Putin offers Comey Asylum, likens him to Snowden

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

BBC Monitoring translates the remarks of Russian President Vladimir Putin broadcast on Rosiyya 1 TV on Thursday.

He responded to the remarks last week of former FBI director James Comey in his testimony before the senate, deploring Comey’s assertion, without offering any proof, of Russian interference in the US election.

Putin misrepresented the allegations against Russia as simply the broadcast of the Kremlin’s views, saying “We have our own opinion and we are expressing it openly. It’s not some underground undermining activity, but we are expressing our opinion.”

What is being alleged is that Russian government outlets such as RT and Sputnik deliberately spread largely false but damning stories about Hillary Clinton, which were picked up by fellow travelers such as Breitbart and other alt-Neonazi websites and then spread around to millions of unsuspecting voters via Facebook and Twitter, especially in states that might be close. The hacking of the Democratic National Committee emails and those of Clinton campaign director John Podesta was in service of generating these negative stories, and is alleged to have been coordinated with Russian intelligence if it wasn’t actually directed by it. There was, in short, a Russian government-directed disinformation campaign that aimed at voter suppression through discouraging Democrats from going to the polls.

It is a complex theory of disinformation cascade and may or may not be true. But it cannot be refuted by simply insisting on Russia’s right to broadcast the views of the Kremlin.

Putin then tried the typical propaganda trick of changing the subject, charging that the US is constantly doing propaganda abroad and funding non-governmental organizations. He said that in private conversations with world leaders, everyone complained about US interference in their politics.

The idea that the US funds non-governmental organizations to make revolutions is a conspiracy theory. The US AID and other funding agencies like NGOs because of the theory that emerged during and after the 1989 East Bloc revolutions that societies with numerous NGOs are more likely to turn and remain democratic. The local version of the Girl Scouts is not being funded in hopes they will make a coup.

Besides, Putin’s charge that the US interferes in other people’s elections (which is not untrue) does not address the questions of whether or how Putin interfered in the 2016 American election. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Putin said he found the idea that Comey wrote down his conversations with Trump and then found a way to leak them via a friend to the press “very strange. “What is the difference between the FBI head and Mr Snowden then? In this case, he is not the special services’ head, but a rights activist who defends a certain position.”

Putin then joked, “By the way, if he is persecuted in this relation, we will be ready to give him too political asylum in Russia. He should know this.”

Source: Rossiya 1 TV, Moscow, in Russian 0903 gmt 15 Jun 17

It is amusing to think of Comey, an information hardliner who called Ed Snowden a traitor, as himself a whistle blower. He tried to strong arm Apple into unencrypting all our phones, opening us to hackers. In this regard, Putin makes a fair point. But the rest of his remarks on this issue came across as sleazy.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

RFE/RL: “Putin Compares Comey To Snowden, Offers Asylum”

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24 Responses

  1. It is reasonable to assume that Russia had serious concerns about Clinton’s war-mongering in the run up to the election. It is therefore reasonable for them to run a disinformation campaign in an effort to stop nukes from flying.

  2. Comey admitted quite openly that he gave information to a friend so that the friend could get it out to the media. I would call this a leak if ever there was one. His excuse that he was then a private citizen just doesn’t wash. If it does then Assange, who is not even a US citizen has no case to answer in an American court, because he too is a private citizen. The Russia gate thing is a complete farce and the notion it in any way influenced the voting American public is fanciful in the extreme. If anything influenced the voters, I would have thought it would have been the re-opening of the case against Hillary by comey just before the election.

