The Russiagate Racket targets Bernie Sanders’ surge

With a familiar playbook of evidence-free, anonymously sourced red-baiting, the forces behind Russiagate try to stop Bernie Sanders’ primary success.

Evidence-free claims of a Russian government effort to aid Bernie Sanders have been exploited by centrist Democrats alarmed by Sanders’ primary success. This should be no surprise. Sanders and his movement are a threat to the very same interests that have pushed Russiagate for more than three years — the failed neoliberal Democratic Party establishment and the national security state. The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal joins Pushback.

Guest: Max Blumenthal, Editor of The Grayzone and author of The Management of Savagery.

TRANSCRIPT

AARON MATÉ: Welcome to Pushback. I’m Aaron Maté.

The dominance of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary has alarmed the Democratic Party establishment. They have tried to stop him with manufactured crises like the supposed preponderance of online Bernie Sanders supporters saying mean things on Twitter. When that didn’t work, a familiar crutch returned. On the eve of the Nevada caucuses, The Washington Post reported that Russia, according to U.S. officials, has supposedly developed a preference for Bernie Sanders and will work to help his campaign. No evidence was presented, but that didn’t matter. The pundits on MSNBC pounced.

JAMES CARVILLE: The happiest person right now, it’s about 1:15 Moscow time, this thing is going very well for Vladimir Putin, I promise you. He’s probably staying up watching us right now. How you doing, Vlad?

NICOLLE WALLACE: That’s absolutely right. James, there’s reporting that that’s exactly what the intelligence agencies think is going on.

JAMES CARVILLE: Of course, it is. Of course, it is.

NICOLLE WALLACE: I mean, the Sanders campaign was briefed that Putin is helping him or plans to help him in the primary. Amazing.

DAN PFEIFFER: We should be very clear that what, when we say Russia is helping Bernie Sanders…

CHUCK TODD: What does that mean? Yes.

DAN PFEIFFER: They’re not trying to help Bernie Sanders be president. They’re trying to give Trump the opponent that Trump wants. They helped Bernie Sanders in 2016 to divide the Democratic Party.

PETER BAKER: Now, you might ask the question, and some people have: Would they want Trump over Bernie Sanders? Sanders, of course, a Democratic Socialist, has, you know, more ideologically in tune with the old Russia anyway, and remember, in the course, the Russians did favor Bernie Sanders in the primary in 2016 over Hillary Clinton.

AARON MATÉ: The use of the Russiagate playbook against Bernie Sanders should be no surprise. Sanders and his movement are a threat to the very same people who have pushed Russiagate on the country for the past three years, namely the neoliberal Democratic Party establishment and the national security state. This is something that my colleague Max Blumenthal warned about back in early 2017.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: This narrative, this Russia hysteria will be repurposed by the political establishment to attack the left and anyone on the left. A Bernie Sanders-like politician who steps out of line on the issues of permanent war or corporate free trade, things like that, will be painted as a Russia puppet. So, this is very dangerous, and people who are progressive, who are falling into it, need to know what the long-term consequences of this cynical narrative are.

AARON MATÉ: Max Blumenthal joins me now, editor of The Grayzone and author of The Management of Savagery.

Max, welcome back to Pushback. You’ve been warning about this for a long time, the Russiagate playbook being deployed against Bernie Sanders. What is your response to seeing this finally come to fruition?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Just another moment of unfortunate vindication. I feel like every time I’m vindicated on something, it’s tragic, and it’s something that we didn’t want to see happen. It really does also highlight the desperation of Bernie Sanders’s foes, because this is them really trying to throw the kitchen sink at him. It was deployed a day before the Nevada caucuses by The Washington Post, you know. It was dropped by a bunch of reporters who function basically… I mean, are known stenographers for the intelligence agencies. It was concocted by U.S. officials, basically meaning, you know, the intelligence services, and it didn’t work. It was solidly rejected by voters in Nevada who were voting on the economy and healthcare. But it doesn’t mean that it’s going away. And I think that’s one of the most important takeaways here.

