Some Sanity by way of Stephen Cohen’s 'Russiagate or Intelgate?'

‘The publication of the Republican House Committee memo and reports of other documents increasingly suggest not only a “Russiagate” without Russia but also something darker: The “collusion” may not have been in the White House or the Kremlin’, the beginning of his Feb. 9 analysis was published at, and picked up by

The intro notes that this is the most recent weekly discussion he and John Batchelor  have been having on the latter’s radio program; other episodes are inked at the top in the intro.

You’ll likely know the issues, players, and documents far better than I, but these might be by way of the Cliffs Notes:

Cohen apparently notes in the podcast that as a Russian studies professor emeritus who’s studied Soviet-era (then) classified intel reports, all such must be put into contexts of time, other sources, and competing material as well.

But this episode features the Nunes memo, alluding to the (cough) questionable methods us by the Obama DoJ to obtain warrants to spy on Carter Page and ‘the role played in this by the anti-Trump “dossier” complied by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer whose career specialization was Russia. But he states that the memo’s implications are even larger.

Cohen asks salient questions about the timelines of the published episodes, Brennan’s first investigations into the matter, his opaque testimony to Congress,  but according to a  Guardian piece, he was receiving or soliciting foreign intel reports on “suspicious ‘interactions’ between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents.”  The characters in part include: James Comey’s obfuscations, lowly Trump advisor George Papadopoulos (not to be confused with: Richard Scarry’s ‘Lowly Worm’), an unnamed ambassador in a London bar, J. Edgar Hoover, a secret envelope likely given to Obama (<WaPo link), Bruce and Nellie Ohr, Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson…and aaaand the ‘papers of record’.   Yer heads spinning by now?  If so, good: mine sure is.

Cohen says in short, if these sources are to believed, [wd here: and of course, that’s Big IF, but it makes sense], it means that Brennan himself is the Godfather of Russiagate.  As to where Steele got his information, the deep state and stenographers claim that it was from Steele’s longtime connections ‘at or near the Kremlin’.  Cohen then jack-hammers some major (imo) holes into that now-reified meme.

“We are left, then, with a vital, ramifying question: How much of the “intelligence information” in Steele’s dossier actually came from Russian insiders, if any?”  He also notes that Hannityesque and Clinton ‘pro-Trump’ rubbish declaring that ‘the Kremlin used Steele to push its propaganda’ simply extends the new Cold War, which he’s long posited ‘could turn hot’ any day now.

Given that I’ve paraphrased a lot of this discussion already, and that a podcast is in the public weal in any event, I’m going to ‘liberate’ the rest.  I’d think Professor Cohen should mark all his op-eds as Creative Commons, but instead, at the Nation, the first four hits a month are free, then…ya pay to get in the door, just like the New York Slimes and Jeff Bezos’s WaPo.

“And so, Cohen concludes, we are left with even more ramifying questions:

  • Was Russiagate produced by the primary leaders of the US intelligence community, not just the FBI? If so, it is the most perilous political scandal in modern American history, and the most detrimental to American democracy. And if so, it does indeed, as zealous promoters of Russiagate assert, make Watergate pale in significance. (To understand more, we will need to learn more, including whether Trump associates other than Carter Page and Paul Manafort were officially surveilled by any of the agencies involved. And whether they were surveilled in order to monitor Trump himself, on the assumption they were or would be in close proximity to him, as the president once suggested in a tweet.)
  • If Russiagate involved collusion among US intelligence agencies, as now seems likely, why was it undertaken? There are various possibilities. Out of loathing for Trump? Out of institutional opposition to his promise of better relations—“cooperation”—with Russia? Or out of personal ambition? Did Brennan, for example, aspire to remaining head of the CIA, or to a higher position, in a Hillary Clinton administration?
  • What was President Obama’s role in any of this? Or to resort to the Watergate question: What did he know and when did he know it? And what did he do? The same questions would need to be asked about his White House aides and other appointees. Whatever the full answers, there is no doubt that Obama acted on the Russiagate allegations. He cited them for the sanctions he imposed on Russia in December 2016, which led directly to the case of General Michael Flynn (not for doing anything wrong with Russia but for “lying to the FBI”); to the worsening of the new US-Russian Cold War; and thus to the perilous relationship inherited by President Trump, who has in turn been thwarted by Russiagate in his attempts to improve relations through “cooperation” with Putin.
  • With all of this in mind, and assuming Trump knew most of it, did he really have any choice in firing FBI Director Comey, for which he is now unfairly being investigated by Mueller? We might also ask, given Comey’s role during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign (for which she and her team loudly condemned him), whether as president she would have had to fire him.

