By Victor Davis Hanson | AMERICAN Greatness | Oct. 6, 2019
The only Trump “crime” was in his winning an election he was not supposed to win. So after the election, prior illegal acts were redefined as legal, and legal ones as illegal.
Strangest among all the many melodramas of the last two weeks were the blaring headlines that President Trump had dared to talk with the Australian Prime Minister—and referenced the role of foreign governments and in particular Australia in U.S. electoral politics in 2016.
Given the hue and cry of Democrats in the last three years, they should have been delighted that the president was peremptorily warning foreign nations to cease to currying favor with presidential candidates and asking them to hand over what information, if any, they had of past “collusion.” In fact, they were outraged and once again returned to “collusion” charges, as if Trump were subverting the 2020 election.
I Accuse You of Doing What I Did!
Unfortunately, projection is now an encompassing explanation for almost everything the Left alleges. After all, the Australian government’s own connection with U.S. elections is only on the American political radar because in 2016 its former foreign minister, Alexander Downer, who had steered a large Australian donation to the Clinton Foundation, may have colluded with intelligence agencies to entrap George Papadopoulos, a minor and transient Trump campaign employee, to find dirt on the Trump campaign. Bringing up Australia is like the Left leaving a scented trail to its own past miscreant behavior.
Take the Ukraine. It would be hard for any Democrat politico to argue that Ukraine was not involved in 2016 to feed faux-charges of “collusion” to Hillary Clinton—a fact even the liberal press once repeatedly conceded. Ukrainians were only too happy to meet and consult with U.S. intelligence officials when they assumed Hillary Clinton was to be elected, and their yeoman service in frying the sure loser Trump would somehow be appreciated and awarded.
When Joe Biden makes the accusation that Trump was colluding with the new Ukrainian president to reopen investigation of the Biden influence-peddling conglomerate, naturally we knew that Ukraine in general had been leveraged in the past to help the Clinton campaign, and by Biden himself in particular to enrich his own son. Poor contorted Ukraine now backpedals as fast as it can—from trying to help destroy Trump in 2016 to suggesting in 2019 that it regrets having done so. And soon it will hedge its cooperation in 2020—unsure whether the Democrat colluders of 2016 will return to power and it can expect to be punished for renouncing them in 2019.
In surreal fashion, every charge that Biden levels against Trump’s supposed thought crimes amounts to more evidence of his own real wrongdoing in using threats to cut off aid to a foreign nation in exchange for dropping investigation of his wayward son. The latter’s only apparent qualifications for employment are shameless readiness to play on his father’s position.
Projection as a Leftist symptom came to the fore during the Mueller investigation when Mueller’s dream team of progressive attorneys began pressuring a number of minor Trump former campaign officials, and eventually his national security advisor, on trumped up charges—from leaking sensitive documents, to obstruction of justice, to lying to federal officials, to collusion (whatever that non-legal term denotes) with foreign governments and in particular Russia. In each case, Mueller ended up hunting down possible misdemeanors while ignoring likely felonies.
Leaking? By James Comey’s own admissions he had leaked confidential presidential memos he composed for the expressed purpose of later using them as insurance policies against Trump, some of which material was classified as secret.
As far as lying to federal officials, Mueller simply ignored that Andrew McCabe was under federal referrals for lying to investigators about his own strategic leaking of FBI investigatory material. Both McCabe and Comey likely lied to a FISA court by not apprising judges that their prime evidence, the Steele dossier, was not verified, its foreign author severed from FBI contractual employment, and many of its assertions known to be demonstrably untrue.
The Left has accused critics of Biden of indulging in supposition and hearsay and using unnamed sources—despite the fired Ukrainian prosecutor’s insistence that he was dismissed due to Biden’s interference and demands to end the investigation into the likely criminality of Biden’s own son Hunter. Yet, the so-called “whistleblower” complaint admittedly is without any firsthand evidence, and rests entirely on two nothings—second and third-hand information the complainant claims he heard, and sources within the White House for such rumors that remain anonymous, in other words accusers of the president who refuse to identify themselves.
