No collusion. Quelle Surprise!

So it’s official. After almost two years of investigation, involving who knows how many tens of thousands of hours of labour, Special Investigator Robert Mueller and his team have concluded what any sensible person could have told them before they started, that there is ‘no evidence’ that US President Donald Trump has in any way colluded with the Russian Federation. The obvious lack of evidence has not stopped a large cohort of politicians, journalists, and social media trolls from insisting over the past two years that Trump is a Russian agent, a tool in the hands of the Kremlin, or even a ‘traitor’. Along the way, they’ve told us again and again that the decisive revelation was just around the corner, that Mueller would ‘flip’ General Flynn or Paul Manafort, or whoever else, and that these people would soon spill the beans, proving Trump’s guilt beyond all doubt. But now, it turns out that it was all a ‘nothingburger’ after all. Quelle surprise!

Sadly, those responsible for spreading the collusion story are unlikely to pay any personal price for the millions of words of nonsense they have spewed forth since 2016. Don’t expect Luke Harding, Molly McKew, or Rachel Maddow to fall on their swords shouting ‘mea culpa’, let alone expect their bosses to fire them. But there will be a price to pay nonetheless. Some of that price will be domestic-American, and some will be international.

Domestically, the Democratic Party are the big losers here. At some point, late in 2016, while the US presidential campaign was still ongoing, the Democrats decided to play the Russia card big time. As I noted back on 2 November 2016, ‘With a week to go to the US presidential election, Clinton is actually behind Trump in the latest polls. Her response? Double down on the Putin theme.’ But as I also pointed out, ‘it isn’t working’. And it didn’t. The ‘Trump as a Russian agent’ meme served as a distraction from the real problems the Democrats needed to address in order to win elections. But instead of learning that lesson from Trump’s victory, the party quadrupled down on the Russia issue. In the process it has wasted two years hammering home a false narrative which has no obvious relation to the everyday needs of ordinary voters. This can’t be helpful.

The fantasy which Democratic politicians and their enablers in the media have woven has surely also served to discredit them, at least in the eyes of those already inclined to regard their outpourings with some degree of scepticism (true believers will not, of course, be affected). There’s a lot of talk about Russian ‘disinformation’. But whatever rubbish may, or may not, flow out of the orifices of RT pales into insignificance against the vast effluence of rotten manure that pours from the mouths of the American establishment once it firmly sets its mind on something. As I’ve noted before, there’s a reason why people turn to alternative media and conspiracy theorists: they’ve lost faith in the mainstream. The outcome of the ‘Russiagate’ scandal is going to accentuate that tendency. ‘Why should I believe the New York Times or the Washington Post after all that?’ people will ask. And the only possible answer – that for all their faults they’re still better than InfoWars – isn’t always going to convince.

Perhaps, if there was some moderate alternative out there, this wouldn’t matter so much. But another effect of Russiagate has been to silence moderate voices. The collusion story has popularized the idea that Russian ‘agents’ are out there seeking to undermine our democratic systems. It’s not just Trump who’s been accused of working with the Kremlin. The charge has spread far and wide to include anybody who might express doubts about the existence of a massive Russian conspiracy working away to destroy our societies from within. Arguably, Russiagate and the proliferating volume of think tank reports denouncing the ‘Kremlin’s Trojan Horses’ are intimately connected. The result is an impoverished public debate about Russia and the policies that we should pursue toward it.

This in turn has international consequences. Although the collusion story has failed to force Trump out of office, it has obliged him to change the track of his foreign policy. What that policy would have been in the absence of Russiagate, we can never know. But President Trump’s attitude to Russia has been very different to that of candidate Trump. The latter argued in favour of improving relations with Russia; the former has taken multiple actions designed to worsen them. The idea that he may have been driven to do so by a desire to distance himself from accusations of being a Kremlin stooge seems very plausible. Quite possibly, therefore, the collusion accusation has had a very negative, and quite unnecessary, effect on East-West relations.

All of this was quite avoidable. There was no shortage of commentators pointing out from the start the enormous lacunae in the arguments that Trump was a Russian agent, drawing attention to the enormous deficiencies in supposed evidence such as the dossier put together by former British agent Christopher Steele, or demonstrating the sloppy logic in works such as Luke Harding’s dreadful book Collusion. But all this was ignored. One has to suspect that this was because it didn’t suit the purpose, which wasn’t to report the news but to depose Donald Trump. Perhaps the only thing one can say in Russiagate’s favour is that for all its awfulness, it’s still not as crazy as Brexit. We can at least take solace in that.

