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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: russia

Russian Fatherland Is Losing Its Fathers -- And Its Population

As Russian forces continue their retreat on the battlefield in Ukraine, Moscow has turned to attacking stationary civilian targets that don't shoot back. It's pathetic. And Russia's failure to intimidate Ukraine through wanton destruction can be seen in the flow of the two peoples.

Ukrainians who left are flooding back into their country, while young Russians head to the exits in extraordinary numbers. Over the long run, the loss of draft-age men, especially educated ones, could pose a greater threat to Russian power than declaring victory and withdrawing.

"Demography is destiny," the French philosopher Auguste Comte famously said. A country's people as measured by numbers, age and educational level is said to be the fuel that powers civilizations. Russia is losing on all three counts.

Even before its invasion of Ukraine, Russia was facing a collapse in population as fertility rates cratered. Among Vladimir Putin's delusions was the belief that his government could encourage more births and at the same time send potential fathers to the frontlines as cannon fodder.

A report by the United Nations sees Russia's population falling by roughly 2 million by 2030. And it came out before Putin's mass mobilization. Many will die on the battlefield or be gravely wounded. And having one's man sent off to war is not conducive to planning a family.

Then there is the rush to the border. The first escapees tended to be Russians repelled by the unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

These were generally the educated elite every country should want to keep. The draft now has less political Russians looking for an out. They're going to Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Argentina, Western Europe. Others have gone into hiding.

In Moscow, it's like COVID, Part II. After a summer during which the apolitical youth partied like there was no war, banks started closing hundreds of branches. Storefront windows are being papered over. And Moscow has become a city of women. Dating apps in countries where Russian men have fled, meanwhile, are doing big business.

When Russia first invaded, Israel assumed it would be processing a lot of Ukrainians. To its surprise, it has been receiving a surge of Russians instead.

By contrast, Ukraine is seeing a rush of women and their children back into the country. They want to be reunited with their husbands who stayed behind to fight. Another motivation is guilt at not taking part in the momentous defense of Ukraine, according to reports.

Can you imagine the emotional pull required to return to a country that has just seen 30% of its power grid knocked out? And right before the start of winter?

A very recent Gallup poll has 70% of Ukrainians wanting to continue the fight until they win. And of that majority, 91% define victory and taking back every scrap of land Russia as seized, including Crimea, which Moscow "annexed" in 2014.

A woman in Kherson told the BBC's World Service that she was not going anywhere until Kherson was liberated by Ukrainian troops: "People are not panicking, nobody wants to be evacuated."

A desperate Putin has imposed martial law in the four Ukrainian regions he claims to have annexed: Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. He's called for "heightened readiness" in Moscow, a decree that can include vehicle searches and traffic restrictions. The mayor of Moscow tries to reassure his public, insisting that none of this will "restrict the normal rhythm of life." Too late for that.

American fans of the authoritarian Putin should take note: He is bringing defeat upon his own country, not to mention disgrace. A demographic winter is upon Russia, and Russian winters are famous for their brutality.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Putin's Russian Fatherland Is Losing Its Fathers -- And Its Future

As Russian forces continue their retreat on the battlefield in Ukraine, Moscow has turned to attacking stationary civilian targets that don't shoot back. It's pathetic. And Russia's failure to intimidate Ukraine through wanton destruction can be seen in the flow of the two peoples.

Ukrainians who left are flooding back into their country, while young Russians head to the exits in extraordinary numbers. Over the long run, the loss of draft-age men, especially educated ones, could pose a greater threat to Russian power than declaring victory and withdrawing.

"Demography is destiny," the French philosopher Auguste Comte famously said. A country's people as measured by numbers, age and educational level is said to be the fuel that powers civilizations. Russia is losing on all three counts.

Even before its invasion of Ukraine, Russia was facing a collapse in population as fertility rates cratered. Among Vladimir Putin's delusions was the belief that his government could encourage more births and at the same time send potential fathers to the frontlines as cannon fodder.

