Monday, February 19, 2018

What do the Palestinian citizens of Israel want?
Eric R. Mandel  February 19, 2018 

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/What-do-the-Palestinian-citizens-of-Israel-want-543070

While the world’s focus has been on the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the assumption has been that dealing with the needs of Arab citizens of Israel would be eminently easier.

IT should be noted, the majority of Jerusalem’s Arab population prefers to live under Israeli rule.’.

What do Israel’s minority citizens want? That was the question I attempted to begin to answer with my annual MEPIN/Keshet seminar group, assessing the challenges and progress of Israel’s 20% minority population, consisting of Arab Muslims, Arab Christians, Aramaic Maronites, Druze and Beduin.

We visited and met with academics and school children, Israeli government officials and Arab mayors, Arab colleges, a leading demographer, teachers and human rights organizations, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s Israeli Arabs self-identify as Palestinian Israelis, or more precisely as Palestinian Citizens of Israel (PCI).

To deny that PCIs have faced discrimination in allocation of government funding, infrastructure, and employment opportunities would be to deny reality.

As Yossi Klein Halevi told us, “Palestinian Israelis have a profound sense of dislocation, humiliation, and grievance going back to 1948.

Palestinian Israelis are conflicted, as the country they reside in is at war” with their brothers over the Green Line.

I had thought that the concerns of PCIs were eminently more solvable than those of their Arab brothers living over the Green Line in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A recent poll of PCIs did favor a two-state solution, but here the semantics really matter as a window into the perspective of PCIs. For Palestinian Israelis, “two states” means one Palestinian state in the West Bank with no Jewish citizens, and the current State of Israel as a non-Jewish state for Arabs and Jews.

PCIs I met on this visit said Israel would never be a democracy until Israel ends the Jewish nature of the state and the Jewish right of return for Jews living in the Diaspora.

Yet paradoxically, recent polls of PCIs showed that over 50% are proud to be Israeli. So how do you unpackage these contradictory facts? I was expecting to find an Arab populace that saw a future for themselves in a Jewish state, and that despite the current economic inequalities, if the gaps continue to narrow, there would be an appreciation and acceptance of living in the only democratic state in the Middle East, imperfect as it for its minority citizens at this time.

When I asked Palestinian Israelis, if all the economic inequities were magically erased, would they then accept living in a Jewish state accepting the responsibilities of minority citizens? None said yes.

The narrative of too many well-meaning Jewish organizations and rabbis, who tell their members that PCIs just need economic equality and will then see themselves as being full partners of a Jewish state, may be far from the truth.

While the world’s focus has been on the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the assumption has been that dealing with the needs of Arab citizens of Israel would be eminently easier. After all, Israel’s minority citizens, despite the economic inequalities, have freedom of speech, religion and the press, access to the Supreme Court, 15 Muslim Knesset members, and are freer than any other Arab citizens in the region.

Through Western eyes, economic advancement is the key issue to solve to have, if not loyal citizens of a Jewish state, ones who comfortably accept living as a minority in a Jewish state.

What I learned troubled me. With the exception of the Druze and the Christian Aramaic communities, Palestinian Israelis today do not believe Israel can ever be a democracy unless it ceases to be a Jewish state, in essence a binational state. Too many PCIs believe Judaism is only a religion, not a legitimate national movement of a people entitled to a national home. Zionism to them is racism. Compared to 15 years ago, my impression is that today’s Palestinian Israelis have become more strident as their identity has become more Palestinian.

Even if Israeli Arabs were to become economically equal to Jewish citizens, it will never be enough to satisfy their basic demands, namely the dismantlement of the Jewish nature of the state; until then they are unwilling to accept the responsibilities of full citizens.

Palestinian Israelis complain about job discrimination because employers favor Israelis who serve in the military.

But when presented with the option of compulsory non-military civil service to match fellow Jewish citizens, evening the playing field for employment opportunities, they overwhelmingly rejected that option. There was almost no acknowledgment that they too have responsibilities as Israeli citizens and they were uninterested in meeting the Jewish majority halfway, as they see the problems as primarily ones of Jewish discrimination.

The narrative of the Palestinian Israeli is that the Jews are racist, while the Palestinians are a people who have suffered the indignity of the being displaced by the interloping Jews, with the underlying conviction being that Jews have no right to be anywhere from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river Valley.

So where do we go from here? ALTHOUGH ISRAEL has not fulfilled all its obligations to its minority citizens over the years, under the current coalition government more has been done, and more funds have been committed to the minority population than ever before. Arab mayors I met with, who are no fans of this Israeli government, readily admit that the current government has begun to narrow the gaps of economic inequality with more balanced funding for infrastructure and education.

But the challenge of the PCI education system goes way beyond funding. Too many Palestinian Israeli schools willingly choose self-segregation.

The Israeli educational system, which funds at least four different school systems, allows for self-imposed segregation.

While Jewish secular schools seem willing to partner for co-existence projects, PCI schools prefer to isolate themselves as there is little desire to interact with Jewish students in a shared educational experience, undermining the Western perspective that integration of minority communities with the majority population will lead to better co-existence. It is no wonder that when well-qualified Palestinian Israeli graduates apply to jobs with Jewish employers, both groups eye one another with suspicion.

