Provocations: The man who asks too many questions (DAVID NEESE COLUMN)

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Provocations: The man who asks too many questions (DAVID NEESE COLUMN)
Published 10-08-2019, 04:22

David Neese


U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hand with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of the press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday.

Alexander Zemlianichenko — The Associated Press

In fairness, let it be noted: Not all liberals are cheering the nutty notion that Trump "colluded" with Putin to steal the presidency God Himself intended Hillary Clinton to have.

One liberal who's not joining in the mass hysteria/media madness is Stephen F. Cohen, a leading academic authority on all things Russian.

Cohen, you might even say, is a lefty. So it's interesting to hear his take on things. He's surely not pro-Trump. Let's just say to a certain extent he's anti-anti-Trump.

He writes for the Bernie Sanders-favoring, hard-core lefty journal, The Nation. He's married to the journal's publisher and part owner, the lefty Katrina vanden Huevel.

No, Stephen Cohen is not likely part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. He's not Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh.

So it's fascinating to hear him dismiss the Russia collusion cries ringing out among Democrats as a crock of overflowing hooey.

Cohen may be a lefty, but he's first and foremost a focus-on-facts scholar.

Fluent in Russian, an emeritus professor of Russian studies at Princeton and NYU, he spent a lot of time in Russia burrowing into Kremlin archives, researching Soviet and Russian politics.

His view is that much of the coverage of the supposed Trump-Putin conspiracy has been aimed not at finding truth, but at advancing a "bogus narrative."

And the bogus narrative, he says, reverberates with "McCarthyite" echoes.

To those liberals who've forgotten history, that's a reference to the charges of Communist collusion that Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Wisconsin Republican, hurled with reckless abandon at political foes in the early 1950s.

In seeking a partisan upper hand against Trump, the Democratic Party today finds itself, in effect, agitating for "a new Cold War" with Russia, says Cohen. This strikes him as just a notch below stark, raving madness.

The Mueller probe declared there was no evidence that Trump connived with Putin to rig the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Nevertheless, influential Democrats continue to spread poisonous insinuations to the contrary. And they do so with an increasingly strident tone of partisan desperation in their voice.

Cohen suggests this tone of desperation may be attributable to a growing realization -- or fear -- among Democrats that another investigative shoe is about to drop. And maybe drop with a resounding thud.

Now that the Mueller investigation is off the board, two other ongoing, quieter probes are reported to be nearing conclusion.

These probes could turn out to be as anti-climactic as the Mueller probe. Or they could prove to be, politically speaking, a 9-plus Richter scale earthquake. We may soon see.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz is leading one probe, U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John H. Durham the other.

Horowitz, said to be well regarded for his legal fastidiousness and thoroughness, is an Obama appointee.

The tenacious Durham, a career Justice Department attorney, is said to be well regarded for his determination to follow facts wherever they lead.

He famously ferreted out the Boston FBI's corrupt relationship with mobster Whitey Bolger. (See the movies "Black Mass" and "The Departed.") Durham was assigned to that case during the Bill Clinton presidency.

Horowitz is inquiring into how federal investigators managed to obtain a surveillance warrant to snoop on Trump's campaign and early presidency by submitting to a court -- under oath -- a dubious document now known as the "dossier."

That document was packed with inaccurate and unverified, gossipy information -- just as you might expect. It was, after all, commissioned and financed by Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic Nation Committee.

And -- most ironic part -- the information in that document was attributed to Russian sources. Yes -- gasp -- RUSSIAN!

Yet that document unleashed howling packs of warrant-waving government agents who staged armed, early a.m. raids on investigative targets.

How is it that partisan campaign propaganda tied to Kremlin sources (the dossier) was ever allowed to set off the investigative avalanche that the Mueller probe became? That's the potential jackpot question.

Durham, meanwhile, is investigating the investigators -- the Mueller probe. How'd Mueller, nominally Republican, come to assemble a team of partisan lawyers, a team of vocal Hillary Clinton backers and Democratic donors, to investigate Trump?

Why weren't strictly non-partisan investigators, ones less vulnerable to having their credibility doubted, put on the case?

The investigation was, after all, obviously a matter of utmost political sensitivity, was it not? Yet a gang of partisan political hacks was assigned to it?

The Horowitz/Durham probes go right to the heart of Democrats' increasingly shrill denunciations of Trump and continuing, panicky evocations of the Russia bogeyman, Cohen suggests.

There's mounting apprehension in Democratic circles, he says, that the Horowitz/Durham probes may soon have Trump's accusers playing defense.

Cohen doesn't resort to the French "c" word -- coup d'état. But he does wonder out loud what role the Obama administration intelligence bureaucracies played in the anti-Trump/Russia "collusion" hysteria.

He persists in asking such pesky questions as, for example: "What did Obama know? When did he know it? And what did he do?"

For, after all, the alleged Russia meddling in the 2016 election -- if it occurred at all -- occurred on President Obama's watch.

If there was indeed vote-changing Kremlin meddling in our presidential election -- Mueller found no evidence there was -- how'd it come about that the Obama crew let the diabolical Rooskies get away with it?

If there was serious meddling, why did Obama administration officials fail to take immediate preventive measures against it? Why weren't they right on top of this perilous national security situation, from the very get-go?

Questions, questions, questions.

Cohen keeps raising them. And he seems dismayed that his fellow lefties decline to join him in doing so -- indeed, that they instead attack him in the customary McCarthyite manner.

He ruefully observes that liberals were once alertly attuned to the potential machinations of unaccountable intelligence and law enforcement apparatchiks. Why not now?

The reason is all too clear, though Cohen, understandably, may be hesitant to acknowledge it, given the loyalty a person naturally feels for his circle of long-time friends and colleagues.

When it comes to nailing Trump, the left has succumbed to the temptation that the ends justify the means. Any and all means.

From his decades of researching Soviet politics, Cohen no doubt deeply appreciates that this is among the most ominous of all temptations.

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