Radio Sputnik's Loud and Clear spoke with three guests on Monday about the conclusion of the special counsel's investigation and what the future has in store for the Russiagate narrative and for US politics: Coleen Rowley, a former FBI special agent who in 2002 was named Time Magazine person of the year, Gareth Porter, a historian and investigative journalist, and Ted Rall, an award-winning editorial cartoonist and columnist whose work is at www.rall.com.
Rowley told Sputnik that "the partisanship is the story," noting that in supporting him as special counsel, Democrats effectively ignored all of the things they had opposed Mueller for doing during his 12 years as FBI director, such as rounding up immigrants in New York after the September 11, 2001, attacks, defending the use of torture, providing cover for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 by claiming his agency had evidence Saddam Hussein's government wanted to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists and zeroing in on the wrong person for the anthrax poisonings.
"He's got such a long track record, and to have forgotten all of that — and that's what the left did, they put him on a pedestal," Rowley said, noting that Democrats took Mueller, a "political animal," and turned him into a square-jawed "decisive man of justice."
"Now they're going back the other way and saying, ‘Well maybe he isn't the guy that we thought he was,'" she said.
Show co-host Brian Becker said the Mueller investigation, which began in May 2017, took people out of the streets, where they had rocked US society in early 2017 with nearly nonstop mass protests against Trump and his various political programs, from the Muslim immigrant ban to attacks on women's rights, and turned them into spectators of an elite-level struggle against Trump.
Rowley said the US media "ran wild" with the collusion investigation, spinning vast conspiracy narratives out of anything or anyone connected to anything Russian; the contrast between the expectations for Mueller's report and what it actually contained, only claiming to find a small amount of interference in the form of what Rowley called "clickbait" by the Internet Research Agency and finding nothing at all about collusion between Russia and the Trump election campaign, could not be more stark.
"The news isn't ready to give up," she said. "They're not really admitting that they're wrong."
However, the whistleblower noted the discrepancies between Mueller's report and Attorney General William Barr's statements: whereas Mueller said his report "does not exonerate" Trump of obstruction of justice, Barr said that "the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense" because "the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference."
Obstructing justice without an underlying crime, Rowley noted, is different from what happened in the Watergate scandal, in which then-US President Richard Nixon was charged with obstructing the investigation of a real crime, even though he wasn't involved in the actual crime itself.
"The way in which this Mueller report has in fact turned out is going to have a serious effect in splitting the Democratic Party between those who are determined to keep up the fire about the alleged conspiracy with Trump and Russia, and those who think we've gotta move on," Porter said.
Rall told Sputnik that South Carolina Senator "Lindsey Graham had better be careful to avoid making the same mistake the Democrats have been making for the last two years, which is overreaching."
"The Democrats, they've made a huge mistake; they've just greatly increased the chances of Trump being re-elected next year," the cartoonist said, noting they "took their eye off the ball of potentially impeachable offenses."
"Business corruption would have been, should have been the focus of Democrats looking for legal means to remove this president," Rall said. "That's the low-hanging fruit; that's where something actually happened. Instead, they went after the president for something he didn't actually do, and so they look really foolish, and Trump is going to beat the Mueller report over the heads of the Democrats all through next year, and it's going to be hard for the Democrats to put this behind them."
As an example of how close the Democrats have put themselves to the issue of Russiagate, host John Kiriakou offered up a supercut of a single episode of Rachel Maddow's half-hour nightly show on MSNBC, illustrating all the times she talked about Russia, Russians, Moscow or Russian President Vladimir Putin:
Rall called it "info-tainment" and said it was "sad" to see what had happened to Maddow, a "seemingly principled" reporter at one point who has now "sold out."
"She's too smart to think it's true, and yet she's going on and on and on and on," Rall said. "She gets very well paid for it, and it's gross to see."
Noting comments made by Graham on Monday about probing the FISA courts and the role they played in delivering surveillance warrants for Trump associates such as Carter Page, Porter agreed, saying that "what we do need" is an investigation of the FBI "and its role in creating this Russiagate conspiracy theory."
"You go back to the interaction between senior FBI officials and this whole Steele dossier, it's a huge scandal. We now know that these senior FBI officials were aware of the true nature of the origins of that dossier: they knew it was sponsored by GPS Fusion… it was research opposition against Trump. They were warned by Bruce Orr that [Christopher] Steele was a hardcore political opponent of Trump… there are all kinds of ways… that FBI officials stand to be held accountable for creating this thing."
"And then, of course, it ends up in April-May of 2017 with these same senior officials trying to come up with a basis or to justify a criminal or counterintelligence investigation of Trump himself, based on the idea that he was a traitor, that he was serving as a stooge for the Russian government," Porter said.