A report by the United Nations sees Russia's population falling by roughly 2 million by 2030. And it came out before Putin's mass mobilization. Many will die on the battlefield or be gravely wounded. And having one's man sent off to war is not conducive to planning a family.

Then there is the rush to the border. The first escapees tended to be Russians repelled by the unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

These were generally the educated elite every country should want to keep. The draft now has less political Russians looking for an out. They're going to Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Argentina, Western Europe. Others have gone into hiding.

In Moscow, it's like COVID, Part II. After a summer during which the apolitical youth partied like there was no war, banks started closing hundreds of branches. Storefront windows are being papered over. And Moscow has become a city of women. Dating apps in countries where Russian men have fled, meanwhile, are doing big business.

When Russia first invaded, Israel assumed it would be processing a lot of Ukrainians. To its surprise, it has been receiving a surge of Russians instead.

By contrast, Ukraine is seeing a rush of women and their children back into the country. They want to be reunited with their husbands who stayed behind to fight. Another motivation is guilt at not taking part in the momentous defense of Ukraine, according to reports.

Can you imagine the emotional pull required to return to a country that has just seen 30% of its power grid knocked out? And right before the start of winter?

A very recent Gallup poll has 70 percent of Ukrainians wanting to continue the fight until they win. And of that majority, 91 percent define victory and taking back every scrap of land Russia as seized, including Crimea, which Moscow "annexed" in 2014.

A woman in Kherson told the BBC's World Service that she was not going anywhere until Kherson was liberated by Ukrainian troops: "People are not panicking, nobody wants to be evacuated."

A desperate Putin has imposed martial law in the four Ukrainian regions he claims to have annexed: Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. He's called for "heightened readiness" in Moscow, a decree that can include vehicle searches and traffic restrictions. The mayor of Moscow tries to reassure his public, insisting that none of this will "restrict the normal rhythm of life." Too late for that.

American fans of the authoritarian Putin should take note: He is bringing defeat upon his own country, not to mention disgrace. A demographic winter is upon Russia, and Russian winters are famous for their brutality.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Kremlin Proxies Claim Victory In 'Sham' Ukraine Annexation Votes

Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) - Kremlin-installed authorities were already claiming victory Tuesday in annexation votes in Ukrainian regions under Russian control, as Moscow warned it could use nuclear weapons to defend the territories.

Ukraine and its allies have denounced the so-called referendums as a sham and said the West would never recognise the results of the ballots that have dramatically ratcheted up the stakes of Russia's seven-month invasion.

"It's already clear that the vast majority of people supported the issue of secession from Ukraine and joining Russia," Vladimir Saldo, the Moscow-appointed head of the Russian-held Kherson region, said on social media.

Election officials in Moscow said voters casting their ballots in Russia had overwhelmingly backed annexation, while authorities in Kherson and another Russian-occupied region, Zaporizhzhia, showed an initial 87 and 92 percent backing for the move.

"Saving people in the territories where this referendum is taking place... is the focus of the attention of our entire society and of the entire country," Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier during a televised meeting with officials.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov meanwhile said the votes would have "radical" legal implications and that the so-called referendums "will also have consequences for security", referring to Moscow's threats to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba however doubled down on Kyiv's promise to push out Russian forces from its country, saying the votes "would not have any influence" on the battlefield.

Russian forces in Ukraine this month have suffered serious setbacks, both in the east and south of the country, which observers say pushed Putin to rush ahead with the vote to cement Moscow's authority there.

'Right' To Use Nuclear Weapons

Putin said Russia would use any and all available means to defend its territory, implying that after the four regions were annexed Moscow could deploy strategic nuclear weapons to repulse Ukrainian attempts to take back the territory.

"I want to remind you -- the deaf who hear only themselves: Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if necessary," former leader Dmitry Medvedev warned Tuesday on social media.

The four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine -- Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south -- announced that they would hold the elections just days before voting began last Friday.

Together, they form a crucial land connection for the Kremlin between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014 and is otherwise only connected to the mainland by bridge.