There are exceptions, like the Hand-in-Hand schools where Israeli and Arab students learn together in a 50:50 setting. Unfortunately in a nation that is 80% Jewish and 20% Arab, this model would need to be adapted to acknowledge the demographic reality. The problem still is, do PCI parents in large numbers want their children segregated, or to be a minority in majority Jewish classrooms? With regard to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, we often say that the maximum Israel can offer the Palestinians will never meet the minimum requirements the Palestinians of the West Bank can accept to resolve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

We now also need to ask ourselves a similar question about the Palestinian Israelis.

Suppose that the maximum Israel can offer Palestinian Israelis – full rights, recognition of their Arab identity, and economic empowerment, while simultaneously accepting the responsibilities of living as minority citizens in a Jewish state – doesn’t meet the minimum PCIs can accept, namely the eradication of the Jewish nature of the State of Israel? Yossi Klein Halevi told us, “We need a serious conversation about rights and responsibilities between Arabs and Jews.” His new book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor begins to address these difficult conversations, which he says will make both the Left and the Right uncomfortable.

There is plenty Israel needs to do to for its PCIs. Israel has recently stepped up and now 20% of the relevant budget goes to Arab communities, and 40% goes for transportation in Arab communities.

Israel should set up programs to teach Arabic in its Jewish schools, for both inclusiveness and security.

But until the PCIs realize that they too have responsibilities as minority citizens of the state, progress will be slow. Educational opportunities are key for advancement, and even in the poorer sectors, such as the Beduin, real progress and even innovation are occurring in this regard.

Israeli Arab Christians matriculate to university at a higher rate than Jewish Israelis.

An accomplished Muslim Arab judge in Israel told us that to succeed as a Palestinian Israeli you must be the best of the best. Yet he acknowledged that part of the reason is that Arab university graduates are disadvantaged because they do not join the military or have compulsory civil service. His words should be taken to heart by the PCIs.

This is a key to solving so many of their complaints, but the Palestinian Israelis have chosen to throw away the key rather than unlocking the door to addressing economic inequality. They must get past blaming the Jewish state for all of their problems.

You can’t complain you aren’t getting your fare share when you refuse to do compulsory civil service to match the time young Jewish citizens give to the nation.

There are certainly individual exceptions and whole fields with full equality, especially in medicine. The catch 22 is that Arabs want what Israelis have materially and educationally, but do not want to become full citizens if that requires living in a Jewish state.

Even in the truly innovative educational situations I witnessed in Arab education that lead to improved Arab educational advancement, the goal is to strengthen Arab society, not to co-exist or find their place with a Jewish majority.

This is a counterproductive and a shortsighted strategy that will perpetuate Arab disenfranchisement.

Arab economic disenfranchisement will also not improve until the misogyny in Arab society subsides, letting the majority of Arab women work, so that their socio-economic status won’t continue to stagnate.

The Palestinian Israeli narrative is similar to that of their Palestinian brethren over the Green Line, seeing the Jewish presence as the cause of all of their troubles. A people needs a shared vision that is more than the dream of the destruction of the other, and the lamentation of tragedies that have befallen them.

Palestinian Israelis refuse to acknowledge the dilemma they put Jewish Israelis in when they choose to align themselves with the enemies of the Jewish state. Although they are a minority within Jewish Israel majority, they are also aligned with the majority of Arabs and Muslims that surround Israel and threaten its existence.

The harshly critical human rights organization Adalah told us Israel couldn’t be a Jewish and democratic state.

It says PCIs cannot be protected as Palestinian Israelis if there is Jewish privilege, and until the Jewish Law of Return is ended. If PCIs continue to embrace this Adalah narrative, it’s a sure path to perpetual conflict.

Hopefully Palestinian citizens of Israel will choose a better and wiser path by embracing educational opportunities that include co-existence, accept full non-military civil service post high school, and accept the responsibilities of being a minority population in a majority Jewish state.

There is a way forward, but it is a two-way street.


The writer is director of MEPIN™, the Middle East Political and Information Network™. He regularly briefs members of Congress and think tanks on the Middle East. He is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


 Excerpts from: “Mueller Patched Together Much of His  Indictment from 2015 Radio Free Europe Article”

by Jim Hoft

After sixteen months of investigations  Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced  charges against Russian operatives who interfered with the US election process both before  the 2016 election and then after, following Donald Trump’s victory.

The indictment named 13 Russian operatives from the internet Research Center LLC. in St. Petersburg who attempted to “interfere” with the 2016 US presidential election.

russians-indicted-600x379.jpg

But this information is not new. It appears Mueller and his team copied much of their report from an earlier Radio Free Europe article.

4chan has a thread alleging Robert Mueller and his investigators got all the names and the idea for his Russian indictment from a 2015 Radio Free Europe article.