Listening almost daily to the legion of former US intel officers condemn Russiagate skeptics ever more loudly and persistently in the media, we may wonder if they are increasingly fearful it will become known that Russiagate was mostly Intelgate. For that we will need a new bipartisan Senate Church Committee of the 1970s, which investigated and exposed misdeeds by US intelligence agencies and which led to important reforms that are no longer the preventive measures against abuses of power they were intended to be. (Ideally, everyone involved would be granted amnesty for recent misdeeds, ending all talk of “jail time,” on the condition they now testify truthfully.) But such an inclusive investigation of Intelgate would require the support of Democratic members of Congress, which no longer seems possible.”

A competing piece of intel?  Or is this an already known known?

@wikileaks Feb 7

Email reveals that Michael Isikoff, whose Yahoo News article based on the “Steele dossier” was used to obtain the FISA interception warrant against the Trump campaign’s Carter Page, was secretly “working with” the DNC’s Alexandra Chalupa. …

In a different direction altogether, I’ll add ‘U.S. Intelligence Crisis Poses a Threat to the World’; Privatized and politicized intelligence is undermining the mission of providing unbiased information to both high-level decision makers and the American public, explains George Eliason in this first of a three-part series’, February 11, 2018,, although I haven’t taken the time to read it, so  I won’t recommend it. Wink  Eliason writes from the Donbass region of Ukraine.

(cross-posted from Café

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Lookout's picture

22 min video or text

and a few other recent rational conversations about Russia with him as well.

We no longer respect science nor use evidence. It is the fake reality of today.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

wendy davis's picture


earlier, but as it turns out it's from feb. 2017, not 2018. i'm scanning, but glad he told
the history of a reunited germany and how it related to 'no more nato bases moving east'. but as he said, nato's trying by hook or crook to get both georgia, albania (iirc) and ukraine in, but as w/ scads of other nations, nato calls them 'under nato's umbrella' and other coy terms.

i'll finish it later as i have time. i'm sure this is quite dated, but i've always enjoyed it.

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Lookout's picture

@wendy davis

The other pieces are more recent. Glad you brought his rational view to attention.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

wendy davis's picture


i live in quite a time warp all of the time now, and it had plenty of good stuff in it. i most sincerely believe that he's right in saying that only a church committee 2.0 w/ immunity granted to those who must testify (and tell the truth) will bring us closet to the truth.

and let's also remember that CNN hired serial liar james clapper and hayden in 2017, and NBC giving john brennan a gig in feb., etc. meanwhile, the neo-nazis are quite active in ukraine, as even the bleeping kyiv post was forced to admit finally. hard to know who to check in with to hear the truth of whassup in ukraine by now; perhaps i'll try to dig out some of george eliason's reports from op-ed news.

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CB's picture

Professor Stephen F. Cohen: Rethinking Putin – a review

  1. He is not the man who de-democratized Russia (Yelstin and the White House did)
  2. He is not the leader who created corruption and kleptocracy in Russia (Yelstin and the White House did)
  3. He is not a criminal leader who ordered the murder of opponents or journalists (no evidence)
  4. He did not order the hacking of the DNC servers (no evidence)
  5. He was not anti-US or anti-West from the get-go (Putin changed over time)
  6. He is not a neo-Soviet leader (he is very critical of Lenin and Stalin)
  7. He is not an aggressive foreign policy leader (he has been a reactive leader)
  8. He is not somehow defined by his years at the KGB.