I want to kind of unpack this. What we should really look at it as is an attack on Sanders, not an assessment. But I want to kind of unpack it based on, you know, what you and I and other people who’ve criticized Russiagate from the left understand. And I think we have to first ask, you know, what the evidence is, because there was apparently a classified briefing of the House Intelligence Committee — which was, you know, operates under the auspices of Adam Schiff, who… we all know what he’s all about — where evidence was presented… supposed evidence was presented that Russia is interfering again in the 2020 elections.

It’s not clear to me that they… that this briefing actually concluded that Russia was supporting Bernie Sanders. But then The Washington Post went ahead and reported that Bernie Sanders’s campaign was briefed on Russia interfering in support of him. So, what could possibly have been in that report to demonstrate that Russia was interfering in support of Bernie Sanders?

I actually saw a good theory, assuming it is a theory and not, you know, inside information, from someone that you know well, Casey Michel, who was formerly at Think Progress of the Center for American Progress and is, you know, a full-time internet McCarthyite, trying to flush out anyone who’s too sympathetic to Russia, and then accused them of, you know, being a Russian asset or who knows what. But he actually had a pretty good theory, which is that the intelligence services are basing all of this supposed Russian interference on, you know, viral videos that are supportive of Bernie Sanders by Americans who work for In The Now, which is a cutout of RT, you know, which is backed by the Russian government. And, you know, these American reporters and pundits, they have full editorial independence. But you could see the intelligence services plausibly… making a sort of seemingly plausible case that these… that In The Now is part of a foreign agent, registered foreign agent that operates under the auspices of the Kremlin and is therefore an arm of the FSB, in their report. They can make it seem so sinister when it’s completely innocent. They could possibly do the same with the progressive shows on Sputnik Radio, which you can listen to in Washington DC. Like Loud and Clear, I mean, I go on that show all the time. It’s a great show, one of the best daily public affairs shows. I know you’ve been on there. But it’s at Sputnik Radio, so the hosts are pretty supportive of a Bernie campaign. Does that mean that Russia’s interfering?

Okay, any, like, rational-thinking person realizes that Putin isn’t providing orders to go out and support Bernie, but again the intelligence services can spin this, just as they did in the ODNI report in January 2017. Do you remember that?

AARON MATÉ: That’s what I was going to say.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: So, the ODNI report, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in January 2017, right after Trump took office, attempted to kind of influence the public with its assessment on Russian activities in the election. This is a, you know, the declassified briefing, they’re trying to show their receipts, and eight pages out of the 21 pages of that document were on… what?

AARON MATÉ: It was a… it was like a college paper analyzing the content that aired on RT, not even at the time but like a few years earlier. So, it had on, for example, an analysis of Abby Martin’s show, Breaking the Set, even though at that point, this was 2017, Abby Martin’s show was no longer on the air.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Right, and there was another show that was no longer on the air that, you know, they performed kind of high school level, college level media monitoring of, I guess, this is the FBI’s open source, you know, RT monitoring division. And they just larded the report with things that were said on these shows and accused these shows of, in their words, promoting radical discontent, you know. This is like J. Edgar Hoover language.

And I assume that their classified intelligence briefing, which was then relayed to the Bernie campaign as part of this attack, deliberately designed to undermine Bernie’s candidacy, was of a similar nature, with similarly shabby non-intelligence. And we’ve been, you know, we’ve been warning about the danger of this. We were the first out of the gate, among a few others on the left, to warn about the danger of the ODNI report. And so now, you know, the chickens are coming home to roost.

For a lot of people who’ve been within pro-Bernie circles, who not only didn’t recognize the danger of Russiagate and how it would blow back on the left on a pro-peace candidate, on a pro-détente candidate, on someone who believes in diplomacy as opposed to militarism, but on people who actually supported the narrative of Russiagate and actually argued that people on the left should echo this hostile cold war language, who did so in publications like The Nation or on The Young Turks. I mean, we don’t need to name any names, but the chickens are coming home to roost for these people, and, you know, to the extent that they’re not willing to be… to take accountability for it, they should be held accountable.

