More Misleading Russia-gate Propaganda

By Robert Parry, the investigative reporter who many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. Originally published at Parry’s Consortium News (republished with permission).

There is an inherent danger of news organizations getting infected by “confirmation bias” when they want something to be true so badly that even if the evidence goes in the opposite direction they twist the revelation to fit their narrative. Such is how The Washington Post, The New York Times and their followers in the mainstream media are reacting to newly released emails that actually show Donald Trump’s team having little or no influence in Moscow.

On Tuesday, for instance, the Times published a front-page article designed to advance the Russia-gate narrative, stating: “A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.”

Wow, that sounds pretty devastating! The Times is finally tying together the loose and scattered threads of the Russia-influencing-the-U.S.-election story. Here you have a supposed business deal in which Putin was to help Trump both make money and get elected. That is surely how a casual reader or a Russia-gate true believer would read it – and was meant to read it. But the lede is misleading.

The reality, as you would find out if you read further into the story, is that the boast from Felix Sater that somehow the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow would demonstrate Trump’s international business prowess and thus help his election was meaningless. What the incident really shows is that the Trump organization had little or no pull in Russia as Putin’s government apparently didn’t lift a finger to salvage this stillborn building project.

But highlighting that reality would not serve the Times’ endless promotion of Russia-gate. So, this counter-evidence gets buried deep in the story, after a reprise of the “scandal” and the Times hyping the significance of Sater’s emails from 2015 and early 2016. For good measure, the Times includes a brief and dishonest summary of the Ukraine crisis.

The Times reported: “Mr. Sater, a Russian immigrant, said he had lined up financing for the Trump Tower deal with VTB Bank, a Russian bank that was under American sanctions for involvement in Moscow’s efforts to undermine democracy in Ukraine. In another email, Mr. Sater envisioned a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Moscow. ‘I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,’ Mr. Sater wrote.”

But the idea that Russia acted “to undermine democracy in Ukraine” is another example of the Times’ descent into outright propaganda. The reality is that the U.S. government supported – and indeed encouraged – a coup on Feb. 22, 2014, that overthrew the democratically elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych even after he offered to move up scheduled elections so he could be voted out of office through a democratic process.

After Yanukovych’s violent ouster and after the coup regime dispatched military forces to crush resistance among anti-coup, mostly ethnic Russian Ukrainians in the east, Russia provided help to prevent their destruction from an assault spearheaded by neo-Nazis and other extreme Ukrainian nationalists. But that reality would not fit the Times’ preferred Ukraine narrative, so it gets summarized as Moscow trying “to undermine democracy in Ukraine.”

Empty Boasts

However, leaving aside the Times’ propagandistic approach to Ukraine, there is this more immediate point about Russia-gate: none of Sater’s boastful claims proved true and this incident really underscored the lack of useful connections between Trump’s people and the Kremlin. One of Trump’s lawyers, Michael Cohen, even used a general press email address in a plea for assistance from Putin’s personal spokesman.

Deeper in the story, the Times admits these inconvenient facts: “There is no evidence in the emails that Mr. Sater delivered on his promises, and one email suggests that Mr. Sater overstated his Russian ties. In January 2016, Mr. Cohen wrote to Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, asking for help restarting the Trump Tower project, which had stalled. But Mr. Sater did not appear to have Mr. Peskov’s direct email, and instead wrote to a general inbox for press inquiries.”

The Times added: “The project never got government permits or financing, and died weeks later. … The emails obtained by The Times make no mention of Russian efforts to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign or the hacking of Democrats’ emails.”

In other words, the Russia-gate narrative – that somehow Putin foresaw Trump’s election (although almost no one else did) and sought to curry favor with the future U.S. president by lining Trump’s pockets with lucrative real estate deals while doing whatever he could to help Trump win – is knocked down by these new disclosures, not supported by them.

Instead of clearing the way for Trump to construct the building and thus – in Sater’s view – boost Trump’s election chances, Putin and his government wouldn’t even approve permits or assist in the financing.

And, this failed building project was not the first Trump proposal in Russia to fall apart. A couple of years earlier, a Moscow hotel plan died apparently because Trump would not – or could not – put up adequate financing for his share, overvaluing the magic of the Trump brand. But one would think that if the Kremlin were grooming Trump to be its Manchurian candidate and take over the U.S. government, money would have been no obstacle.