The site claims “We plugged the article into google translate (It’s in Ukrainian), and the article reads like the Mueller indictment.”
rfe-trolls--600x200.jpg
Here is the Mueller indictment describing the Internet Research Agency LLC:
mueller-indict-600x475.jpg
And here is the RFE article from 2015:

For the third year, first in St. Petersburg, in the village of Ol’hina, and then in the city itself, on the street Savushkina, in the building number 55 there is a mysterious organization, which is officially called the Limited Liability Company Internet Research, and unofficially nicknamed by its employees, the so-called “Kremlin trolls”, “the Ministry of Truth” .

The official founder and director general of this organization is the retired militia colonel Mikhail Bystrov , and is funded by the Concord holding, headed by friend and chef of President Vladimir Putin Yevgeny Prigozhin . Since 2000, this holding organizes banquets in the Kremlin, as well as cooperates with “Vointorg” and the Ministry of Defense.

In the “Trust Ministry”, approximately 400 people, who change one at a time for 12 hours, sit around the computer around the clock and write in blogs – mostly in “Live Journal” or “VKontakte”. There are several departments. In one they are engaged in the blogosphere, in another they are preparing TK – technical tasks, in the third one – they comment on the news in Russian and foreign media , in the fourth – mount photos in the photoshop, forcing, say, heads of Navalny and Obama to the bodies of animals, and so on.

The article even has a photo of the Ministry of Justice headquarters on Savushkin Street in St. Petersburg–
st.-petersburg-building-spy-.jpg
It appears the  Mueller team produced their report with the help of a report written back in 2015.

And there’s this…
The Russian ads mentioned in Mueller’s indictment were already released by the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017.

Facebook previously announced the Russian ads comprised .004% of their advertising during the election.

As previously reported…
The House Intelligence Committee released a sampling of Facebook ads linked to Russia. One of the ads released was a sponsored post for the Nov. 12 anti-Trump march at Union Square against Trump in New York City after the election.


Mueller’s  indictment contained information that was previously publicly reported.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Russia Launches ‘Information’ War, U.S. Responds with Lawsuit and Self-Destruction
Andrew C. McCarthy  National Review February 17, 2018

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/02/russia-launches-information-war-us-responds-with-lawsuit/ 

Mueller’s indictment is an ineffectual response to a provocation by Russia.

The Russians are engaged in “information warfare” against the United States. That was the big soundbite at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s press conference Friday afternoon, announcing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s election-meddling indictment against 13 Russians and three Russian businesses.

That is certainly a fair assessment of what the indictment alleges. The account is disturbing, but its form leaves many of us underwhelmed. Our government says Russia is levying war. It is attacking a foundational institution — the electoral system of our democratic society and, more basically, our society’s cohesion as such. Our response should not be, nor appear to be, the filing of a lawsuit. That is provocatively weak.

The Russia probe has been a counterintelligence investigation, as it should be. That is why I’ve complained from the first that it was inappropriate to put a prosecutor in charge of it. This contention is reiterated in my weekend column. The main thrust of this complaint has been that a prosecutor should not be assigned unless there is first strong evidence of a crime. But that is not the half of it.

A government lawyer is a hammer who sees every problem as the nail of a lawsuit. As we saw in the Clinton and Obama years (and will tend to see in transnational-progressive governments that prize legal processes over the pursuit of national interests by the most effective means available), administrations dominated by government lawyers find even belligerent provocations by foreign power to be fit for judicial resolution.

To the contrary, we use counterintelligence rather than criminal investigation to thwart foreign adversaries because prosecution is a woefully inadequate response. The point of counterintelligence is to gather information so we can stop our enemies, through meaningful retaliation and discouragement. Generally, that means diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and, in extreme cases, military means. It could mean deploying our own cyber capabilities. The idea is not to invade every rogue nation. It is to respond to provocations in a manner that hurts our rivals — conveying that the prohibitive cost we will exact makes attacking us against their interests.

That cannot be accomplished by a mere indictment on which no one will be tried.

When prosecutors are serious about nabbing law-breakers who are at large, they do not file an indictment publicly. That would just induce the offenders to flee to or remain in their safe havens. Instead, prosecutors file their indictment under seal, ask the court to issue arrest warrants, and quietly go about the business of locating and apprehending the defendants charged. In the Russia case, however, the indictment was filed publicly even though the defendants are at large. That is because the Justice Department and the special counsel know the Russians will stay safely in Russia.

Mueller’s allegations will never be tested in court. That makes his indictment more a political statement than a charging instrument. To the extent there are questions about whether Russia truly meddled in the election, the special counsel wants to end that discussion (although his indictment will not satisfy those skeptical about Russia’s responsibility for hacking Democratic accounts, or who wonder why the FBI and Justice Department never physically examined DNC servers). Otherwise, the indictment demonstrates that the special counsel has been hard at work.

 That is as it should be. Through all the months of public debate over whether there was criminal-collusion evidence against the president, we have stressed that the main focus of the counterintelligence investigation is the Kremlin, not the White House. It is good, then, that Russia has gotten so much of the special counsel’s attention.

What is not good is that he is a special counsel as opposed to, say, a high-ranking intelligence or defense official. It is only natural that a prosecutor sees his job as making a criminal case, but that is not really what is called for under the circumstances.

