Nation Contributing Editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions of the new US-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments are at TheNation.com). This installment comes in the immediate aftermath of allegations that the Kremlin possesses compromising materials, from sexual to financial, that would enable it to “blackmail” President-elect Trump. The leaked documents were first bannered by CNN in the early evening of January 10 and quickly followed by an array of press stories and other TV reports. The allegedly incriminating documents were published in full by BuzzFeed—all raising serious questions about the sub-tabloid reporting of admittedly “unsubstantiated,” even “unverifiable,” allegations. Cohen raises the following issues, which he and Batchelor discuss:
§ Two conflicting interpretations are suggested, says Cohen. Either Trump is about to become a potentially seditious American president. Or powerful US forces are trying to destroy his presidency before it begins, perhaps even prevent him from taking office. Even if the allegations are eventually regarded as untrue, they may permanently slur and thus cripple Trump as a foreign-policy president, especially in trying to diminish the exceedingly dangerous new Cold War with Russia, which would constitute a grave threat to US national security—particularly in an existential nuclear confrontation like the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. If anti-Trump American forces are behind untrue allegations of this magnitude, those forces are the primary enemies of US national security and should be investigated fully and publicly.
§ The timing of the “revelations,” Cohen adds, is suspicious. They come on the heels of the “Intelligence Community’s” utterly bogus “Report” that Russian President Putin directed a campaign, including hacking of the Democratic National Committee, intended to discredit Mrs. Clinton and put Trump in the White House. Though anti-Trump mainstream media also bannered this story, it had less impact than evidently intended, perhaps because, as even the determinedly anti-Trump, anti-Putin New York Times “analysis” concluded (Scott Shane, January 7) the much awaited, three-intelligence-agencies report was “missing…hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims”—because of “the absence of any proof.” Leaking allegations by a private former British intelligence agent—his own report seemingly culled from long circulating Russian, American, and NATO media scuttlebutt—may have been a desperate effort to “stop Trump.”
§ Cohen points out that even before the latest “revelation” there has been an unprecedented media campaign to defame Trump as a would-be traitor in his relations with Russia. On the night of January 4, a CNN paid contributor characterized the next president as a Russian “fifth columnist”—no one on the panel dissented or demurred. Subsequently, Washington Post columnists warned that Trump might have committed “treason” as president or replicate with Putin the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. Another set out the articles of his impeachment even before his inauguration. Here, too, nothing so poisonous, or potentially detrimental to national security, or to the presidency itself, has occurred in modern American history.