ABC News has suspended its investigative reporter Brian Ross for inaccurately reporting that candidate Donald Trump, as opposed to President-elect Donald Trump, directed his then-national security aide General Michael Flynn to contact the Russians.
The Ross mistake was to report that Trump was a mere candidate as opposed to president-elect. The underlying proposition here is there would have been a serious scandal had this actually occurred when Trump was just candidate Trump.
Let’s summon the late longtime Russian Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin, on this subject.
In his 1995 memoir, In Confidence: Moscow’s Ambassador to America’s Six Cold War Presidents, Dobrynin reveals that Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign — acting through Carter aides Averell Harriman and Zbigniew Brzezinski — approached Dobrynin on Carter’s behalf. In Harriman’s case there was a specific request. Let’s go to the memoirs, in which there is this story about Harriman, described (correctly) by Dobrynin as “one of Carter’s advisers.”
Dobrynin is invited to Harriman’s home for dinner. Harriman pitches Carter as, “if elected,” someone who “would be the first American president with an advanced technical education, moreover in the field of nuclear technology.” Harriman also had a special request:
Harriman wanted to visit Moscow in September, meet with (then-Soviet President) Brezhnev and (then-Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei) Gromyko, and report back to Carter. I arranged this visit quickly, and he made his trip on September 16-22. Brezhnev received Harriman as a statesman identified with American goodwill, and they agreed on the need for further strategic arms limitation talks. Brezhnev expressed the hope that summit meetings would continue their useful role.
Harriman became an unofficial channel between Carter and Brezhnev during the transition period. He briefed Carter, who pronounced himself satisfied with the trip to Moscow, and relayed to me Carter’s reaction that his first priority in negotiations with the Soviet Union was curbing the arms race.
… In Moscow, meanwhile, the Politburo reacted quickly to Carter’s victory. Two days after the election, on November 4, Gromyko sent the Politburo a memorandum proposing that I be authorized to open a direct dialogue with the president-elect even before his inauguration.
… The Politburo immediately approved this plan, and I was sent instructions on the same day to establish contact with Carter. I did so through Harriman.… A few days later he told me Carter’s reaction.
There was more, because the Carter-Russia tie also included another top Carter aide, Zbigniew Brzezinski. In this case Ambassador Dobrynin was invited to the home of the American Establishment’s icon David Rockefeller. Says Dobrynin:
Brzezinski was also a guest, probably with the express purpose of displaying him to the Soviets in the most favorable light.
… Brzezinski made a special point of arguing that Carter would find it easier (than the Republican Ford Administration) to implement his foreign policy because Congress would be dominated by members of his own party.
So what do we have here?
Well, according to Democrats, as seen here in the December 1, 2017 edition of the Washington Post, what Carter, Harriman, and Brzezinski did is a sure-fire violation of the Logan Act. Here is the charge about Flynn and the Logan Act as written up by the Post’s Amber Phillips, the headline:
Did Michael Flynn just admit to violating the Logan Act? And what is the Logan Act?
Amid news that President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russians, some legal experts are raising the question of whether Flynn just implicitly admitted to another crime: violating the Logan Act.
The Logan Act is a centuries-old law aimed at keeping private citizens out of foreign affairs. Flynn was a private citizen in December of 2016, and in Friday’s guilty plea, he basically admitted he urged the Russian ambassador not to retaliate after President Obama announced sanctions punishing Russia for meddling in the presidential election. Authorities indicated he was acting at the urging of other senior Trump transition officials, suggesting they could have violated it too.
That sure sounds like it’s possible Flynn or other Trump officials was trying to meddle in foreign affairs before he was a representative for the government, said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. It’s possible the special counsel could whack Flynn or other campaign officials with this charge to get them to cooperate in the investigation.
To repeat, notice this sentence again: “That sure sounds like it’s possible Flynn or other Trump officials was trying to meddle in foreign affairs before he was a representative for the government, said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.”
Catch that phrase? That Flynn “was trying to meddle in foreign affairs before he was a representative for the government…” Which is a precise description of what Carter, Harriman. and Brzezinski — private citizens all in 1976 — were doing.
What we have — notice? — is a complete lack of “scandal” because candidate Jimmy Carter was busy colluding with the senior leadership of the Russians — the Soviet Union — during the 1976 presidential campaign. He even dispatched one of his top aides — Harriman — directly to Moscow to talk to the President of the Soviet Union… during the ongoing campaign against incumbent President Gerald Ford. Meanwhile another top aide, Brzezinski, was set up for dinner to pitch Carter to Dobrynin. In both cases it could easily be said that Carter was actively undermining the foreign policy of the United States as then run by the sitting President of the United States. Or, as Democrats would have it, Jimmy Carter, Averell Harriman, and Zbigniew Brzezinski were clearly violating the Logan Act.
The media reaction?
There… was… not… a… peep. Not a solitary objection from the media of the day. Had Brian Ross been on the job at that moment for ABC and reported that as a candidate Jimmy Carter was having his aides sent to Moscow to deal with the Soviet President and to a dinner to pitch candidate Carter to the Russian Ambassador? Not to mention that this relationship continued when Carter was merely president-elect? Well, the young Brian Ross would have had himself a genuine scoop.
Or would he?
The hard fact of the matter is that what is really going on today in the media is a simple rule: if a Democrats does X — well, it’s not a big deal. If the Republican, particularly Donald Trump or anyone associated with him — Jared Kushner comes to mind — then summon the special prosecutor.
The hard fact here is that Jimmy Carter did in fact infinitely more as a candidate and president-elect in 1976 when it comes to colluding with Russians than Donald Trump or anyone associated with him has done.
And there was in the day, much less now, absolutely zero outcry about Carter-Russia collusion, let alone a demand that Carter aides Harriman and Brzezinski — both now gone to the Great Foreign Policy Forum in The Sky — be dragged, lawyered up, in front of an independent counsel. Nor is there any demand to grab the now 93-year-old former President Carter by the scruff of his presidential neck and perp walk him to face a new Bob Mueller.
Which is another way of saying what we see unfolding in this Trump-Russia mania — ongoing now over a year — is one big nothing burger.
Shocker, yes? No. And that is the real problem.