The EU spokesman Peter Stano announced the bloc would slap sanctions on organisers of the "illegal" vote, following a similar move by Britain earlier in the week.

"The sham referenda held by Russia have no legitimacy and are a blatant violation of international law. These lands are Ukraine," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna meanwhile was in Kyiv for a surprise visit to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and underscore her country's support for Ukraine's "sovereignty and territorial integrity".

Even Moscow's closest ally since the start of the invasion, Beijing, said after the votes were announced last week that Russia should respect territorial integrity in the war.

Russian Counter-Offensive

The so-called referendums follow a pattern that Moscow utilized in Crimea after nationwide street demonstrations saw Ukraine's Kremlin-friendly president ousted.

Like then, the outcome of the ballot is being viewed by observers as a foregone conclusion. Election officials brought ballot boxes door-to-door in many cases accompanied by armed Russian forces.

Lawmakers are expected to vote hastily to annex the territories after the results are announced and Russian news agencies have said Putin could sign legislation formalizing the land grab this week.

Ukrainian forces meanwhile have pursued their counter-offensive in the east.

The governor of the eastern Kharkiv region announced Tuesday its forces had recaptured Kupiansk-Vuzlovyi, "one of the largest logistical and railway junctions" in the region and not privy to this week's vote.

Polling stations were open in Crimea for people who fled fighting after the Russian invasion in February.

"With my voice I want to try to make a small contribution to stopping the war," 63-year-old Galina Korsakova from Donetsk told AFP. "I really want to go home."

Along with threats to use nuclear weapons, Putin announced a mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Russian men to bolster Moscow's army in Ukraine, sparking demonstrations and an exodus of men abroad.

The United Nations voiced alarm on Tuesday at credible reports of nearly 2,400 arrests in less than a week during nationwide protests in dozens of cities against the draft order.

Ex-Soviet Georgia, which was invaded by Russia in 2008, said the numbers of Russians crossing its borders had increased to around 10,000 people daily since Putin's announcement.

Kazakhstan, the Central Asian country on Russia's southern border, meanwhile said nearly 100,000 people had entered the country since September 21 and its leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said authorities would "ensure their safety."

The Russian defense ministry said it would not seek the extradition of those who fled to Georgia and Kazakhstan to evade the draft.

Kremlin Dismisses Mass Burial Discoveries In Ukraine As 'Lies'

Kupiansk (Ukraine) (AFP) - The Kremlin on Monday denied its forces were responsible for large-scale killings in east Ukraine and accused Kyiv of fabricating its discoveries of mass graves in recaptured territory.

In the latest incident spurring fears of an atomic emergency, Ukraine said Russian rockets landed dangerously close to a nuclear power station in southern Ukraine.

Ukraine recaptured Izyum and other towns in the east this month, crippling Kremlin supply routes and bringing fresh claims of Russian atrocities with the discovery of hundreds of graves -- some containing multiple bodies.

"These are lies," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday. Moscow, he said, "will stand up for the truth in this story".

Fighting in the northeast has raged and AFP journalists heard artillery exchanges in frontline Kupiansk on Monday, as traumatised civilians headed out of the town now mainly in Ukrainian hands.

The streets were strewn with broken glass, spent cartridge casings and the discarded remains of ration packs issued by both forces.

Most of the fire was outgoing, with Ukrainian tanks and artillery targeting Russian positions on the west side of the town, over a mess of broken bridges. A column of smoke rose in the distance.

At the entrance to the town, cowering from the sounds of Ukrainian tank shells passing overhead towards Russian lines, civilians gathered to hitch rides or join buses to head out into safer Ukrainian territory.

"It was impossible to stay where we were living," said 56-year-old Lyudmyla, who braved the constant crack of shells to cross the Oskil river from the disputed east bank to the relative safety of the west.

"There was incoming fire not just every day, but literally every hour. It's very tough there, on the other bank of the river."

