Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Russia Hoax As Contingency Plan

Remember, back in August, 2016, when Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were obsessively texting one another? One exchange went something like, well, exactly like this:

"[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!" Page texted Strzok.
"No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it," Strzok responded.

Fast forward a couple of years and here we are in October, 2018, just about two years after Trump's electoral triumph, and for reasons best known to themselves Ben Rhodes and Jen Psaki have decided to reveal to NYMag that the Russia Hoax was a key part of the Obama Administration's--and presumably the Clinton campaign's--contingency plan to, well, steal an election: Obama Had a Secret Plan in Case Trump Rejected 2016 Election Results. We're all adults--right?--so there's no need to quibble over the meaning of words like "results." Here's what Rhodes and Psaki are saying:

The Obama White House plan, according to interviews with Rhodes and Jen Psaki, Obama’s communications director, called for congressional Republicans, former presidents, and former Cabinet-level officials including Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, to try and forestall a political crisis by validating the election result. In the event that Trump tried to dispute a Clinton victory, they would affirm the result as well as the conclusions reached by the U.S. intelligence community that Russian interference in the election sought to favor Trump, and not Clinton. Some Republicans were already aware of Russian interference from intelligence briefings given to leaders from both parties during the chaotic months before the election. “We wanted to handle the Russia information in a way that was as bipartisan as possible,” Rhodes said. 
The existence of the postelection plan has not been previously reported. A July 2017 op-ed by Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, refers to Obama directing his staff to “prepare possible responses” to claims of Russian interference in the election.
Psaki said the plan was one of a larger set of “red-teaming” conversations to address how the White House should respond to postelection scenarios that did not have any historical precedent. “There was recognition that we had a Democratic president who was quite popular but also divisive for a portion of the population,” she said. “For them, just having him say the election was legitimate was not going to be enough. We didn’t spend a lot of time theorizing about the worst thing that could happen — this isn’t a science-fiction movie. It was more about the country being incredibly divided and Trump’s supporters being angry. Would there be protesting? I don’t want to say violence, because we didn’t talk about that as I recall.”

A lot of internet blog commenters have been belly aching about Trump putting a hold on his declassification order in the runup to the midterm elections, but this seems just as good--real red meat for the GOP base. Why Rhodes and Psaki thought it was a good idea to feed the GOP base like this is anyone's guess. I realize NYMag doesn't cater to that base, but Fox alertly picked this story up. But back to 2016 ...

Of course, the Obama and Clinton camps never foresaw--or so they claim--Trump winning the election. They feared a squeaker, a cliff hanger. Or, two years on, that's their story. So let's try a thought experiment of sorts. By dispensing with some of the coded language or doublespeak we come up with this more succinct version of what Rhodes and Psaki are saying:

The Obama plan called for prominent NeverTrump Republicans to try and forestall a Trump victory or--God forbid!--a Trump inauguration by throwing the election to Clinton based on claims--and, no, I swear I'm not plagiarizing The Onion--that Russia had interfered on behalf of Trump. This Russia Hoax narrative had already been floated among some NeverTrump Republicans, and they liked this "bipartisan" approach--they would provide the cover needed for a coup. Planning had already gotten so far that Obama had directed his staff to develop an action plan for the event of a Hillary loss--the rejection of continued Progressive rule would be "historically unprecededented" (in their minds) and thus invalid.

As we know so well, in the event, Trump spoiled it all by posting an electoral landslide. The plotters had failed, in Strzok's words, to "stop it." Or had they? After all, an election is one thing, but the inauguration of a new president doesn't take place for something like two and a half months afterwards. Time enough to throw a whole smorgasbord of crackpot theories at Trump, and see whether any of it would stick! But the key to it all, right from the start, was the Russia Hoax:

Less than 24 hours after Hillary’s concession speech, Podesta and Campaign Manager Robby Mook convened a staff meeting at Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters to formalize this attack. The effort was described by authors Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes in a book that explains “what happened” more insightfully than Mrs. Clinton’s memoir.
“For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public,” they wrote. “Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.”

Russia hacking, yes, but soon enough the whole "dossier" was part of the mix. The Russia-hacked-my-emails story just made people's heads hurt--much better to go front and center with undocumented sleaze. Traditional but still effective. Or not. The plan quickly began to lose traction, both in the halls of government and the legislative branch as well as with the public.

What's interesting are the deep roots of the Russia Hoax. The basic idea can be documented as an action plan as far back as early Spring of 2016, with the efforts to frame hapless Trump foreign policy "advisers" as Russian agents. There are still many questions about those early events. Were Page and Papadopoulos unwittingly inserted into the Trump campaign by Democrat operatives? And how about Paul Manafort coming on board? A John Podesta protege to run the convention, to become campaign manager? Had Glenn Simpson--the world class Paul Manafort expert and now Hillary opposition researcher--died and gone to heaven? And that weird Trump Tower meeting--how did that really go down?