  3. Isn’t spreading largely false and damning stories par for the course in politics? Two wrongs don’t make a right is, of course, a truism but the meaning laid upon it surely depends on the legality or moral validity of what is under consideration. The Israelis employ that defence when confronted with accusations of brutality against Palestinians but it is quite different because brutality, genocide, apartheid, and so on are by broad consensus ‘wrong’ in the literal sense that they are contrary to conscience, morality, or law regardless of who perpetrates them. But according to what such consensus might a ‘cascade of disinformation’ directed from Moscow at a US election be ‘wrong’? Of course, just because something isn’t wrong doesn’t necessarily make it right, (the view that it does is one of the most unfortunate contributions to modern behaviour, summed up by the oft voiced claim that this or that action is ‘not against the law’, and by extension therefore OK to do). Putin’s asylum comment was a joke, not maybe a very good one but worth a smile on a dull day; much of the world regards Washington’s current obsession with this issue joke worthy. Better perhaps than finding it sad.

    • The fact Mr. Putin would take the time to snark on the topic in Russian on a mess Trump may have gotten him into, demonstrates his concern.

  4. Which stories did RT push about Hillary Clinton? The only one I can remember was her near collapse when she was getting into one of her security vehicles, and the coverage seemed in line with what CNN and Fox reported, maybe leaning more towards Fox.

    I keep seeing RT put up as if it had any effect on the election, but no one ever says what the stories were. RT also has Ed Schultz, Tom Hartman, and Larry King on their network, who gave Hillary a lot of positive coverage and negative Trump. So why does RT get brought up? Have you actually ever watched it? It actually gives voice to a lot of progressive ideas, and alternative view points on world events. I have not seen any in depth coverage of Israeli occupation through settlements on the West Bank on CNN or MSNBC, but RT has had a couple of documentaries on the issues, giving Palestinians voice. Did you know that one of the reasons RT was included in the December report was it had broadcast documentaries on the hazards of Fracking? Being Anti-Fracking was seen as proof the Russian government working against the United States. Wait, we’re supposed to Hate RT because they showed an Anti-Fracking documentary?

    On top of this, how may Americans even watch RT? A couple hundred thousand? What power does it really have?

    And I’m not even sure I have ever seen a Sputnik article. I have a feeling Breitbart, Fox, and InfoWars had no trouble coming up with their own garbage about Hillary Clinton. For some reason we are now trying to push the idea that really all those ugly memes were Russian in origin. Really? Are we not just letting Republican and ultra conservatives off the hook for the crap they create?

    Last, I have to ask, no one has been able to tell me, what exactly the Russians did that changed the election? If it’s true that the Russians hacked the DNC, (actually very little evidence of this) how did that change the election? Did it suppress votes in Milwaukee? No that was Republicans. Did spear phishing John Podesta’s emails (even less physical evidence, just the assumption that if the Russians hacked the DNC, they must be behind this), and giving them to Wikileaks change people’s minds in Michigan and Pennsylvania, but not California?

    No one has ever connected the dots of how this has all played out. We just see reports that Russians interfered, and are left to look at this rather nebulous plot that looks huge, but doesn’t have much substance.

    I get using the whole Russiagate thing as club to try to beat back the Republicans, and to try and derail their agenda, but it’s not working. Republicans are using it as cover to push through some heinous changes in government, and no one is covering it, because all eyes are on Russiagate.

    I do think Trump has connections to Russian Oligarchs, I think he managed to stay afloat as a really bad business man because of access to money from Russian’s looking to stash cash overseas, but the whole Russian government interfered with our election is rather flimsy.

    Russia and Putin have just become the latest Emmanuel Goldstein. Things are not going well in Afghanistan; the Russians are supporting the Taliban. Saudi Arabia and UAE break off relations with Qatar; Russian Hackers in a plot to throw the Gulf into chaos. British vote for Brexit; has to be Putin’s interference. All of these have been casually thrown out, none have had a shred of evidence. Yet they get repeated, because it’s good to have an enemy; it’s profitable to have an advisory.

      • No, I pointed out I don’t believe I have ever read a Sputnik article. I have never gone to it’s site. But I would also point out, name me something that was actually revealed in the Podesta emails. Does anyone even remember what was in the emails? It gets brought up that there were emails released, but what earth shattering news was in them? Are we to believe that just the release of emails by Wikileaks changed enough minds in the Midwest to change the election?
        Also, Fox and CNN covered the release of the Podesta emails. Why would Breitbart need Sputnik? Why not just get the emails directly from Wikileaks? Again we seem to be letting Breitbart off the hook. They have for years created ‘Fake news’ why now are we saying they were dependent on Russia?

