill Stein’s calls for recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. This was the first chance to prove in a court of law that Russia, in fact, hacked the election.
And what happened?
So, with the federal investigation into Trump’s connections with Russia having gone on since early Spring of 2016 and with the only chance of actually proving in a court of law that Russia did―in fact―hack the election to favor Trump, no evidence could be produced. The entire campaign against Trump is one of innuendo, guilt-by-association, and lies. With the facts working against the Clintons and the Democratic Party, with no proof that actual Russian hacking occurred (outside of the DNC email hacks), the Left shifted the narrative.
Now, the Left continues to espouse Russophobic paranoia about Trump-Russian connections, but the definition of “hacking” has been changed. It has been loosened to include any potential Russian interference or influence on the election. If anyone close to Trump met with a Russian at any point, that was criminal. If Trump so much as spoke of having more positive relations with Russia, that was proof-positive that he was the Manchurian Candidate. It should be noted that none of what was included in the Steele dossier has been proven. It should be noted, also, that the investigations into Trump have continued unabated since the spring of 2016. There remains no verifiable evidence of any illicit connections between Trump and Russia. Further, there is no proof that the Russians hacked the election.
Dems Can Find the Real Culprit in Mirror
The timeline provided is quite clear. While it is fair to state that political operators, such as Paul Manafort and Carter Page (who are more or less hired guns working for the highest bidder), had some odd dealings in their past with unsavory Russian figures, and while it is also fair to claim that the Trump Organization—a multinational corporation—may have done business with entities linked to Russia, that does not mean that Donald Trump is working in collusion with Russia to advance Russian interests. More important, there is no proof indicating that either Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia to “steal” the election from Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. She was corrupt and she lied to the voters about a litany of things. What’s more, she represented the status quo that most American voters were no longer interested in maintaining. That’s why she lost. That’s why the Democratic Party lost in 2016. Whatever email hacking may have gone on, that was not the reason why the Left lost so badly. It may have contributed to the lack of trust people had for Clinton, but that was not the deal-breaker. What the Democrats are doing is attempting to exonerate their own bad politicking and lack of connection with the issues that were important to the American people in 2016 by casting aspersions on Donald Trump. The claims against Trump are patently false; they are lies based on a false narrative aimed at undermining the legitimacy of the Trump victory.
In fact, when the CIA initially launched its investigation into Donald Trump last spring, it did so under the pretense that Russia aimed at “undermining the credibility of the U.S. election.” Given everything that has been presented here, seeing how the Left has misrepresented and outright lied about the Russian involvement in this last election, I would venture that it was Democratic disinformation—more so than any Russian interference—that has undermined the credibility of the U.S. election. Yet, despite the accurate timeline presented here; despite showing the evolution of an outright lie, just like the evolution of an idea as defined in the film Inception, the false notion that Donald Trump’s victory was the result of wrongdoing has become an ingrained fact of American political life. Thus, you can see the dangers of “Fake News” and of disinformation.
But, it is not foreign influence that we should be concerned about. It is, in fact, the Democratic Party and their allies in the partisan legacy media who are the real threats to our democracy.
In fact, today, June 1, 2017, Congress issued seven subpoenas insisting that four Trump Campaign officials and three Obama Administration officials come to testify on Capitol Hill. While there is little evidence proving any Trump Campaign collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election, there is ample evidence that primary national security figures in the Obama Administration misused their power to improperly spy on Trump Campaign officials. There is further proof that those Obama Administration officials then leaked the details of those covert investigations to the press as a means of degrading the Trump Administration’s ability to govern. Should Congress press the issue, it is quite possible that it is the Obama Administration rather than the Trump team that committed the real crimes against democracy. Only time will tell. What is certain, though, is that the corruption and manipulation of the 2016 election (and the months afterward) were the result of Leftist chicanery and not the fault of the Trump team.
From American Greatness (June 1, 2017)