Russiagate: Tragedy, Not Farce

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

The left is an uplifting space of solidarity because it is a place that keeps track of the least of us in a way the mainstream media will not. It is very hard to find anything beyond opportunism in a mainstream media who is obsessed over a non-story like Russiagate. One has to wonder though if the left has any more of a concrete connection to the working class based on the spiteful reaction to Mueller’s report.

Donald Trump will ride the momentum of a failed witch hunt by Robert Mueller. He may ride it to four more years in office. This is deeply consequential for our immigrant sisters and brothers, those surviving on ObamaCare, and those living in communities most effected by Trump’s ambitious deregulatory scheme. Millions of species will now go extinct.

Donald Trump will continue with his America First Energy Plan which really puts fossil fuel companies first. This plan not only drives the country away from renewable energy. It also endangers our air and drinking water. In the short term we will have trouble drinking and breathing. In the long term climate change will only be accelerated.

Trump is also expanding oil drilling and pipelines. His drilling specifically targets federal land, offshore water supplies and poor Native communities. Trump has eliminated staff that deals with pesticides, waste and toxic substances. Trump rolled back the energy and emissions standards of the Obama administration, leaving citizens in the hands of states who may or may not set their own standards.

Trump has ignored calls to regulate lead poisoning. His EPA chief Scott Pruitt was suspected of meeting with Dow Chemicals CEO Andrew Liveris before he allowed the chlorpyrifos pesticide to be distributed. This pesticide will harm fetuses and infants in even the very smallest of amounts. Trump has dumped the Clean Water Rule and rolled back coal-emissions standards. All of Obama’s plans have been abandoned (Paris, Climate Action, Clean Power). Trump is letting methane gas be leaked as well.

Donald Trump is endangering life as we know it. His full impact cannot be grasped precisely because many of these environmental policies will make us all die sooner, even if that dying day is not today.

Trump’s war on immigrants has made me lose classmates. I saw them leave comfortable lives here in the United States and go into extreme poverty in countries they barely know. I also got a call from Bloomberg asking me what I knew about Russian interference. That was slightly offensive, losing my friends was a tragedy. If history repeats first as tragedy, then as farce, we have seen the tangible tragedy of the Trump administration be dismissed as farce again and again.

As Donald Trump is repeatedly dismissed as merely an extension of capitalism and an incompetent clown one has to wonder if there is any of Marx’s materialist analysis left to be had on the left. What does one make of extremist corporate tax cut? What to make of his deconstruction of the state as we know it? Merely a natural consequence of Marx’s theories? One has to assume that Karl Marx would not be buying into anti-Russiagate precisely because his view of history was focused on the possible, not on the inevitable. While it remains important to trace general trends of history such as the consolidation of capital we would be doing our sisters and brothers in the material world a great disservice if we kept our analysis and actions in this theoretical lens. The left could learn a lot from a scholar like Henry A. Giroux who is unafraid to face the present dangers as a product of the past and a consequence for the future.

What did Mueller’s investigation prove? Trump is still corrupt. He is still a grave danger to life on earth. There is still reason to impeach him. Everyone knows this. Even him. If there is any satisfaction to be had by this man getting more power and credibility then the left is just as class-blind, petty and self-absorbed as the rest of the establishment.

It is unclear why leftists are clamoring so hard to close the Mueller case. Of course the far-right Republican Robert Mueller wouldn’t want to impeach Trump. And of course Trump’s extraordinarily corrupt cabinet would have no interest in doing that either. But why jump the gun and proclaim the Mueller report proves nothing when in fact we have only seen four pages presented to us by Trump’s team. No one wants to hear more details about this story. But that is far different from wanting to end the investigation itself.

Particularly puzzling is the response of Glenn Greenwald. Once the most devout ally of whistleblowers in the country, Greenwald seems to have abandoned this sentiment in favor of Trump partisanship. Why would Greenwald claim that Russiagate amounts to nothing when his own news site broke the most revealing piece of evidence? Reality Winner was the brave American who leaked the information on Russian interference and The Intercept failed to protect its own source. Rather than acknowledge the person who went to prison for him, Greenwald seems intent on defending the person who sent her to prison.

