Letter from Pergamum-on-the-Potomac

On the heels of Donald Trump’s Oval Office visit with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other American and Russian officials, it finally seemed the fledgling US administration was turning the corner and making progress toward cooperation with Moscow against radical Islamic terrorism, particularly in Syria.

Then the fake news came flying thick and fast as the Deep State and MSM counterattacked. First, they questioned why a Russian photographer was allowed access to the meeting while the American fake news purveyors were not. Then they speculated that maybe Lavrov or Ambassador Sergey Kislyak had planted a bug in the president’s office. Then they charged that Trump had compromised sensitive intelligence (received from Israel) by revealing it to the Russians. Finally they accused Trump of obstruction of justice—an impeachable offense—by his reportedly suggesting to former FBI Director James Comey (fired the day before the Russian meeting) that he should go easy on short-lived National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, whose scalp was the first the Deep State/MSM gang had nailed to the wall.

The whole anti-Trump campaign has been based on criminal leaks of classified or privileged material from within the government. Still, there is no sign of a counterattack. Perhaps Attorney General Jeff Sessions has secretly empanelled a grand jury and indictments of leakers are forthcoming. More likely he has not and is more concerned with whether prosecutors are using too much discretion in the severity of offenses they choose to charge criminal suspects with, or whether states are playing fast and loose with federal marijuana laws.

The steady drumbeat of negative stories designed to keep Trump and his team (or whatever minority of his personnel might actually support him and his agenda) has had the desired effect of keeping the Administration on the defensive. It led to the decision by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller to take over the Bureau’s investigation into claims of Russian interference into the 2016 and collusion with members of Trump’s campaign. Reportedly, the decision was solely Rosenstein’s and the White House was only informed of the fact about a half hour before the public announcement.

If anyone is hoping Mueller’s appointment will yield a respite from the barrage of attacks, they are likely to be disappointed. Ideally, Mueller would simply look at the work the FBI has done so far, take note of the fact that there’s no evidence of any crime was committed—without which there shouldn’t even be an investigation in the first place—and wrap it up. That’s unlikely. It is in the nature of Special Counsels to justify their existence by finding something, anything, even if it’s only catching people in inconsistent statements that can be packaged as perjury—crimes that would not have existed if not for the investigation itself. This can drag out for many months, if not years. At the same time, we can expect the media lynch mob to keep the pot boiling by one unsubstantiated, unsourced leak after another, as the Administration struggles to implement its agenda under an ever-present cloud: “the Trump Administration, under criminal investigation of collusion with Russia.”

The impact on the weak sisters among Congressional Republicans is obvious. Leaving aside Never-Trumpers who are only too happy to conspire with Democrats to reverse the 2016 vote in a “soft coup” by the Deep State and MSM, many GOP legislators will be loath to go to the mat for an Administration tainted by a criminal probe, whose very longevity is at issue. It may be too soon to stick a fork in Trump’s agenda, but as one commentator has put it, it may be time to get the fork out of the drawer. All now in jeopardy: Obamacare repeal and replace, tax reform, the Wall, renegotiating NAFTA and other bad trade deals, infrastructure revitalization, defunding Planned Parenthood. (That’s in addition to Trump’s border security initiatives already blocked by the courts.)

Most of all, the issue that triggered this latest onslaught—rapprochement with Russia and teaming up against the jihadists—is very much in doubt. Even the appearance of being less than 100 percent hostile to Russia is evidence of treason, as shown by a senior Republican’s recent statement caught on audio that Trump and California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher must be on the Kremlin’s payroll.

Perhaps most dangerously, keep in mind that the only brief respite Trump has received against the onslaught has been when he launched cruise missiles against Syria over what was almost certainly a false flag chemical attack by jihadists in Idlib, for which the MSM and Deep Staters applauded him. Now we have a baseless allegation that the Syrian government is running a crematorium adjoining Saydnaya prison north of Damascus, where, the State Department’s Stuart Jones claims, up to 50 inmates’ bodies are burned daily. But even Jones admitted he doesn’t know the facility is a crematorium at all. The offered “proof”? On satellite images the snow melts faster on that roof than on others nearby. Nonetheless Holocaust rhetoric, the 800-pound gorilla of atrocity porn, was unleashed. A Google News search of Syria, crematorium, Holocaust yields over 5,000 hits. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called the unproven accusation “reminiscent of the 20th century’s worst offenses against humanity.” An Israel cabinet minister has called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s assassination.

There is reason to fear that Trump, guided by advisers whose policy proclivities mirror those of his critics, may seek the path of least resistance by further bellicose measures. These could take place in Korea, against Russia (for example in Ukraine), or in the broader Middle East (especially Syria, where the GOP-led Congress is reinvigorating the call for regime change). For example, while in Saudi Arabia—surreally touted by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster as a paragon of a moderate, tolerant, peaceful Islamic ally—Trump is set to announce a coalition against Iran characterized as an “Arab NATO.” As though the one NATO we already have weren’t dangerous enough.

Jim Jatras is a former U.S. diplomat and foreign policy adviser to the Senate GOP leadership. He is the author of a major study, “How American Media Serves as a Transmission Belt for Wars of Choice.”