Professor Cohen ended his talk by suggesting a few things which might form a part of a future honest biography:

As a young and inexperienced leader placed at the helm of a collapsing state:

  1. He rebuilt, stabilized and modernized Russia in a way to prevent future collapses
  2. He had to restore the “vertical” of power: “managed democracy” (i.e. restored order)
  3. He needed a consensual history patching up Czarist, Soviet and post-Soviet eras without imposing one, single, version of history
  4. He needed Western support to modernize the Russian economy
  5. He wanted Russia to be a great power, but not a super-power
  6. He never favored iron-curtain isolationism; he is an internationalist (more European than 90% of Russians, at least in the beginning).
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Azazello's picture

but he is a patriot. This is what irks "the West". He wants Russian resources to be controlled by Russians, not Anglo-American capital.

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CB's picture

Most Russians also know that many in the US government/deep state want to destroy/dismantle Russia as a viable country.

Why Neocons Seek to Destabilize Russia

Now that the demonization of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is in full swing, one has to wonder when the neocons will unveil their plan for “regime change” in Moscow, despite the risks that overthrowing Putin and turning Russia into a super-sized version of Ukraine might entail for the survival of the planet.

There is a “little-old-lady-who-swallowed-the-fly” quality to neocon thinking. When one of their schemes goes bad, they simply move to a bigger, more dangerous scheme.
But what would it mean to destabilize Russia? Does anyone think that shattering the Russian political structure through a combination of economic sanctions and information warfare will result in a smooth transition to some better future? The Russians already have tried the West’s “shock therapy” under drunken President Boris Yeltsin and they saw the cruel ugliness of “free market” capitalism.

Putin’s autocratic nationalism was a response to the near-starvation levels of poverty that many Russians were forced into as they watched well-connected capitalists plunder the nation’s wealth and emerge as oligarchic billionaires. For all Putin’s faults, it was his pushback against some of those oligarchs and his defense of Russian interests internationally that secured him a solid political base.
But the neocons apparently think the risks are well worth it. After all, the end result might finally let them kill off that pesky fly, Israel’s near-in threat from the Palestinians and Hezbollah. But we might remember what happened to the little old lady in the ditty, when she swallowed the horse, she was dead, of course.

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k9disc's picture

It's like the 1-2 punch from an ambidextrous fighter. It NEVER stops.

They're destabilizing America as we speak.

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“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu

wendy davis's picture


half an hour w/ no transcript is a bit much for me (i don't retain audio well) . i'd have added that he and lavrov have been extraordinary diplomats, and that's one thing the western Imperium just can't tolerate. this newest round of furor, as he points out so well in lookout's abby martin interview, has become so directed at 'putin', not just 'russia'.

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CB's picture

@wendy davis
for regime change. The very first thing they do is start demonizing the leader. The MSM will then use negative terms in each and every mention of that leader's name, even if not warranted. "Hitler, dictator, brutal, thug, monster"

Hillary Clinton, when Crimea returned to Russia: “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s.”

Here's Putin's excellent response: "It’s better not to argue with women. But Ms. Clinton has never been too graceful in her statements. Still, we always met afterwards and had cordial conversations at various international events. I think even in this case we could reach an agreement. When people push boundaries too far, it’s not because they are strong but because they are weak. But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman."

A perfect example of this propaganda technique was in the run-up to the Libyan War. In the year before, we saw pictures of Obama and Hillary greeting Qaddafi with handshakes and smiles. A year later, the press was filled with the usual "Hitler, dictator, brutal, thug, monster" adjectives in every instance when his name was mentioned. DKos was also a good example. I knew then that regime change, not R2P, was the game plan.

I find that we can turn it back on the abuser eg. Her Heinousness.

