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Nancy Pelosi stirs the Russiagate pot (again)

From the (Volga) River to the (Black) Sea. Credit: Getty

January 30, 2024 - 4:00pm

It seems that Russiagate is making a comeback — and right on time. Nancy Pelosi suggested over the weekend that pro-Palestine protests against the Gaza war may be linked to the Kremlin. “For them to call for a ceasefire is [Vladimir] Putin’s message […] Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see,” Pelosi told CNN.

The former Democrat congressional leader made the comments days after Donald Trump swept the New Hampshire Republican primary. Pelosi offered no evidence, nor even a cogent argument, for the claim. 

While Muslim groups hit out at Pelosi for the comments, “ties to Russia” is now the dominant meme in America’s establishment politics. “Ties to Russia” were cited to claim that Hunter Biden’s laptop was fake, that the Trump administration had been compromised and, of course, that the Kremlin used Facebook (of all things) to swing the 2016 election in the Republican’s favour.

Many of the key reports that played in this effort, known as Russiagate, were found to be demonstrably false, with other serious assertions left unproven. The Columbia Journalism Review did an exhaustive investigation into how the media built Russiagate into a full blown conspiracy theory, something no major American newsroom has accounted for (and for which numerous journalists won prestigious prizes).

Despite this, it’s unclear why Pelosi sought to connect the Gaza war protests to Russia. The protest demographics are as far from Trump’s voter base — or, for that matter, any issue connected to Trump’s platform — as can be. It might be that, after almost a decade of doing it, the DC Democratic establishment’s impulse to tie anything it opposes to Russia has become something of a political gag reflex  —unpleasant, illogical but also unavoidable. 

With demonstrators disrupting DNC events, harassing Jewish worshippers at an Upper East Side synagogue and, most recently, protesting outside Pelosi’s home, it may be that the personal nature of these protests was odious enough to trigger the reflex. However, it was also there, outside her home, that Pelosi was recorded telling a group of pro-Palestine demonstrators to “go back to China where your headquarters is!” 

That certainly complicates the matter. But in recent weeks we’ve seen reporting on this new “ties to China” narrative emerging, including a New York Times report detailing how Trump’s businesses received millions from foreign governments, “most of it from China”.

Putting aside the fact that Trump was excoriated, mostly by the media, for his trade war with China, it might be that with Beijing on the back foot in a newly hawkish US, this is a fresh line of attack. Is red the new…well, red?

But Pelosi’s political antennae, still attuned after half a century operating in the field, may be picking up on a charge in the electoral ether. Say what you will about the journalistic (or ethical) merits of Russiagate, the reality is that it worked. Since 2016, when the effort began in earnest, it was virtually impossible to think about Trump without immediately thinking: Russia. And in case one failed to do so, the media was there to provide a reminder of the truth, however inconveniently uncorroborated it might have been. 

This brings us to the final irony. In the reporting on Pelosi’s recent Gaza comments, an evidentiary disclaimer — “without offering evidence” — was included. Reuters reported, “A US Muslim group criticized former House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday after she suggested, without offering evidence, that some protesters demanding a ceasefire in Gaza could be linked to Russia and urged the FBI to investigate.”

This phrase is precisely the one the media omitted from almost every report (op-ed, cable monologue, podcast, interview and investigative series) regarding Trump’s supposed connections to Putin’s Kremlin. Have times changed, or just the topic? 

We’ll likely find the answer to that in coming weeks as Trump cements his position as the Republican nominee, Biden continues to gibber Democrats into an electoral crisis, and the media emerges from its investigative hibernation with the realisation that it has a very specific set of skills. Maybe, just maybe, Russiagate lives on.

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ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
5 months ago

Time to retire Nan. End the Gerontocracy! No running for office after 60. That would allow a senator to serve until 66 which seems like a perfect retirement age. Better yet term limits of a max of 12 years. Although we should probably raise the minimum age to 40 IMHO. I’m sure my last suggestion may not be popular but 40-60 is young enough to understand changes in technology and society but old enough to have the wisdom of experience.

