The Russiagate saga has produced one of its most cathartic moments in the form of a devastating television interview of Guardian reporter and zealous Russiagate true believer Luke Harding by the relentlessly polite and soft spoken but openly skeptical Real News host and presenter Aaron Maté.
The purpose of the interview was to discuss Luke Harding’s latest book on Russiagate, which goes by the portentous title Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.
As might be expected of such a book – and of such an author – it treats the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians as proved. During the interview Aaron Maté sought to explore the extent to which this is actually so, and repeatedly asks whether the “evidence” Luke Harding produces in his book really does show that the allegations of collusion have been “proved”.
The interview lasts for 25 minutes but deserves to be watched in full.
The most thorough account of it has been provided by the formidable independent blogger Caitlin Johnstone
The term Gish gallop, named after a Young Earth creationist who was notoriously fond of employing it, refers to a fallacious debate tactic in which a bunch of individually weak arguments are strung together in rapid-fire succession in order to create the illusion of a solid argument and overwhelm the opposition’s ability to refute them all in the time allotted. Throughout the discussion the Gish gallop appeared to be the only tool that Luke Harding brought to the table, firing out a deluge of feeble and unsubstantiated arguments only to be stopped over and over again by Maté who kept pointing out when Harding was making a false or fallacious claim……
That’s really all Harding brought to the debate. A bunch of individually weak arguments, the fact that he speaks Russian and has lived in Moscow, and the occasional straw man where he tries to imply that Maté is claiming that Vladimir Putin is an innocent girl scout. Meanwhile Maté just kept patiently dragging the debate back on track over and over again in the most polite obliteration of a man that I have ever witnessed.
The entire interview followed this basic script. Harding makes an unfounded claim, Maté holds him to the fact that it’s unfounded, Harding sputters a bit and tries to zoom things out and point to a bigger-picture analysis of broader trends to distract from the fact that he’d just made an individual claim that was baseless, then winds up implying that Maté is only skeptical of the claims because he hasn’t lived in Russia as Harding has.
Other persons who have spoken highly of Aaron Maté’s conduct of the interview and about the light it shines on the flimsy quality of the Russiagate collusion allegations are Glenn Greenwald
This interview by @aaronjmate of @lukeharding1968 is fantastic – exactly how an interview should be conducted of someone claiming to have found evidence of Trump/Russia collusion. Very worth taking 25 minutes to watch, and just decide for yourself https://t.co/dqEnBt6lQO'?#pop1
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) December 24, 2017
and Danielle Ryan
Imagine publishing a book called COLLUSION in the middle of an ongoing investigation which has itself yet to produce solid evidence of collusion – and then to go around acting like you've got the inside scoop on the story of the century? Harding is duping his readers, big time.
— Danielle Ryan (@DanielleRyanJ) December 26, 2017
Here is the entire interview by Aaron Maté of Luke Harding as shown on YouTube
Whilst I have little to add to what others have said about this interview, I will make a few brief observations of my own
(1) One of Luke Harding’s tactics throughout the interview was to try to draw attention away from the actual evidence of collusion – of which as Aaron Maté repeatedly pointed out to him there is actually none – to the supposed criminality of Vladimir Putin’s regime and to its supposed typical modus operandi.
Here Luke Harding repeatedly cited his own experiences in Russia and the things he says Vladimir Putin’s liberal political opponents and Russian human rights activists have told him about Putin’s regime.
This is to elevate innuendo about character to the level of evidence of a specific wrongdoing.
The flaws inherent in this approach ought to be obvious, but Luke Harding seems oblivious to them even though Aaron Maté repeatedly pointed them out to him.
(2) Luke Harding professed to be mystified why Donald Trump chose Paul Manafort to head his campaign shortly after Manafort ended his dealings with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Manafort is however a well known Republican political operative and a seasoned campaign professional. Here is how Wikipedia describes him
In 1976, Manafort was the delegate-hunt coordinator for eight states for the President Ford Committee; the overall Ford delegate operation was run by James A. Baker III. Between 1978 and 1980, Manafort was the southern coordinator for Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign, and the deputy political director at the Republican National Committee. After Reagan’s election in November 1980, he was appointed Associate Director of the Presidential Personnel Office at the White House. In 1981 he was nominated to the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
Given this record Manafort was an obvious person for Trump to choose to run his campaign.
I would add that to those of us who followed Ukrainian politics before the start of the 2013 Maidan protests the fact that Yanukovych had turned to a US election agent like Paul Manafort to help him become President of Ukraine was a clear sign that Yanukovych was tilting away from Russia and towards the West.
Yanukovych’s connections to Russia have in fact been consistently exaggerated both in the West and in Ukraine since the 2014 Maidan crisis. Prior to the crisis Yanukovych had given no sign as Ukraine’s President that he was at all pro-Russian.
Not only was it Yanukovych’s government which negotiated the association agreement with the European Union which was at the heart of Ukraine’s crisis, but it was widely known that Yanukovych’s personal relations with Putin were extremely bad, whilst he consistently made known his strong disagreement with the gas supply contract negotiated with Russia by his erstwhile opponent Yulia Tymoshenko, which is what she was convicted and sent to prison for.
Yanukovych also consistently refused Putin’s proposals that Ukraine join the Russian led Eurasian Union, making clear that Ukraine under his leadership would seek integration with the European Union instead.
The fact that Manafort worked for Yanukovych is not evidence that Manafort had connections to Russia. On the contrary all the evidence argues against it.
(3) To my mind the single most disturbing thing Luke Harding says in the interview is that Western governments – including it seems former US Secretary of State John Kerry – relied on Christopher Steele for information and analysis of Russian actions in Ukraine and other places.
Given that the FBI cannot verify the Trump Dossier – which even Christopher Steele now admits is only 70-90% true – that ought to be a reason for worrying about the extent of Christopher Steele’s influence on Western policy with regard to Russia, not for accepting the allegations in the Trump Dossier as true.