President Donald Trump is facing another wave of attacks from the big corporate media and the Democratic establishment. This time, he’s being accused of saying he would accept opposition research on a political opponent from a foreign country.
As usual, the main narrative in the criticism is false. Trump didn’t say he would accept opposition research on an opponent, nor did he suggest he would use foreign intelligence for a political victory, as the blaring voices are currently claiming.
Rather, Trump said in a June 13 interview with ABC News that if another country had something to say about a person running for U.S. office, he would listen to them, and if there was anything concerning, he’d alert the FBI.
Trump took to Twitter to clarify his statements, noting: “I meet and talk to ‘foreign governments’ every day. I just met with the Queen of England (U.K.), the Prince of Wales, the P.M. of the United Kingdom, the P.M. of Ireland, the President of France and the President of Poland. We talked about ‘Everything!’
I meet and talk to “foreign governments” every day. I just met with the Queen of England (U.K.), the Prince of Wales, the P.M. of the United Kingdom, the P.M. of Ireland, the President of France and the President of Poland. We talked about “Everything!” Should I immediately….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2019
“Should I immediately call the FBI about these calls and meetings? How ridiculous! I would never be trusted again. With that being said, my full answer is rarely played by the Fake News Media. They purposely leave out the part that matters.”
Despite this, some groups made heavyhanded accusations against Trump, with some even claiming his comments could constitute “treason.”
Yet, according to Marc Ruskin, a retired undercover FBI agent who spent 27 years with the bureau and is now an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the claims against Trump don’t line up with reality.
On the claim that Trump may have committed treason, Ruskin noted that listening to information from a foreign country wouldn’t constitute treason. Treason, he said, would be “providing assistance, comfort, and material support to another country or sovereign with whom the United States is at war.” In other words, Ruskin said, treason would be providing information to a country we are at war with, not receiving information. “It simply just does not fall within the definition of treason,” he said.
Among the people who used the “treason” line against Trump was former National Intelligence Director James Clapper. Given his former post, Clapper “should know the meaning of treason,” Ruskin said. “To hear him say that he’s run out of adjectives to describe the treasonous behavior by President Trump is absurd to the N-th degree. I mean, it’s absurd to a point that is almost embarrassing to hear, at least.”
Among the other key suggestions in the latest controversy was that Trump’s words could align with the whole “Russian interference” narrative that dominated the 2016 elections, and that plagued Trump’s presidency until former special counsel Robert Mueller revealed there was never any evidence that Trump colluded with Russia.
Regarding the current claims, Ruskin said: “Russia is a strategic adversary. We are not at war with Russia at this point.” But more importantly, in the recent incident, Trump never suggested he would accept information from Russia. Instead, he made a hypothetical statement and used Norway as an example of a country providing information.
There’s yet a deeper element to this recent controversy, and its timing—it just seemed to fall right into place, at least for those who’ve been paying attention.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd recently confirmed that the investigations into “Spygate,” or the scandal that helped manufacture the “Trump–Russia collusion” narrative, has expanded to include foreign intelligence agencies.
We already know that the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and possibly the Obama administration manufactured the scandal with the help of former British spy Christopher Steele, who said he received information from Russian sources still active in the Kremlin. Another source in the scandal was Alexander Downer, a former Australian foreign minister. And it’s possible others were involved.
Steele created the so-called “Steele dossier” that was used as a key component in the Spygate scandal. And the dossier was revealed to be opposition research, paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC. The Obama administration later used Steele and his dossier to obtain spy warrants on the Trump campaign, and various individuals tied to the scandal fed false stories to the media, which deceived voters.
In other words, the DNC, Clinton campaign, and several Obama administration officials actually did what some of these same individuals are now accusing Trump of doing: accepting opposition research from foreign sources, in an attempt to change the outcome of a presidential election.
And as if to sanctify the Justice Department’s investigation into foreign sources behind the Spygate scandal, in the recent controversy around Trump, FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub released a statement on June 13 saying, “It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.”
I would not have thought that I needed to say this. pic.twitter.com/T743CsXq79
— Ellen L Weintraub (@EllenLWeintraub) June 13, 2019
The statement says that “anyone who solicits or accepts foreign assistance risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation.” And it adds that if a political campaign receives an offer or prohibited donation from a foreign source, it should report it to the FBI.
In other words, things appear to be moving according to the law. As Trump said in his interview, in the hypothetical case a foreign entity told him information about a political opponent, he would report it to the FBI if needed. And individuals who received foreign help in the Spygate scandal to discredit Trump are likely now being investigated.
Even beyond the concept of soliciting a former British spy to create opposition research, allegedly collected from Russian sources—as did the Clinton campaign and the DNC, by working with Steele—Ruskin noted there were other oddities involved in the case.
Particularly, he noted that the FBI under the Obama administration went against protocol in the Spygate scandal when it used Steele’s report to launch the early stages of the Russia investigations.
In normal cases, Ruskin said, a source for such an investigation would have had to “personally observed or heard the information that they reported to the FBI agent.” This wasn’t the case with Steele, who claimed he collected his information from Russian sources—and even this claim hasn’t been verified.
“Steel did not observe or hear any of the information he reported,” Ruskin said, and noted that in normal circumstances, Steele’s claims would have been regarded as hearsay.
As the investigations into Spygate go forward, Ruskin said, it will likely come out that “there were different foreign intelligence services acting to different degrees to meddle with the elections, and for different purposes.”
He noted that it is likely Russia was among those countries, but also pointed out that “the Russians have been into meddling in American elections since the 1950s.”