Don’t believe that Russiagate has concluded. Indeed, it may have only just begun, Robert Bridge writes.
Coming just days after the release of the anticlimactic Mueller Report, Julian Assange was deprived of asylum and arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he now faces extradition to the United States. Was the timing of this dramatic move a mere coincidence, or is something else going on?
The WikiLeaks founder and editor was dragged into the blinding light of London just 30 days after the IMF approved a $4.2-billion loan for cash-strapped Ecuador, and 18 days after the conclusion of the two-year Robert Mueller investigation, which failed to unearth any trace of Russian collusion. Hang on, that’s not all. One day before Assange lost his asylum, Attorney General William Barr told US lawmakers that he believed the Trump presidential campaign was spied on during the 2016 election.
“I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016,” Barr told a House panel on April 10, one day before Assange’s apprehension.
Vanity Fair wondered aloud in a headline, “Will Trump get his Grand Inquisition?”
Last but not least, Chelsea Manning, the former US Army intelligence officer who leaked some 750,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables, was sent back to prison for refusing to testify before a grand jury against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.
We can confirm that Assange's cat is safe. Assange asked his lawyers to rescue him from embassy threats in mid-October. They will be reunited in freedom. #FreeAssange #NoExtradition pic.twitter.com/zSo8RfXXc9
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 13, 2019
One possible explanation for all of this ‘chatter’ is that Donald Trump is about to undertake a deep-sea expedition for something much larger than Julian Assange. Unless the Republican leader’s declared intention along the campaign trail to ‘drain the swamp’ was mere rhetorical bombast, then Assange may turn out to be Trump’s unlikely and unwitting ally in an operation of almost unfathomable depth and implications. More on that in a moment.
There is also the question of Russiagate. It goes without saying that Trump would covet an opportunity to settle scores with the Democratic Party over that witch hunt, which, in cahoots with the mainstream media, stalked the US leader and his administration for two painstaking years. And even now, after the release of the Mueller Report, the Democrats refuse to throw in the towel and are plotting to interrogate the interrogator himself, Robert Mueller. This is where Julian Assange might help halt the madness, although that is not to suggest, of course, that he is necessarily predisposed to such an opportunity. Yet he may find himself with no choice in the matter. Before continuing with that line of discussion, there are some rather strange things about the Assange case that need mentioning.
Just weeks after the final nail was hammered into the ‘Russiagate’ investigation, British police arrested Assange, who is wanted in the United States for his efforts to “break a password to a classified U.S. government computer,” according to the Justice Department indictment. That is a serious federal offense, and far worse than just publishing leaked materials. In other words, it appears Trump has the legal goods on the WikiLeaks leader.
The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking. The allegation he tried (and failed?) to help crack a password during their world-famous reporting has been public for nearly a decade: it is the count Obama's DOJ refused to charge, saying it endangered journalism. https://t.co/xdTQ8xauB0
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) April 11, 2019
Another thing worth mentioning about the Assange case is Donald Trump’s purported disinterest in WikiLeaks, as well as its famous founder. “I know nothing about Wikileaks. It’s not my thing,” the US leader told a huddle of reporters inside the Oval Office. On the question of Assange, Trump remarked, “I know nothing really about him,” saying that he would leave the matter to his freshly minted Attorney General, William Barr. Alleging that he has no interest in the work of Julian Assange sounds highly implausible since it was WikiLeaks that opened up the can of worms against not only Hillary Clinton, but the Democratic National Committee, which in turn led to the Russians and the two-year Mueller debacle. Thus, for Trump to display indifference to the Assange case looks like a straight-faced poker player keeping his cards close to his chest.
Finally, the mainstream media, which disseminated the story that Assange worked with the Russians to exploit Hillary Clinton and the DNC’s computers, have naturally cheered his arrest. The Washington Post, for example, declaredhe was “no free-press hero,” while the Wall Street Journal called for “accountability,” saying, “His targets always seem to be democratic institutions or governments.” The 21st Century Wire, attempting to make sense of it all, asked in a headline, ‘Why has the Guardian declared war on Assange and WikiLeaks?’
Trump, meanwhile, has been vilified as an anal-retentive Republican, hell-bent on keeping a deadbolt on America’s vault of dark secrets, who will extradite the journalist back to the US where he will pay the ultimate price. Who knows? There is even talk he’ll be whisked off to Guantanamo Bay.
For those who accept that story at face value, I’d say you’ve been hoodwinked.
Julian Assange’s arrest and possible extradition has practically nothing to do with Chelsea Manning and her infamous leaks. That’s because that leaked data has absolutely no bearing on the political realities of today. Ten years ago, they were a very big deal and worth pursuing; today they are ancient history. Unfortunate and tragic ancient history, to be sure, but ancient history nonetheless.
If you want to get to the bottom of what is really happening with Julian Assange, your time would be far better spent thinking less about Chelsea Manning, and more about the late Seth Rich, who was murdered on the early morning of July 10, 2016 in Washington, DC.
For those who may have forgotten, and it seems that many have, Rich, 27, was the Director of Voter Expansion Data at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) at the time of his death. In other words, he would have been in the loop to view emails showing foul play inside of the DNC. What kind of foul play? Well, for starters, deliberate efforts to marginalize Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton, who responded to the arrest of Julian Assange with her trademark cackle before remarking, “The bottom line is that he has to answer for what he has done, at least as it has been charged.” For Hillary Clinton that means wrecking her chances at the White House.