Obviously, if there were strong evidence that Americans had aided and abetted our foreign adversaries in their hostile acts, it would be essential to prosecute them. My objection has been that a special counsel was assigned despite the absence of strong evidence that crimes were committed by Trump-campaign figures. It is freely conceded that I do not favor special-counsel appointments except when a severe Justice Department conflict of interest leaves no other option.

 Thus, I do not see why a special counsel would have been needed for any Russia case involving suspects unconnected to the Trump campaign. But all that said, I have never contended that the assignment of a Justice Department prosecutor would be inappropriate if there were concrete grounds to believe Americans were guilty of crimes.

Nevertheless, we are talking now about the foreign adversary. The Justice Department’s comments Friday elucidated that information warfare is being orchestrated by Russia — i.e., the regime — not a random bunch of Russians. As we’ve stressed over the years in connection with many terrorism indictments, if a foreign power is engaged in warfare against the United States, an indictment is not a serious response — especially an indictment on which no one is ever going to be prosecuted. Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein suggested on Friday that, with formal charges now filed, the Justice Department will turn to the next step in the legal process: seeking the defendants’ extradition. Once the Russians stop laughing, I imagine they’ll send us a curt note in Cyrillic — or maybe they’ll just flip us the bird, the universal language.

There are reasons besides ineffectiveness to be concerned about turning this diplomatic dispute into a criminal-justice issue.

This is a dangerous game to play. Our government, American organizations, and individual Americans regularly take actions and engage in political expression (including pseudonymous expression) with the intention of affecting foreign political campaigns — or that could be understood that way regardless of American intent. In its lead story on Mueller’s indictment, the New York Times observes that “for decades,” the CIA has “work[ed] covertly to influence political outcomes abroad.” The Obama administration, on the American taxpayer’s dime, tried to get Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu defeated and agitated against Brexit. The Bush administration tried to democratize the Middle East. It is de rigueur to tut-tut that such meddling is unseemly, but it is what governments do and have always done. They have interests, and those interests can be profoundly affected by who is governing other countries.

Moreover, it is the proud boast of the United States that we promote the virtues and benefits of liberty throughout the world and encourage oppressed peoples to stand up against tyrants. Our government funds Radio

Free Europe/Radio Liberty precisely to expose people to news and ideas that their despotic governments censor. Do we really want to signal that we see such agitation-by-information as an indictable crime, in response to which the affected government should issue arrest warrants that will inevitably make it risky for Americans to travel outside the U.S.?

Remember, we are talking here about a case in which Russia’s campaign, despite its energy and funding, was a drop in the ocean of American campaign spending and messaging. It barely registered. It had no impact. And, again, the indictment that has been filed is a gesture that will result in no prosecutions. Is it really worth opening this can of worms?

I know what you’re going to tell me: It’s not the same thing because we don’t do what they do: When we meddle, it is not through the kind of fraudulent activities that Mueller alleges the Russians engaged in — including bank fraud, wire fraud, and identity theft. But don’t kid yourself: What we are green-lighting here is criminal prosecution as a response to “interference” by alleged agents of a foreign power in another country’s elections and public debates. Once that is the rule of the road, we are not going to be able to control decision-making in other countries about what kind of conduct constitutes actionable “interference.”

Finally, since the indictment is a political document, we should evaluate its political impact at home. On balance, it is good for President Trump. The Russian election-meddling scheme stretches back to the years before he became a political candidate. To the extent there was Russian outreach to the Trump campaign, the indictment makes clear that the campaign acted unwittingly. Not only does that mean there was no collusion on the face of things; it means there was almost surely no collusion at all. Had there been an established framework of Trump–Russia coordination, there would have been no need for Russians to reach out to unwitting Trump-campaign officials.

All that said, the indictment — perhaps unwittingly, if I may say so — tells an unflattering story about the state of our country.

When we are attacked by forcible warfare, we instantly grasp the nature of the threat and tend to pull together as a people. Information warfare is a different beast, one that plays on our vulnerabilities, dividing us. The Russians are masters of this game. They understand that unlike bombs and missiles, attacks by political messaging are filtered through our politicized media before Americans internalize them. The messages are not conveyed to us as “the Russians are trying to divide and destabilize us.” They are taken at face value if the commentators and partisans calculate that doing so is helpful to their political agenda. Thus, we get nonsense like, “The Kremlin wanted Trump to win” and “Putin was motivated by his fear and loathing of Hillary Clinton,” etc., etc.

What happened here could not be more patent: The Kremlin hoped to sow discord in our society and thus paralyze our government’s capacity to pursue American interests.
In reality, what happened here could not be more patent: The Kremlin hoped to sow discord in our society and thus paralyze our government’s capacity to pursue American interests. The Russian strategy was to stir up the resentments of sizable losing factions. It is not that Putin wanted Trump to win; it is that Putin figured Trump was going to lose. That is why the Kremlin tried to galvanize Trump supporters against Clinton, just as it tried to galvanize Sanders supporters against Clinton, and Trump supporters against Cruz and Rubio, during the primaries. It is why the Russians suddenly choreographed anti-Trump rallies after Trump won. The palpable goal was to promote dysfunction: Cripple a likely President Clinton before she could even get started, wound President Trump from the get-go when he unexpectedly won, and otherwise set American against American whenever possible.