In truth, the “whistleblower” is no such thing. He or she is a disgruntled and partisan intelligence bureaucrat, who violated the whistleblower statutes by first going to Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D.-Calif.) staff on the House Intelligence Committee to get help in translating his narrative into Mueller/Steele dossier legalese, and in strategizing the timing of his accusations. Expect a series of John Brennan-surrogate intelligence agency whistleblowers to follow once it is established that now hearsay is admissible and there is no downside to violating the statutes by first conferring with Adam Schiff’s staff.
Conflict of What?
Conflict of Interest? We are hearing allegations that Attorney General Barr cannot investigate any of the whistleblower’s accusations because he is mentioned as interested in learning from the Ukraine any information available concerning 2016 interference into the U.S. election—this coming at a time when a nondescript, mostly unethical and quite disturbed Hunter Biden parlayed his ignorance about foreign affairs, the oil business, and Ukraine into a lucrative “consultantship,” predicated on the wink and nod reality that his dad, who knew quite well what his heretofore miscreant son had landed upon, was overseeing U.S.-Ukrainian aid.
But conflict of interest is in fact the entire basis of the last three years of endless investigations of the 2016 election and purported Trump “collusion.” Do we remember the contortions taken by Andrew McCabe to ignore the fact that he was “investigating” Hillary Clinton emails, shortly after Clinton-related funds were given to his own wife, a candidate for the state legislature in Virginia?
A blatant conflict of interest was the intertwine of Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, two of Mueller’s investigators and previously at the nexus of investigating almost every alleged wrongdoing of Trump. Neither disclosed that they were conducting FBI business as supposed independent investigators while conducting an affair.
Neither disclosed that they were investigating supposed Trump crimes while communicating daily their disgust for Trump, their disdain for his supporters, and their boasts about stopping the Trump candidacy and later his presidency. Neither disclosed why and when they were fired from the Mueller team, perhaps in deference to Robert Mueller’s unethical gambit of staggering their departures, claiming each was merely “reassigned,” and not disclosing their absences until weeks after they left.
Their conflicts of interest turned to farce when we learned that the two helped reclassify their former boss James Comey’s secret memos of presidential conversations as non-felonious “confidential”—a sort of replay of Strzok’s earlier rewording of the Comey assessment of the Clinton email scandal to ensure she would not be charged with a felony.
The locus classicus of conflict of interest was the Loretta Lynch/James Comey investigation of candidate Hillary Clinton. Comey has admitted he handled the Clinton examination in expectation she would win the presidency (and thus become his new boss). Lynch has confessed (but only after being caught by the media) that she met secretly with Bill Clinton at a time when the Justice Department was supposedly investigating his wife. We are asked to believe that their respective private jets actually bumped into each other on the Phoenix tarmac (someone should count the nation’s average daily landings of private jets and compute the possibility of such a happenstance meeting) and that they suddenly decided to have a chat about their grandchildren and other mutual family gossip.
The Collusion Boomerang
Collusion? Mueller found no proof that Trump colluded with Russian officials. But to come to such a conclusion, by needs he had to ignore all the evidence leading to an open and shut case, that Hillary Clinton used three firewalls—the Democratic National Committee, the Perkins Coie legal firm, and Fusion GPS opposition research team—to hide her payments to British national Christopher Steele, an admitted Trump-hater, who hired Russian fabricators to find dirt on Trump, and then created a mostly mythical “dossier” on Clinton’s opponent.
In turn, the dossier was seeded among fellow traveler Trump haters in the DOJ, FBI, DNI, and CIA like Bruce Ohr, John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, and Andrew McCabe. These partisan allies of the Democrats working in government made sure that it was leaked to the media before the 2016 election.
Obstruction? Trump was not referred for wrongdoing on obstruction, because even the partisan Mueller team believed that they could never indict him after his tenure was over, given the paucity of actionable evidence. After all, it is hard to obstruct justice if a crime did not take place. But given that a FISA court was deluded, classified documents leaked, government officials caught lying, and foreign governments found to have compiled dirt on a presidential candidate, and no one yet has been charged—the question arises, “Why?”
