Braden: Let’s Stop Assuming the Russian Investigation is a “Witch Hunt”


By Paul Braden

Our country’s relationship with the Russian government is long and complicated. The foundation of this cautious mutual perception should come at no surprise given the nature and frequency of the many retaliatory and often vengeful military strong-arming both countries continue to institute in hopes of hindering the other. We’ve come to expect the ardent financial support donated to one another’s enemies during combat engagements even as echoes from the Cold War era cease to resonate in the minds of the millennial generation. Now, war crimes, and especially the blatant, unabashed support of nations who commit them, has largely replaced old threats of nuclear action, adding to the already lengthy list of Russian atrocities every bit worthy of the paltry U.S. sanctions imposed to display our discontent. As our antagonists from the east continue to assert their supposed confusion by claiming the undeserved character of our meager retributions against them, U.S. intelligence agencies now report that the Russian government is guilty of an entirely new kind of intrusion — one that seeks to control rather than destroy our democratic election process.

Reports of “Russian meddling” following the 2016 presidential election have come in waves of varying intensity for over a year now, and new details continue to emerge on a near-weekly basis. The initial shockwave felt following the now infamous declaration by the FBI in 2017 (with a later confirmation from three other intelligence agencies) prematurely faded from public concern as society’s distrust for any facts deemed unfavorable continued to fester into the popular self-inflicted disease it is today. Findings from intelligence experts in bipartisan organizations like the CIA were quickly dismissed upon the recommendations of armchair analysts and sofa skeptics so brilliantly quipping suggestions of fake news. How assuredly bizarre our national discourse has become when an eagerness to espouse conspiratorial fantasy over conclusive evidence has become the new normal.

This unwavering devotion to cause and resolute rejection of reality is certainly a problem for the shape of our democratic model. Blatant denial in lieu of the damning evidence intelligence agencies have provided seems illogical. So, the suggestion that the very campaign potentially on the receiving end of these illicit benefits might have in some way endorsed this activity is challenged with an even higher degree of enraged dissent. When presented with a hypothetical scenario assuming the guilt of the parties in question, it’s the justifications volunteered by the immovably loyal that attempt to explain away the severe implications that I feel should generate the most distress.

Accusations of collusion were initially, and to this day continue to be met with a largely apathetic, “so what” attitude. There now exists a level of enduring commitment to a president and to his appointees (who continue to disband at a rate similar to contestants of “The Apprentice”), irrespective of an infraction and inconsistent with a nation that pledges allegiance to a flag, not a leader.

In an attempt to reconcile their staunch and unnervingly popular movement of blind support, many of those who embrace it argue that any accusations of Russian meddling, and especially such claims that suggest Trump campaign involvement, are merely a partisan plot to dismantle the integrity of an otherwise justified victory.

This is the great failure of modern American thought. A continual blurring of the truth through distrust in even neutral entities upon even a mere utterance of criticism directed towards their team has created an environment where even robust evidence is belittled and alternative facts finally have a soapbox to spew from.

For those of you who are still with us and accept the tides of change no matter their personal inconvenience, there are some interesting aspects of the Russia situation that at the very least appear to point towards Trump campaign involvement.

Please be aware that I am not claiming that the billows of smoke uncovered by special counsel Robert Mueller point to any real fire in the case of obstruction of justice or collusion in the Russia investigation. However, I am suggesting that the FBI is not engaged in a sort of “witch hunt” aiming to corruptly remove a sitting president outside the rule of law. In other words, partisanship has no place in this discussion, and a consideration of conspiracy should be met with the only appropriate response: hysterical laughter.

There is a long list of activities and comments made by Trump and his circle that don’t require much reading between the lines before the average onlooker would deservedly draw a nefarious connection. The Michael Flynn phone call with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and his subsequent resignation, Trump’s absurdly firm reservation to criticize Putin, the suspicious firing of Sally Yates and the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the 2016 campaign investigation are just a few bullet points from a list of strange decisions not normally tied to innocence. Of course, though, each action by the Trump White House has been followed by an equally long list of innocuous explanations, although just as strange and equally as far-fetched.

Eager to dissociate the president with any and all hints of guilt, his sympathizers have chosen to naturally accept these explanations of innocence at face value. This presents these proponents with a curious dilemma. On May 9th, 2017 the President of the United States fired former FBI Director James Comey. Trump claimed the untimely dismissal of Comey was a direct result of Comey’s mishandling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and because of supposed claims that the FBI had lost confidence in their leader.

Rewind a bit to the campaign trail when Comey was praised by the then-candidate Trump for reopening the email investigation. Or, when he declared that Comey was “more famous” than him in the Oval Office before offering him a round of applause.

So, for Americans determined to take the president’s word at face value, it is hard to reconcile praise and then eventual termination for the same act. If we are to believe that Comey’s ongoing investigation into the very person who fired him was merely coincidental, this leap of trust must at the very least be founded on an explanation that doesn’t contradict itself.