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago

Nope, not in favour of that. The Millennials can run the world after I’m gone. Until then, I want geriatrics like me running it.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Yep. The millennials will be immediately coming for your pensions and health and social care. Time to get a taste of what small state self-dependence is really like, grandad.

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Fortunately I have acquired some wealth during my long life, and can pay for those things myself.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

I must say this creature does rather remind me of Rider Haggard’s SHE.

Perhaps she will have the same fate?

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
5 months ago

She Who Must Be Ignored.

Sylvia Volk
Sylvia Volk
5 months ago

You mean several centuries of absolute rule?

Sylvia Volk
Sylvia Volk
5 months ago

Come to think of it, she’s already had the equivalent of that. (It just seemed like centuries.) You’re right! They are the same.

James Love
James Love
5 months ago

Ms. Ice-cream fridge … part of a dying ineffectual elite who’ve lost touch with the common people.

D Walsh
D Walsh
5 months ago

Right now trouble or war in the middle east is good for the Russians. Why would Putin want a cease fire

El Uro
El Uro
5 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Why are you looking for logic here? 🙂

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

He recognises the American system as one where protests will have no effect. They can call for cease fires all they like – the US government isn’t going to listen.
What Putin/Russia wants is discord in the US. What he really really wants is Trump back in power and the US withdrawing from Ukraine/NATO/the World.
The Gaza cause is extremely harmful to Biden and the democrats who are reliant on the young and educated who skew more towards ceasefire and Palestine. Biden’s Boomer-esque support for Israel could be what kills his election chances.
I just wish the Right thought as critically of the “Iranian-backed” statement as the “links to Russia” one.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
5 months ago

For Pelosi, the alternative is blaming the progressive institutions that are normally unwavering in their support for Democrats. Much easier to blame Russia.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
5 months ago

Russia never went away. Four years of the collusion hoax were not enough, not when more American leftists that people want to imagine still believe that claim. Of course, Pelosi will blame this on the Kremlin. The last thing that Dems want is for their animus toward Jews, based purely on the oppressed/oppressor narrative, to be exposed. That it’s too late doesn’t matter. Again, some of their supporters still think Trump won because of Putin. They’ll parrot any talking point they’re given.

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Again, some of their supporters still think Trump won because of Putin. 
Well, some of Trump’s supporters think he lost because the election was “stolen”.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago

The Pelosi comment sounds rather weird.

As for Russiagate, the Mueller report did not find enough to lead to a trial. But it did find that

– Russia interfered systematically (and illegally) in the election

– The Trump campaign welcomed the Russian interference.

– There were lots of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, which Trumps people lied about afterwards.

Enough to justify an investigation and a lot of press coverage, but, OK, not enough to make a case for criminal conspiracy. Apparently this kind of canoodling with an enemy intelligence organisation is considered normal and acceptable for a US presidential candidate.

Let me cite Wikipedia

The report concludes that the investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities”.

However, the report states that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was illegal and occurred “in sweeping and systematic fashion”[ but was welcomed by the Trump campaign as it expected to benefit from such efforts.It also identifies myriad links between Trump associates and Russian officials and spies, about which several persons connected to the campaign made false statements and obstructed investigations

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago

Occam’s razor. The simpler explanation here is that Nancy Pelosi is a bat-s*** crazy half senile old lady who wasn’t that bright to begin with in a party that is so far out of touch with the regular folks they could barely beat a glorified game show host who makes angry and incoherent internet posts in the wee hours of the morning and whose policy choices depend on who he likes this week. Staggeringly, the Democrats may be so out of touch that they cannot duplicate their incredible accomplishment.

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

While I don’t necessarily accept the suggestion put forward, I don’t have much difficulty in accepting that if something bad is going down somewhere in the world, there is at least a chance that Russia is behind it.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

I suppose anything is possible. It isn’t that the Russians wouldn’t attempt to foment discord in the US. Putin was originally a KGB agent. I just wonder why they’d choose such an indirect and roundabout method. The 2016 ‘interference’, amounted to posting deceptive facebook posts from dummy accounts, something that’s trivially easy for almost anyone to do and basically free, so much so that the Russians were hardly the only people doing it.