Incidentally, it was at this time in history, in July 2016 during the release of the incriminating DNC emails, when the perennial bogeyman Russia was wheeled out as not only the source of the emails, but the kingmaker in the US election as well.
At this point, it is important to emphasize that there is no proof to suggest that Rich had anything to with leaking the DNC emails to WikiLeaks. In fact, to merely suggest such a thing has been given the ‘conspiracy theory’ stamp of disapproval by the establishment. Yet that has not stopped the flow of mysteries. For example, Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family to investigate the death of their son, said he had sources at the FBI who “absolutely” confirmed that there was evidence on Rich’s laptop that indicates he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death. However, just days after divulging this explosive information, Wheeler backtracked on his statement, calling his on-air comments a “miscommunication.”
For what it is worth, Snopes has called the claims that Rich leaked the emails as “false.”
Yet, there remains the circumstantial evidence, namely Rich’s untimely death, as well as its uncanny timing. There also remains the question of his supervisory position inside of the DNC, and the assertion that the DNC emails were not discovered by hackers, but rather a leaker. In other words, an internal source at the DNC. Whether or not Mr. Rich was that source remains questionable, however, Julian Assange not only referred to Seth Rich during an interview, he offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his killer or killers.
“Whistle-blowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks,” Assange said in an interview with a Dutch television station. “There’s a 27-year-old who works for the DNC, who was shot in the back, murdered, just two weeks ago, for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington.”
When pressed for more information, he said, “I’m suggesting that our sources take risks and they become concerned to see things occurring like that.”
On the basis of that comment, Assange could potentially be called to testify as a witness should the authorities decide to reopen the case of Seth Rich’s murder.
This leads us to the million-dollar question: were the DNC computers hacked by the Russians or was the data leaked by an internal source at the organization and forwarded to WikiLeaks? The answer to that question would not only settle the ‘Russian meddling’ mystery once and for all, it would determine how the DNC/Clinton emails were compromised.
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) April 20, 2019
Many people are of the opinion it was not the Russians.
William Binney, a former National Security Agency official-turned-whistleblower and member of Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), co-authored a report (entitled, “Why the DNC was not hacked by the Russians”) that says the WikiLeaks dump was the result of a leak by “a person with physical access to the DNC’s computer system.”
“The NSA had an opportunity to make it clear that there was irrefutable proof of Russian meddling, particularly with regard to the DNC hack, when it signed on to the January 2017 ‘Intelligence Community Assessment,’” Binney wrote.
Instead, the NSA could only say it has “moderate confidence,” which means, in intelligence speak, “we have no hard evidence,” the pair concluded.
Meanwhile, there remains the question as to how any conclusion could have been made when the DNC refused to hand over the compromised computer servers to the FBI.
“We’d always prefer to have access hands-on ourselves if that’s possible,” former FBI head James Comey told lawmakers in October 2017. He added that he didn’t know why the DNC refused the FBI, which was forced to rely on data provided by CrowdStrike, a private security firm hired by the DNC.
Following the release of the Mueller Report, which failed to find any proof that Trump colluded with the Russians, there remains a glaring yet unproven accusation that needs addressed: that is the allegation that the Russians somehow fixed the election in Trump’s favor.
Although the mainstream media may be ignoring Binney’s findings, that doesn’t mean everyone is. In October 2017, Binney paid a visit to CIA headquarters, at the invitation of Donald Trump, where he met with then agency director Mike Pompeo, as cited by The Intercept.
Any guesses whose name was brought up in the course of the meeting between Binney and Pompeo? Yes, that of Seth Rich. Again, whether or not that proves to be significant remains an open question.
But make no mistake. Donald Trump would like nothing more than to remove the ugly footnote that the Democrats have tacked to his presidency that says the Russians “succeeded beyond their wildest dreams,” to quote former intelligence chief James Clapper, by stealing the White House from Hillary Clinton. In other words, Trump does not deserve to be president, the Democrats continue to chant mindlessly. And even after the Mueller Report talk of impeachment continues to hang in the air. The only way to confront the insanity is to have Mr. Assange testify in the United States, possibly as the result of a plea bargain, about his knowledge of Russiagate.
In fact, such an arrangement had been made before. In January 2017, Assange’s lawyer Adam Waldman “negotiated with the Justice Department on a possible deal to get the WikiLeaks founder limited immunity and safe passage out of a London embassy to talk with U.S. officials,” according to a report by The Hill.
In your opinion, is Assange a hero or a villain?
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) April 11, 2019
Among other things, Assange would have been expected to “provide technical information to the U.S. ruling out certain suspects in the release of hacked DNC emails key to the Russia case…”
But the negotiations hit a snag and – according to a source cited by John Solomon of The Hill – James Comey told Assange’s lawyer to “stand down” on the offer.
Now, considering that many of the ‘old Obama guard’ – like James Comey, the fired FBI director, and Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr – are no longer steering the investigation, there remains the possibility that the Trump administration will be willing to hear what WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has to say about the greatest witch hunt in the history of US politics. Assange’s testimony, should it happen, may even help solve the mystery of the Seth Rich murder.
In other words, don’t believe that Russiagate has concluded. Indeed, it may have only just begun.