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03 May, 2018

The Senate investigation into Jill Stein reveals the xenophobic, anti-democratic direction of Russiagate

The Senate Intelligence Committee has demanded all of Jill Stein’s campaign communications with “Russian persons.”

By Max Blumenthal

Part 2 - Suppressing RT and criminalizing diplomacy

In its reference to “Russian media,” the Senate committee was clearly referring to RT, which provided Stein with an occasional platform during the 2016 campaign. (She also appeared regularly on mainstream cable news programs and in a CNN town hall). By singling out Stein’s public appearances on RT, the committee painted the Russian-backed news network in essentially the same light that Mike Pompeo’s CIA cast Wikileaks: as a “hostile foreign intelligence agency.” Stein’s campaign is nevertheless cooperating on this front and providing all documents related to her RT interviews.

The Senate appeared to base its view of RT on the January 2017 DNI report on Russian interference. While failing to provide hard evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the 23 page DNI report contained seven pages of crude content analysis of two RT programs that are no longer on air, accusing both of fomenting “radical discontent.” The DNI report went on to frame a third party debate hosted by RT America as an act of Russian information warfare. (The national cable satellite industry funded outlet C-Span has hosted nationally televised forums for third party candidates during the past two presidential elections).

Jill Stein was a guest at RT’s 10th anniversary celebration, where she appeared at a gala dinner and public media forum in Moscow in 2015. I was also a guest at the event, and interviewed Stein this year about her participation. She emphasized that she paid her own way to Moscow and had no opportunity for any substantial discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin or any other high-level Russian official.

I asked Stein what took place when Putin arrived at her table. “Putin briefly ran around the table and shook everyone’s hand. No names were exchanged, it was an impersonal greeting,” she recalled. “There was nothing about that table that facilitated any communication of any sorts. The one person there who spoke English and Russian fluently was sitting next to Michael Flynn and translated what he said was the conversation between Flynn and Putin. It amounted to something to the effect of, ‘How are you? I’m fine.'

Stein told me she had requested a moment with Putin or Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss US-Russian cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation and de-escalating the conflict in Syria. “Hillary Clinton was promoting a no-fly zone in Syria, which would have put us in the position of shooting down Russian planes when we have 2,000 nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. So communication with your adversaries was important and we were in a crisis at the time. Our [Green Party] communications were exemplary,” she asserted. “They were content-focused, not about quid pro quo or any backroom deals. They were on target and in the words of JFK, I believe we should never negotiate out of fear, and never fear to negotiate.

In the end, Stein was able to meet only with the foreign affairs chair of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament. A statement posted on Stein’s campaign website outlined her agenda for the meeting: “a new commitment to collaborative dialogue between our governments to avert disastrous wars for geopolitical domination, destruction of the climate, and cascading injustices that promote violence and terrorism.

To the Senate committee, however, the mere presence of Stein at a banquet table with Putin for a total of two minutes indicated that a sinister plot was afoot. Its inquiry into Stein appears to have been based largely on allegations contained in the so-called Steele Dossier. That document was a collection of unverified claims cobbled together by a former MI5 agent named Christopher Steele, who was paid by the DNC and the Clinton campaign. According to journalist Howard Blum, Steele relied on “an army of sources whose loyalty and information he had bought and paid for over the years.” James Comey’s FBI attempted to fund the continuation of the dossier, but the arrangement fell apart after Steele’s identity was publicly exposed.

By demanding all Green Party policy communications related to Russia, the Senate committee has sent the message that independent parties risk official retribution for bucking the Washington consensus. Its request is only the latest blow to any hope for detente between Washington and Moscow, and another reason why serious discussions between officials of the two nuclear powers will likely have to take place through secret back channels until well into the foreseeable future.

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