AARON MATÉ: Well, I think it’s important here to say a few words about why people like us were so alarmed by this entire Russiagate fixation, and so vocally against it, and because there are probably people now tuning in for the first time, especially Bernie Sanders supporters who are confused to see it being deployed against Bernie Sanders. Because for three years we were told that Trump was in the pocket of Russia, and that this was the way to oppose him. So you have, starting with Trump’s victory, but even before then, actually, you have alarm inside the national security state establishment that Trump is rhetorically, he probably doesn’t mean it, I don’t think, but he rhetorically… Trump is challenging U.S. proxy wars, regime change wars abroad in Iraq, Libya and Syria, and he’s attracting attention and he’s attracting support for it. The message actually is resonating with voters. So, you have people in the CIA and the FBI who are alarmed by that because Trump rhetorically is threatening their agenda. Now, whether Trump actually meant to is another story. I don’t think he did. I just think he had a pulse on the electorate and was successful in it. But, certainly, seeing voters mobilized around that message is a threat to the establishment.

And speaking of establishment, you have that interest dovetailing and converging with the failed neoliberal elites who lost to Trump with the election, and so, for them this Russian narrative was extremely convenient because they could latch onto it and blame a Russia conspiracy for their loss. And so those have been the dominant powers driving this Russia thing for three years. And who are they? They’re people who are also opposed to Bernie Sanders, for as you mentioned, him being a pro-peace candidate and a real threat to the establishment, because unlike Trump, he has a record of fighting for working people and a record of standing up to regime change wars, although not all of them, but at least something much more substantial than pretty much anybody else inside the Democratic Party. So, this is why challenging all this has been such a priority, I think, for people like me, and it is not surprising at all to see that same playbook they tried against Trump now being used against Bernie Sanders.

I guess one big difference is, Max, and I’m wondering if you can comment on this, I don’t see it having anywhere near the effectiveness that it did against Trump. Because with Trump they could exploit the fact that there was genuine fear of his presidency, and they could misplace hopes into these false heroes like Robert Mueller and give people the hope that all this was going to lead to something, which of course it did not. It all failed in spectacular fashion. I think by now people are both tired of hearing about Russia. And meanwhile, you know, all the things that we talked about, they’re vanished because they’re meaningless. It doesn’t, you know, this… all the speculation about a pee tape, all that is gone, and it’s useless. But now the problems that have remained are the problems that we’ve been avoiding, like, people not having healthcare, people not having decent wages, and on and on and on, and Bernie Sanders is the first person in a long time to come along and center this, and I just don’t think they’re going to have the effectiveness of making this the issue like they did under Donald Trump and Robert Mueller.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, it remains to be seen whether center-left and kind of centrist institutions will oppose Bernie Sanders in the U.S. the way that they did in the UK towards Jeremy Corbyn. But what we’ve seen since Nevada is an about-face from several really prominent pundits who pushed Russiagate, who’ve been really pit bulls for the Democratic establishment. Joy Reid, for one, you know, who’s been warning about, you know, Soviet Yugoslavia coming back to life for the last three years, actually made a pretty fair assessment and an objective, rational assessment of why Bernie Sanders is popular, for the same… and it’s for the same reason that you… the same analysis you just gave of people just being disgusted with having no economic rights inside of the heart of a superpower. We’ve seen actual criticism on the set of MSNBC of Chris Matthews, for likening Bernie’s victory in Nevada to the Hit… Nazi Germany’s takeover of France in 1940.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I’m reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940, and the general Reynaud [Prime Minister Paul Reynaud] calls up Churchill and says, “It’s over.” And Churchill says, “How can it be? You got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over?” He said, “It’s over.”

ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: Why is Chris Matthews on this air talking about the victory of Bernie Sanders, who had kin murdered in the Holocaust, and analogizing it to the Nazi conquest of France? The people who are stuck in an old way of thinking in 20th century frameworks, in gulag thinking, are missing what is going on.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: In question is, when and whether there will be a reckoning for Russiagate, because it’s not stopping. MSNBC has been rolling with this all day, I think at prime time today, or, I mean, it was a Sunday. All the morning shows featured footage or segments about Russiagate, and the MSNBC news was just peppered with, you know, reports. They didn’t say what the reports were. And sources mentioning Bernie’s connection to Russia. So, I don’t think it’s going to go away. The question is, when will the center-left stand up this? Who will be the first to deliver the Edward R. Murrow moment and condemn this?

And what people in Bernie’s base… I think it’s actually more important for us to speak to Bernie’s base right now — to speak to people who haven’t been following this the same way we have, or who simply just took for granted that Trump might have been colluding with Russia, and, in any case, Trump’s a horrible… historically horrible, dangerous president, so if this takes him down, then fine — to begin to understand what the sources of our opposition were and what is wrong with this.

They need to understand, first, that Russiagate was not just a confection of Hillary Clinton dead-enders, but was a creation of the intelligence services, which is the most malignant component of the establishment they’re constantly talking about, which Bernie says he’s running against. The intelligence services are what Donald Trump and his people have been calling the deep state for the last three or four years. Bernie’s base needs to understand the deep state is real. Maybe they don’t like the term — I call it the national security state — but it’s real. They need to understand that the deep state lies, cheats and steals, as former CIA director Mike Pompeo freely disclosed and boasted. They need to understand that its number one goal, its main goal, is the perpetuation of Empire, and they need to understand that Empire is the ultimate realization of oligarchy. And, so, if they’re against the oligarchy, they need to be against this opaque, unelected, malignant force embedded within the establishment, which is in fact — and this is the key point they need to understand — more dangerous than Donald Trump. Because if Donald Trump loses in November, he will go away. But the deep state, the national security state, will still be with us, honeycombed inside a potential Bernie Sanders administration, with deep hostility to him.

And why are they doing this to him? Well, they’re not just doing it to him to, you know, undermine him and prevent him from being president. They’re also preparing for a Bernie Sanders presidency, and they’re doing this for the same reason that they did it to Trump, which is to box him into an anti-Russian position where he can’t meet with Vladimir Putin — which every American president must do, because Russia is one of the world’s most powerful nations and a nuclear power — without being deemed a, you know, covert Russian asset, without being attacked. And, so, they’re trying to break the important diplomacy down that needs to take place between the U.S. and Russia, to step back from a nuclear war.

That’s the other thing. Let’s just say Russia is, you know, Russia… it would be more content with a Bernie Sanders presidency than with a Trump presidency, where Trump has, after campaigning as a sort of sympathetic candidate who supports détente with Russia, basically been rolled by the most hardline elements of the national security state, broken vital treaties with Russia, enacted a coup against Venezuela and so many other things. Let’s just say that… let’s say they prefer Bernie. So what? What’s wrong with that? What that simply means is they think it will be more possible to do diplomacy with him, which means it’s less likely that the U.S. will go to war with Russia. It means it’s less likely we’ll see proxy wars in places like Ukraine, where people on both sides of the Donbass are suffering. It means it’s less likely we’ll see brutal sanctions on countries like Venezuela, which have killed tens of thousands of people, maybe more. So, what’s wrong with that?

AARON MATÉ: So extreme, by the way, that Trump just, in a bid to advance that regime change goal in Venezuela, just sanctioned the Russian oil company Rosneft, because Rosneft has stepped in to deal with Venezuelan oil after Trump… after Trump sanctioned it.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah, and so why do we want to live in a world where that takes place, where the United States, which, as it’s currently doing under Trump, is trying to prevent countries from freely trading with each other, and trying to subject an entire population to a medieval siege? And that’s the world that these elements in the national security state, which have confected Russiagate, want us to live in. It’s the world that they’ve created.

