The historic inquiry into Russia’s interference in our presidential election by the House Intelligence Committee opened with a statement from Rep. Adam Schiff. His introduction was concise, detailed and chilling. He named names. Gave dates. Showed correlations. Painted a scenario of unsustainable “coincidences” in a dark intrigue peopled by Russian hackers, oligarchs, oil magnates, diplomats, spies – orchestrated by Putin and counterbalanced with his alleged American agents.
It is a sequence of events and characters fit for an explosive novel. It is the foundation for impeachment proceedings against the current U.S. President.
But missing from that cast of saboteurs and accessories is one name: Senator Bernie Sanders.
START AT THE BEGINNING
For months, I have referred to the primary campaign of Sanders as “Putin Phase I” with the Trump campaign the obvious second phase. The elements of similarity between Sanders and Trump are remarkable as I describe below. Many of my observations can be cast aside as insignificant when viewed alone. It is when they are seen as a complex – a whole entity of likenesses – that their meaning magnifies.
As with any investigation, the way forward is to start at the beginning.
Thus far, the Trump-Russia inquiry launched by the House Intelligence committee (and then the Senate) has focused exclusively on Donald Trump, his family, members of his campaign and his appointees. However, both committees described a history of Russian interference in our democratic institutions. Therefore, an inquiry that highlights a single individual (Donald Trump) is not exploring the totality of Putin’s intervention.
The foundation of Putin’s election interference started during the presidential primary in the camp of Bernie Sanders.
My assertion is based on the following list of similarities between the two opponents of Hillary Clinton – their personal and political histories, campaign rhetoric and tactics, aides and supporters and reliance on third-party influences. Also of paramount importance is the use of Russian “active measures” and the occurrence of hacking. As is true with the House committee’s inquiry, some of these items are circumstantial. Likewise, these circumstantial similarities deserve an investigation.
Christopher Steele adds to my claim of Sanders as Putin Phase I. In his dossier, Steele remarks that the Putin-Trump conspiracy was a three-pronged “intelligence network.” (Company Intelligence Report 2016/095, p.8). (I have written more extensively about this strategy here.) One of those three elements comprised “agents/facilitators” within the Democratic Party.
At the time of Steele’s report, Sanders was still actively engaged in the Primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. He was running as a Democrat.
In his 10 August 2016 report, Steele reveals that the Kremlin’s “Anti-Clinton Operation” was also focusing in other areas. These included targeting “educated US youth” in an attempt to split the vote and switch them to the Trump camp. (Company Intelligence Report 2016/101, p.15).
As a reminder, the NY Democratic Primary on 19 August was preceded by some of the nastiest anti-Clinton rhetoric from the Sanders camp and its surrogates, including the “corporate whore” epithet.
This same August report also noted the Kremlin was “engaging with several high profile US players, including [Green Party candidate Jill] STEIN, [Trump campaign advisor Carter] PAGE and (former DIA Director Michael Flynn), and funding their recent visits to Moscow.”
The itemization below shows similarities between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as candidates. When viewed collectively, a profile emerges.
- Both Trump and Sanders switched political parties just before entering the Presidential race.
- Neither man expressed loyalty to his newly-adopted party, its leaders or its agenda.
- Neither had made any significant political contribution before running for the highest office in the land. Trump had zero experience and Sanders had generated no impactful legislation other than naming a few post offices.
- During the course of the campaign, neither candidate expressed any intelligent nuance or depth to his campaign rhetoric or policy. Sanders repeated the admonition to dismantle Wall Street while Trump declared he would Drain the Swamp.
- Ignoring historical precedent, Trump has steadfastly refused to publicly release his income tax returns, claiming they were under IRS audit. Likewise, Sanders resisted showing his returns until late in the primary when he released a single year (2014). Sanders blamed his spouse, Jane Sanders, for the delay.
- Both hired a campaign staff that with the exception of two figures had absolutely no experience with presidential candidacies. (See this article for details on Sanders’ staff.)
- Sanders hired Tad Devine as his senior advisor. Devine had a history of working in electoral politics with various presidential candidates. He also worked for the former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted from power in 2014 and fled to Russia. Devine helped Yanukovych win the office of Prime Minister (2006) and President (2010).
- Trump hired Paul Manafort as his campaign manager. Manafort, as has been often reported, also helped Yanukovych gain those positions of power. In fact, Devine and Manafort worked together in these endeavors, a fact made possible because Manafort hired Devine in 2009 and the two jointly aided their Putin-backed Ukrainian client.
- Both candidates employed an army of trolls who multiplied geometrically on social media.
- Both candidates benefited by fake news disseminated by the paid trolls.
- Both campaigns engaged in an egregious onslaught of defamation and dehumanization leveled at their opponent, Hillary Clinton, her family and her campaign staff. During his primary, Trump leveled personal insults at his opponents. Recall the belittlement of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, the Carly Fiorino insults and the wild accusations against Ted Cruz and his father.
- Both campaigns launched coordinated online attacks against the supporters of Hillary Clinton including online accounts of personal supporters, endorsing organizations, personal and political friends and the Democratic Party. Sanders filed suit against the Democratic National Committee and his supporters sued its former head, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Trump and his surrogates upped the ante with the demand to “Lock Her Up!”
- Neither Trump nor Sanders received endorsements by major newspapers or media organizations though each received an inordinate amount of free publicity by networks such as MSNBC and CNN.
