For about a month now, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has been investigating alleged Russian interference into the presidential election in November 2016. Committee officials, who have been given unprecedented access to the highly classified documents, have not made any significant progress. Even so, the U.S. media, pundits, and commentators continue to discuss Russia’s role in the U.S. election, as if it was hard, indisputable fact.
There are some journalists, however, whose coverage of the ongoing investigation and the alleged Trump-Putin connection, challenges the mainstream U.S. media’s anti-Russian bias.
In her recent article for Buzzfeed News titled “Inside The Investigation To Get To The Bottom Of Russia’s Role In The Election,” National Security correspondent Ali Watkins, who has been closely following the Russia-Trump story, spoke to a large number of officials who, she reported, were, for the most part, not expecting to find any concrete evidence against Trump or his advisers.
According to Watkins, “Even some Democrats on the Intelligence Committee now quietly admit, after several briefings and preliminary inquiries, they don’t expect to find evidence of active, informed collusion between the Trump campaign and known Russian intelligence operatives… .” One official, wrote Watkins, called expectations surrounding the investigation “wildly inflated.”
These outsized beliefs are a result of the mainstream U.S. media’s exaggerated coverage of Russia’s role in the election. The U.S. media has rushed to interpret any interaction between Trump cabinet members and Russian oligarchs and officials as suspicious and murky, even if they have no evidence to substantiate such conclusions. Some U.S. outlets have even hinted at direct collusion between the Russian intelligence and the president, suggesting that Trump and his allies either encouraged hacking of the Democratic National Committee or authorized it.
These theories grow like mushrooms, while the real evidence of Russia’s role in the election remains short on substance.
The fact that the mainstream discourse is based on a premise for which there is no proof is deeply problematic. No one describes this situation better than journalist and vocal Putin critic, Masha Gessen. She concluded her recent piece for the New York Review of Books, titled “Russia: The Conspiracy Trap,” as follows: “Russiagate is helping him [Trump]—both by distracting from real, documentable, and documented issues, and by promoting a xenophobic conspiracy theory in the cause of removing a xenophobic conspiracy theorist from office.”