Monday, March 20th, Democrat Schiff at the Intelligence Committee briefing with FBI and NSA laid out the reasons to be suspicious of interference and collusion with Russia:
Schiff used that time to launch a bold argument of why Democrats are suspicious Trump campaign associates colluded with Russia during the election. Among the connections Schiff pointed out:
One of Trump's national security advisers during the campaign, Carter Page, has ties to Russia and has praised its president, Vladimir Putin.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had been on the payroll for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.
Trump officials met with the Russian ambassador to Washington during the Republican National Convention. At that convention, Republicans changed their platform to remove a section that supported giving weapons to Ukraine as it battles Russia for territory.
Former Trump adviser Roger Stone boasted in a speech that he knew of impending WikiLeaks documents related to Hillary Clinton's campaign before they were published.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions would avoid disclosing their conversations with the Russian ambassador during or shortly after the campaign.
After laying that out, Schiff (rhetorically) asked:
“Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians use the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they employed in Europe and elsewhere? We simply don't know. Not yet. And we owe it to the country to find out.” ([Source](https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/03/22/meet-rep-adam-schiff-the-quiet-lawmaker-fast-becoming-democrats-face-of-opposition-to-president-trump/?utm_term=.0167881adaa0))
When does a series of coincidences equate to the equivalence of a fact? We have the notion of circumstantial evidence in courts of law. When does that apply in the evidence gathering around Russiagate?
My primary critique of Greenwald’s approach is that he wants to build the story around Russiagate on factual journalism. Nothing is reported until all the t’s are crossed in building a well supported journalistic story.
The problem here is that inference should play a part in reporting stories to the public. Greenwald and the Intercept should have pieced together enough data that would let them build a story, a narrative. There would seem to be a duty given better access to sources than the average citizen and expertise in developing a story-line, it is called a story-line, no. Who has the motive to leak the Clinton emails?
If the public has to wait until ever detail of a story is fact-checked, then the effects run well ahead of story.
The push for more transparency is supported when journalists make inferences. This is legitimated in the face of secrecy to call it out.
The general public can and should be treated with respect. It is possible to present what is given and what is inferred and present to the public for consideration.
To use an example from this week and something that can easily be confirmed, Wikileaks moves hosting to Russia. How does this weave into the narrative? Maybe this can be a test, when a piece of hard data does show up, how does it fit with Greenwald’s narrative, anti-Russia interference?
Continuing the decomposition of Greenwald’s story, he uses the example of conspiracy theory advance built on supposed suspicious death of Oronov.
TO SEE HOW extreme this derangement has become, let’s look at the latest conspiracy theory that took hold of fringe and mainstream figures alike this weekend. It was prompted by the death of Alex Oronov, a 68-year-old Ukrainian-American whose daughter married Bryan Cohen, who is the brother of Michael Cohen, who is Trump’s personal lawyer. Got all those connections, those “dots”?
In some forms of computer software development, the idea is to tackle the most complicated parts first. Greenwald is doing the opposite here. By tackling a sub-plot that is easier to discredit he avoids the heart of the story. We can critique here because he isn’t reporting the Oronov story but the conspiracy theory of Russiagate.
Please Greenwald, tell us about key players in Russiagate.
Greenwald attempts to gain credibility on the anti-conspiracy front by citing the credentials of Masha Gessen:
MASHA GESSEN IS a Russian-American journalist and author who has become one of the nation’s leading Russia experts and one of its most relentless and vocal critics of Vladimir Putin. She has lived her life on and off in the U.S. and Russia, but as a Jewish lesbian and mother of three children, she left Russia in 2013 and moved back to the U.S. in part because she felt threatened by the increasingly anti-LGBT climate there, one that began particularly targeting LGBT adopted families with discriminatory legislation.
An appeal to Gessen’s expertise and that she has lived in Russia is helpful for context of the story. But, where is the balanced reporting that Greenwald is calling for if he doesn’t also run stories talking with the likes of Gary Kasparov.
We can be critical of Greenwald until such time as he stops trying to stack the deck.
Greenwald uses anecdotes, following Gessan, to challenge the narrative that Trump is Putin’s puppet.
or when Trump’s actions (such as hiring numerous anti-Russia hawks for key positions) explode the “Putin’s puppet” narrative, it makes no difference to our mainstream conspiracy obsessives because – as she puts it – “such is the nature of conspiracy thinking that facts can do nothing to change it.”
But wait, the claim that Trump is a puppet is over-reaching the claim that there was interference from Russia. Exaggerating the concern is dishonest, reductio ad absurdum. Even if there are reports that have sensationalized the story, a counter response to the sensationalized parts steers the dialogue away from the getting us to a factual base.
Conflating the concerns by focusing on secondary synthetic data that is suspect doesn’t help build a factual base that there was no interference from Russia. [Note: American elections are closely contested and marginal effects can play a critical aspect in results.]
Greenwald, referencing Masha Gessen article, suggests that the attention focused on the source of the Clinton email leaks and ongoing concerns about Trump’s purported affiliation with Russia has become a conspiracy trap.
She now has a new article in the New York Review of Books – entitled “Russia: the Conspiracy Trap” – that I cannot recommend highly enough. Its primary purpose is to describe, and warn about, the insane and toxic conspiracy-mongering about Russia that has taken over not the fringe, dark corners of the internet that normally traffic in such delusional tripe, but rather mainstream U.S. media outlets and the Democratic Party. Few articles have illustrated the serious, multi-faceted dangers of what has become this collective mania in the U.S. as well as Gessen’s does.
Flipping this around a bit on Greenwald, isn’t it the case that we should reserve the phrase conspiracy theory until there is confirmation of who the players are in the leaks and other assorted claims. If Greenwald and Intercept have evidence that there is no Russian interference, then they should present the evidence. If you haven’t found the evidence, then you can’t be calling it a conspiracy theory as you are only fuelling the situation.
The damage inflected by calling this a conspiracy should not be factored into the equation. Focus on the Russia question may detract from critiques on Trump and Republican’s other actions, but that is not the question. The question is how do we move forward in understanding the role of Russia in election of Trump.
Greenwald suggests it is dishonest journalism to report when you can’t build the factual base. The relevance is the current wave of fake news following the US election and the purported interference from Alt-Right and Cambridge Analytics folks.