That should be the upshot of coverage of the indictment. Instead, it’s the usual cherry-picking to bolster our partisan arguments. For example, in its aforementioned report, the New York Times rejects out of hand the president’s matter-of-fact observation that because Russia’s “anti-U.S. campaign” started long before Trump announced his candidacy, the indictment cuts against the narrative of Trump–Russia collusion. The Times counters: “Mr. Trump’s statement ignored the government’s conclusion that, by 2016, the Russians were ‘supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump’ and disparaging Hillary Clinton, his opponent.” The Gray Lady is then off to the races, framing Mueller’s indictment as confirming “a startling example — unprecedented in its scope and audacity — of a foreign government working to help elect an American president.”
And so it goes.


We don’t have collusion. We have division. And we have an adversary that thrives on our division.
The Media Stopped Reporting The Russia Collusion Story Because They Helped Create It
By Lee Smith   FEBRUARY 15, 2018

http://thefederalist.com/2018/02/15/media-stopped-reporting-russia-collusion-story-helped-create/
The press has played an active role in the Trump-Russia collusion story since its inception. It helped birth it.

Half the country wants to know why the press won’t cover the growing scandal now implicating the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice, and threatening to reach the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, and perhaps even the Obama White House.

After all, the release last week of a less-redacted version of Sens. Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham’s January 4 letter showed that the FBI secured a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to search the communications of a Trump campaign adviser based on a piece of opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The Fourth Amendment rights of an American citizen were violated to allow one political party to spy on another.

If the press did its job and reported the facts, the argument goes, then it wouldn’t just be Republicans and Trump supporters demanding accountability and justice. Americans across the political spectrum would understand the nature and extent of the abuses and crimes touching not just on one political party and its presidential candidate but the rights of every American.

That’s all true, but irrelevant. The reasons the press won’t cover the story are suggested in the Graham-Grassley letter itself.

Steele Was a Media Informant
The letter details how Christopher Steele, the former British spy who allegedly authored the documents claiming ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, told the FBI he wasn’t talking to the press about his investigation. In a British court, however, Steele acknowledged briefing several media organizations on the material in his dossier.

According to the British court documents, Steele briefed the New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo! News, The New Yorker, and CNN. In October, he talked to Mother Jones reporter David Corn by Skype. It was Corn’s October 31 article anonymously sourced to Steele that alerted the FBI their informant was speaking to the press. Grassley and Graham referred Steele to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation because he lied to the FBI.

The list of media outfits and journalists made aware of Steele’s investigations is extensive. Reuters reported that it, too, was briefed on the dossier, and while it refrained from reporting on it before the election, its national security reporter Mark Hosenball became an advocate of the dossier’s findings after November 2016.
BBC’s Paul Wood wrote in January 2017 that he was briefed on the dossier a week before the election. Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald likely saw Steele’s work around the same time, because he published an article days before the election based on a “Western intelligence” source (i.e., Steele) who cited names and data points that could only come from the DNC- and Clinton-funded opposition research.

A line from the Grassley-Graham letter points to an even larger circle of media outfits that appear to have been in contact with either Steele or Fusion GPS, the Washington DC firm that contracted him for the opposition research the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee commissioned. “During the summer of 2016,” the Grassley-Graham letter reads, “reports of some of the dossier allegations began circulating among reporters and people involved in Russian issues.”

Planting the Carter Page Story
Indeed, it looks like Steele and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson may have persuaded a number of major foreign policy and national security writers in Washington and New York that Trump and his team were in league with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Those journalists include New Yorker editor David Remnick, Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, former New Republic editor Franklin Foer, and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum.

A Foer story published in Slate on July 4, 2016 appears to be central. Titled “Putin’s Puppet,” Foer’s piece argues the Trump campaign was overly Russia-friendly. Foer discusses Trump’s team, including campaign convention manager Paul Manafort, who worked with former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovich, a Putin ally; and Carter Page, who, Foer wrote, “advised the state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom and helped it attract Western investors.”

That’s how Page described himself in a March 2016 Bloomberg interview. But as Julia Ioffe reported in a September 23, 2016 Politico article, Page was a mid-level executive at Merrill Lynch in Moscow who played no role in any of the big deals he boasted about. As Ioffe shows, almost no one in Moscow remembered Page. Until Trump read his name off a piece of paper handed to him during a March interview with the Washington Post, almost no one in the Washington foreign policy world had heard of Page either.

So what got Foer interested in Page? Were Steele and Simpson already briefing reporters on their opposition research into the Trump campaign? (Another Foer story for Slate, an October 31, 2016 article about the Trump organization’s computer servers “pinging” a Russian bank, was reportedly “pushed” to him by Fusion GPS.) Page and Manafort are the protagonists of the Steele dossier, the former one of the latter’s intermediaries with Russian officials and associates of Putin. Page’s July 7 speech in Moscow attracted wide U.S. media coverage, but Foer’s article published several days earlier.

