On January 11 Americans were horrified to read a front page story in the New York Times headlined, “FBI Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.” Unfortunately, only about half were horrified that a few civil servants at the top of the FBI, on record as looking for ways to derail the Trump candidacy and Presidency, had been able to do such a thing, while the other half of them were horrified that the President might be a sort of Russian “Manchurian Candidate.”
For you youngsters, “The Manchurian Candidate” was a 1959 novel by Richard Condon, made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra in 1962 and a remake starring Denzel Washington in 2004. The story was that a politician, about to be nominated for Vice-President, had been a member of a military unit captured by the enemy and brainwashed to do the enemy’s bidding.
The Times story began “In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.”
The story says the investigation was commenced when Trump publicly stated that he fired Comey because of “the Russia investigation.” In fact, Trump had publicly supported the investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election, although, again publicly, he had called the investigation of “collusion” with his campaign a “witch hunt” and objected to Comey’s refusal to state publicly what he had said privately, that Trump himself was not a subject of the investigation.
The different voter reactions were not due to any reported facts. The Times story went on to say, “No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.” The varying reactions were plainly due to preconceived notions, fueled by the approaches of selective news sources.
Fox news reported that the investigation was opened by Agent Peter Strzok, Chief of Counter-Intelligence, with the approval of Acting Director Andrew McCabe and that Strzok was a participant in tens of thousands of text messages with FBI Attorney Lisa Page referring to their efforts, discussed “in Andrew’s (McCabe’s) office” of ways to undermine the Trump campaign and Presidency. Strzok and McCabe have both since been fired and are under criminal investigation for illegal leaks.
CNN and other liberal media outlets, on the other hand, when Trump responded to a question about the story by saying, “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” headlined that Trump had not actually denied the allegation.
It reminds me of the story of James Michael Curley, legendary Mayor of Boston, instructing an aide to put out the story that a political opponent was a child molester. The aide objected, “No one will believe that.” Curley replied, “I don’t care if they believe it. I just want him to have to deny it.”
The FBI investigation of Russian “collusion” began in 2016 and was taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller nearly two years ago. With all the investigatory, surveillance and subpoena powers of the Department of Justice, it has produced only indictments of Russians who manipulated social media and indictments of people with connections to Trump on tangential matters. We can only hope it ends sometime before the end of Trump’s term as President. If recent history is any guide, however, Mueller’s findings will not resolve the issue. The party unsatisfied with the results will condemn them and the argument will go on through the 2020 election.