The verdict is still out on the Mueller report. Obstruction of justice seems like an obvious case from afar. It remains confusing why Mueller left this aspect in the hands of Trump’s own Attorney General when the report itself clearly stated that it could not exonerate Mr. Trump. While much of the mainstream media is rightly questioning the trustworthiness of Attorney General William Barr, far too much faith has been put into Mueller himself who is a lifelong criminal and Republican (apologies for the redundancy there).

Greenwald just falls flat on his face in a truly puzzling appearance on Democracy Now! (or in Greenwald’s case, Democracy Later!). Greenwald points out that Robert Mueller and Trump’s Attorney General William Barr are close friends. Greenwald seems to use this piece of information to say that Trump is innocent. He shoots down the valid questions by the mainstream media (why haven’t we heard from Mueller? Why didn’t Mueller question Trump? Why can’t we see the full report? Why did Mueller say we ‘maybe’ can get Trump on obstruction of justice but I’ll leave that to my buddy Barr to decide?).

Most sane people suffering under Trump want to hear from Mueller himself. Greenwald says forget about it. Mueller and Barr are friends. Therefore, Barr must be telling the whole truth when he says that Trump is innocent. Why make this conclusion? Shouldn’t the Mueller and Barr connection trouble us, rather than reassure us? Mueller being friends with Barr should tell us that there actually is a whole lot in the report Mueller may be hiding because he is helping out his buddy Barr, who is helping out his buddy Trump. This is not a conclusion obviously. But why not ask these questions? What is the harm in seeing the full report?

Greenwald wants to cast this whole affair as a conspiracy theory and for what purpose? For world peace? Look at what Trump and Putin are doing in Venezuela right now. Corruption, colonialism, and capitalism to the core. And both sides are bringing weapons in. Greenwald brings this up. But his main concern seems to be a conflict between Putin and Trump rather than the poorer countries they are collaborating to destroy through imperialism. Why hasn’t there been war in Venezuela yet? Precisely because both the US and Russia would rather loot Venezuela than go to war against each other there. Oddly the masculine communist shadow actually appears for Greenwald where it isn’t, even as he sides with the strong men themselves.

Chomsky is brought in by Amy Goodman. Thank goodness for a humble giant! But Chomsky is always too smart to quote in short. Goodman cherry picks his statements to distract from the question at hand. Greenwald acts as if the entire world is freaking out about Russiagate when as Chomsky says, it doesn’t really matter. Only someone who aspires to be Rachel Maddow could really consider Russiagate itself to be an important story.

Now this is where Russiagate itself gets meta. Just as Maddow falls for Russiagate to a point of obsession, Greenwald and others fall for for anti-Russiagate as a point of obsession. Putin is to Maddow as Maddow is to Greenwald. The truth is that no one cares. No one cares about Putin. No one cares about Maddow. And no one cares about Greenwald. What people care about are the bipartisan policies that endanger life as we know it. The ruling class goes back and forth in their petty disputes about what “really matters” but the truth is this: it matters what happens to Donald Trump. There is no existential threat to democracy or peace or justice when we choose to investigate Trump. Trump and the ruling class who fund him are the real threat and they should not be defended or dismissed.

Greenwald seems to want to make Trump guilty in every sense except for the one in question. Which may always be the case. And was certainly true of the nature of the investigation in general. If the establishment had been more serious about bringing Trump down, other areas of corruption would have been investigated a long time ago. Also, why does Glenn Greenwald always wear green? If Jack Black always wore black wouldn’t we suspect an ego trip?

Equally embarrassing was the response of Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi. Now we all know Rolling Stone hasn’t grasped a single musical movement since the 1970s, but who knew their politics were stuck in the Cold War era too? Taibbi claimed that Russiagate was worse than the press’s lies about Weapons of Mass Destruction? Taibbi would have done better to point out that Robert Mueller was one of most important liars when it came to WMD when he was head of the FBI.