So, there has to be some resistance to this. And I think, you know, it’s going to have to come from within the movement that’s congealed around Bernie Sanders’s candidacy. Many of the people who are part of this movement or part of it for really legitimate, urgent reasons, like, they don’t have healthcare, they’re saddled with debt, they’ve gone to college and they have to live with four roommates, you know. Those are the real reasons to support Bernie for a lot of people, but they need to get educated on these issues because they’re going to be at the center of the kind of internal resistance to Bernie Sanders, possibly even from within his own administration.

AARON MATÉ: Yeah, I think it’s important to hammer home this point that, although on the surface, it might seem easy to delink domestic policy — healthcare for all, education, better wages — from foreign policy, you actually can’t. Because the… for Bernie Sanders to follow through on his agenda, which includes cutting back, you know, the billions of dollars that we spend on wars abroad, that will mean having to change our relationship with countries like Russia. Because the national security state justifies its existence, and justifies the trillions of dollars in weapons spending, on having enemies like Russia. So, an agenda that actually would increase cooperation, would re-enter the nuclear treaties, including those that Trump himself has torn up, would be a threat to the very people who have been driving Russiagate for the last three years.

And, you know, on the pl… I think it’s important that we talk about how for all the hoopla that Trump is Putin’s puppet, we saw that again, said recently by Hillary Clinton, Trump has been pursuing a really radical, hawkish agenda against Russia. We’ve talked about tearing up the nuclear treaties, we’ve talked about sanctioning Rosneft this week as part of Trump’s effort to overthrow Russia’s ally Venezuela. We can go on and on down the list, and we see now even the Trump administration taking advantage of this latest Russiagate smear of Bernie Sanders.

So, let me play a clip of the National Security Advisor, O’Brien, speaking today on Face the Nation.

ROBERT O’BRIEN: I don’t know what I… look, I… what I’ve heard from the FBI, you know, well, what I’ve heard is it… that Russia would like Bernie Sanders to… to win the Democrat nomination. They’d probably like him to be president, understandably, because he wants to spend money on social programs and probably would have to take it out of the military. So, that would make sense. And look, the Russians have always tried to interfere with elections because they want to divide Americans. They want to undermine our democracy, but the idea that they want to… they want to influence the election and somehow cause the president to win, I just don’t see it.

AARON MATÉ: So, that’s the National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien saying to CBS that Russia probably prefers Bernie Sanders, because he wants to spend money on social programs. Max Blumenthal…

MAX BLUMENTHAL: And because he doesn’t want to continue increasing the military budget to record levels as Donald Trump has. O’Brien explicitly said that. He said, well, Donald Trump is pushing military budgets into the, you know, into the trillions. I think Donald Trump, you know, for the first time is producing new tactical nuclear weapons. This is part of their case, that they do not… that they’re not in bed with Russia. And that’s what Russiagate has done, is actually encouraged this kind of militarism. This is something that any administration should be ashamed of, and it be attacked for, because it means that, while they’re defunding social programs, they’re putting billions and billions of dollars into corporate welfare for useless defense contractors. And it’s something that Bernie Sanders actively campaigns against, so you can’t be validating Russiagate and at the same time advancing militaristic… sorry… and at the same time advancing kind of a new social contract, where Americans have universal healthcare and the government has the ability to pay for it.

It’s also important to parse O’Brien’s remarks, because he actually said and, kind of, in a stuttering way, that the FBI had provided him with this information about Russia supporting Bernie Sanders. But in a separate interview today, the same day that he delivered that interview on ABC’s Face the Nation, O’Brien declared that he had not in fact been briefed by any intelligence agency on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2020 election, so he’s essentially lying about Bernie Sanders.