- Each candidate was denied endorsements by leaders of their respective political party. The paucity of endorsements for the two candidates is a striking similarity and a historical precedent.
- Both Sanders and Trump injected third parties into the campaign; the most notable of which was their dual use of Wikileaks. Sanders was also aided by the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) coalition, named as a tool in #RussiaGate. A far more extreme element, Revolt Against Plutocracy (RAP), which called for the demolition of the Democratic Party and political revolution, also underpinned the Sanders’ campaign. RAP continues to ID as a “BernieOrBust” entity and as seen in these recent tweets, they promote Trump’s affection for Putin’s Russia despite overwhelming evidence of his interference in our election. (Read more about these elements in the Bernie Sanders campaign here.)
- RAP’s message and market coordinate perfectly with these tidbits of information, again from the Steele dossier.
Note also mention of the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who famously sits across from Michael Flynn and Vladimir Putin at the RT banquet table in Moscow.
- Other disruptive elements existed in the campaigns of both men. For Trump, it was the appearance, endorsement and active participation of extremists that included Steve Bannon, David Duke, neo-Nazis, the KKK and First Amendment aficionados. As mentioned, the Sanders camp included the Occupy movement and anarchists such as RAP. The various chan boards on Reddit advocated outright disruption of the electoral process, tracking ISPs of Clinton supporters and violence. In Clark County, NV, Sanders’ supporters engaged in violence, deceit and sovereign citizen tactics. Surrogates such as Cornell West demeaned civil rights icons and equated Sanders and Trump as “brothers.” The subtotal of the Sanders primary run equaled a split in the Democratic Party that still exists.
Again the revelations in the Steele dossier help explain how a divide and conquer strategy would boost Trump, injure Clinton and harm the Democratic party:
- Campaign funding oddities was another shared similarity. Trump mostly self-supported his primary campaign while Sanders received thousands of illegal donations from foreign nationals (non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents). For this, he was routinely cited by the FEC for violating campaign finance laws. He also received huge sums of money from mysterious sources including a $10 million haul from the D.C. area on a single day.
- Both the Trump and Sanders campaigns were involved in hacking. The extent of Trump’s involvement is under investigation by Intelligence Committees of the House and Senate and by the FBI. However, the Steele dossier details an extensive campaign carried out on his behalf by Russian elements. Less memorable in the wake of these galvanizing accusations was the theft of Democratic Party voter data by the Sanders camp very early in the primary. Is it any coincidence that this theft occurred at nearly the same time that the Russian entity known as “Guccifer” was breaching the DNC, DCCC and email accounts of Clinton campaign staff?
- Both men are associated with sexual proclivities, which if true make fodder for blackmail by the likes of Putin. For Trump this is most pronounced. A long list of sexual misconduct allegations arose during the campaign. There was the hidden video of his “grab them by the pussy” remarks. And, as documented in the dossier of former UK spy Michael Steele, the Kremlin had audio-visual “kompromat” on Trump for blackmail purposes. This material recorded his “personal obsessions and sexual perversions” with prostitutes in Moscow.
The material related to Sanders is revealed in his own essay from the 1970s. While far less controversial today with the public’s fascination for films like 50 Shades of Grey, and more private in nature, it may have been enough for the KGB/FSB to use as leverage.
- Sanders and Trump have a predilection for non-democratic governments and heads of state. Both have an affinity for Russia, dating back to when it was the Soviet Union and the KGB was actively recruiting Western assets. Sanders spent his honeymoon there with his spouse Jane and again in 1988. Trump first visited the Soviet Union in July 1987 with his Czech wife Ivana. He and his family are on first-name terms with many Russian oligarchs and his other alliances with Putin’s FSB are in the headlines daily. Upon his return, Trump placed full page ads in prominent newspapers promoting a foreign policy “that could have been scripted in Moscow assailing the Western Alliance,” according to Craig Unger. He has also expressed admiration for the butcher Assad (Syria), the killer Duterte (Philippines), Gaddafi (Libya), the communist rulers of China who murdered the students at Tiananmen Square and of course, Vladimir Putin. For his part, Sanders visited and endorsed the leftist Sandinistas in Nicaragua. During his campaign, he journeyed to Rome where he met with the Ecuadorian president – the man giving refuge to Julian Assange of Wikileaks infamy. He has also expressed an active disapproval of American foreign policy. His remarks prior to his 1988 visit to the Soviet Union mimic Trump’s many calls for unity with the aggressively expansionist Russia.
When asked to explain why he hoped to see a thaw in U.S.-Soviet relations before departing for his trip to the USSR in 1988, Sanders suggested that hostility between the two global powers had cost Americans dearly. “These people have been our ‘enemies,’ and in the name of that rivalry, we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars that in my view should be spent on health care and housing,” Sanders said, according to a report in The Boston Globe. –The Atlantic, 19 February 2016.
With the catalog of similarities above (and more not mentioned), it is difficult to understand why Bernie Sanders is absent from the current investigations into #RussiaGate. Perhaps he made a backroom deal. Or the Democrats know he’ll soon be retired to the tiny state of Vermont. Maybe he is neglected simply for damage control. After all, it’s one thing to investigate the current president. It’s quite another to investigate the man who brought a new generation of voters to the polls. But if Bernie Sanders is an accomplice, knowingly or not, then any investigation into Russian interference must include him. The 2018 Midterms are around the corner and Putin is still up to his tricks.
[21 January 2019: Updated with information related to Trump’s visit to the Soviet Union and links to current research].