So let’s get this straight. Believing that a couple of billionaire authoritarians collaborated to undermine a democratic election is worse than decimating several countries based on false intelligence? Furthermore, one should simply trust a third far-right militarist when they claim no collusion even when this same person was willing to lie about the very war that is supposedly not that important?

Greenwald and Taibbi say Russiagate was worse than WMD lies. Maybe if they would recognize the seriousness of these lies they would take Mueller as a less honorable actor. Maybe they would take real imperialism against the Middle East more seriously. Maybe they would stop warning against theoretical dangers of liberal talk show hosts who are more famous than them and start focusing on the real dangers to the working class.

There is a lot of concern about a potential World War III because Americans dare to call out two of the most corrupt and right-wing leaders in the world. But this is no longer the Cold War. Communism is dead. Global capitalist collaboration is fully alive.

Americans should be interested in what Mueller, Trump and Putin are hiding. These men need no defense. Three of the most powerful and indecent men in the world sit on secrets that could oust them from power. On the one hand, we see the real interests of the working class being ignored as specific actors are chased around in excruciating detail via mass media spectacle. In that sense, Russiagate is a disservice.

On the other hand, the fact that Donald Trump, the most obviously criminal in the world today cannot be charged with a crime proves how broken our criminal justice system is. In that sense Russiagate has not gone nearly far enough. If only Robert Mueller would have given the citizens of Iraq the same benefit of the doubt that he gave his supposed mortal enemy Donald Trump we may have avoided real war with real suffering. But as the news is reduced to theatre and spectacle, many can only cheer as real enemies are exonerated and real people are put in danger.

It has been said that the working class had no side in Russiagate. In the production of the scandal, this may be true. But the consequences of the result did mean something. This is why it is sad that for now Mueller came up short. For all the gloating, the chief injustice of Russiagate goes unnoticed. Donald Trump can rip children from their families with no trial, while a two and a half year trial for one of the greatest criminals on earth leads nowhere.

Is it possible to hear the cries of children ripped from parents, spouses of cancer-ridden patients or siblings of endangered animals? Is it possible to hear these cries when the primary focus remains a reactionary anger against a cultural elitism that has little, if anything to do with the real material lives of the working class? It is in this way that classism manifests itself in two ways very evident in Donald Trump’s way of thinking. 1. The working class must be stupid so we should rebel not against the hoarding of wealth but against the cultural apparatus of the rich man 2. We should identify with cruelty of the ultra-rich solely for the purpose of our own identity as an agent in the barbarity of late-stage capitalism. It is through this logic that Trump wields his sword of misanthropic populism that at times serves as the left’s guiding light.

Russiagate may be farce, but Trump is tragedy. Any resistance to Trump is welcome. Framing this resistance as elitism is exactly what Trump uses to silence his critics. What Donald Trump has done to our glorious planet is nothing short of tragedy. It sounds smart to be above the farce that brings him down. But how smart is such a position when it only leaves one room to defend the very person you claim to detest? If it’s a choice between farce and tragedy, I’ll take farce every time. It is no surprise that the FBI chief who lied his way into war in Iraq chose tragedy. Show us the full report Mueller.

Robert Mueller. Your pathetic lies about weapons of mass destruction ruined lives. Your potential lies to cover up the Trump administration could be just as costly. People are dying and we need answers. We shouldn’t count on the thespians Rachel Maddow, Glenn Greenwald or Donald Trump to dig up these answers. A tragedy is just a play until all the characters die.

All the characters in the Russiagate spectacle should be questioned. All of them have a vested interest in providing legitimacy to Trump. Mueller is most obvious. He is a conservative Republican with close friends in Trump’s circles. Maddow gets massive ratings from Trump and one has to wonder if a serious investigation of him would be good for her show. Greenwald, Taibbi and the left align with Trump because they are so keen on making a brand out of anti-establishment. They fail to see that the ultimate brander of this label is Trump himself. In reality the whole damn system has been empowering Trump the whole time. Television loves him. Republicans kiss his feet. Democrats who have abandoned the working class need to run against him to have any convincing story. And the establishment left can’t get enough of Trump because he channels a subversive energy in public while being just another selfish rich person in private. Impeach the bastard.

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at