The Russia Hoax was already in place, for use when needed, capable of adaptation to fit the circumstances. From campaign talking points to soft coup contingency plan was but a short step. Or paradigm shift, as we like to say.


  1. Three events happened on October 7, 2016.

    1) Wikileaks began publishing John Podesta's e-mails.

    2) John Podesta tweeted: ".I'm not happy about being hacked by the Russians in their quest to throw the election to Donald Trump."

    3) Director of National Intelligence James Clapper published a Joint Statement from the Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security

    Clapper's Joint Statement began as follows:

    The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.


    Podesta and Clapper had been waiting to react since June 12, 2016. On that date, Wikipedia founder Julian Assange had tweeted:

    We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton . . . We have emails pending publication.


    Clapper published his Joint Statement on October 7 only because Wikileaks began to publish Podesta's e-mails.

    If Wikileaks had begun to publish them on, say, October 27, the Podesta would have published his Joint Statement on that date.

    If Wikileaks had not begun to publish them at all, then Clapper would have let that sleeping dog lie.

    For some reason, Clapper (and Podesta) feared that the publication of Podesta's e-mails was the prelude to the publication of Clinton's e-mails.

    By blaming Russia for stealing, studying and then releasing Clinton's e-mails in order to affect the US election, the Democrats would be able to insinuate that Russia had altered the e-mails before releasing them.

    Clapper, Podesta and the Democratic Party's leadership feared the publication of a massive quantity of Clinton's e-mails during October 2016. However, that publication has not happened to the present day.

  2. I am intrigued by the "meta" side of this interview. Why Rhodes? Why now? Why New York Mag, which is as Left as they come. Curiouser and curiouser.

  3. Unknown, this has been quite a week for the big picture, hasn't it?

  4. RE: the meta side of the interview. Perhaps when the damning FBI files and fraudulent FISA requests are declassified the Obama operatives will try to soften their guilt by claiming they were acting for the good of the country. That they were worried about divisiveness if Trump lost so their Russian collusion white lies were for the greater good of bringing the country together against a common enemy (Trump and those dastardly Russians).

    No sane person would buy it but maybe some of the same idiots who still think Obama is a great guy would. And Trump supporters would be marginalized as pro Russian traitors.

  5. Anon, I think that approach might have worked in the past, but in this day of texting we've seen what happens--people like Strzok and Page just let it all hang out, and that means the "we had the purest of motives" tactic will surely be shown for the BS that it is. Recall that the declass order also covered texts and emails by Comey and McCabe. I'm guessing Trump has a pretty shrewd idea of what that would reveal. Ouch!

  6. The NYMag article strikes me as red meat for Dems regarding impeachment, as that's the direction it takes--what it arrives at the end.

    The opening premise: What would Trump do if he lost, i.e. would he refuse to accept the results, is naive. Trump would be in no position to do much of anything (other than stomp his feet and make a ruckus). The Obama administration held the reins of government, the Electoral college would meet in January, and Hillary would be elected, according to their scenario and the polls up to election day.

    But this didn't happen, so it must've been the nefarious Russians.

    In other words, more retconning history to cement the idea that Russians really did interfere, alleging Trump as illegitimate.

    What's not clear to me is how the "Russia" story as related by Rhodes/Psaki was supposed to help convince Trump and a divided country that the election was legitimate if its legitimacy was questioned by Trump?

    Was it really the idea that that the Trump Tower meeting, the Misfud, Halper, and Downer set-ups, the Steele dossier were to be used to demonstrate Russian collusion by Trump and thereby dismiss any Trump dispute of the election? I.e. that even Trump's underhanded efforts came up short.

    It seems to me the Clinton/Obama electoral tactics attempting to dirty Trump with Russian collusion has now been turned into a huge distraction to deflect attention away from the instigator (Clinton/Obama) and on to Trump. Clinton lost, so her minions are doing their best to sow chaos and dirty the winner. It's not like the Clinton's are unfamiliar with smear tactics and playing dirty pool.

  7. Forbes, all good points. In a sense your point about impeachment demonstrates that the Dems are acting out of weakness in publishing such articles. Consider: if your best tactic to get out your vote also has the effect of further enraging the opposition, further strengthening their resolve to get out and vote as well, then that tactic smacks a bit of desperation. At the same time, they're granting insight into the true big picture scheme--that the scheme went all the way to the top. Again, that smacks of fear, fear of prosecutions down the road--in which regard, I note that Glenn Simpson has invoked the 5th rather than testify under oath. Unless they can gin up a blue wave that will exceed the red wave that the Kavanaugh nomination conjured up, they won't be able to retake the House, and will have no influence whatsoever over prosecutions.

  8. Mark, thanks for thoughtful reply.

  9. No problem--the point is to test out ideas, info, give and take.