        • Hi, Richard. You are arguing this on too exalted a plane. Google ‘spirit cooking’ and ‘pizzagate.’ And Benghazi. The argument is not that lots of people read Sputnik. It is that Breitbart and Alex Jones etc. picked up anti-Hillary articles from outlets like that and then broadcast it to millions inside the US.

    • There have been some good histories of the KGB written. You should read one. Russia/the USSR meddling in elections and trying to disrupt the politics of other nations goes back many decades (read about the Comintern). Putin’s job in the KGB was to recruit spies and suborn foreigners into working for them. Yes, the US in the past has done similar, but the Russians are masters of the game. What happened in 2016 is the continuation of a long tradition and the US is not the only country to recently suffer from Russian medddling.You come across as rather naive. Because you aren’t privy to evidence of their meddling, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. US intelligence estimates that the Russians employed 1000 trolls to plant fake news on social media. A poster here reported that he ran into it on his website and I personally found evidence of posts from Facebook users whose Facebook pages were empty shells.

  5. “Are we not just letting Republican and ultra conservatives off the hook for the crap they create?”

    Like the Crosscheck crap?????

    Russia is a clampdown place just like America (like America’s become). But they seem to project their power “outside” more fairly (convince me about Montenegro, I’m unconvinced). Putin had to acquiesce to all kinds of clampdown methods along his road no doubt. But the amazing thing is that in this moment when he talks about geopolitical situations…he’s put all that aside and is talking rational. Media reigns, good gamble. We should IMO be very glad (he’s talk’n rational).

    I do not agree with the prof at all on NGOs. Sorry, I agree with Robert Parry, and…though he had a brief lapse into Trump-love…Michael Hudson. BTW, where’s any comment on the Iran sanctions vote yesterday?!?! I like the Qatar piece that came before today’s. Was it too optimistic?

    Richard, you saved the day. My day. Please comment here as much as you can.

    All the wordings re the VR Systems hack eg are doubleminded. All of’em. The proof re it was Russia is so involved, it has to be over the over the heads of all the senators who voted for sanctions yesterday. It’s so involved it’s scary. I’m not sold yet. Sometimes I think Bruce Schneier can break it down, but he contradicts himself too. Anyway, due to many anomalies, like the ones Greg Palast investigated in THAT DISTRICT NORTH OF ATLANTA, odds are IMO Crosscheck out-hacked any conceivablel R-numbers-meddling by a mile.

    “But a more worrying prospect, according to Graff, is that hackers would target a company like VR Systems to get closer to the actual tabulation of the vote. An attempt to directly break into or alter the actual voting machines would be more conspicuous and considerably riskier than compromising an adjacent, less visible part of the voting system, like voter registration databases, in the hope that one is networked to the other. Sure enough, VR Systems advertises the fact that its EViD computer polling station equipment line is connected to the internet, and that on Election Day ‘a voter’s voting history is transmitted immediately to the county database’ on a continuous basis. A computer attack can thus spread quickly and invisibly through networked components of a system like germs through a handshake.” The Intercept 6/5 link to theintercept.com

    They used to say there’s no evidence the numbers were manipulated, but haven’t I seen claims in the last few days they got so far that they very well may have done so?

  6. The OFF-TOPIC “But-but-but-Clinton” comments are annoying and counterproductive.

    She lost, a total •••hole won – get used to it!!

  7. RT is a mixed bag of decent journalism with propaganda.
    The good: they picked up on DAPL protests and documenting fracking.
    The bad-comparing Mrs. Clinton to Joseph McCarthy. link to youtube.com

    And, most shameful of all, their disingenuous coverage of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov – (maybe the Chechens did it! ), and other assassinated Russian journalists and politicians.
    Anthony Bourdain did a terrific interview with Nemtsov in 2014

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