19 thoughts on “No collusion. Quelle Surprise!”

  1. On the topic of true believers being beyond convincing, the latest responses I’ve started to see are “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” That cliche is of highly limited value at the best of times (more often than not, it’s an excuse for people to believe whatever they want until someone else performs the impossible task of proving a negative). But in this case, where a well-financed police investigation spent two years looking for evidence and came up with nothing, it’s positively surreal. But, in the interest of fairness, I’ll admit it’s possible Trump is a Russian agent, on the condition that the “absence of evidence” crowd admits that it’s possible that Hillary Clinton ran a sex ring out of a pizza shop and Obama was a card-carrying member of the Muslim Brotherhood. What continually amazes me about American politics is that the birther crowd on the one side and the Russiagate crowd on the other can’t see how they’re exact carbon copies of each other.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ‘the birther crowd on the one side and the Russiagate crowd on the other can’t see how they’re exact carbon copies of each other.’ – very true.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with every word, Paul. Thank you.

    This whole farce has exposed the hollowness of the U.S. political process. How easy it was for those leading the Russia Russia campaign to simply erase from consideration that the American public that had voted for Trump had actually meant to do so (isn’t this why we have elections?); that, among other things, they may actually have wanted to have a president who would follow through on what he had promised to do — to explore having a less confrontational relationship with Russia. Well, Russiagate sank that baby fast.

    The only actually proven part of this whole show, as far as I can tell, are the Facebook ads. The alleged Russian hack of the DNC computer is simply accepted on faith (why didn’t the Mueller investigation take into consideration the work of former NSA top dog William Binney, who has done extensive research on this topic of the hack, and appears to have proven it couldn’t have happened as described? For that bit of news you have to read ConsortiumNews — good on The American Conservative today for giving them a plug). I wrote my own account of the extremely weak evidence in support of Russiagate half a year ago (

    Bottom line: we have been pushed to the brink of nuclear war with a peer nuclear power that is no longer communist, and that, for all its failings, also has some positive things going for it (having a culture, an educated population; being an essential party to solving various global problems; being willing to partner with the U.S. in all sort of ways — well, it used to be until they threw in the towel) … because of Facebook ads. Woops! Almost forgot. Also Maria Butina talked to people and said it would be nice to talk, while being a female Russian.


    Ironic, to say the least: the US pushes its democracy expansion program globally, at ferocious cost in lives and wealth, while repeatedly undermining its own democratic process. Seems like what we have here in the U.S. is the appearance of an honest democratic process. As for the reality …


  4. Both Dems and Reps are sore losers. When Obama won, the Republicans wasted 2 years fantasizing they could force him out of office on constitutional grounds (namely, that he wasn’t born in the U.S., allegedly). Then Trump won, and the Dems just wasted 2 years fantasizing they could impeach him on Russiagate.
    I don’t think any of these people have a strong grasp of reality, and none of them seem able to just admit that they lost an election fair and square!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All too true, unfortunately people on all sides seem to live in echo chambers, refusing to believe that the other side has any justifiable point whatsoever, believing that the other side is morally wrong or even evil. The situation in the disunited kingdom with brexit is a case in point. The remoaners refuse to acknowledge the result, and are turning to not quiet democratic means to overturn it, piling abuse on the leavers. The Brexiteers meanwhile also live in their own reality regarding the remainders as traitors. In both Britain and America the nations are divided almost 50-50, with almost all of the political media and business elites in one of the two 50s. When the elite heavy 50 loses those that believe they have a Devine given right to rule they don’t l8ke it one bit. Hence russiagate and the coup against brexit.


  5. A nothingburger is what it will never be. As you correctly pointed out, while it was a piece of three-little-pigs alarmist bullshit from the start, and many, many people knew it, it still had far-reaching and irrevocable consequences. Whether it has its roots in Hillary Clinton’s – and her followers’ – inability to accept losing or whether it was a deliberate, cynical construct designed to push US foreign policy in a new/old direction is irrelevant. Liars never held to account for the damage they caused are never proven liars at all.