The Slate article, then, looks like the predicate for allegations against Page made in the dossier after his July Russia trip. For instance, according to Steele’s investigations, Page was offered a 19 percent stake in Rosneft, one of the world’s energy giants, in exchange for help repealing sanctions related to Russia’s 2014 incursion into Ukraine.

Building an Echo Chamber of Opposition Research
Many have noted the absurdity that the FISA warrant on Page was chiefly based, according to a House intelligence committee memo, on the dossier and Michael Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 news story also based on the dossier. But much of the Russiagate campaign was conducted in this circular manner. Steele and Simpson built an echo chamber with their opposition research, parts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, and the press all reinforcing one another. Plant an item in the open air and watch it grow—like Page’s role in the Trump campaign.
Why else was Foer or anyone so interested in Page? Why was Page’s Moscow speech so closely watched and widely covered? According to the Washington Post, Page “chided” American policymakers for an “often-hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change” in its dealings with Russia, China, and Central Asia.

As peculiar as it may have sounded for a graduate of the Naval Academy to cast a skeptical eye on American exceptionalism, Page’s speech could hardly have struck the policy establishment as shocking, or even novel. They’d been hearing versions of it for the last eight years from the president of the United States.

In President Obama’s first speech before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), on September 23, 2009, he insisted that no country, least of all America, has the right to tell other countries how to organize their political lives. “Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside,” said Obama. “Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect. Each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its people and in its past traditions.”

Obama sounded even more wary of American leadership on his way out of office eight years later. In his 2016 UNGA speech, the 2009 Nobel laureate said: “I do not think that America can — or should — impose our system of government on other countries.” Obama was addressing not just foreign nations but perhaps more pointedly his domestic political rivals.

In 2008 Obama campaigned against the Iraq War and the Republican policymakers who toppled Saddam Hussein to remake Iraq as a democracy. All during his presidency, Obama rebuffed critics who petitioned the administration to send arms or troops to advance U.S. interests and values abroad, most notably in Ukraine and Syria.

In 2016, it was Trump who ran against the Republican foreign policy establishment—which is why hundreds of GOP policymakers and foreign policy intellectuals signed two letters distancing themselves from the party’s candidate. The thin Republican bench of foreign policy experts available to Trump is a big reason why he named the virtually unknown Page to his team. So why was it any surprise that Page sounded like the Republican candidate, who sounded like the Democratic president?

Why Didn’t the Left Like Obama’s Ideas from a Republican?
On the Right, many national security and foreign policy writers like me heard and were worried by the clear echoes of Obama’s policies in the Trump campaign’s proposals. Did those writing from the left side of the political spectrum not see the continuities?

Writing in the Washington Post July 21, 2016, Applebaum explained how a “Trump presidency could destabilize Europe.” The issue, she explained, was Trump’s positive attitude toward Putin. “The extent of the Trump-Russia business connection has already been laid out, by Franklin Foer at Slate,” wrote Applebaum. She named Page and his “long-standing connections to Russian companies.”

Did Applebaum’s talking points come from Steele’s opposition research?

Even more suggestive to Applebaum is that just a few days before her article was published, “Trump’s campaign team helped alter the Republican party platform to remove support for Ukraine” from the Republican National Committee’s platform. Maybe, she hinted, that was because of Trump aide Manafort’s ties to Yanukovich.
Did those talking points come from Steele’s opposition research? Manafort’s relationship with Yanukovich had been widely reported in the U.S. press long before he signed on with the Trump campaign. In fact, in 2007 Glenn Simpson was one of the first to write about their shady dealings while he was still working at the Wall Street Journal. The corrupt nature of the Manafort-Yanukovich relationship is an important part of the dossier. So is the claim that in exchange for Russia releasing the DNC emails, “the TRUMP team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue.”

The reality, however, is that the Trump campaign team never removed support for Ukraine from the party platform. In a March 18, 2017 Washington Examiner article, Byron York interviewed the convention delegate who pushed for tougher language on Russia, and got it.

“In the end, the platform, already fairly strong on the Russia-Ukraine issue,” wrote York, “was strengthened, not weakened.” Maybe Applebaum just picked it up from her own paper’s mis-reporting.

For Applebaum, it was hard to understand why Trump would express skepticism about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, except to appease Putin. She referred to a recent interview in which Trump “cast doubt on the fundamental basis of transatlantic stability, NATO’s Article 5 guarantee: If Russia invades, he said, he’d have to think first before defending U.S. allies.”

The Echoes Pick Up
In an article published the very same day in the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg made many of the very same observations. Titled “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton is Running Against Vladimir Putin,” the article opens: “The Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has chosen this week to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” What was the evidence? Well, for one, Page’s business interests.

Trump’s expressed admiration for Putin and other “equivocating, mercenary statements,” wrote Goldberg, are “unprecedented in the history of Republican foreign policymaking.” However, insofar as Trump’s fundamental aim was to find some common ground with Putin, it’s a goal that, for better or worse, has been a 25-year U.S. policy constant, across party lines. Starting with George W.H. Bush, every American commander-in-chief since the end of the Cold War sought to “reset” relations with Russia.

