Second Thoughts on the Sussman Prosecution

As Scott noted earlier today, my first reaction to Special Counsel John Durham’s indictment of Perkins Coie lawyer Michael Sussman on a single count of lying to the FBI was rather dismissive (“small potatoes”).

Having read the 27-page indictment itself, I have revised my opinion somewhat. The investigation underlying the indictment, and the manner in which the indictment lays out the facts regarding the Clinton campaign’s fabrication of the “Russian bank” aspect of the Russia collusion hoax, are a valuable contribution to the historical record.

But the basic elements of the story have been known for a long time. We know that the Clinton campaign used its dishonest lawyers at Perkins Coie to employ Fusion GPS to fabricate the hoax itself. We know that officials of the FBI and the CIA participated in the hoax, and that reporters at newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post eagerly helped to perpetrate it. Filling in more details, as the Sussman indictment does, is useful, but it leaves open the question whether there will ever be accountability for the worst political scandal in American history.

Such accountability may include criminal prosecutions, as in the Sussman case, but it might take other forms as well. For instance, legislative reforms often follow the revelation of a major scandal. And one might have hoped for cultural changes at the institutions that were involved in perpetrating the fraud, like the FBI and the CIA. One might even have wondered whether hard core left-wing institutions like the Times and the Post might re-think the roles they played, and perhaps step back from the vicious partisanship that has largely replaced news reporting in their papers. Or, more broadly, there could have been massive public revulsion against the political party and the institutions that perpetrated this fraud in hopes of securing a presidential election; and, when that failed, for the purpose of disabling the incoming administration, a purpose that was largely fulfilled.

But none of this has happened. America’s ruling class (to borrow a phrase) seems incapable of introspection or regret. It barrels along, oblivious to the damage it has inflicted on our country, and continues to inflict.

Paragraph 23 of the indictment includes an email from one of the researchers who were used to seek evidence of some nefarious link between Donald Trump’s organization and a Russian bank. He reported that there was no such evidence. His email concludes:

The only thing that drives us at this point is that we just do not like [Trump]. This will not fly in eyes of public scrutiny. Folks, I am afraid we have tunnel vision. Time to regroup?

In the wake of the hoax’s collapse, many individuals and institutions should have asked that question. Sadly, it seems that none did.

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