In his address to the nation on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russians were "panicking" as his forces held recaptured territory in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

'Lost A Lot Of Blood'

Russian-backed authorities in east Ukraine said a "punitive" strike by Kyiv's forces had killed more than a dozen people and wounded more in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk.

The rebel head of the region claimed the strike was "deliberate" and said it would "not go unpunished".

A court in the neighbouring rebel-held region of Lugansk meanwhile sentenced two employees of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to 13 years on treason charges.

OSCE chairman Zbigniew Rau condemned the "unjustifiable" detention of the mission's members since the outbreak of the war, calling it "nothing but pure political theatre... inhumane and repugnant".

Ukrainian civilians in the Kharkiv region have recounted months of brutality under Russian occupation.

In Kupyansk, Mykhailo Chindey told AFP he had been tortured on suspicion of supplying targeting coordinates to Ukrainian forces.

"One person was holding my hand and another one was beating my arm with a metal stick. They were beating me up two hours almost every day," he told AFP.

"I lost consciousness at some point. I lost a lot of blood. They hit my heels, back, legs and kidneys."

Ukraine's nuclear energy agency, Energoatom, said Russia struck the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant overnight, with a "powerful explosion" just 300 metres (985 feet) from its reactors.

The strike damaged more than 100 windows at the station, but the reactors were not damaged, Energoatom said, publishing photos of glass shattered around blown-out frames.

It also released images of what it said was a two-metre-deep crater from where the missile landed. No staff were wounded, it said.

'Russia Endangers The Whole World'

Attacks around Ukrainian nuclear facilities have spurred calls from Kyiv and its Western allies to de-militarise surrounding areas.

Europe's largest atomic facility -- the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Russian-held territory in Ukraine -- has become a hot spot for concerns after tit-for-tat claims of attacks.

The Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine, where the Pivdennoukrainsk plant is located, is close to the front line of a Ukrainian counter-offensive.

Russian forces have continued to shell Ukrainian-held towns near the front lines.

The UN's atomic agency deployed a monitoring team to the site in early September after new fighting.

"Russia endangers the whole world. We have to stop it before it's too late," Zelensky said early Monday.

Ukraine will be "very high on the agenda" when world leaders formally begin meeting in New York on Tuesday for the United Nations General Assembly, said the European Union's foreign policy chief.

"There are many other problems, we know, but the war in Ukraine has been sending shockwaves around the world," Josep Borrell said after meeting EU foreign ministers on the eve of the UN gathering, which Zelensky is to address by video.


Is The End Coming For Putin? Analysts Says He's in Trouble

A new analysis is explaining how this time period may suggest the end is near for Russian President Vladamir Putin.

According to Newsweek's William M. Arkin, the authoritarian president may be running out of options as he fights to maintain his grasp on the country.

To support his arguments, Arkin included assessments from army and intelligence officials familiar with all of the events transpiring in Russia.

"Putin's options for the future are bleak, particularly as he increasingly feels the heat of domestic opposition," the first intelligence official said. Per Arkin, the official also noted "the impact of 60,000-plus Russian casualties and as well as the bite of sanctions and the controls on travel as challenges to Putin."

Another official also weighed in with what they are witnessing.

"We're seeing more and more blaming of Western weapons," says the second official, "as if it is an excuse for why Russia is losing. It's ironic, given that Putin-and-company normally argues that it can defeat NATO. Now it's, 'we couldn't have won because of Western intervention' that is seeking to deflect responsibility from Moscow."

So, how is Putin maintaining? Former World Champion chess player Garry Kasparov recently weighed in with an assessment of Putin's leadership and how he may be holding his position.

Speaking to the Kyiv Post, Kasparov said, "Putin has never dealt with situations like this one." He also noted that Putin has "been lucky that he has always been able to escape.

"Continuing the war is the only way for Putin to stay in power," Kasparov said in the interview. "

He wants to create extra chaos in the free world hoping that a new window will open for him. It's really just a protracted agony. It is cynical and stupid, but Putin is willing to put thousands of civilians into graves in the months to come before the whole of Ukraine is liberated, if that will allow him to maintain power."

