Why the right shouldn’t dismiss Russiagate as mere 'Trump derangement syndrome': libertarian

Why the right shouldn’t dismiss Russiagate as mere 'Trump derangement syndrome': libertarian
Robert Mueller in 2012 (Creative Commons)

When former special counsel Robert Mueller released, in 2019, his in-depth report on Russian interference in the United States’ 2016 presidential election, then-President Donald Trump was quick to describe it as a total exoneration of him — a claim that was echoed repeatedly by a long list of right-wing media outlets. In reality, the Mueller report was more complex than that.

Mueller, a conservative Republican and former FBI director, concluded that the 2016 Trump campaign’s interactions with Russians did not rise to the level of a full-fledged criminal conspiracy. But the Mueller report, when one really digs into it, shows that those interactions were at least questionable.

Moreover, Robert Mueller never said that the Russian government did not interfere in the 2016 election; that interference, according to Mueller, was quite real. And Mueller’s investigation led to criminal prosecutions of some of Trump’s close associates, including his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

READ MORE:Appeals court orders release of secret memo Barr 'used to undercut the Mueller report'

CNN’s Michael Warren, on April 18, 2019, pointed out, “Mueller’s report concludes that it ‘did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in the election interference activities.’ That’s as clear as it can be, but Mueller also concluded that both the Russian government and the Trump campaign believed the other would be beneficial.”

Nonetheless, MAGA Republicans continue to dismiss Russiagate as an example of “Trump derangement syndrome” run amok. But libertarian/conservative journalist Cathy Young, in a lengthy article published by The Bulwark on February 8, stresses that Russiagate is “hardly” the “hoax” that “Trump cultists” claim it is.

Young cites two reasons why “Russiagate skeptics” were feeling giddy in January. But neither of them, she writes, mean that Russiagate was a mere “hoax.”

“Committed skeptics of ‘Russiagate’ — the scandal around Russian interference in the 2016 election with the intent of helping elect Donald Trump, and the Trump campaign’s collaboration with this effort — had a good month in January,” Young explains. “First, a study released on January 9 concluded that Russian disinformation and propaganda on Twitter, while a real phenomenon, did not significantly affect American attitudes — partly because the notorious Russian bots were, as The Intercept put it, ‘a small speck when compared to homegrown posters’ — or influence the results of the 2016 election.”

READ MORE: 'Beyond a reasonable doubt': Watergate lawyer breaks down Jan. 6 Committee’s 'overwhelming case' against Trump

Young continues, “Then, on January 30, Columbia Journalism Review published a four-part report on Russiagate with a scathing analysis of media coverage by veteran investigative journalist Jeff Gerth. It concluded that the news media repeatedly fell short of professional standards in their handling of the story, compromising their objectivity and contributing to polarization and erosion of public trust in journalism. The reaction from the skeptics — a motley crowd that includes everyone from hardcore Donald Trump cultists to anti-anti-Trumpists to critics of America’s national security apparatus and various anti-establishment contrarians — was downright exuberant.”

But Young goes on to say that none of that means that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election didn’t happen.

“Some Democrats, shocked by Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in November 2016, did fall back on exaggerated claims of Russian interference — including claims that there had been actual vote-tampering — instead of examining Clinton’s very real flaws as a candidate,” Young argues. “But it is no less true that plenty of conservatives have used the supposed ‘Russia hoax’ to promote narratives of Republican victimization…. Examining and critiquing the media’s handling of Russiagate is important and necessary, but it can be done without downplaying Russia’s very real assaults on election integrity in the U.S. and in other democracies.”

Young adds, “Otherwise, the ‘Russia hoax’ quickly becomes an excuse for everything from Trump’s attempt to subvert the 2020 election to the enabling of Russia’s foreign aggression: in other words, the last refuge of scoundrels.”

READ MORE: Trump goes on hours-long rant against FBI after J6 committee criminal charges — and admits he lost

Read The Bulwark’s full report at this link.

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