Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
With 3 Clinton donors on the jury and a judge who is the poster boy for conflicts of interest, the outcome of the Michael Sussmann trial was never in doubt. But these are also the same conflicts that made Russiagate possible and trying a Russiagate case in D.C. entirely hopeless.
D.C.’s professional class build their careers around a web of personal connections. And no one was better at pulling on all those connections than the Clintons who had spent a generation assembling their own political machine of careerists and loyalists by offering them positions in the government and their non-profit organizations. The Clintons had built an army and a state within a state. Russiagate, at the most basic level, was an attempt by corrupt careerists before the election to protect their future jobs and after the election to exact an embittered revenge.
Beyond the leftist ideology, which was very much present, the Clintons had made Washington D.C. their own. Investigating Russiagate tugs at this corrupt web of connections that is at the heart of D.C. culture. And that culture makes any D.C. investigation into a virtual dead end.
Take Judge Christopher Cooper, who knew Sussmann, worked for the Clinton DOJ, and whose wife represents FBI’s own Russiagate figure, Lisa Page. Cooper should not have been presiding over the Sussmann trial, but how many federal judges in D.C. would there be who didn’t know Sussmann, hadn’t worked for the Clintons, and didn’t have spousal conflicts of interest?
You might get 1 out 3 at best.
That’s how Russiagate worked all along with Nellie Ohr, employed by Fusion GPS, the Clinton firm pushing Russiagate, while Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, her husband, was receiving smears from Fusion GPS proxy Christopher Steele.
“Love and Best Wishes to you, Nellie and all the family,” Steele signed a letter to Bruce.
Like the husbands and wives of medieval nobility, spouses in Washington D.C. are political conduits that expand each other’s social and political networks. So many of the key national players in our politics, elected officials, members of the administrative state, activists, think-tank people and journalists are the children or spouses of someone important that trying to assemble a snapshot of it is like connecting Kevin Bacon or drawing a family tree of the Hapsburgs.
Who better to understand that than Hillary who owes her political career to her marriage?
Are these even actual marriages? Much like the strange arrangement between Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin, a couple who had little in common except as proxies for Bill and Hillary, or Rep. Ilhan Omar’s bizarre relationship, they’re primarily political arrangements. Marriage becomes just another favor trading scheme of the kind that defines Washington D.C.
Calling this mess the “swamp” is almost too simplistic. The federal government has become the work of a professional class. Its members are often alumni and even when they aren’t, they have been selected for their future roles at the college level. The infamous “revolving door” between elected and unelected government officials, lobbyists, non-profits, the media, think tanks and consultancies just means that everyone knows each other and trades influence.
Russiagate was naturally hatched by that same political class which had been lining up for expected appointments in a Hillary or Jeb Bush administration. Any serious investigation of it is impossible for the same reason that trying honor killings in Afghanistan was a dead end.
It’s part of the culture.
From the D.C. perspective, no one did anything wrong because this is what they do all the time. Information gets passed along careerist social networks, trading favors and hoping to be remembered for a spot the next time an opening appears in a new administration. To the Russiagaters what they were doing wasn’t a conspiracy, they were just networking.
To the extent that there was any interest in an investigation, it was another exercise in finding scapegoats who were expendable, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, or too risky, Michael Sussmann, protecting one tier at the expense of another. The Durham investigation set out to clear the FBI by blaming the whole thing on the Clinton campaign. While the Clinton campaign was the wizard behind the curtain, it was only the role of the DOJ and FBI that added up to another Watergate.
Russiagate was a crime of the system and even when the system doesn’t protect its own, it protects its way of doing things. Investigating Russiagate threatened to punch a hole in the web of connections. And the same connections that enabled Russiagate set out to repair it.
D.C. is Russiagate and vice versa.
Every few years, idealistic politicians come to town expecting to clean it up only to learn that becoming part of the corrupt culture is the price of admission. In real life, Mr. Smith doesn’t just go to Washington, Washington takes him over and everything else becomes posturing. This isn’t news to most Americans who were despising politicians as soon as they became independent.
But Russiagate casts a harsh light on the much more troubling reality that the politicians are a sideshow, they come and go, and are outnumbered by a much larger class of unelected officials who have tighter ranks and a cool disregard for elections and the rule of law. Some of these men and women will fall, a few have already fallen, but nothing much will change after that.
The administrative state is the power behind the throne, but its people also understand that they are taking risks by exercising their authority on behalf of their allies in the private sector. Whether it’s DOD officials and defense contractor lobbyists, donors and diplomats, or DOJ officials helping Hillary Clinton become president, abusing the public trust is done with the expectation of rich rewards when public officials eventually transition to the private sector.
Like Russiagate, this isn’t considered corruption, it’s just how things are done.
Investigating it is all well and good, but who are you going to get to investigate it, who’s going to judge the case, and who will sit on the jury? The Sussmann trial answered those questions.
Russiagate was a D.C. crime and yet that’s the one place where you won’t find an honest judge, a fair jury or any kind of trustworthy investigative machinery. The inevitable outcome of the Sussmann trial is a warning that Washington D.C. can’t investigate or judge itself
Washington D.C. rightly doesn’t have congressional representation. It is Congress. Likewise the system shouldn’t be in a position to investigate, try, or rule on its own corruption cases. The corrupt system embodied by the Imperial City, its great white stone edifices and dirty basement tunnels, needs some check on its nearly unlimited power. And that can only come from outside.
Russiagate will not lead to the hundreds of officials who enabled it going to prison, but the best way to prevent another repetition is with the breakup and decentralization of Washington D.C.
What happened with Russiagate was not just a conspiracy, but a culture. That culture is not only a threat to the former president, but its arrogance, its corruption and its lack of accountability are a threat to all Americans.
Washington D.C. cannot be trusted to police itself. America will have to police D.C. instead.