Mention the names Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean to anyone who was of age in the early 70s and they will instantly recall the horrors of Watergate. The four men were among the Nixon aides who were convicted of criminal wrongdoing for their roles trying to cover up President Nixon’s knowledge of the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Office Building. The disgrace of these men was so well publicly known it spawned a popular song.
Watergate was a low point for U.S. politics, but it marked one of the proudest moments in American journalism. The scandal was first uncovered by the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, but the rest of the media eventually piled on, putting such relentless pressure on President Nixon that he was eventually forced to resign.
In those days, the U.S. media rightfully commanded respect. When the New York Times ran a multi-column headline on a story about seven Nixon aides getting indicted, it was cause for alarm. During the Watergate era, no one would dare dismiss the Times or the Post as partisan purveyors of “fake news.”
How times have changed.
Does the name Michael Sussmann mean anything to you? If it doesn’t, you are blissfully unaware of the Russiagate scandal that in my mind rivals the enormity of the Watergate wrongdoing, arguably more so. What makes Russiagate especially alarming is that the U.S. media, particularly the New York Times and Washington Post, played integral roles. That Sussmann’s upcoming criminal trial beginning Monday has received so little coverage underscores how the U.S. corporate media and the Democratic Party are jointly tied at the hip.
Sussmann, once a hotshot lawyer with the powerhouse Washington law firm Perkins Coie, has been charged with lying to the FBI for allegedly misrepresenting that he was acting as a concerned citizen when he brought damning information to the agency purportedly showing that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was secretly colluding with Putin’s regime.
Sussmann was hardly a disinterested party. He represented Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, a detail that if the FBI had been aware, it possibly wouldn’t have opened an investigation. Sussmann has denied misleading the FBI, and according to one news report, his lawyers also are arguing that even if he did, the lie wasn’t material.
The information that Sussmann turned over to the FBI was known as The Steele Dossier, a compendium of rumors and lies supposedly based on “intelligence reports.” It’s been proven that the Steele Dossier “was a joke,” compiled by an opposition research firm co-founded by a former Wall Street Journal reporter and a former British spy of questionable reliability. It was riddled with unsubstantiated innuendo and falsehoods.
Clinton’s campaign leaked the Steele dossier it funded to the media, which gladly served it up to its readers. That led to reports that Trump’s campaign was under criminal investigation, giving the dossier a patina of legitimacy.
BuzzFeed reported on the entire contents of the report, and the New York Times and Washington Post won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting on Trump’s alleged collusion with Putin. Ben Smith, the BuzzFeed editor who made the decision to publish the false story, went on to become the media columnist for the Times.
Even Erik Wemple, the Washington Post’s media cheerleading columnist, later acknowledged the Steele dossier was fiction and penned about a dozen stories highlighting the journalists who promoted and personally benefited peddling the story, although he argued that there still was “plenty of fishy Russia business” during the 2016 campaign. The Washington Post last November grudgingly corrected some of its Steele dossier reporting, but only after it was shamed by Wemple.
Among the Democratic operatives who promoted the Steele dossier story was Nina Jankowicz, recently appointed by the Biden Administration to serve as the government’s truth czar, a position officially known as executive director of the Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board. According to the National Review, Jankowicz tweeted that Christopher Steele, author of the dossier bearing his name, was “an authoritative source on disinformation.” Jankowicz also dismissed the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, saying it should be treated as “a Trump campaign product.” Even the New York Times has acknowledged the Post’s story was fundamentally true.
You can’t make this stuff up.
The Sussmann trial is the first case to arise from the so-called Russiagate probe of John Durham, a longtime and respected Justice Department prosecutor from Connecticut, who was appointed by Trump Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate why counterintelligence and criminal investigations targeting Trump’s 2016 campaign were launched. Despite the slimy orchestration and dissemination of the Clinton campaign’s lies about Trump, Durham’s case focuses solely on whether Sussmann misled the FBI.
If Sussmann beats the rap, I expect Hillary Clinton operatives will hail the verdict as a vindication, when all it will prove is that her campaign’s dirty tricks didn’t break any laws. When I mention to Trump haters about what Clinton’s campaign pulled off, they are nonplussed. In their minds, the attempted end justified the means; they continue to insist the Trump collusion story was essentially correct. Such is the animosity and disdain Trump has brought upon himself.
Of course, a team of the world’s best lawyers could never prove that Hillary Clinton knew what her campaign subordinates were up to.
That’s how Hillary Clinton rolls.
NOTE: Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, does an impressive job explaining the case against Sussmann in this column.
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