Who made the decision to quash the investigation of Hillary Clinton after she destroyed over 30,000 emails under subpoena? Who excused Obama officials after they knowingly misled federal FISA court justices? Who leaked information about a surveilled phone call between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador? Who decided that it was acceptable for Samantha Power to request over 260 times the unmasking of names of American citizens swept up in government surveillance, many of which were illegally leaked to the press and most of which Power denied requesting and alleged others had used her name to do so? Somewhere, somehow there was a great deal of obstruction and distortion of justice that so far has prevented the pursuit of these criminal acts.
Destruction of evidence? House Democrats are demanding that the supposed transcript of the Trump phone call to the Ukrainian president be kept safe, as if it might “disappear.” This in the aftermath of revelations that Hillary Clinton bleach-bitted over 30,000 of her emails under subpoena, and had her mobile devices crushed. This in the aftermath of the Mueller teams and FBI sheepishly conceding that hundreds of text messages between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok simply “disappeared.” This in the aftermath of the hard drives of the supposed hacked DNC computer never being turned over to the FBI but instead to the Ukrainian connected Crowdstrike, and whose current whereabouts are not really known to this day.
Recently David Gergen warned that if the “whistleblower” were injured, it would be Trump’s fault. I am assuming Gergen knows that three presidential candidates have boasted of their desires to beat up the president or see him disappear for good in an elevator. Rhetorically killing the president is a favorite pastime of Hollywood celebrities. Does Gergen remember the fate of Rep. Steve Scalise (R.-La.) and the attempted take-out of the many Republican congressional leadership by an unhinged Bernie Sanders zealot? Or the threats issued by Rep. Maxine Waters (D.-Calif.) to hound and harass Trump officials throughout their daily routines?
The Nature of Projection
A cynic might conclude that the last past wasted three years were really not about Trump at all. He was entirely irrelevant, and was referenced largely as a means to preempt investigation of massive Obama-era illegality in 2016, which centered on warping the law to destroy his supposed widely detestable and dangerous campaign that threatened Democratic control of the government. As a result, in almost every instance of alleged Trump wrongdoing the accusers only bring attention to themselves and their own actual wrongdoing.
What is behind this strange collective psychological condition of projecting one’s own guilt on to another? In part, out of embarrassment that Hillary Clinton blew an election despite having the edge in money, the media, and the popular culture, Trump was recalibrated as a cheater. Otherwise it was impossible to accept that the Manhattan wheeler-dealer had outsmarted, out-campaigned, and out-hustled the progressives’ best and brightest—and worse yet might have every intention of keeping his campaign promises to undo the entire Obama agenda.
For tens of thousands of government careerists, by and large political partisans of the Democrats, using any means necessary was justified by the supposedly noble ends of ending the coarse Trump. Groupthink ensued that led to mass hysteria, as the fantasies needed to invoke the 25th Amendment, the Logan Act, and the emoluments clause, meant that their own “collusion” and “obstruction” simply no longer mattered. One would have thought Trump got caught on a hot mic offering a quid pro quo to Vladimir Putin or monitoring the communications of Associated Press reporters.
Instead the zeal and loudness with which one advanced Trump collusion narratives brought both careerist and psychological rewards. The old scandals like Uranium One, the shenanigans around the Iran Deal, the hot mic Obama quid pro quos, and the Hillary email fix were shrugged off, as proof of progressive zeal put to a good cause. To raise the question of unequal application of the law is now dismissed as “whataboutism.”
In sum, had Trump just lost the election, the illegal use of the intelligence agencies by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s administration would have been an insider topic of pride. A now defeated and humiliated Trump would never have been charged with collusion and obstruction during the 2016 campaign. Instead, he would be written off a naïf who never understood leftwing warnings analogous to Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D.-N.Y.) later admonition, that Trump was being “really dumb,” given that, “You take on the Intelligence Community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” Or Samantha Power’s postelection smirk, “Not a good idea to piss off John Brennan.”
The only Trump “crime” was in his winning an election he was not supposed to win, which then “pissed” off the wrong people and of course amounted to acting “dumb” with the intelligence agencies. So after the election, prior illegal acts were redefined as legal, and legal ones as illegal.
Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He was a professor of classics at California…
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