Team Trump Admits Its ‘Russiagate’ Head Fake Has Been a Flop

Alex Wong / Getty
President Trump is frustrated that a country where over 210,000 people have died from the virus does not seem interested in the Russiagate "hoax" as the coronavirus runs through its body in competition with a high dose of steroids.
Trump spent part of his week calling for the latest version of his counter-narrative on Russia - that intelligence officials teamed up with Democrats in 2016 to invent the Russian collusion - to prosecute his political enemies. "I say," Bill [Barr], we have a lot [evidence], we don't need any more, "Trump told Maria Bartiromo on Thursday. On Friday, he raged to Rush Limbaugh that Republicans were" afraid of influencing the elections ... they don't play the hard game ".
The loyalist director of the National Intelligence Service, John Ratcliffe, delivers this "evidence" to Attorney General William Barr's special attorney. Intelligence veterans seething as Ratcliffe helps Trump invent a narrative to aid him in an election. "Everyone knows the deal here," said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former CIA officer. “You know Ratcliffe is irresponsible. Everything is possible. "
Still, Trump and his staff have come to realize in recent weeks that the public is not intrigued by the Breitbart-friendly reports of uncovered notes by former CIA officials four years ago, according to two sources familiar with the private complaints.
"Mainstream media doesn't cover it. So most voters aren't aware of the facts," John McLaughlin, a top Trump pollster, told The Daily Beast. "You're [the] first reporter to ever ask me and there must be another question in the debates. "
Other policy advisors don't even think it's worth the effort. Some senior Trump advisors have privately insisted that stepping up the investigation into Special Prosecutor John Durham is a waste of time, at least in the election. "We will not move any votes that are not yet in our column," said one.
"The media has worked hard to keep voters in the dark that Joe Biden worked with Hillary Clinton to spread the Russian collusion fraud and undermine the peaceful transfer of power in 2017," replied Matt Wolking, deputy communications director for the Trump Campaign a request for comment Friday.
One person who has spoken to Trump repeatedly about Durham's investigation and the president's desire to imprison many of his political enemies recounted how Trump has lamented that no more people have left the Democratic Party because of the supposedly “biggest scandal” in the recent US have left political history. The president also accuses media outlets - including Fox - of not reporting on Durham-related developments as aggressively as he would like. They are "covering up" it for voters and the American public, Trump said.
Another source, well aware of the president's influence on the matter, said there had been at least one case in the past two months of President Trump one day looking for coverage of the probe on cable news channels to express his annoyance when he did couldn't find any.
Trump relies heavily on Barr through Durham to produce the electoral deus ex machina of the indictments. "Unless Bill Barr charges these people for crimes, the greatest political crime in our country's history, we will not be very satisfied if I do not win," he told Bartiromo.
Trump cannot be satisfied. Several outlets have reported that Durham is unlikely to sue anyone or publish a public report before the election. Durham's probe has already met with deep skepticism, especially after a key assistant stepped down in protest at Barr's pressure on it. The unlikely Durham to deliver has now weighed on Trump's relationship with his attorney general, according to the AP.
This is a reflection of the importance Trump's desired narrative has for his followers - both in defeat and in victory. It shows her hobbled from the start by a disloyal security institute out to pursue. This does not necessarily require law enforcement. However, it does require public disclosures of information pertinent to that narrative. Those stakes were issued this week when MAGA turned on Trump's CIA director and stood up for Ratcliffe.
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It is a proxy battle with implications for the future of US intelligence. Trump's approach to intelligence was shown during Rudy Giuliani's filth search in Ukraine and even earlier in 2011 when he claimed to have "investigators" in Hawaii looking for Barack Obama's birth certificate: to gather information against his domestic enemies are useful. This was welcomed by Trump's allies - particularly Rep. Devin Nunes, the leading Republican in the House's intelligence community - while frustrating Democrats and alarming intelligence veterans, both hoping for a return to the status quo ante. Some wonder if this type of intelligence weapon will last beyond Trump's presidency.