Along the same lines, there’s the relative pittance that RT paid Gen. Michael Flynn to speak at the TV network’s tenth anniversary in Moscow in December 2015. The amount totaled $45,386 with Flynn netting $33,750 after his speakers’ bureau took its cut. Democrats and the U.S. mainstream media treated this fact as important evidence of Russia buying influence in the Trump campaign and White House, since Flynn was both a campaign adviser and briefly national security adviser.

But the actual evidence suggests something quite different. Besides Flynn’s relatively modest speaking fee, it turned out that RT negotiated Flynn’s rate downward, a fact that The Washington Post buried deep inside an article on Flynn’s Russia-connected payments. The Post wrote, “RT balked at paying Flynn’s original asking price. ‘Sorry it took us longer to get back to you but the problem is that the speaking fee is a bit too high and exceeds our budget at the moment,’ Alina Mikhaleva, RT’s head of marketing, wrote a Flynn associate about a month before the event.”

Yet, if Putin were splurging to induce Americans near Trump to betray their country, it makes no sense that Putin’s supposed flunkies at RT would be quibbling with Flynn over a relatively modest speaking fee; they’d be falling over themselves to pay him more.

So, what the evidence really indicates is that Putin, like almost everybody else in the world, didn’t anticipate Trump’s ascendance to the White House, at least not in the time frame of these events – and thus was doing nothing to buy influence with his entourage or boost his election chances by helping him construct a glittering Trump Tower in Moscow.

But that recognition of reality would undermine the much beloved story of Putin-Trump collusion, so the key facts and the clear logic are downplayed or ignored – all the better to deceive Americans who are dependent on the Times, the Post and the mainstream media.

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  • DennisBechtel

    gen flynn is innocent ,only took money from the turks because they offered when he needed it most ,when his family was at risk.

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  • BB

    How about posting some examples of the real problems within OUR country. Everyone is focused on the smoke and mirrors that are diverting the real problems in this country and are clueless to the fraud and racketeering going on in the court in our backyard. Slavery and prejudice has evolved and American’s are too ignorant or comfortable to realize it. Even this blog is doing little or nothing to actually educating the people on the real problems at home and are throwing fuel on the fire and actually helping propaganda keep American’s attention. There’s zero accountability for courtroom fraud and racketeering and it has the biggest impact on America, but because it generally impacts the black and poor, nobody really cares. Trying to hold Trump or a single person accountabile for America’s problems is almost as ignorant as holding Willy Lynch solely accountable for slavery. Is this site really about bringing awareness to bring change or just getting readers and ad money? Funny how so called cutting edge journalists run with their tail between their legs when they are presented with documentation of FBI fraud, unless they are just regurgitating someone else’s story. I can only say there are a lot of imposters posing as people fighting government corruption who, when called upon, are not interested in putting any skin in the game. Americans are too attached to the comfort of their material possession, such as watching 4+ hours of television a night on one of their 4 60″+ televisions. There are a few people like Kaepernick and Lamar that risk $ millions to bring awareness. This is from a typical white American with advanced business degrees that believed in the court system and was under the delusion that I was protected by the constitution and civil rights, until I was incarcerated without bond in order to cover up government emails and records documenting racketeering and extortion involving local politicians and their campaign contributors. When Deez Nuts had the impact on voter election like (he) did, it tells a bigger story. The underlying issues are the same as Malcolm and MLK talked about 50+ years ago. The American elitist pie (political economy) remains the same size (relative to inflation, etc.), but the population continues to grow so the dividing line is continually shifting. I’ve witnessed non-attorney politicians, elected on actual merits, that have been retaliated against. Intellectual laziness, ego, and conformity to societal groupthink has nealy made freethinking and compassion extinct. It’s the root cause of majority of the “perceived” problems we are experiencing now.

  • ProWorks2013

    I’m playing a hunch here, but it seems to me this “scandal” is more about the criminals and thugs that Trump associated with in Russia, and the reaction of Putin to this, so he distanced himself from these “deals” to insulate his administration from connection to overt graft (I’m sure there is graft in his government, but it is well controlled and played with many layers (just like ours!) to protect the puppets who are the face of the nation. In all things this is probably why the Russiagate scandal still has legs – as “Newsbud” has reported, politicians are chosen to run precisely because they are “compromised” and able to be played due to past & present scandal. They buy easily, thus are easily bought.