Democrats Betray Supporters Yet Again with Russia-Gate Distraction

In a front-page article on October 23rd by Nicholas Fandos “Hopes Dwindle for 3 Inquiries on Russia Ties,” The New York Times - a leading fomenter of anti-Russia hysteria - all but conceded that the Russia-Gate inquiries would amount to nothing.

Fandos wrote that “nine months into the Trump administration, any notion that Capitol Hill would provide a comprehensive, authoritative and bipartisan account of the extraordinary efforts of a hostile power to disrupt American democracy appears to be dwindling.” Fandos suggested that the Congressional investigative committees would likely produce two reports, “one by the GOP saying there was no proof anyone around Mr. Trump worked for Russia to tip the election,” and a Democratic Party report which “will probably raise unanswered questions and say the committee was never fully committed to answering them.”

Given the huge investment of energy and resources in the Russia-Gate investigation, Democratic Party supporters and much of the country should be irate.

The United States is facing severe problems. It is dealing with high unemployment and underemployment, wildfires and storms caused by global warming, decaying infrastructure, state budget cuts, waning public education and others. The United States also at this time has 240,000 active duty and reserve troops in 172 nations or territories worldwide on top of 37,813 troops on secret assignments.

Instead of debating the U.S. purpose in the world and conveying to the American public an alternative vision that will address our domestic problems and help win over the kinds of blue-collar voters who supported Trump, the Democrats have been fixated with Russia and trying to discredit Trump by playing up the allegations against it.

They think that we are still in the throes of the McCarthy-era and that the public will pick up on their crusade and rally together behind a New Cold War and that Trump will be impeached.

However, the days of the Cold War are over. Young people are skeptical about everything, and most people want the government to work for social progress and not to promote new arms races and wars and Trump, however, odious, does not appear to be some kind of Manchurian candidate.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, furthermore, does not fully fit central casting as an evil villain like Saddam, Castro or Qadaffi, no matter how hard the media may try. He has a strong base of popular support in Russia because he has revived Russian self-respect and power from the Yeltsin era and has many accomplishments, including his preventing Russia’s disintegration and presiding over economic improvements since the 1990s.

Despite its cynical predictions about Russia-Gate, the Times on October 23rd also ran back-to-back stories by Andrew Kramer casting Putin’s Russia yet again in a negative light.

“A Bribery Case in Russia Lifts the Veil on Kremlin’s Intrigue” discussed the arrest of Economic Minister Aleksei V. Ulyukaev, a protégé of the late-Yegor Gaidar, the architect of post-Soviet privatization, after he allegedly accepted a bribe from the director of the Russian National Oil Company Roseneft. Kramer quoted an unnamed analyst who said that the case “could signal a return to Soviet era traditions under which service in the Ministries was a tightrope walk over to the Gulag.”

Whatever the merits of the case against Ulyukaev, the latter assessment is pure hyperbole designed to insinuate comparisons between Putin and Stalin, which have no basis in fact, and to rechristen a Cold War contest between freedom and totalitarianism, thus giving moral purpose behind U.S. foreign policy.

Kramer’s second article on the same page was titled “Conspiracy Claims Devour Magnitsky Murder Inquiry” and discussed Russia’s charging William Browder, a billionaire hedge fund manager previously convicted in absentia on tax evasion charges in Russia, with murder in the death of Sergei Magnitsky.

Magnitsky was an accountant at Browder’s company, Hermitage Capital, who died in prison after being charged allegedly with abetting tax evasion. Browder says that Magnitsky was a whistleblower who was killed by prison authorities because he threatened to uncover the Russian government’s role in a $230 million tax scam against Hermitage.

After his death, Browder lobbied the U.S. Congress and European and Canadian parliaments to pass sanctions measures against Russia known as the Magnitsky Act.

The evidence being promoted by Russia to back up the murder charge is an intercepted communication from Western intelligence agencies which allegedly exposes an Operation called “Quake” designed to “start a scandal or significant news trigger to discredit the Russian Federation in the eyes of the international community.” Operating under the code name “Agent Solomon,” Mr. Browder, with Britain’s MI-6 and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (aka “Agent Freedom”), is said to have arranged for “proxies in the Russian federal penitentiary service to arrange the termination of any medical services for Magnitsky.”

Similar accusations were previously aired on Russian state television but dismissed by independent analysts because the communication was found to have had spelling errors that derived from flawed Russian translation.

Though it is possible the errors were made by a British spy who was Russian, Kramer is justified in questioning the authenticity of the evidence being used to accuse Browder of murder.

His article is biased nevertheless in that he depicts Browder as some kind of populist hero and victim of a Russian disinformation campaign, based on Browder’s own words, while ignoring some of the evidence that has come to light that pokes holes in certain aspects of his story.

For example, Robert Parry of Consortium News and other researchers uncovered that Magnitsky was not a lawyer as Browder claimed but a tax accountant; something confirmed by Magnitsky’s family. Kramer still though refers to Magnitsky as Browder’s lawyer. Kramer also fails to address evidence presented in Andrey Nekrasov’s blacklisted film, The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes, that question the official story about the tax scam and how Magnitsky was killed.

Kramer’s articles and others of its kind leave readers with the impression of Russia as a dark and corrupt land led by a treacherous neo-Stalinist, hence justifying U.S. policy in the New Cold War.

The Russia-Gate witch-hunt, however, by the Times’ own admission is going nowhere, and the public may be growing skeptical.

The Democratic Party has betrayed its supporters by following the media in scapegoating Russia and using it as a distraction while Rome literally begins to burn. Bernie Sanders has left the party to run in 2018 as an independent and other progressives should do the same. Better yet, they should join with the Greens or form a new party.

Jeremy Kuzmarov teaches at the University of Tulsa and is author of the forthcoming book with John Marciano, The Russians Are Coming Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (Monthly Review Press, 2018).

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