"That's just about it now - the post office as a domestic political weapon, the census being used as one," said a former senior intelligence official. “The right wing has come to believe that it is legitimate to use every aspect of government as a lever to maintain its own political power and destroy its enemies. This is the reality we are in. There is no sane view of the proper role of intelligence services, which says that it is a matter of protecting the president. "
Secret service veterans quickly point to the very long history of the politicized secret service, from the Bay of Pigs to Iran-Contra to Iraq. They also note that previous politicizations tended to be tied to a foreign target rather than a domestic political struggle, underscoring the openness of Ratcliffe and Trump's efforts. "There were a set of rules that both sides played by, even if they politicized their analysis, as Doug Feith, Undersecretary of Defense under the Bush era, had done to support a desired policy," Mowatt-Larsen said . “The deviation here is that it is only used to support the president in an electoral context. That is an unacceptable politicization. "
Hours before the vice presidential debate, Ratcliffe announced that he had given Durham nearly 1,000 pages of documents. In a statement, Ratcliffe promised to "continue to ensure that intelligence services respond to the DOJ's inquiries" The week before, Ratcliffe published summaries of the intercepted 2016 Russian intelligence analysis that fitted Trump's desired narrative, despite admitting that they "may reflect exaggeration or forgery". After a riot, he insisted he didn't wash up Russian disinformation.
"They only downgrade things that are essentially raw intelligence with no context and no reason," said a former senior Trump-era intelligence official. "Except when it feels like it's meant for one of the candidates."
Former CIA director John Brennan, whose notes are part of Ratcliffe's statements and regulations, has condemned Ratcliffe for politicizing the secret service. “It is appalling that he has been selective in sharing information. It is meant to promote the political interests of Donald Trump and Republicans that are consistent with him, "Brennan told CNN. CIA allies are quick to point out that none of the multiple investigations into interference in the Russian elections has confirmed Trump's narrative of Clinton's campaign, which was a joke of the Russian collusion. Instead, they have confirmed the 2017 intelligence service assessment that Russia intervened on Trump's behalf.
Now, appointed CIA director Trump has come under the continued ire of MAGA.
Two key Trump allies in the Senate, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), attacked CIA Director Gina Haspel on Wednesday for allegedly obstructing document production in her own investigation into the Trump-Russia investigations into the FBI convicted. "This cannot go on - the American public has the right to know about the widespread mistakes and biased decisions that have emerged during the Obama administration that have undermined a peaceful shift in power," they wrote.
It was a relief to MAGA's growing dissatisfaction with Haspel, the torture veteran and CIA institutionalist Trump placed in Langley. Haspel is internally dissatisfied that he reportedly silenced the CIA's Russian analysts on Trump's behalf. ("She's calling analyst liars all the time," an ex-official told Politico.) Additional pressure on Haspel came from Nunes, who recently said he hoped Haspel would support "maximum publication of documentation." This week, MAGA publication accused the Federalist Haspel, citing intelligence sources, "personally" of obstructing the publication of "important Russian documents" in order for Trump to lose re-election.
Trump set the tone. "You are in a deep state, you have a group of people who don't want to show documents, which tells you a bad thing. But you have to give them and we get them in the end," Trump told Bartiromo. He praised Ratcliffe as “Great.” He didn't mention Reel.
Both ODNI and CIA declined to answer Daily Beast questions about whether Haspel disagreed with any of Ratcliffe's document terms to Durham. The New York Times reported Friday that it spoke out against Ratcliffe's previous clearances. When asked about Grassley and Johnson's allegations, CIA spokeswoman Nicole de Haay said, "We have received the letter and of course we intend to respond as soon as possible."
Two former intelligence officials said Haspel, a CIA agent, had no choice but to protect the agency's interests against Trump. One suggested that the declassification risks exposing sources to the agency. "Aside from the selective declassification that is clearly going on here, I wouldn't be surprised if she reaches the stage where the agency staff say to Haspel, 'You're doing this and you're going to blow our sources,' and there is Gina will be forced to take a stand, "said the ex-official.
This former official believed that domestic arming of intelligence agencies was not necessarily an integral part of American elite politics. But the official said it depends on Republican moneymen rejecting Trump and forcing the party to abandon his policies. That's something they haven't done in four years - and something that, historically, capital never does against nationalisms.
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"Are the results of this election final enough for the Republican Party to decide we will change our approach, or are they locked up?" said the ex-officer. "It will all depend on the plutocrats who fund the Republican Party."
Mowatt-Larssen, author of the memoir A State of Mind: Faith and The CIA, agreed that permanent domestic politicization of the secret services is not inevitable. But he said the secret services should "break" from the habits of consenting to political figures.
"The first thing you need to do is restore your reputation and clean it up - I use this word on purpose - in all the ways you have been intimidated, persuaded, and persuaded into joining a political enterprise. The intelligence agencies need to realize that it is Now there is a problem with their truth-seeking character, objectivity, independence and apolitical role, "he said." What is clear is that there has been a trend towards politicization that has gotten really bad and the secret services know that they are attacked. "
Trump is confident that a nation embroiled in a pandemic and corresponding economic disaster will see to it that the Russia investigation reopened. "The American people are well aware of this," he assured Limbaugh.
- with additional coverage from Erin Banco
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