    There are a lot of parallels with the destruction of Iraq, powered by the relentless weapons-of-mass-destruction nonsense. In that instance, too, the cynical group who pushed the scary-bedtime-story narrative had no evidence at all, relying instead on triphammer repetition. Iraq was wrecked, probably for our lifetimes, its leader killed, internal tensions inflamed and the stage set for endless low-level conflict.Not only were those responsible for spinning the narrative never punished, the whole affair was wrapped up in a who-cares-America-won flourish which suggested there really might have been some hidden weapons there after all, and just because honest America could not find them did not infer they were never there. A great number of Americans go on believing the USA did the right thing.

    So, too, this latest sleight of hand, and thoroughly predictable redirection. Nobody is going to be held accountable for what has been an incredibly destructive initiative, and the public is going to be left with the customary where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire broad hint. It’s not so much that Trump was not guilty as it is that the very best of honest American efforts to prove it came up short. In that, he is an unknowing accomplice just by being so easy to despise. Very few minds have been changed, and America is left with the lingering belief that Russia is, as Mitt Romney put it, America’s greatest geopolitical foe.

    It’s easy to believe anything of your greatest foe.


  6. RussiaGate may well be one of the most successful intelligence coups of all-time. It is crucial to the welfare of the US to have good relations with Russia, and, instead, as Paul Grenier says, we have been pushed to the brink of war. The Germans who sent Lenin to the Finland Station in
    1917 would be proud of such a triumph.

    My major question is, who engineered it — Chinese intelligence? Ukrainian billionaires? The Brits, for some obscure reason? Our own Military Industrial complex? US leftists of the burn-it-down school? I would rather adopt some conspiracy theory than believe the the media and the Democratic party simply went mad.

    The big question is whether Trump can restore our policy to a more rational track.


    1. “The Germans who sent Lenin to the Finland Station in
      I am sorry, Sir, but that phrase reveals you as an idiot.
      “Chinese intelligence?”
      Double idiot!


  7. I disagree that this is worse than Brexit. Russiagate is discrediting the American left, which hardly needs to be more discredited, while Brexit is the British right’s disaster. Fat chance now that America will turn away from Trumpism in 2020.


  8. Russiagate was and is about recreating the Cold War with Russia as the enemy.

    Americans have depicted Russia as their enemy for decades
    – it seems the Cold War was so profitable they have brought it back Cold War 2

    Trump went from a moderate candidate saying he wanted to end America’s wars and have better relations with Russia.
    Russiagate put an end to that and we have a truly manufactured conflict based on the USA policy all establishment need to justify military spending.

    It’s really sad for the world.

    One thing I will say is the media and the establishment who pushed this narrative got away with it because Americans truly lack the ability to think critically.

    I’m in the UK and people voting for Brexit was a shock to the political establishment- but not to people who live in areas and communities who have been ignored – you could not tell these people the Russians made them vote the way they did – that narrative was tried in the Uk, they tried to ban RT etc. The reason why the narrative did not take hold is – people are able to think critically, have faith in the political system and also there isn’t among ordinary people the anti Russian feelings, that could be played upon.


  9. …I’m sinking in the quicksand of my thought
    And I ain’t got the power anymore

    Don’t believe in yourself
    Don’t deceive with belief
    Knowledge comes with death’s release
    Ah ah ah ah, ah ah ah ah

    ‘Quicksand’ – David Bowie.

    The more the Untied States of America struggles with itself, the faster it sinks. The Dems may be imploding, but Trump’s international twisting and machinations are also contributing to the sinking.


  10. What is striking in all this is how western media (and non-American at that) are holding back from what should be a deserved thrashing of the American media. Partly because they have tried to join the wave of clickbait (Canada) or joined the movement because of its anti-Trump chorus (western Europe), or tried to even outdo the American idiocy (UK media). Larger than this is how the Russia theme was interwoven with reinvigorating NATO’s raison d’etre, and in this the UK intel spies have taken the lead.
    I wish Trump would expose the way in which MI6 worked together with the Clinton campaign on the Steele dossier and the anti-Trump/anti-Russia campaign – it is still difficult for me to understand why he is holding back. He’s not one for much strategy, so I fail to see how he would be interested in the bigger picture of keeping NATO together and the relationship with lapdog UK as cosy as it has been. The US’s FBI, CIA and the Brits have exchanged lots of favors to make life extremely difficult for Trump. No wonder he doesn’t trust his intel agencies.
    Most of all, we have to now dread the likely reelection of President Jerk. Long term, of course, that might just cement US isolationism, while a less reluctant Europe are waking up to the need for the Indo-China-Russian axis as the primary growth mover for the next 50 years.


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