The Biden administration is vigorously pursuing key figures from the phony Trump/Russia collusion scandal that roiled the nation for four years. But instead of trying to punish the liars who perpetrated that fraud, it is targeting the truth-tellers who challenged and exposed the conspiracy to negate the 2016 election.
Working from the same playbook used to smear dozens of Trump associates, the administration and its allies are planting stories based on blind quotes in friendly media outlets to seek revenge.
On April 16, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reported that the Justice Department is investigating Kash Patel – who had worked with Rep. Devin Nunes and later the Trump administration to reveal the Russiagate hoax – for the “possible improper disclosure of classified information.” Ignatius said he received the tip from “two knowledgeable sources” who “wouldn’t provide additional details.”
Violating the bedrock principles of American justice and journalism, this article is an exercise in thuggery as the government uses a powerful media outlet to intimidate and besmirch a citizen without evidence. With nothing to respond to, how can Patel defend himself? If Patel is lucky, the federal government has only placed a sharp sword over his head that may not fall. If not, he might be dragged into a lengthy court battle that could drain his finances and also cost him his freedom.
We don’t know if Patel broke the law, but note that the administration has shown no interest in pursuing former FBI leaders such as James Comey and Andrew McCabe, who improperly disclosed information regarding Russiagate.
Trump’s former lawyer Rudolph Giuliani is also in the “cross hairs of a federal criminal investigation,” according to an April 29 article in New York Times that relied on “people with knowledge of the matter.”
At issue, those anonymous sources say, is whether Giuliani was serving two masters when he counseled Trump to remove Marie L. Yovanovitch as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in 2019. “Did Mr. Giuliani go after Ms. Yovanovitch solely on behalf of Mr. Trump, who was his client at the time?” the Times reports. “Or was he also doing so on behalf of the Ukrainian officials, who wanted her removed for their own reasons?”
I’ll leave it to the lawyers to determine the wisdom of bringing a case based on the parsing of tangled motives. What is clear is that the FBI is taking a thumb-screws page from the playbook of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who deployed the little-used Foreign Agents Registration Act to pursue the white whale of collusion. As Lee Smith reported for RealClearInvestigations, just three people had pleaded guilty to FARA violations in the half-century before Mueller deployed it to pressure and punish Trump allies.
And note, the FBI’s zeal to crack down on unregistered foreign agents does not extend to the president’s son Hunter Biden, who, Paul Sperry reported for RCI, “failed to register as a foreign agent while promoting the interests of foreign business partners in Washington, including brokering meetings with his father and other government officials.” It appears that we have two tiers of justice: one for Biden administration enemies, another for its family and friends.
The targeting of Giuliani looks especially suspect and politically motivated after three main news outlets that have driven much of the false Russiagate coverage – the New York Times, Washington Post and NBC News – were forced to correct a recent story, once again based on anonymous sources, claiming the FBI had warned Giuliani in 2019 “that he was a target of a Russian disinformation campaign during his efforts to dig up unflattering information about then-candidate Joe Biden in 2019.” Giuliani was never given such a briefing.
Considering the numerous instances in which the press published bogus information from “informed sources” during Russiagate, one has to ask why they continue to serve as vehicles for falsehoods. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me a dozen times and you’re not fooling me – we’re acting in concert. As RCI editor Tom Kuntz has argued, journalistic integrity demands, at the very least, that these organizations tell their audience who exactly had misled them. Confidentiality agreements should not protect liars.
A third example of the Biden administration’s effort to punish Russiagate figures is its renewed effort to put former Manafort associate Konstantin V. Kilimnik behind bars. In an extensive new article for RCI, Aaron Maté reports that the Treasury Department provided no evidence to support its recent claim that Kilimnik is a “known Russian Intelligence Services agent implementing influence operations on their behalf.” It also refuses to explain how it was able to discover the truth of Kilimnik’s identity, which the two most extensive Russiagate investigations – the 448-page Muller report and the 966-page Senate Intelligence report – failed to uncover.
This absence of evidence has not stopped the peddlers of the Trump/Russia conspiracy theory from claiming vindication. Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff casts Treasury’s unsubstantiated claim as smoking-gun evidence of collusion. The New York Times reports that the claim demonstrates that “there had been numerous interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence during the year before the  election.”
Who needs proof when the government says it’s so?
The FBI is also putting the screws to Kilimnik, offering $250,000 for information leading to his arrest on witness-tampering charges involving text messages he sent in 2018 to two people who have only been identified as “potential witnesses” involving Manafort’s lobbying work for Ukraine, not Russiagate.
In an exclusive interview, Kilimnik told Maté, “I don’t understand how two messages to our old partners who helped us get out the message about Ukraine’s integration aspirations in [the] EU, and asking them to get in touch with Paul, can be interpreted as ‘intimidation’ or ‘obstruction of justice.’”
Maté also reports that the $250,000 bounty on Kilimnik is more than double the amount the FBI is offering for information leading to the arrest of murder suspects.
The Biden administration’s campaigns against Patel, Giuliani and Kilimnik suggest how the winners of the 2020 election are attempting to rewrite the history of Russiagate. Having been debunked and rebuked by their own investigators, the conspiracists are taking a second bite at the poisoned apple. Using anonymous sources to make unsubstantiated charges in the nation’s most influential news outlets, they are seeking to punish people for the crime of exposing their malfeasance.
J. Peder Zane is an editor for RealClearInvestigations and a columnist for RealClearPolitics.