Donald Trump calls Russiagate a "hoax" but it is in fact much worse. The manufactured scandal was part of successful efforts to intimidate, to censor, and to discredit opposition to state narratives. Russiagate is used to make the case for the proxy war in Ukraine. Here in the US it plays a role in subjugating the Black liberation movement. It is the 21st century version of COINTELPRO.
“trenches of ideas are more powerful than weapons.” (Jose Marti)
“...the American public was scammed.” (Donald Trump)
Six years and millions of dollars later, the “Durham report” released on May 15th confirmed once again what a few of us had the nerve to argue before all of the reports and stories that subsequently emerged – that “Russiagate” was the most massive fraud ever perpetrated on the U.S. public by a section of the capitalist rulers and represented a maturing of a form of U.S. neofascism unique to this historical moment.
The public may have forgotten that during the Trump Administration U.S. Attorney General Bob Barr assigned John H. Durham as special counsel to review the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign. The Durham report, as it is being referred to in the media, corroborated many of the conclusions reached by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report in 2019. Among the findings in the Horowitz report, was evidence suggesting that the FBI made what was referred to as “basic, fundamental, and serious errors” in applying for a warrant to surveil the Trump campaign.
However, the Durham report went further suggesting that the US Justice Department and FBI “failed to uphold their mission” when they launched their initial investigation of former president Donald Trump. What the report alluded to and what is important to remind the public of, is that the “investigation” by the FBI of the Trump campaign constituted a full-blown counterintelligence campaign. Dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane,” the investigation of a presidential contender from one of the two major parties allowed to conduct national presidential campaigns without overbearing legal constraints, was truly unprecedented.
The Durham report was quite explicit:
“Based on the review of Crossfire Hurricane and related intelligence activities, we conclude that the Department and the FBI failed to uphold their mission of strict fidelity to the law,”
In other words, the FBI operated beyond the boundaries of the law. Let’s examine what this means for the character of what is called U.S. “democracy.”
Taken together - the Mueller report that failed to uncover collusion between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign, and the Horowitz report that revealed violations of FBI protocols and which generated legal proceedings against some agents related to information used to justify launching Crossfire Hurricane, and now the Durham report - it is clear that the political and cultural phenomenon known as “Russiagate” could be legitimately characterized as a state-sponsored domestic psy-op.
Where are the criminal prosecutions?
Democrats have already cried bias since Durham was appointed by Attorney General Bill Barr under Trump. One of the reasons that right-wing neoliberal corporate press disappeared the investigation was that rumors were circulating that the investigation was not going to provide additional propaganda for democrats and might even prove embarrassing for democrats who continued to insist that there was a legitimate basis for the concerns of collusion between the Russian Federation and the Trump Administration. Remember, the infamous “Steele Dossier” was paid for by the Clinton campaign and played a significant role in the mythology of Russigate.
The findings of the Durham report should be the final nail in the coffin of Russiagate, but it won’t be. The New York Times is typical of much of the coverage of the Durham report. Look at the framing from the headline of their story: “In Final Report, Trump-Era Special Counsel Denounces Russia Investigation.”
They then proceed to dismiss the report.
“Mr. Durham’s 306-page report revealed little substantial new information about the inquiry, known as Crossfire Hurricane, and it failed to produce the kinds of blockbuster revelations impugning the bureau of politically motivated misconduct that former President Donald J. Trump and his allies suggested Mr. Durham would uncover.”
The Times that pretends to be a champion of democracy is not troubled by the FBI’s “confirmation bias" and a “lack of analytical rigor” that led it to penetrate the campaign of someone running for president. Here we have a state agency injecting itself into a campaign driven by what can only be seen as a partisan bias.
For the New York Times, the damning information from the Mueller to the Durham reports, that at minimum should be seen a dangerous partisan weaponization of the FBI, is no more egregious than the state-private sector collaboration that matured during the Russiagate period that has resulted in the normalization of censorship. For the Times and most of the liberal press in the U.S., an uncritical acceptance of official political/ideological lines that are handed down from the government and capitalist elites on issues ranging from the Ukrainian war to covid strategies is not a threat but a protection against “misinformation and disinformation”!
The complete abandonment of any commitment to liberal democratic rights represented by this position once again is being translated into an open assault on the democratic and human rights of political dissenters in the U.S. The erosion of liberal democratic rights and the enhancement of the repressive capacity of the state largely constructed by neoliberalism over the last six years has made it easier once again to target the group that is always viciously targeted in moments of social and political crisis – African American radicals.
Despite the fact that the Mueller report concluded that there was no evidence of Trump campaign collusion with the Russian Federation and that Russian election interference was largely an urban myth – the FBI’s absurd charges against the African People's Socialist Party (APSP) and its Chairman and supporters is based on the acceptance that the Russians are still involved in “malign influence” campaigns across the U.S. The FBI claims that the APSP has committed the ideological crime of “sowing dissent” among the public by their opposition to the Biden initiated war in Ukraine.
On what became “Russiagate,” the Durham report stated that FBI agents should have engaged in an “objective and honest assessment” of the information that it was basing its decision-making processes on that justified it infiltrating the Trump campaign. “Unfortunately, it did not,” writes John Durham. But that comment suggests an objectivity that is mythological.
The FBI are political police. Their mission is to protect the capitalist state and status quo. Counterintelligence is a dirty game. If activists had not stolen documents that revealed the counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) against the Black liberation movement and other left forces, we would have never known about it and charges of FBI illegality directed at our movement would have been met with charges that the allegations were indicative of discredited “conspiracy theories.”
The targeting of Omali Yeshitela and the organization and movement that he leads was a deliberate political act meant to accomplish two objectives: discredit and silence one of the sharpest and most consistent critic of U.S. imperial policies on the U.S. left and internationally, and to send a message to all of the forces on the left and right that opposition to the neoliberal state will not be without consequences.
One point that we are in agreement with the New York Times is that Russiagate will not die as long as it is a useful tool for intimidating the public. The lawlessness of the FBI is not really lawlessness, it is standard operating procedures when law is instrumental, a weapon of the class struggle. Sanctions, coups, assassinations are all illegal, but essentially that is of little importance to colonial/capitalist power. What matters to neoliberal capitalist power is “sowing discord” that might result in opposition to its program. When that happens, it does not matter if you are the leader of a wing of the bourgeoisie and former president with neofascist proclivities, or the leader of a Black socialist party, you will find yourself facing the full force of the capitalist ruling class and its state power.
Ajamu Baraka is Chairman of the Coordinating Committee of the Black Alliance for Peace and an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. Baraka serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Peace Council and leadership body of the U.S. based United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) and the Steering Committee of the Black is Back Coalition.