Guided by Facts
I was recently in a discussion with a friend about the meeting President Trump had in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin. He could not understand how I did not see the harm the president had done to the country, first by meeting with Russia, and then by seeming to be weak in confronting Putin on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
I didn’t see the meeting the way he saw it, or the way the media and analyst saw it. I watched the press conference with the two leaders and it was very interesting to say the least, but it did not alarm me the way it had alarmed my friend.
He, like everyone else, seemed to be focused on what the president had said. I, on the other hand, was more focused on what Putin had said.
I know. Putin is an ex-KGB agent and a brutal dictator who eats children and kicks puppies. We should consider little of what he says; or view everything he says in the context of him trying to manipulate our simple little American minds. However, I felt compelled to listen to what he was saying and think rationally about it.
During the joint press conference a reporter asks Putin directly, “Why should Americans, and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in 2016 election, given the evidence that US intelligence agencies has provided?"
Putin said, “As to who is to be believed and who is not to be believed, you can trust no one. Where did you get the idea that President Trump trusts me, or that I trust him? ... We should be guided by facts.” He then asked the reporter to name a single fact that definitively proves the charges against him.
The reporter never attempted to name a single fact. They moved on to the next question and the challenge Putin had made was simply ignored. I could not ignore it though. I kept thinking about his challenge to name a single fact. I could not name one, and this was the question I posed to my friend whom I was discussing this issue with.
He went around and around, naming all of the circumstantial evidence, and outright speculations and conspiracy theories. For example, the meeting with Don Jr. a Russian lawyer, the Russians indicted, and the guilty pleas of Americans who did not plead guilty of colluding with Russia. He even tried to pass off the speech where Trump “invited the Russians to hack” in Florida. I continued to push back, “Yes. Those are facts, but none of those facts prove the Russian government authorized a state sponsored attack on the election. Where are those facts?”
Once he had punched himself out, tossing out all these useless facts, he started getting frustrated. He was still unable to convince me why I should be freaking out, but he knew he was completely justified in doing so. He said, “Mueller is still conducting his investigation and I believe our 17 intelligence agencies more than I trust Putin.”
This goes back to the original question and answer. Remember, “Why should the American people, and President Trump believe you...?” “You can trust no one... We should be guided by facts." We were going in circles.
My friend wanted me to trust the 17 intelligence agencies based on circumstantial evidence and loosely connected facts, but I was more interested in a fact that he had just passingly stated as though it was a foregone conclusion; the fact that 17 intelligence agencies concluded Russia interfered in the election. Where would he get such an idea?
The first mention of the 17 agencies collaborating and concluding that Russia interfered in the election came from Hillary Clinton in a primetime debate before the election took place.
She says, "We have 17, 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks come from the highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election." [link]
Susan Rice, Obama's National Security Advisor, later followed up with the same claim.
She says, “We did blow the whistle on the Russians on October 7, and that came as soon as the intelligence community and all of its component parts, 17 agencies came to a consensus conclusion that we took the extraordinary step of making public that the Russian government at the highest levels was involved in an effort to play in our electoral process.” [link]
The idea that all 17 agencies of the United State Intelligence Community (IC) concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election has been roundly debunked, and it’s hard to take anyone serious who continues to make this claim: [link]. After Rice and Clinton made this claim many in the media began to repeat it and hammer it into the public psyche [link], [link], [link]. Now many in America, like my friend, still believe this completely false narrative. No wonder he was freaking out.
The obvious question is why? Why would Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and the media lie and mislead millions of Americans into believing all 17 agencies of the IC were involved in the assessment that Russia had interfered in the election? Well, let’s take a look at who was actually responsible for the assessment. The declassified version of, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” [link] is everything the public is allowed to know about the assessment that Russia interfered in the election. It was released to the public on January 6, 2017, and it states clearly, “
So in actuality, the assessment that Russia interfered in the election comes from only 3 agencies of the IC: the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA. The document also says the NSA only gave the assessment “moderate confidence” in key judgements. This should raise eyebrows because as the document says, it means the NSA only had moderate confidence in the "evidentiary basis, logic and reasoning, and precedents" that underpin key judgments.
With the NSA only having moderate confidence in key judgments of the assessment I think it is fair to say the bulk of the confidence in the assessment comes from the CIA and FBI. That is why they sold the assessment as the work of all 17 intelligence agencies. It was for credibility, because the two agencies that were actually responsible for the assessment were the two with the least amount of credibility with the American people --- and for a good reason.
