Was John Podesta Snared in a Kremlin Power Struggle?
Rep. Louis Gohmert's calls for a new investigation on the Russian ties of John Podesta may just shed light on why the former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman's emails were hacked at all. Far from being an effort to take down Clinton, it looks as though Podesta may have been a pawn in a Kremlin power struggle. As there's little political hay to be made from that, it's not the most convenient "narrative" for Podesta.
To hear Podesta and the rest of the Democrats tell it, Russians hacked the U.S. election and released his emails via Wikileaks because they were in cahoots with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. The Russians' aim, they claimed, was to sow doubt, embarass Podesta and swing the election to a Trump victory.
Trump won all right, but hardly because of the doings of the cyberwar. In fact, a Russian government source has said that if they had wanted to follow such a strategy, they wouldn't have chosen an inside-baseball, political junkie such as Podesta for an email release. They would have gone after Hillary. Easy to do, given that she had all of her emails on an illegal, less-secure-than-Gmail private server in some guy's bathroom.
Going on a working thesis it was a Russian hacker, it may easily have been from one of Russia's skilled, state-linked, but still deniable, cyberhacker shops, some of which are located out in the wilds of Siberia.
The motive looks very murky until one examines Podesta's Russian business ties.
According to a report Wednesday by the Daily Caller News Foundation, Podesta had partnered with Anatoly Chubais, a big name from Russia's privatization and chaos of the 1990s, during which time Bill Clinton was president.
The Clinton administration was advising, via the Harvard Institute for International Development, the Russians how to turn their once-communist state into a capitalist free market one. It didn't work well because they themselves weren't particularly onboard with capitalist free markets. They were center-left Clintonites. The results of that 'help' - which featured such atrocities as currency devaluation to keep the government going at the expense of the destroyed savings of ordinary Russians, as well as "shock therapy" designed by the likes of Yale leftist Jeffrey Sachs, and austerity at the tender hands of the IMF (another bastion of limousine leftists), pretty well left Russia a smoking ruin.
People starved. Law and order broke down. Gangs took over large swathes of Russia's cities, the worst of them the Chechen gangs. Oligarchs of the most grotesque arrogance, privilege and fantastic fortunes arose - this is what is meant by crony capitalism and such people always turn up whenever Democrats are in the saddle. Corruption was rife. Nostalgia for communism made a comeback. Emigration intensified. Russia fell into despair.
In the middle of these seven circles of hell stood Anatoly Chubais. He was in the middle of Russia's privatization effort which saw huge state assets sold for pennies on the dollar to oligarchs while Russian citizens were completely cheated of the shares they were promised, either through devaluation, fire-sale desperate unloading to raise cash (remember, many were starving), intransparent transactions, and sometimes disinformation and thuggery: False dates and places for sales were announced to conceal real ones. Thug vehicles sometimes blocked roads so no one could line up to buy the shares they were entitled to. It was that bad. Once again, Chubais was in the middle of it.
Chubais got snared in a bribery scandal of Clintonian character - he was given a $90,000 book advance (huge sum in Russia at the time) paid for by a murkily backed publisher (sound familiar?) which looked a lot like a disguised bribe or payoff. That caused a scandal and got him booted from his position as finance minister. He continued to tool around in cronyish business deals and retained the good opinion of Harvard as a 'reformer,' which was quite a node of Clinton loyalists - Larry Summers, being one, John Podesta being on friendly terms with the crowd, too, by making speeches there.
Chubais' record in Russia led to the rise of Vladimir Putin. Originally on friendly terms with the man from St. Petersburg, Chubais invited Putin to move to Moscow, which provided the latter foothold to political power. The friendship did not last. Russians eventually elected Putin in 1999 as a means of utterly rejecting the Chubais legacy of shock therapy (which benefited the elites) and his snoot in the trough. As a reaction to Chubais (and his mentor Boris Yeltsin) Putin came off as severe, uninterested in mammon, un-corrupted, and a patriot.
Well, Chubais hasn't been doing nothing in all these years. Like any good crony capitalist, he went into business where the subsidies were, founding a venture capital company called Rusnano with Putin to finance various green schemes (as if oil-rich Russia really needed them) and apparently to forge links with the cutting edge tech of Silicon Valley. Russia, at the time, was trying to set up a Silicon Valley of its own called Skolkovo. A pro-Putin Duma member told me around the time, 2011, in Los Angeles, that the effort was sputtering. Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, went a long way to enable American involvement as well as ensure tech transfers in that project. At the same time, Podesta's brother, Tony, was busy helping Rosatom, the Russian state uranium monopoly, find a way to get control of 20% of America's uranium industry, which happened because of Clinton's permission.
One wonders if Chubais' plan at the time was to make himself the Mister Big, the go-to-guy for Russia's tech appetite, much of which was focused on military modernization. Chubais didn't have any problem forging ties with the politically connected Podesta, then an obscure if capable campaign operative, as the two got seats on the board of a green energy company called Joule in 2011, and $35 million in Russian capital flowed in. Podesta's time on the board with Chubais coincided exactly with his friend Hillary Clinton's term as Secretary of State. Podesta ended up with 75,000 shares of Joule, and 'forgot' to mention them when he joined the Obama administration in 2014.
Around the same time Podesta and Chubais were in business together, Chubais' fortunes with Putin went south. As I noted in my earlier piece, the trouble started around 2013, two years into Podesta's and Chubais' board membership:
Putin accused Chubais of being a CIA agent at that time, and in 2015, another Chubais ally, a Rusnano official, was placed under house arrest for embezzlement. In November 2016, Russia's economy minister, still another Chubais ally, was arrested in November. Chubais wrote on his Facebook page that it came as "a shock."