Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate Russian collusion back in May. A new year is upon us.
The warm May temperatures have been replaced by a deep freeze and snow is falling in Tallahassee. But after blowing through around $7 million and putting on an exciting show of surprise raids, gag orders, leaks and the varying pleas and indictments; Mueller still hasn’t produced a single collusion indictment.
It’s much easier to pick Manafort’s lock than to prove Hillary Clinton’s conspiracy theory.
What Mueller did was harass a bunch of already shady characters into pleading guilty on minor charges, some, like lying to the FBI, created by his own investigation. All he had to do was get his team of Obama and Clinton supporters in front of Obama and Clinton judges who would rubber stamp anything.
And the grand jury allegedly looked like a “Bernie Sanders” or “Black Lives Matter” rally with some participants wearing left-wing shirts. There wasn’t a single white male among the 20 jurors. That’s a convenient way to screen out likely Trump supporters and bring in likely Trump opponents.
Blatantly rigging it to a low bar is an admission by Mueller and his team that their case is too weak for prime time. Even now Manafort is suing the DOJ. His lawsuit may go nowhere, but the odds are good that Mueller’s tactics and evidence won’t stand up to serious scrutiny. That’s what happened with key Mueller team member Andrew Weissmann’s assault on Arthur Andersen. It's also been happening to Preet Bharara's more recent takedowns of top New York political figures. This is how political prosecutors score fast headlines and fame. It’s not how they win enduring victories in a court of law.
And so Mueller is talking about indicting Manafort again. It’s been done already. And even the media can only pay so much attention when like an aging rocker, Mueller lip syncs to his greatest hits.
Despite all the media cheerleading, Mueller can’t get too close to Trump without his rigged investigation being subjected to serious scrutiny that it can’t withstand. Getting lefty judges and a lefty grand jury to give you whatever you want may fly with the vulnerable and isolated targets he’s been going after.
But it won’t give the media its Watergate.
The real hard work on the collusion investigation hasn’t been coming from Mueller’s crack team of Obama and Clinton donors, but the media which has been preemptively reliving its own Watergate. Like most conspiracy theories, the media’s collusion narrative is based on reading great significance into coincidences, paying close attention to meaningless details and never delivering a final product.
Because trying to assemble all the conspiracy theories into a final product leads to gibberish.
The New York Times’ latest scoop claims that the investigation was actually touched off by something that a drunken 28-year-old who lives with his mother had told an Australian diplomat in a London bar. That’s not a joke. It’s the current theory of the Times in “How the Russian Inquiry Began”.
Last year’s Times theory was that it began with a trip by yet another foreign policy adviser to Moscow.
When CNN asked James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, about George Papadopoulos, the former 28-year-old at the center of the current conspiracy theory, he had no clue.
"There were other factors that I think were the stimulus for the investigation," Clapper said. Papadopoulos "was not a name on my radar scope".
Instead Clapper pivoted back to Hillary Clinton's Steele Dossier, which he claimed had been partially corroborated. But Clapper hadn’t gotten the Times memo to shift to Papadopoulos because, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy points out, Papadopoulos isn’t linked to the Steele dossier.
The New York Times was trying to reboot the collusion conspiracy without the tainted dossier which we had recently learned was paid for by Hillary Clinton, sourced for free from a Russian intelligence source and passed around by Fusion GPS, a secret smear shop employed by Hillary Clinton and which had been paying the wife of a demoted DOJ official to investigate Trump and meeting with her husband.
The dossier news isn’t getting any better. Investigating it has revealed a trail between the Clinton campaign and law enforcement. If Obama Inc. had used discredited opposition research from Clinton’s smear shop to eavesdrop on Trump officials, the media will finally have its Watergate.
But the star of the show will be their own Hope and Change man.
The dossier has become so toxic that the Fusion GPS co-founders got a New York Times op-ed to disavow the idea that their own dossier had triggered the investigation. Instead they claim that it corroborated it. But that leaves open the question of what triggered it. And that’s why the Times pivoted to the Papadopoulos conspiracy theory. If you go with the Papadopoulos theory, then the investigation was triggered by a drunken 28-year-old mouthing off in a bar. And Hillary’s opposition research just “corroborated” what law enforcement already knew from that drunk guy in a bar.
But the Papadopoulos theory was shrugged off by Obama’s own DNI guy. If Papadopoulos wasn’t the reason for the eavesdropping and the investigation, then we’re right back to the Steele dossier. That’s the same dossier that the media had previously defended and passed around, but is now denouncing as a Republican conspiracy theory. But the guy who generated that conspiracy theory was David Corn, the Washington D.C. bureau chief for Mother Jones, a radical leftist magazine, before he was caught up in an investigation over allegations of sexual harassment during the early days of #MeToo. Corn had been in touch with both Clinton’s smear shop and the FBI’s recently reassigned general counsel.
Corn has both dismissed the relevance of the dossier he promoted and defended its claims. That’s the sort of contradictory behavior you engage in when you traffic in conspiracy theories.
The advantage of pivoting to Papadopoulos is that it provides a clean slate for the eavesdropping and for Mueller. And the media doesn’t have to spend all its time explaining away the web of connections between Fusion GPS, the Clinton smear shop, and key DOJ and FBI figures opposed to Trump.
But the only thing Papadopoulos had actually pleaded guilty to was lying to the FBI.
Now that the investigation is being investigated, its media allies are trying to launder the investigation’s origins in the Clinton campaign. The media initially reported Russian collusion as if it were already a fact that didn’t require actual proof. But an actual investigation needs an origin point.
And Papadopoulos isn’t going to be it.
But Mueller’s witch hunt isn’t an actual investigation. It’s just meant to maintain an atmosphere of wrongdoing around President Trump without ever actually proving its central accusation. Mueller and his team are going through the mechanics of an investigation without ever intending to deliver one.
That’s what it has in common with Comey’s exoneration of Hillary Clinton.
Fake investigations don’t need origin points. They don’t need proof. They’re just theater. Comey’s theater consisted of handing out immunity to Clinton associates while working on his exoneration letter. Mueller’s theater nails Trump associates for petty offenses while working on a denunciation letter. The investigative process is just insincere theater whose motions are meant to mask a political agenda.
But this investigation does have an origin point in the bizarre conspiracy theories of the Steele dossier.
The Fusion GPS boys sounded unusually defensive in their New York Times editorial. “We’re extremely proud of our work to highlight Mr. Trump’s Russia ties. To have done so is our right under the First Amendment,” they wheedled.
The First Amendment tends to cover the press. Private libel firms like Fusion GPS might be technically protected under the letter of the law, but certainly not the spirit of it. Even if Fusion GPS had a right to do a political campaign’s dirty work, there is nothing to be proud of in acting as Hillary’s hit men.
But Fusion GPS did more than highlight. It moved the information to the right people. And those people used it as a pretext to launch an investigation. And that investigation involved Watergate level crimes.
9 out of 10 times, the conspiracy theory is the conspiracy. The JFK assassination conspiracy theory was spread to divert attention from the radical leftist roots of the assassin to a vast right-wing conspiracy. Leftist 9/11 Truthers shifted the blame from Muslim terrorists to President George W. Bush. The Russia collusion conspiracy theory exists to justify a partisan eavesdropping effort against Trump officials.
And the Steele dossier reveals how tawdry, trashy and worthless that conspiracy theory is.
Mueller’s investigation theatrically diverts attention from the origins of the conspiracy theory with dramatic moves that amount to nothing more than hysterical headlines. He can’t escape the hollowness at the heart of his investigation or the crimes by his political allies that it is meant to conceal.