Fred LaSor: No, it’s not the Russians

Mark Twain once said it’s easier to keep your story straight if you tell the truth, a lesson Democrats should have heeded as they hunted explanations for Hillary’s loss in November.

Instead, they circulated stories implicating the Russians in an effort to “hack” our election. Totally unmentioned was any reasonable theory of why Russia might prefer Trump over Hillary as president. Hillary, after all, promised to continue Obama’s policies, policies that served to ease downward pressure on the Russian economy and adventurism.

Take the energy sector, for example, a major source of Russian income. Obama’s enhanced regulations on U.S. energy production increased U.S. dependence on world petroleum and buoyed prices, thus helping Russia’s economy. Obama also eased sanctions on Russian banking, and on trade with Iran, both of which helped the Russian balance sheet. Finally, the Obama administration was changing U.S. nuclear policy, implementing “no first use” and encouraging the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution banning nuclear tests, a tactic to avoid a Senate fight he would have lost. There was no parallel effort to reign in Russian nukes.

Had Hillary continued these and other Obama policies, economic and military pressure on Russia would’ve relaxed compared to what can be expected from Trump. But the Obama spin machine and friendly journalists seized upon the far-fetched theory Donald Trump promised to be more accommodating to Russia so they influenced American voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. The conclusion was Russia caused Trump’s win.

Having floated the theory, additional information kept it moving forward. Hence the story National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak the lifting of sanctions. We now know Kislyak had contacts with many Republicans and Democrats at all levels, as is common for a diplomat trying to understand — and perhaps influence — the country to which he’s assigned. But the Flynn/Kislyak story came from an NSA telephone intercept, a method that’s Top Secret because NSA’s ability to intercept calls is closely guarded.

For the New York Times to cite a telephone intercept reveals a high level security breach. Fast forward to this past weekend, when Trump alleged Obama had authorized tapping of Trump Tower. All of a sudden Democrat-friendly journalists were hysterical: Trump was insulting Obama and he was leaking classified information about capabilities!

Newspapers that eagerly divulged NSA capabilities when attacking Michael Flynn were apoplectic NSA capabilities were divulged by Trump! Outrageous, they shrieked. But that horse was out of the barn and they looked silly.

No one enters the presidency knowing everything about the job. But friendly journalists tend to ignore gaffes made early in a president’s term. Trump and his staff don’t enjoy that same deference, as many who have worked in the news business scramble to damage him or bring him down. The level of dishonesty they bring to that task only damages their own credibility.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied on Meet the Press Sunday there was collusion between Russia and Trump. He also denied Obama had authorized the tapping of Trump’s phones. The second denial was artful in the extreme — no president “authorizes” a wire tap, he asks his Department of Justice to request one from the relevant court.

But Clapper’s denial of collusion between Russia and Trump is significant: It should end claims Trump had help from Putin. I doubt it will, though, because Democrats haven’t yet taken Twain’s admonition to heart and they’ve a lot invested in delegitimizing Trump. Instead they continue to embellish their lies and make unforced errors.

Fred LaSor just shakes his head in wonderment when he reads US political news any more.


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