Starting with George W.H. Bush, every American commander-in-chief since the end of the Cold War sought to ‘reset’ relations with Russia.

But Trump, according to Goldberg, was different. “Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests.” Here Goldberg rang the same bells as Applebaum—the Trump campaign “watered down” the RNC’s platform on Ukraine; the GOP nominee “questioned whether the U.S., under his leadership, would keep its [NATO] commitments,” including Article 5. Thus, Goldberg concluded: “Donald Trump, should he be elected president, would bring an end to the postwar international order.”

That last bit sounds very bad. Coincidentally, it’s similar to a claim made in the very first paragraph of the Steele dossier — the “Russian regime,” claims one of Steele’s unnamed sources, has been cultivating Trump to “encourage splits and divisions in the western alliance.”

The West won the Cold War because the United States kept it unified. David Remnick saw it up close. Assigned to the Washington Post’s Moscow bureau in 1988, Remnick witnessed the end of the Soviet Union, which he documented in his award-winning book, “Lenin’s Tomb.” So it’s hardly surprising that in his August 3, 2016 New Yorker article, “Trump and Putin: A Love Story,” Remnick sounded alarms concerning the Republican presidential candidate’s manifest affection for the Russian president.
Citing the “original reporting” of Foer’s seminal Slate article, the New Yorker editor contended “that one reason for Trump’s attitude has to do with his business ambitions.” As Remnick elaborated, “one of Trump’s foreign-policy advisers, has longstanding ties to Gazprom, a pillar of Russia’s energy industry.” Who could that be? Right—Carter Page. With Applebaum and Goldberg, Remnick was worried about Trump’s lack of support for Ukraine and the fact that Trump “has declared NATO ‘obsolete’ and has suggested that he might do away with Article 5.”

Where Did All These Echoes Come From?
This brings us to the fundamental question: Is it possible that these top national security and foreign policy journalists were focused on something else during Obama’s two terms in office, something that had nothing to do with foreign policy or national security? It seems we must even entertain the possibility they slept for eight years because nearly everything that frightened them about the prospects of a Trump presidency had already transpired under Obama.

Whatever one thinks of Obama’s foreign policy, it is hardly arguable that he ceded American interests in Europe and the Middle East in an effort to avoid conflict with Russia.

The Trump team wanted to stop short of having the RNC platform promise lethal support to Ukraine—which was in keeping with official U.S. policy. Obama didn’t want to arm the Ukrainians. He ignored numerous congressional efforts to get him to change his mind. “There has been a strong bipartisan well of support for quite some time for providing lethal support,” said California Rep. Adam Schiff. But Obama refused.

As for the western alliance or international order or however you want to put it, it was under the Obama administration that Russia set up shop on NATO’s southern border. With the Syrian conflict, Moscow re-established its foothold in the Middle East after 40 years of American policy designed to keep it from meddling in U.S. spheres of influence. Under Obama, Russia’s enhanced regional position threatened three U.S. allies: Israel, Jordan, and NATO member Turkey.

In 2012, Moscow’s Syrian client brought down a Turkish air force reconnaissance plane. According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised alarms in the U.S. by suggesting that Turkey might invoke NATO’s Article V.” However, according to the Journal, “neither the U.S. nor NATO was interested in rushing to Article V… NATO was so wary of getting pulled into Syria that top alliance officials balked at even contingency planning for an intervention force to protect Syrian civilians. ‘For better or worse, [Syrian president Bashar al- Assad] feels he can count on NATO not to intervene right now,’ a senior Western official said.”

Whatever one thinks of Obama’s foreign policy, it is hardly arguable that he—wisely, cautiously, in the most educated and creative ways, or unwisely, stupidly, cravenly, the choice of adjectives is yours—ceded American interests and those of key allies in Europe and the Middle East in an effort to avoid conflict with Russia.
When Russia occupied Crimea and the eastern portion of Ukraine, there was little pushback from the White House. The Obama administration blinked even when Putin’s escalation of forces in Syria sent millions more refugees fleeing abroad, including Europe.

Was Anyone Paying Attention When This Happened?
Surely it couldn’t have escaped Applebaum’s notice that Obama’s posture toward Russia made Europe vulnerable. She’s a specialist in Europe and Russia—she’s written books on both. Her husband is the former foreign minister of Poland. So how, after eight years of Obama’s appeasement of a Russia that threatened to withhold natural gas supplies from the continent, did the Trump team pose a unique threat to European stability?

Is it possible that Goldberg never bothered to research the foreign policy priorities of a president he interviewed five times between 2008 and 2016?

What about Goldberg? Is it possible that he’d never bothered to research the foreign policy priorities of a president he interviewed five times between 2008 and 2016? In the last interview, from March 2016, Obama told him he was “very proud” of the moment in 2013 when he declined to attack Assad for deploying chemical weapons. As Obama put it, that’s when he broke with the “Washington playbook.” He chose diplomacy instead. He made a deal with Russia over Assad’s conventional arsenal—which Syria continued to use against civilians throughout Obama’s term.

