Russia may have indeed affected the election, through the farcical Mr. Comey.
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
The Wall Street Journal
June 28, 2017
In the Sunday Washington Post’s 7,000-word account of what President Obama knew about Russian election meddling and what he did about it, one absence is notable. Nowhere in the Post’s lengthy tick-tock is Mr. Obama presented with evidence of, or described as worried about, Trump collusion with Russia.
Moscow intervened in the election eight ways from Sunday, but it’s clearer than ever that what’s occupied Americans for the past six months are baseless accusations about the Trump campaign.
Among the evidence on Mr. Obama’s desk was proof that Vladimir Putin was personally directing the Russian espionage effort. For a variety of sensible reasons, though, the White House and U.S. intelligence also concluded that Russia’s meddling was “unlikely to materially affect the outcome of the election.”
President Obama made at least one inevitably political calculation: Hillary Clinton was going to win, so he would keep relatively mum on Russian interference to avoid provoking “escalation from Putin” or “potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph,” in the Post’s words.
Strangely missing from the Post account, however, is one Russian intervention, revealed by the paper’s own earlier reporting, that may really have, in farcical fashion, elected Donald Trump.
This was FBI Director James Comey’s ill-fated decision to clear Hillary Clinton publicly on intelligence-mishandling charges. His choice, it now appears, was partly shaped by a false intelligence document referring to a nonexistent Democratic email purporting to confirm that then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had vowed to quash any Hillary charges.
On April 23, the New York Times first alluded to the document’s existence in an 8,000-word story about Mr. Comey’s intervention.
On May 24, the Post provided a detailed description of the document and revealed that many in the FBI considered it “bad intelligence,” possibly a Russian plant.
On May 26, CNN adumbrated that Mr. Comey “knew that a critical piece of information relating to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email was fake—created by Russian intelligence—but he feared that if it became public it would undermine the probe and the Justice Department itself.”
“In at least one classified session [before Congress],” CNN added, “Comey cited that intelligence as the primary reason he took the unusual step of publicly announcing the end of the Clinton email probe. . . . Comey did not even mention the other reason he gave in public testimony for acting independently of the Justice Department—that Lynch was compromised because Bill Clinton boarded her plane and spoke to her during the investigation.”
Why has this apparently well-documented, and eminently documentable, episode fallen down the memory hole, in favor of a theory for which there is no evidence, of collusion by the outsider Mr. Trump?
The alternative history is incalculable, but consider: If Mr. Comey had followed established practice, the Hillary investigation would have been closed without an announcement, or the conflicted Ms. Lynch or an underling would have cleared Mrs. Clinton. How would this have played with voters and the media? Would the investigation’s reopening in the race’s final days, with discovery of the Weiner laptop, have taken place? Would the reopening have become public knowledge?
The noisy, obnoxious ways Russia meddled amounted to nothing. The public was able to discount them. It was only through a bumptious act of our own law-enforcement community, in a way the public didn’t know at the time may have been influenced by planted Russian intelligence, that the Kremlin conceivably really may have affected an extraordinarily close race in the Electoral College.
What also emerges from the Post’s tick-tock, as well as from public testimony by U.S. intelligence chiefs, is that Russia did not seek to hide its meddling. The Russian goal was to sow confusion and bring disrepute on the U.S. leadership class. If so, any investigation of Russian meddling that fails to focus on the Comey actions will amount to a coverup.
Expect a coverup: The truth is absolutely unacceptable to the establishment that Special Counsel Robert Mueller represents. There is no appetite for the truth among Democrats: They cling to Mr. Comey’s legal exoneration of Mrs. Clinton in the server matter.
There is no appetite among Republicans: Messrs. Comey and Mueller are Republicans, promoted in their careers by Republican presidents. There is no appetite in the Trump White House, which doesn’t want its win tainted in history by a Russian dirty trick.
There is no appetite in the Kremlin: Mr. Putin knows that relations with the American superpower are slipping toward an all-out hostility that he can’t afford.
In the U.S., to acknowledge the truth would be to complete the task Russia set itself in discrediting the U.S. leadership class.
A coverup is the only way to go.
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