An army officer also shared his prediction of what's to come as he also pondered the limited long-term options Putin has.

"I'm not so sure I agree with the 'long war' predictions," the Army officer said as he suggested that Putin is running out of options for a viable conversion. "Everyone's talking about Putin's hold over Europe with his control of gas, that this is his ace in the hole. But if the heat intensifies back home, Putin may have to shift his attention to a winter disaster of his own making."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Amid Ukraine Setbacks, Local Russian Officials Urge Putin To Step Down

Halfway through his invasion of Ukraine's sixth bloody month, Russian President Vladimir Putin's grip on power in Moscow is imploding as scores of Kremlin officials are calling upon the 69 year-old autocrat to quit.

Putin had anticipated his February 24th "special military operation" to be a cakewalk through the Russian-controlled East into the Ukrainian capitol of Kyiv. But with the aid of a Western coalition led by the United States, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's unshatterable resistance campaign has decimated Putin's combat forces and depleted his military's offensive capabilities.

Casualties have climbed into the tens of thousands. Numerous allegations of genocide committed against Ukrainian civilians have flooded international watchdog organizations. The global economy has suffered major setbacks. Europe quivers on the brink of potentially multiple atomic disasters. And Moscow's finest are either bogged down or on the run.

On Saturday, The Daily Beast reported that "just one day after several municipal deputies in Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg called on the State Duma to try the Russian leader for treason, their colleagues in Moscow joined in and demanded he steps down because his views are 'hopelessly outdated.'"

In an open letter to Putin, deputies from Moscow's Lomonosovsky district recalled that Putin's leadership began with "good reforms" but that as time marched onward, “everything went wrong.”

While the deepening quagmire in Ukraine was not specifically mentioned, the authors stressed that the status quo under Putin is untenable.

“The rhetoric that you and your subordinates use has been riddled with intolerance and aggression for a long time, which in the end effectively threw our country back into the Cold War era. Russia has again begun to be feared and hated, we are once again threatening the whole world with nuclear weapons,” the officials wrote. “We ask you to relieve yourself of your post due to the fact that your views and your governance model are hopelessly outdated and hinder the development of Russia and its human potential."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

The Border Crisis Proves America Is Still A Beacon

Five million Ukrainians have fled their homeland since Russia invaded, seeking refuge not only in neighboring countries such as Poland and Germany but also in Britain, Canada and the United States. And who can blame them? The Biden administration has admitted more than 100,000 refugees from Ukraine without provoking a whisper of protest in this country.

It's hard for any of us to fault innocent people who are trying to escape the horrors and hardships of war or the brutal consequences of Russian occupation. They and their children have only one life to live, and they are not eager to put that life at undue risk or endure it in misery.

But Americans have a different attitude toward a group that is not so different: the migrants from Mexico, Central America and South America who have made arduous, dangerous journeys to our southern border in hopes of finding a place here.

A majority of Americans regard the stream of new arrivals as an "invasion" — a word normally reserved for military campaigns. Instead of equating these migrants with Ukrainian refugees, they somehow equate them with the Russian army.


But there is no evidence that those showing up at the border asking for asylum harbor hostile intent. Just the opposite: They come here because they think the U.S. offers a better life than what they had back home. They don't want to harm us. They want to join us.

Small wonder. The three countries of Central America's "Northern Triangle" have some of the highest murder rates in the world. They are among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. Plagued with corrupt governments, their citizens have no reason to expect their lives to improve.

So they look elsewhere, and they settle on the U.S. That is the highest of compliments, something we used to understand. During the Cold War, we offered sanctuary to those fleeing Communist oppression in Eastern Europe. We took in hundreds of thousands of Jews who suffered discrimination in the Soviet Union.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed "to the people of Cuba that those who seek refuge here in America will find it." After the Vietnam War, the U.S. welcomed more than a million people from Southeast Asia.

