WASHINGTON – Why didn’t the media go after President Obama for collusion with Russia?
Was it simply because he wasn’t President Trump?
To be clear, ace investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson does not believe the sometimes cozy contacts between the Obama administration and Moscow amounted to collusion, but, she observed, “under the definition currently used by Trump critics, it would be.”
In other words, if the media had applied the same standards to Obama that it is applying to Trump, they should have gone after the former president for collusion with Russia. Probably Iran, too.
The 5-time Emmy award winning reporter and host of the Sunday show “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson” spelled out her reasoning in a series of incisive insights she shared with WND.
In her estimation, how much of the media hysteria has been fueled by those whose primary goal is to get Trump out of the White House?
“The media hysteria is clear,” she mused, “when one plays what I call the ‘substitution game’ and considers how the same ‘news’ is treated if the parties are switched.”
The latest hysteria is over an allegation that Trump adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner attempted to establish a back-channel line of communication between the Russian government and Trump’s transition team.
In its analysis, the Associated Press noted, “Back-channel talks have been common in U.S. diplomacy, especially when Washington lacks formal ties with another government it wants to speak with.”
As an example, it cited how the Obama administration “approved months of secret meetings between U.S. and Iranian officials to clinch an interim 2013 nuclear deal.”
So, how does the alleged collusion between the Trump administration compare to Obama’s use of back-channels with Iran, before he was elected?
First of all, Attkisson observed, “Frankly, I haven’t heard anyone even play out what the supposed collusion was.”
“For example,” she wondered, “do they allege that Trump secretly met with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and told him that if Putin hacked into the DNC (Democratic National Committee) computers and released any damaging emails to WikiLeaks, that he (Trump) would lift sanctions against Russia if he got elected?”
“It’s hard to know what the supposed collusion would amount to.”
“On the other hand,” she stated, “We know factually that the Obama administration had secret dealings outside of the public and Congress with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, Iran.”
“And that, as part of the deal, the Obama administration unilaterally decided to return a great deal of money, in cash, to Iran in amounts that were misrepresented to the public.”
Attkisson also noted that, in fact, reporters have no way to verify or know for sure what exactly transpired.
She segued to the current scenario by first observing, “I would also say that I disagree that all contacts with Russia are inherently suspicious, but if they are when Trump-related officials make them, then one has to consider that the Obama administration state department under John Kerry had a record number of contacts with his Russian counterpart in the first months of the election year 2016.”
She rattled off other examples of Obama’s close contacts with Russia:
- “President Obama once sent a message to Putin that he (Obama) would have ‘more flexibility’ on certain issues after his re-election (would conspirators say that was a proposal to collude in an election?);
- “The Obama administration had longstanding discussions with Russia on possible joint military operations in Syria;
- “And Obama secretary of state Hillary Clinton wanted to reach out to Russia and ‘reset’ relations, among other connections.”
That’s when Attkisson observed, “Again, I don’t think any of this amounts to collusion between the Obama administration and Russia, but under the definition currently used by Trump critics, it would be.”
How would she respond to those who say that Obama’s back-channeling with Iran was different than what Trump is accused of doing with Russia because Iran wasn’t trying to interfere with our elections?
Injecting a big-picture perspective, Attkisson said, “I think it could be argued that Iran is a more serious threat to the U.S. because it’s the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
“And through our nuclear deal we quite literally provided them with enormous sums that can be directly spent to further terrorist acts against us and our allies.”
She soberly added, “Although Russia is a serious concern, Iran has indicated it would like the U.S. and Israel wiped off the face of the planet.”
Had she seen hard evidence of collusion or improper ties between the Trump administration or campaign team and Russia?
“No,” was the simple answer.
She added, “Nobody has, to my knowledge.”
Attkisson is hardly alone in that assessment.
As WND has reported repeatedly, top Democrats have all admitted investigators have not found any evidence of any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign or administration.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who serves on the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, twice said she had seen no such evidence. Other Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have said they don’t expect to find any evidence of collusion.
Fierce Trump critic Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has had to admit there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Obama’s own former top spies, CIA chief John Brennan, director of national intelligence James Clapper, as well as former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, have all said they have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump team and the Russian government.
On Tuesday, Clapper reiterated that point, telling CNN, “As I’ve said before, I’ve testified to this effect, I saw no direct evidence of political collusion between the campaign, the Trump campaign and the Russians.”
He also said he saw nothing to indicate that the content of conversations between Russian officials and the Trump team were anything but routine and appropriate.
So why do the media and Trump critics keep insisting there was collusion?
It seems to come from the mistaken belief, repeated endlessly by the media as gospel, that all 17 intelligence agencies had come to the conclusion, in a report ordered by Obama, that Russia interfered with the election.
The mistaken belief is so prevalent, even among powerful elected officials, that one prominent senator, and one of Trump’s biggest critics, was surprised to be publicly corrected by Clapper when he tried to assert it as an indisputable fact during a hearing.