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wendy davis's picture


yes, a true kristallnacht moment! but no, we can't have oil sol in dinars, can we? nor 'his army raping women (evidence: 'they carry condoms in their pocketses!' the assad gassed his own people (and did it again recently, if i understand it) meme is similarly reified by now, as are the bana and white helmets psyops.

conversely, susan rice and pals started lovin' on genocidaire paul kagame back the day (those photos made ya wanna grab an airsick bag), now the hindu nationalist thug narenda modi is in like flynn w/ the hegemon! 1.3 billion new consumers, and ooof: the nation's geolocation for nato bases, etc. crikey, it gets old, doesn't it?

on edit: a beautiful and diplomatic response by vlad.

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snoopydawg's picture


Libya invasion. That's when I knew that they were Obama bots who would never see him for who he was. I admit that I bought his Hopey Dopey rhetoric at first, but I gave it up after his cabinet picks. They still think he was one of the best presidents. They still stuck with Herheinous after her insane cackling at Gaddafi's death.

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Disclaimer: No Russian, living or dead, had anything to do with the posting of this proudly home-grown comment

wendy davis's picture

so thanks to those of you who have your eyes wide open to the importance of it.

it's hard to think of a lullaby as i sign off for the night, but let's try this john prine i just stumbled upon:

Caught a train from Alexandria
Just a broken man in flight
Running scared with his devils
Saying prayers all through the night
Oh but mercy can't find him
Not in the shadows where he calls
Forsaking all his better angels
That's how every empire falls

The bells ring out on Sunday mornng
Like echoes from another time
All our innocence and yearning
and sense of wonder left behind
Oh gentle hearts remember
What was that story? Is it lost?
For when religion loses vision
That's how every empire falls.

He toasts his wife and all his family
The providence he brought to bear
They raise their glasses in his honor
Although this union they don't share
A man who lives among them
Was still a stranger to them all
For when the heart is never open
That's how every empire falls

Padlock the door and board the windows
Put the people in the street
"It's just my job," he says "I'm sorry."
And draws a check, goes home to eat
But at night he tells his woman
"I know I hide behind the laws."
She says, "You're only taking orders."
That's how every empire falls.

A bitter wind blows through the country
A hard rain falls on the sea
If terror comes without a warning
There must be something we don't see
What fire begets this fire?
Like torches thrown into the straw
If no one asks, then no one answers
That's how every empire falls.

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wendy davis's picture

i'd neglected to provide a link in this section, sorry; i will now:

"The question therefore becomes: When did Brennan begin his “investigation” of Trump? His House testimony leaves this somewhat unclear, but, according to a subsequent Guardian article, by late 2015 or early 2016 he was receiving, or soliciting, reports from foreign intelligence agencies regarding “suspicious ‘interactions’ between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents.”

it's by the odious scribe to the Imperium luke harding and a pal, and it's full of unnamed sources galore, such as: ‘… the Guardian has been told.’ ‘Over the next six months…sources said.’

‘The European countries that passed on electronic intelligence …one source said.’ ‘Another source suggested the Dutch and the French spy agency, the General Directorate for External Security or DGSE, were contributors.’ and a har, har moment: ‘The Guardian has been told the FBI and the CIA were slow to appreciate the extensive nature of contacts between Trump’s team and Moscow ahead of the US election. This was in part due to US law that prohibits US agencies from examining the private communications of American citizens without warrants. “They are trained not to do this,” the source stressed.’

within the last hour a commenter the café had provided a readout by the DHS cyber security expert and deputy director from a few months ago, so i'd gone to check if there's a semi-permanent director now, and along the way found this from 3 hrs ago:

Homeland Security calls NBC report on election hacking 'false'

"Recent NBC reporting has misrepresented facts and confused the public with regard to Department of Homeland Security and state and local government efforts to combat election hacking," Jeanette Manfra, the department's chief cybersecurity official, said in a statement."

guess john brennan shouldda set em straight.

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