In his final address as president, Ronald Reagan paid tribute to this tradition. America, he declared, is "still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home."

Back home, these migrants face terrifying violence and intractable poverty. They want something better. Many have walked hundreds of miles or climbed atop freight trains, risking rape and robbery at the hands of criminal gangs, for the mere chance of gaining entry to the U.S.

They're not the only foreigners who, given the choice, choose America. Since the Chinese government liberalized its emigration policies in the 1980s, the number of Chinese living here has risen nearly sevenfold. The Indian immigrant population has grown even faster.

Our universities have more than a million foreign students. According to the Consumer Technology Association, which represents tech firms, 45% of Fortune 500 corporations, including Apple and Amazon, were founded by immigrants and children of immigrants.

The next Steve Jobs may not be waiting in Mexico right now for an asylum hearing. But Latin American immigrants bring their own talents, as well as the drive to make the most of them. They come here without valid visas only because our miserly immigration rules leave them no plausible alternative.

Xenophobes depict a marauding horde. But as Alex Nowrasteh of the libertarian Cato Institute reports, "Illegal immigrants are half as likely to be convicted or incarcerated as native-born Americans are." Overwhelmingly, they want to work for an honest living that exceeds anything they could dream of in their native countries.

It would be an alarming symptom if all these people were avoiding the U.S. in favor of Brazil or Venezuela. Their preference attests to the enduring appeal of the freedom, opportunity and prosperity that this country offers.

Wang Jisi, a professor of international studies at Peking University, scoffs at his government's insistence that America's best days are behind us. "When people stop queuing up for visas in front of the U.S. Consulates," he told The New York Times, "then the U.S. is in decline." For a lot of people around the world, America is still the promised land. And that's not a bad thing.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Russia ‘Witch Hunt’ Claims Collapse With Jury Decision And New Revelations

The Fox News-fueled Justice Department probes then-President Donald Trump demanded as rebuttals to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation generated plenty of frothy Fox content. They also gave Republican partisans excuses to discount the obviously unethical and potentially illegal behavior of Trump and the crimes of his underlings. But efforts to turn the network’s conspiracy theories into federal cases have tended to diminish and fail under the scrutiny of prosecutors, judges, and juries.

Years of claims from Sean Hannity and others at Fox that a criminal probe had been needed to “investigate the investigators” received two body blows on Tuesday. First, a jury found former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann not guilty of lying to the FBI in one of the few charges brought by special counsel John Durham’s three-year probe of the origins of Mueller’s investigation. And that night, newly released documents revealed that a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney assigned by then-Attorney General William Barr to review allegations regarding the purportedly sinister “unmaskings” of former Trump adviser Michael Flynn and other people associated with Trump’s transition team had concluded in September 2020 that those actions had been routine and that no criminal investigation into them was justified.

Hannity and his fellow travelers had responded to the initiation of Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election by furiously manufacturing a counternarrative in which Trump and his associates were victims of a witch hunt and the real crimes were all committed by overzealous, anti-Trump investigators. The Fox hosts’ coverage created incentives for Republican politicians to join in, and over the years, they together concocted a hodgepodge of slipshod allegations. The pseudoscandal’s shorthand quickly became impenetrable to anyone who wasn’t a regular viewer of the network, with adherents throwing around terms like Obamagate, #ReleaseTheMemo, Uranium One, and Operation Boomerang, to name a few. Hannity’s cabal claimed that a legal reckoning was coming for an array of high-ranking public officials, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


Hannity, for his part, described Durham’s appointment in 2019 as a “major, huge development” that would give “the deep state … every reason to be afraid, every reason to panic.” He later argued that if the investigation did not result in convictions, “the great American republic will disintegrate before your eyes.”

The Durham probe has provided Fox with years of content. The network has aired more than 2,000 weekday segments that discussed his investigation or the origins of the Mueller probe since his May 2019 appointment, more than 500 of which came after he was named special counsel in October 2020, according to Media Matters' internal database. And Trump eagerly watched the coverage — during a September 2020 presidential press conference, he reeled off half a dozen shows that had covered the investigation that day, calling it “the biggest political scandal in the history of our country” as he tried to use the cloud of the phony scandal to bolster his reelection campaign.