This is the exchange during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on May 8, in which Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., learned the truth about that report.
Franken: And I want to thank General Clapper and – and Attorney General Yates for – for appearing today. We have – the intelligence communities have concluded, all 17 of them, that Russia interfered with this election. And we all know how that’s right.
Clapper: Senator, as I pointed out in my statement Senator Franken, it was there were only three agencies that directly involved in this assessment plus my office…
Franken: But all 17 signed on to that?
Clapper: Well, we didn’t go through that – that process, this was a special situation because of the time limits and my – what I knew to be to who could really contribute to this and the sensitivity of the situation, we decided it was a constant judgment to restrict it to those three. I’m not aware of anyone who dissented or – or disagreed when it came out.
But, despite what Clapper asserted, it wasn’t even a finding of those three agencies, the CIA, FBI and NSA.
It was a conclusion made by an irregular and hand-picked panel of what were called experts, who actually may have been, according to a former CIA officer, highly politicized.
Fred Fleitz served in U.S. national security positions for 25 years at the CIA, DIA, Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff.
As someone intimately familiar with the inner workings of the intelligence community, Fleitz penned an article for Fox News on May 12, that spelled out what really happened.
He had written previously that when the U.S. Intelligence Community issued an ‘Intelligence Community Assessment’ (ICA) on January 6, 2017, that found Russia deliberately interfered in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Trump’s candidacy, he “was suspicious because it reached unusually clear judgments on a politically explosive issue with no dissenting views.”
Fleitz was then surprised to hear Clapper explain in his testimony that two dozen or so “seasoned experts” were “handpicked” from the contributing agencies and drafted the ICA “under the aegis of his former office” (the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.)
Wrote Fleitz, “This process drastically differed from the Intelligence Community’s normal procedures.”
Describing just how unusual that was, he said, “Hand-picking a handful of analysts from just three intelligence agencies to write such a controversial assessment went against standing rules to vet such analyses throughout the Intelligence Community within its existing structure.”
Furthermore, “The idea of using hand-picked intelligence analysts selected through some unknown process to write an assessment on such a politically sensitive topic carries a strong stench of politicization.”
Fleitz also noted that former FBI Director James Comey had testified that the report’s conclusion of Russian interference was based on logic, not evidence.
“So we now know,” surmised the former CIA officer, “this was a subjective judgment made by a hand-picked group of intelligence analysts.”
“One has to ask how these hand-picked analysts were picked. Who picked them? Who was excluded?”
Fleitz called it a major problem that “the process gave John Brennan, CIA’s hyper-partisan former director, enormous influence over the drafting of the ICA.”
“Given Brennan’s scathing criticism of Mr. Trump before and after the election, he should have had no role whatsoever in the drafting of this assessment. Instead, Brennan probably selected the CIA analysts who worked on the ICA and reviewed and approved their conclusions.”
In other words, it seems Fleitz thought it not impossible that Brennan rigged the report to arrive at the conclusion he wanted.
Which makes Brennan’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on May 24, all the more relevant, because even though he testified he saw no evidence of collusion, the former CIA director admitted it was he who set in motion the FBI’s investigation into whether the Trump team colluded with the Russians.
As WND reported, Brennan testified that although he saw no collusion, he saw some “contacts” between Trump associates and Russians.
And he was worried that might lead to collusion.
“I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting U.S. persons, involved in the campaign or not, to work on their behalf, again, either in a witting or unwitting fashion.”
Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy wrote, “That’s a weasel’s way of saying he’s got nothing.”
Nonetheless, Brennan asserted, “And so, therefore, I felt as though the FBI investigation was certainly well-founded and needed to look into those issues.”
Now McCarthy thinks it’s the spies who need investigating.
He is calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate political spying, including unmasking and leaks to the media by the Obama administration.
McCarthy detailed his proposal in National Review on May 24:
“First, the Justice Department should appoint a special counsel to investigate the potential abuse of government surveillance powers for the purposes of political spying and leaks to the media. The investigation should scrutinize all unmasking of Americans to determine whether it conformed to court-ordered restrictions. The president should immediately announce that he is ordering U.S. intelligence agencies to cooperate fully. He should add that he is willing to declassify forthwith relevant reports and the identities of officials involved in the unmasking of Americans – with the caveat that important intelligence secrets will be safeguarded. It should be made clear that any official who had access to classified information that was leaked to the media should expect to be summoned for grand-jury testimony about his or her handling of it.”
And, Fleitz wants Congress to investigate the spies. He wrote:
“The unusual way that the January 6, 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment was drafted raises major questions as to whether it was rigged by the Obama administration to produce conclusions that would discredit the election outcome and Mr. Trump’s presidency. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees therefore should add investigations of whether this ICA was politicized to their investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.”
Someone else agrees.
On Friday, Trump tweeted: “The big story is the ‘unmasking and surveillance’ of people that took place during the Obama Administration.”