Organizing physical protests, though, requires actual physical assets in the foreign country. While I don’t doubt Russia has assets in the US, as I’m sure the US has assets in Russia, I doubt they’d risk exposing those assets to inflict a mild political controversy on a nation already polarized along partisan, social, regional, and racial lines. It just seems too far fetched a strategy even for Putin, and Pelosi is pretty consistently stupid and out of touch these days. It doesn’t take much to get Americans fighting each other. If you look at history, it never has actually. Putin doesn’t need to ‘do’ anything, but I’m sure he does enjoy watching America destroy itself.

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Although I have a pretty fair distaste for Russia and everything it stands for, I acknowledge that it is good at two things, namely 1) attritional warfare (easy enough when the leadership doesn’t give a damn about its own people) and 2), cyber-warfare. In relation to the second, I am an old school Cold Warrior in the Reagan/Thatcher mould. In my youth and young adulthood, I could always take one thing for granted, namely that America hates Russia, and the more right-wing the American the more hatred there would be. Nowadays, it almost seems the converse is true, and that right-wing Americans are often pro-Putin. I put that down to the fact that during the last three or four years, a lot of right-wing Americans spent a lot of time on “conspiracy theorist” websites. In addition to peddling lots of those websites contained comments from “people” who were very pro-Putin. I suspect that this isn’t a coincidence.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

That I will agree with. I would add resource extraction and authoritarian government to the list of things Russia excels at. I also think it’s pretty certain some, maybe most, of the more bizarre conspiracy theories on the right do indeed come from some Kremlin sub-basement cyber-warfare division and probably some on the left as well. That is not at all far fetched. I question how much traction those theories actually have on the right. The media loves to dig up nonsense and act like it’s widespread to discredit populists and conservatives.
I think more of the anti-Ukraine sentiment comes from the reemergence of America’s traditional isolationist tendencies, a development that should have been expected to happen eventually after the Cold War ended. Libertarians were always non-interventionist even during the Bush/Reagan years, they just had little influence, but the libertarians have been among those who have benefited most from the tea party movement and Trump.

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

All I can say about that is that I have a number of very old friends who never showed any conspiracy theorist tendencies until four years ago, but who now are “textbook” conspiracy theorists. These people are now also pro-Russia. They are people who I knew right through the Cold War, and who were at that time as anti-Russian as the rest of us, so I am guessing that their pro-Russian sympathies have arisen at the same time as they embraced conspiracy theories, and probably from the same sources.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

It does appear that conspiracy theories are gaining ground these days, but one must ask are more people believing conspiracy theories, or is it simply a case of a broader and more open media market covering a wider range of views, making so-called conspiracy theories more prominent. If more people are believing in conspiracy theories, then the next question is why? Is the Russian government of today better at spreading nonsense than the conspiracy theorist of yesteryear? Perhaps, or perhaps the increased belief in conspiracy theories is a result of decreased trust in the establishment government and media. I don’t have a firm answer. I don’t doubt Russia is putting out conspiracy theories, but I think they’re one among many who are taking advantage of the present political climate.

Claire D
Claire D
5 months ago

Palestine conflict
Cui bono?

Anyone who wants to see American military focus distracted by another front.

Who could.that be?

Matthew Jones
Matthew Jones
5 months ago

She’s right in a roundabout way. The Russians are behind the idea of Palestinian nationhood. Operation SIG was not successful in arming muslim Arabs with weapons to invade Israel, but it was successful in arming them with ideology to attack Israel from within. The first document in history to describe a Palestinian nation was of course the palestinian liberation organisation’s charter, drafted in 1964, in Moscow. Without the Russians, there would be no cause to protest for.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago

What about Pelosi’ connections to the Hooded Claw

R Wright
R Wright
5 months ago

“Pelosi was recorded telling a group of pro-Palestine demonstrators to “go back to China””
In the UK you would get investigated by the police for even using that phrase.

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Were the protesters in question in fact Chinese?

0 0
0 0
5 months ago

She looks like one of the ghouls from the movie They Live!