The FBI and CIA have been involved in nefarious, clandestine, operations that go against the interest of the American people for 8 decades. They have dropped the ball so many times, and out right misled the American people. It is no wonder that the American people would have little faith in these agencies, but especially in this Russia assessment. The men who headed these two agencies under Obama, during the time at question, are prominent figures in this ongoing saga: James Comey and John Brennan. These men seem to have a vested interest in the public believing Russia interfered in the election.
There are a lot of accusations in their assessment, but zero evidence --- zero! I found myself laughing out loud several times while reading it. For example:
Seriously, Putin plotted to discredit Hillary Clinton and make her look unfavorable to Trump? Obama beat them to it in the 2008 primary. Trump didn't need any help discrediting her or making her look unfavorable.
“The US-led liberal democratic order”? Why is the United States leading a world order? Who decided that the US would lead a liberal democratic world order? What exactly is a liberal democratic order, and how much is this going to cost?
So I guess this is supposed to be a bad thing, wanting to work with the United States to defeat ISIS?
More than half of the assessment deals with the judgement that Russia Today (RT) is a propaganda arm of the GRU. RT currently has a presence on Facebook with just over 5 million followers, on Youtube with just over 3 million followers, and another 3.5 million on Twitter between RT, RT America, and RT UK. Think about that, because this assessment is the tell all on how Russia "attacked us" and "attacked our democracy" in the 2016 election. The fact that the bulk of that assessment is that RT was a major player in the attack and they are allowed to continue as though nothing has happened, should be very telling to any thinking person.
The accusations against RT are specious at best. They accuse RT of wanting to highlight "criticism of alleged US shortcomings in democracy and civil liberties." They reported on election fraud, voting machine vulnerabilities, economic hazards, and they even had the nerve to cover Occupy Wall Street after the financial crises in 2012, when the mainstream media would not give the protest any coverage. You know, journalism.
All of these reports are listed in the assessment to build the case that RT was "Kremlin-financed" and that they were used by the GRU to influence the election. One of my favorite examples in the judgement of RT's involvement is this one:
I got such a big kick out of this, because the anti-fracking platform on environmental and health issues is so mainstream in the Democratic Party, that Hillary Clinton gave an enraged denial when a Green Peace activist accused her of taking money from the fracking industry [link]. Also, take a look at these anti-fracking reports on MSNBC [link], [link].
I don't see how any of this equates to malicious reporting, but even if it was malicious state sponsored propaganda, would it matter? The assessment says, "A reliable UK report states that RT recently was the most-watched foreign news channel in the UK. RT America has positioned itself as a domestic US channel and has deliberately sought to obscure any legal ties to the Russian Government."
This is written to deceive readers about the reach of RT. "A reliable UK report"? I suppose they can not tell us WHIICH report stated RT was the most-watched foreign news channel in the UK? Moreover, who cares what the reach of RT is in the UK? It implies nothing about the reach of RT in the United States, and RT's reach in the United States may be 12 million Americans on a good day. About 150 million Americans voted in the 2016 election. Even if RT was airing the most harmful propaganda known to man it would have little to no impact on the American public because hardly anyone would see it. RT is so insignificant that you may be wondering why I'm even spending so much time talking about RT, and I must remind you: I’m talking about them because RT is a significant part of the intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Eight of the thirteen pages of the assessment are devoted to Russia Today.
This is my biggest issue with the narrative that Russia interfered in the election. The idea that RT had an impact of the 2016 election is more ridiculous than the idea that Facebook ads, or troll farms and Russian bots had an impact. I have seen no evidence that Russia interfered, but instead of producing evidence it seems the media and intelligence officials are attempting to deceive me, us, into believing Russia interfered. Why pitch the 17 agencies when it was only 3? Why produce this ridiculous assessment? Why use language to try to make us believe RT is more influential than they actually are in reality?
A new trick being used to deceive us is the tactic of saying there in "unanimous consent" among intelligence agencies, or "all of our intelligence agencies agree". It is a sophistic lie that refers to the 17 agencies without actually saying the 17 agencies agree. Here is an example of a reporter using this trick to question the president in the Helsinki press conference: [link].
Democrats and the media are desperate to know what President Trump and Vladimir Putin talked about in their private meeting before their joint press conference, but we already know they talked about this issue. President Trump told us President Putin was "extremely strong and powerful in his denial" that Russia interfered in the election. It's not surprising. Putin has not been shy about doing interviews with American press. Since Trump was elected he has done several interviews Megyn Kelly, and he recently did an interview with Chris Wallace. In each case he has repeatedly denied that Russia interfered, and he has repeatedly asked for the evidence. I do not trust Putin, but he is right. We should be guided by facts!
To be continued.