Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton, spoke Thursday evening with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson about the latest shoes to drop in the investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
The Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday that Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security advisor, has told the FBI and congressional investigators that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution — not a particularly good sign for the Trump White House.
Cohen, one of the country’s foremost experts on Russia, has been arguing for months that the anti-Russia hysteria in Washington, D.C., is becoming a “grave national security threat.”
Carlson began the discussion by bringing up what he sees as the core issue — the allegations that the Russian government “hacked our election” by breaking into email accounts at the DNC and the Clinton campaign office.
“Everyone assumes this is true,” he said. “We’re all operating under the assumption that it’s true. Do we know it’s true?”
“No,” Cohen answered flatly. “And if you listen to the hearings at the Senate today, repeatedly it was said — particularly by Senator Warner, the Democratic co-chair of the proceedings — that Russia had hijacked our democracy. What he means is that, the Russians, at Putin’s direction, had gone into the Democratic National Committee’s emails, which were embarrassing to Mrs. Clinton, given them to Wikileaks, Wikileaks then released them to damage Mrs. Clinton and put Trump in the White House.”
He noted, “This is a very dramatic narrative and they’re saying in Washington that this was an act of war…. So whether or not it’s true is existential. Are we at war?”
After studying Russian leadership for 40 years, focusing on Putin in particular, Cohen said it was hard for him believe that the Russian president would have done such a thing.
“I could find not one piece of factual evidence,” he said. “The only evidence ever presented was a study hired by the Clintons — the DNC — to do an examination of their computers. They [Crowdstrike] concluded the Russians did it. Their report has fallen apart.” He added, “Why didn’t the FBI do their own investigation?”
Tucker pointed out that even Republicans say that seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies (including Coast Guard Intelligence!) have concluded that Russian intelligence was behind this.
“They say that, but it’s bogus,” Cohen argued. “When Clapper, the director of national intelligence, signed that report in January, technically he represents all seventeen. I’ll bet you a dime to a nickel you couldn’t get a guest on, unprepared, who could name ten of them. This figure — seventeen — is bogus!”
The professor made one more critical point: “The one agency that could conceivably have done a forensic examination on the Democratic computers is a national security agency,” he said.
“We learned from Snowden they’re in your computer, mine, our iPhones. Everybody else who signed that report said they were highly confident. The NSA said it was only moderately confident. You don’t get married based on moderate confidence! You don’t go to war with Russia, you don’t stage this theater that is going on in Washington which could destroy a presidency.”
He continued: “When they admit that they have no evidence, they fall back on something else which I think is very important. They say Putin directed Russian propaganda at us and helped elect Trump. I don’t know about you, Tucker, but I find that insulting — because the premise they’re putting out … at this hearing is that the American people are zombies. … It’s the premise of democracy that we’re democratic citizens,” he said. “That we have a B.S. detector in us and we know how to use it.”