And this kind of proves another point that I’ve been making, and I think you’ve been making as well, which is that, given the opportunity Trump and his people… Trump being a disciple of Roy Cohn, Joseph McCarthy’s lawyer, will be the ultimate Russiagaters. They can be the best McCarthyites. Republicans can be the best McCarthyites and, so, as soon as they get the opportunity to attack a candidate on the basis of their connection to Russia — which in Bernie’s case relates to maybe like one trip he did to Moscow where he praised Moscow’s subway system — they will… they will take it… take that opportunity, and they will never stop. And so that’s kind of… that should be… there should be a moment of reflection for people in Bernie’s campaign. To what extent do you want to validate the narrative of Russiagate in order to mollify your opponents and critics?

AARON MATÉ: Right, and, you know, speaking of which, let’s take for a second… let’s consider for a second that, okay, like, let’s say that maybe Russia is interfering on Bernie Sanders’s behalf. Then, what is interesting about it, well, a) first of all, there’s no evidence presented, but b) even if it were true, what would it even look like? We always talk about Russian interference, but it’s never actually specified, what actually it is. It’s sort of supposed to be this, like, ever-present force, like a monster under the bed. But what would it look like? Well, so far in 2016 the allegation was that Russia stole some emails and put up some Facebook memes that nobody saw. But, yet, the way it’s even discussed is this… is that… it’s like as if we’re under threat of a Russian invasion. So even the fearmongering, even putting aside whether or not the evidence for it is even there, is quite striking.

But you mentioned Bernie Sanders campaign. Let me ask you about that, because they have not been pushing back very strongly on this narrative that there is the threat of Russian interference. They’ve pretty much accepted it. So, for example, Ro Khanna, who is a surrogate for Bernie Sanders, he tweeted today, “I made it clear that there is zero tolerance for Russian interference. We need to trust our intelligence agencies, and tech companies must prevent disinformation and propaganda campaigns.” I have some thoughts on that, Max, but let me get your reaction first.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, my reaction is more an observation. First, which is that Bernie… Bernie surrogates have been handed talking points and instructions to essentially echo the foundational narrative of Russiagate, which is that Russia is an inherently malign force in the world that must be confronted. And there are so many implications to accepting that view. Ro Khanna has taken it a step further. On Twitter, he declared that we must trust our intelligence services and tech companies, which is a fundamentally anti-democratic statement. It means that we have to put blind faith into two of the most opaque, malignant institutions in American life, the former of which is staffed by many people who keep their identities secret. So, we have to put our faith in an agency with a black budget and a gigantic covert wing that is sponsoring activities around the world that we don’t even know about.

So, it’s a very dangerous statement for Ro Khanna, who is held out there as this kind of anti-war stalwart in Congress, to make, and it really raises questions to me about the wisdom of the people around Bernie, and how they’re setting himself… setting him up for possibly becoming commander in chief. Because, as I mentioned before, this isn’t just about attacking Bernie or preventing a Sanders presidency. It’s about boxing him in to a certain position, a position of hostility towards Russia, which will lead to many people dying around the world.

AARON MATÉ: I’m of two minds here. I don’t obviously agree with the line coming from people like Ro Khanna, and also Matt Duss, who is Bernie Sanders’s foreign policy advisor. At the same time I understand the argument from a strategic point of view as to why Bernie and his people wouldn’t get drawn into pushing back too hard on this. Because if they try to say that… if they try to make the argument that we’ve been making, which is that Russiagate was basically a scam, then all their cynical opponents are going to drum up their disingenuous attacks even more, and bombard the campaign constantly with even more propaganda than it’s already being subjected to.

So, I can understand the argument for just not giving that any ammunition, and just meeting the prevailing narratives where it is, and so as not to be accused of being an apologist for evil Russia and so on. Because doing so would draw then energy and time away from all the other issues, especially domestic ones that Bernie Sanders has fought so hard for and has appeal amongst such a wide amount of the population. I don’t agree with it, but I can understand the political argument for it. I’m wondering, your thoughts on that.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah, I understand why they’re doing it. And I know people around Bernie, and I know how they operate. I’ve known Matt Duss for years. That’s… this is… this is, you know, characteristic, perfectly characteristic, of his thinking and about how Washington works. And, you know, so far, I think that they have created some distance between them and the threat.

