A Special Report from the Academic Redneck:
Late yesterday, CNN’s Jake Tapper and other media figures at the network reported that the U.S. intelligence community briefed President Obama and President-elect Trump on potential damaging information Russian government officials had compiled on DJT. This information was supposedly compiled by a “former British intelligence official” who has been deemed “credible” in the past. A partial statement from CNN reads as follows:
CNN has reviewed a 35-page compilation of the memos, from which the two-page synopsis [presented to POTUS and POTUS-elect] was drawn. The memos originated as opposition research, first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans, and later by Democrats. At this point, CNN is not reporting on details of the memos, as it has not independently corroborated the specific allegations. [Emphasis mine.] But, in preparing this story, CNN has spoken to multiple high ranking intelligence, administration, congressional and law enforcement officials, as well as foreign officials and others in the private sector with direct knowledge of the memos.
While CNN declined to publish the actual report, the Buzzfeed website did. The uncorroborated information alleges Trump hired Russian prostitutes and that his ties to the Russian government run deep. However, conservative-leaning news outlets such as Daily Caller, Breitbart, and Drudge Report contend the reporting is fake news, or merely opposition research already in circulation during the presidential campaign. CNN’s own statement above concedes that the information does indeed come from opposition research.
Hours after the story broke, other media agencies such as Townhall were reporting information that the entire story was a hoax concocted by an anonymous poster on the 4Chan board, who then e-mailed it to Trump opponent Rick Wilson, who in turn e-mailed it to the intelligence community, who included it in their files. Townhall’s reporting is raising the prospect that “4Chan may have trolled the CIA.”
The Academic Redneck’s position on this issue:
If this story reads like something you heard in a junior-high gossip session with your BFFs, you are not alone. All the “somebody said that somebody said that somebody said that he did what?” makes it difficult for the average person to make sense of any of it. Nevertheless, the entire story is disturbing, but not for the reasons the mainstream press would have you believe.
The news agencies publishing these allegations and the intelligence community are suggesting to the public that Trump is both a sexual deviant at best and a traitor at worst. The Academic Redneck is not as distressed by the allegation of Trump’s cavorting with prostitutes as she is about the suggestion that the president of the United States is actively working with the Russian government.
On the other hand, many of us—including some Democrats who were dismayed when FBI Director James Comey re-opened the HRC e-mail investigation just days before the November 8 election—think the government has become so politicized that we cannot believe much of anything coming from federal agencies. From Lois Lerner’s and John Koskinen’s IRS’s targeting private citizens to Loretta Lynch’s infamous meeting on the tarmac with Bill Clinton just days before Comey called off the initial HRC investigation, the public has lost confidence in the integrity of these governmental entities. These are troubling times.
The only solution to this problem is for the intelligence agencies to make a statement directly to the American people and stop trafficking in rumor and innuendo. If there is strong evidence that DJT colluded with the Russian government, then these agency chiefs should step up and say so directly and not allow unsubstantiated, salacious gossip to foment dissent and undermine the credibility of the president-elect. Are they willing to put their professional reputations on the line and call DJT a traitor directly?
The Academic Redneck is highly skeptical of the intelligence agencies’ impartiality under this administration, but they have been rightly criticized even before the Obama administration began. I speak as the wife of someone who worked in U.S. intelligence for most of his career (specifically, in an agency headed by James Clapper). Rather than damaging Donald Trump’s reputation, I fear that political apparatchiks heading these agencies are undermining the important work that many middle and lower- level employees like my husband have done. Ultimately, this is terrible for the country and morale of its citizens.
As far as the ordinary citizenry, all of us need to chill, take a deep breath, and stop consuming ridiculous news that serves merely to make our opponents look as depraved and evil as possible. Conservatives are just as guilty of this sort of thing with Bitherism (which DJT himself and anti-Obama factions within Hillary’s 2008 campaign indulged in) and Pizzagate. Stop being stupid, everybody. The life of the republic requires it.
The hard lesson we learned during the McCarthy era was that a few people with a political ax to grind could sow a great deal of dissent and do a tremendous amount of damage to the nation’s psyche. Or maybe we didn’t actually learn anything at all?