However, Durham’s investigation has proven less effective in court. His prosecutors secured a guilty plea from former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for altering a document used to justify the surveillance of a Trump campaign aide, but the judge believed Clinesmith’s argument that he had not intended to mislead his colleagues but had inserted words he believed were accurate and sentenced him to probation. Sussmann, charged with a single count of lying to an FBI agent over his role in an aspect of the Russia story so minor that Hannity had barely mentioned it, was found not guilty by a unanimous jury, with the forewoman stating that the government had wasted their time. The only person remaining on Durham’s public docket is Igor Danchenko, a Russian national who contributed to the Steele dossier and is charged with five counts of making false statements to the FBI.

Durham’s investigation has now dragged on for more than three years. During that time the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded that the Russia probe was properly predicated. It is reasonable to conclude both that Durham does not have the goods and that he has inadvertently debunked the conspiracy theory he was appointed to prove. By contrast, it took Mueller’s team less than two years to deliver a completed report detailing Russia’s “sweeping and systemic” interference on Trump’s behalf in the 2020 election and Trump’s own potential criminal actions, and his prosecutors secured guilty pleas or convictions against a lengthy list that included Trump’s 2016 campaign chair Paul Manafort, his deputy, Rick Gates, Trump’s longtime political consigliere, Roger Stone, and his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

But Fox narratives can never really fail, they can only be failed – the likes of Hannity will never admit they got it wrong. Instead, the Fox prime-time host opened Tuesday night’s show by claiming that “America's two-tiered system of justice is alive and well” and arguing that Sussmann’s jury was “tainted.”

“In my humble opinion, Durham likely knew exactly what he was up against in the D.C. courts knew the makeup of the jurisdiction and the D.C. swamp is leftist liberal and likely was not counting on a conviction as much as getting more important information out to the general public,” Hannity later added. “In other words, this is a preview of coming attractions. Forget about Sussmann. It's the system, what the system is.”

At around the same time Hannity was telling his audience that justice was right around the corner, another aspect of Fox’s counternarrative collapsed.

In May 2020, Richard Grenell, an unscrupulous political operative then ensconced as acting director of national intelligence, produced what he claimed was a list of senior Obama administration officials who “unmasked” Flynn, receiving his name after they followed the National Security Agency’s standard process and asked the agency to reveal the identity of an individual generically referenced in an NSA report. While it was always unclear that the unmasking had been inappropriate, Fox gave the story wall-to-wall coverage, running at least 250 weekday segments that touched on the “unmasking” story or the broader “Obamagate” conspiracy theory that month alone, according to Media Matters’ database.

But on Tuesday night, Buzzfeed’s Jason Leopold and Ken Bensinger produced a September 2020 report then-U.S. Attorney John Bash authored for Barr indicating that his review had found no predicate for a criminal investigation and concluding that senior Obama officials had not unmasked Flynn “for political purposes or other inappropriate reasons.” Indeed, Bash concluded that contrary to the overheated Fox rhetoric that flowed from Grenell’s document, "all but one of the requests that listed a senior official as an authorized recipient of General Flynn’s identity were made by an intelligence professional to prepare for a briefing of the official, not at the direction of the official.”

Over the years, Fox took its audience down a rabbit hole, and the Justice Department followed. But the lack of successful prosecutions does not mean that Fox’s effort was fruitless. The House select committee Fox demanded to investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks found no illicit actions by Hillary Clinton, but it did uncover her use of a private email server, and while the FBI investigation into her activity ultimately cleared her, the resulting political damage likely cost her the 2016 presidential election.

Fox-fueled investigations may not put anyone in jail – but they can still stir up enough political controversy to help the GOP win elections. And for a propaganda organ that effectively runs that party, that may be enough.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.