Again, regardless of how you feel about Obama’s decisions, the fact is that he struck an agreement with Moscow that ensured the continued reign of its Syrian ally, who gassed little children. Yet only four months later, Goldberg worried that a Trump presidency would “liberate dictators, first and foremost his ally Vladimir Putin, to advance their own interests.”

Remnick wrote a 2010 biography of Obama, but did he, too, pay no attention to the policies of the man he interviewed frequently over nearly a decade? How is this possible? Did some of America’s top journalists really sleepwalk through Obama’s two terms in office, only to wake in 2016 and find Donald Trump and his campaign becoming dangerously cozy with a historical American adversary?

All’s Fair in War and Politics
Of course not. They enlisted their bylines in a political campaign on behalf of the Democratic candidate for president and rehearsed the talking points Steele later documented. But weren’t the authors of these articles, big-name journalists, embarrassed to be seen reading from a single script and publishing the same article with similar titles within the space of two weeks? Weren’t they worried it would look like they were taking opposition research, from the same source?

The stories were vessels built only to launch thousands of 140-character salvos to then sink into the memory hole.

No, not really. In a sense, these stories weren’t actually meant to be read. They existed for the purpose of validating the ensuing social media messaging. The stories were written around the headlines, which were written for Twitter: “Putin’s Puppet”; “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton is Running Against Vladimir Putin”; “Trump and Putin: A Love Story”; “The Kremlin’s Candidate.” The stories were vessels built only to launch thousands of 140-character salvos to then sink into the memory hole.

Since everyone took Clinton’s victory for granted, journalists assumed extravagant claims alleging an American presidential candidate’s illicit ties to an adversarial power would fade just as the fireworks punctuating Hillary’s acceptance speech would vanish in the cool November evening. And the sooner the stories were forgotten the better, since they frankly sounded kooky, conspiratorial, as if the heirs to the Algonquin round table sported tin-foil hats while tossing back martinis and trading saucy limericks.

Yes, the Trump-Russia collusion media campaign really was delusional and deranged; it really was a conspiracy theory. So after the unexpected happened, after Trump won the election, the Russiagate campaign morphed into something more urgent, something twisted and delirious.

Quick, Pin Our Garbage Story on Someone
When CNN broke the story—co-written by Evan Perez, a former colleague and friend of Fusion GPS principals—that the Obama administration’s intelligence chiefs had briefed Trump on the existence of the dossier, it not only cleared the way for BuzzFeed to publish the document, it also signaled the press that the intelligence community was on side. This completed the echo chamber, binding one American institution chartered to steal and keep secrets to another embodying our right to free speech. We know which ethic prevailed.

Now Russiagate was no longer part of a political campaign directed at Trump, it was a disinformation operation pointed at the American public.

Now Russiagate was no longer part of a political campaign directed at Trump, it was a disinformation operation pointed at the American public, as the pre-election media offensive resonated more fully with the dossier now in the open. You see, said the press: everything we published about Trump and Putin is really true—there’s a document proving it. What the press corps neglected to add is that they’d been reporting talking points from the same opposition research since before the election, and were now showcasing “evidence” to prove it was all true.

The reason the media will not report on the scandal now unfolding before the country, how the Obama administration and Clinton campaign used the resources of the federal government to spy on the party out of power, is not because the press is partisan. No, it is because the press has played an active role in the Trump-Russia collusion story since its inception. It helped birth it.

To report how the dossier was made and marketed, and how it was used to violate the privacy rights of an American citizen—Page—would require admitting complicity in manufacturing Russiagate. Against conventional Washington wisdom, the cover-up in this case is not worse than the crime: Both weigh equally in a scandal signaling that the institution where American citizens are supposed to discuss and debate the choices about how we live with each other has been turned against a large part of the public to delegitimize their political choices.

This Isn’t the 27-Year-Olds’ Fault
I’ve argued over the last year that the phony collusion narrative is a symptom of the structural problems with the press. The rise of the Internet, then social media, and gross corporate mismanagement damaged traditional media institutions. As newspapers and magazines around the country went bankrupt when ownership couldn’t figure out how to make money off the new digital advertising model, an entire generation of journalistic experience, expertise, and ethics was lost. It was replaced, as one Obama White House official famously explained, by 27-year-olds who “literally know nothing.”

But the first vehicles of the Russiagate campaign were not bloggers or recent J-school grads lacking wisdom or guidance to wave off a piece of patent nonsense. They were journalists at the top of their profession—editors-in-chief, columnists, specialists in precisely the subjects that the dossier alleges to treat: foreign policy and national security. They didn’t get fooled. They volunteered their reputations to perpetrate a hoax on the American public.


That’s why, after a year of thousands of furious allegations, all of which concerning Trump are unsubstantiated, the press will not report the real scandal, in which it plays a leading role. When the reckoning comes, Russiagate is likely to be seen not as a symptom of the collapse of the American press, but as one of the causes for it.