The Corner

National Security & Defense

Seth Rich, the Kremlin, and Us

In an earlier post, I referred to the Lewinsky scandal, and now I will refer to Michael Isikoff — who was one of the top reporters on that scandal. It was to him that many of us turned, to find out what was going on. He worked for Newsweek then. He is now chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo! News.

His recent piece begins,

In the summer of 2016, Russian intelligence agents secretly planted a fake report claiming that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by a squad of assassins working for Hillary Clinton, giving rise to a notorious conspiracy theory that captivated conservative activists and was later promoted from inside President Trump’s White House . . .

Read the whole thing, as they say in social media.

Plenty of people were invested in the idea that the DNC offed Rich. “It was a contract kill, obviously,” Bannon said. Newt said, “We have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 e-mails and 17,000 attachments. Nobody’s investigating that, and what does that tell you about what’s going on? Because it turns out, it wasn’t the Russians. It was this young guy who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee.”

And so on and so forth.

Look: Putin’s Kremlin is an enemy of the United States (and of the West and of liberal democracy generally). This is clear, for those without partisan or tribal blinders. Blinders are ubiquitous, of course. If the Kremlin had interfered for the D, not the R, the R’s would be crying bloody murder, and the D’s would be saying, “What’s the big deal? Move on.” All of this is “situational” (as well as tribal, etc.).

I think of a phrase that was popular when I was young: “situational ethics.” Conservatives decried it.

Fake news is serious business — deception of the sort that the Kremlin specializes in. A couple of weeks ago, President Trump griped and guffawed with Putin about journalists. Noting the journalists in the room, Trump said, “Get rid of them.” Putin is actually very good at that — he gets rid of them permanently. Trump continued, “‘Fake news’ is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do.” Putin answered (in English), “We also have. It’s the same.”

Uh-huh.

In March 2012, when President Obama said to Dmitry Medvedev — Putin’s placeholder — “After my election, I have more flexibility,” we on the right went nuts. That now seems, to some of us, kind of quaint.

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