At the same time Bernie Sanders knows it’s bullshit. That’s why at the end of his presser in Nevada, when he was asked about this, he said, “It’s coming from The Washington Post. Good friends.” What does he mean by that? He means the Bezos’s Post. He’s criticized Jeff Bezos, he’s demanded that Amazon pay taxes. There’s an implication there that Amazon has close links to the CIA, I think, and of course they do… they were paid $600 million by the CIA to maintain its cloud. So Bernie knows, but he’s speaking an entirely different language than the one that comprises his internal democratic socialist dialogue, and it’s a language that sounds a lot like the Washington blob of think… you know, hardline foreign policy think tanks on K Street. And he’s setting himself up. The question is, if the national security state, using corporate media as its megaphone, working with all of these pro-oligarchy elements that are dead-set opposed to Bernie Sanders, don’t stop with this Russiagate attack, at what point does Bernie decide to resist? And why hasn’t he asked them to make this evidence public, when we know that it’s so flimsy? Why hasn’t he said, “Where’s the beef?” At some point you’re going to have to resist it. Otherwise you risk the same fate that Jeremy Corbyn met in the UK, when he refused to confront head-on this phony antisemitism narrative, which, as a UK Israel lobbyist confessed on video, was partially responsible for his defeat and wasn’t about protecting Jews at all.

I, at the… right when Jeremy Corbyn first declared his campaign for Labour leader, I met with and spoke to a few members of his team, people in his inner circle, and I told them, you know, because this was being done to me as an author and a journalist, you know, he’s going to be called an antisemite, they’re not going to stop. They’re going to make this the center of their, you know, the campaign to destroy him, and by that I mean the Blairites and his opponents in the Conservative Party, pretty powerful elements. How are they going to respond to it? And they told me, “Well, the people aren’t, you know… our base, our constituency, they’re not really interested in it. They’re not having it, so we’ve decided not to respond for now.” And you can just see what happened to them in this past year.

AARON MATÉ: Well, the one thing that gave me hope about what Bernie Sanders said in Nevada, on top of him pointing out that it came from The Washington Post, was when he was asked why he thinks this report came out now, when the actual briefing he got about the supposed Russian preference for him was delivered about a month ago, Bernie Sanders said to the cameras, “I’ll let you figure that out.”, suggesting that he knows perfectly that this was timed to hurt him.

OFF-CAMERA REPORTER: How do you think it came out now, if you had the briefing a month ago?

BERNIE SANDERS: I’ll let you guess about one day before the Iowa… the Nevada caucus. Why do you think it came out? It was The Washington Post. Good friends.

AARON MATÉ: Which means, you know, that there is some political utility to this whole Russiagate smear. And hopefully, as you say, he will stand up to it. I just wonder if he won’t need to because enough people are fed up with hearing about Russia, but we will see.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: They’re going to hear, Aaron, they’re going to hear not just about Russia, they’re going to hear about Nicaragua because Bernie opposed the Contras, which any peace-loving, decent human would have. They’re going to hear about Cuba, where… which Obama normalized with… we should return to normalization there. And Israel is going to interfere directly in this election.

And tonight 60 Minutes did… focused its entire segment on… not on Israel, but Anderson Cooper was focusing in on Nicaragua, Cuba and the Soviet Union. It’s not going to stop, and Bernie and his campaign… I don’t know if any of them are listening. They can’t leave it to the movement to do… to be their defenders. At a certain point they’re going to have to stand up to it more strongly than they have before. And I think people will… that will resonate with a lot of people, particularly because these issues don’t relate to them. They understand them as malignant attacks from forces that they haven’t voted for, and they… so they should give it a try.

AARON MATÉ: Well, and they can go to The Grayzone.com for a lot of material to work with.

Max Blumenthal, editor of The Grayzone, author of The Management of Savagery, thanks very much.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Thanks.