Green Party’s Jill Stein: Russiagate Being Exploited to Repress Leftist Opposition

Green Party's Jill Stein: Russiagate Being Exploited to Repress Leftist Opposition

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has completed turning her campaign materials to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and warns Russiagate is being used to silent dissent.

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BEN NORTON: It’s The Real News, I’m Ben Norton. The Green Party has come under attack as the Russiagate dragnet has expanded, and is being used to attack leftist political opposition. Back in December, the Senate Intelligence Committee requested that the 2016 presidential campaign of Green Party candidate Jill Stein hand over its campaign documents. On Thursday, April 26th, Jill Stein publicly announced that she had complied with the request and had submitted e-mails and other campaign documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee. There is no evidence linking the Green Party to the Russian government.

Jill Stein has come under attack because she did interviews on the Russian state media outlet, RT, and because she attended an RT event in Moscow. Despite this, media outlets have implied that the Green Party is part of an elaborate Kremlin conspiracy. Even liberal media outlets, like MSNBC, have given a platform to US government officials, like the former US ambassador to Russia, to smear the Green Party.

ALI VELSHI: The margin that Jill Stein took in this election- if you were to work it backwards, and you were a little conspiratorial, one might assume that it was enough to defeat Hillary Clinton, which was a good investment if the Russians were involved in that.

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Well, yeah, let’s be careful, we don’t know exactly why people voted for whom, and it’s very difficult to measure causality here. But two things are very obvious, that she took votes away from somebody, and most likely those voters were from Hillary Clinton. And, two, there’s a likelihood that she suppressed voter turnout for Secretary Clinton. So, even if they didn’t vote for her, those that supported those ideas and were less likely to vote for her, because she was trumpeting issues and positions that were anti-Clinton.

BEN NORTON: That was the former US ambassador to Russia speaking on MSNBC. And what’s funny about that segment, is the host admits it’s conspiratorial. But joining us to discuss this alleged conspiracy, is Jill Stein herself. Jill is a physician, and a longtime activist. She ran for president on the Green Party ticket in both 2012 and 2016. Thanks for joining us here at The Real News, Jill.

JILL STEIN: Great to be with you, Ben.

BEN NORTON: So, can you respond to all of this, please? Why is the Senate Intelligence Committee going after you and the Green Party.

JILL STEIN: Well, you know, there you had it. Sort of the usual, shall we say, the arrogance of the Democratic Party establishment, assuming that votes belong to Hillary Clinton. And if there was another candidate who got votes, they had to be taken away from somebody, as if our votes belonged to the two establishment parties, which actually, a majority of voters, and a growing majority of voters, are saying are not serving us, they’re not serving “we the people.” People are clamoring for other options.

And, also, let’s look at the facts. There were exit polls that showed that people who voted for me, by and large, would not have come out to vote if they hadn’t had me or a Green Party candidate to vote for. It was like, over sixty percent of people who voted for me, would not have otherwise voted. And remember, already there were like forty-five percent of American voters who were not voting. There were seventy-five percent of American voters who were screaming for other options, who wanted open debates, so that they could find out who else they could vote for. And last, but not least, the majority of people who voted for Donald Trump were not for Donald Trump. They were voting against the other option.

It is preposterous for the naysayers to keep pretending that they own our votes, and to keep pretending that there’s no solution here, and to blame the options. You know, the other candidates the people are clamoring for. They could just change the voting system, as the state of Maine is trying to do, against the will of the Democratic and Republican parties. But there is a fix here. I won’t spend a lot of time, but just to acknowledge that this is so off-target and mean-spirited, to keep trying to drive away political resistance, and blaming the the choices that people are clamoring for. Instead, we could change to a ranked choice voting system that lets people rank their choices, so you know that if your first choice loses, your vote’s automatically reassigned to your second choice. There doesn’t have to be any question about splitting the vote, or taking votes away, or unintended consequences, or having to vote your fears. Because the politics of fear has actually brought us everything we were afraid of.

So, bottom line, that’s just preposterous, what the former ambassador, whoever that was, was saying. You know, I couldn’t see the film to know who that was, I couldn’t see the video. But that’s just, like, ridiculous, and is more of this nonsense that we continue to get from the Democratic National Committee, the latest example being their lawsuit here, which again, tries to divert attention from the critical issues that people are fighting right now. As Norman Solomon said in his recent piece, instead of fighting Wall Street, they’re fighting WikiLeaks. They’re not only fighting WikiLeaks, they’re fighting dissent in general, and they are war-mongering, and censoring, and trying to silence political opposition. This is more of the same.

BEN NORTON: Yeah, and what do you say to critics who say that you went to Moscow for this RT gala? Of course, thousands of people go on RT to do interviews, pretty regularly, and before two years ago, that was not seen as anything unusual. But what do you say to the Democrats who say, “Well, you are in this photo, sitting next to Vladimir Putin, and then therefore, this is proof that you’re part of some elaborate Kremlin conspiracy.”

JILL STEIN: So, that was all public knowledge. There was nothing untoward. There was nothing secret. There were no backroom deals. It’s been explained a million times, and it was actually explained in real time, where it was clear that we were fundraising in order to do this. I was going to deliver a message, basically supporting peace and diplomacy. I actually criticized the Russians when I was there, for their new bombing campaign in Syria. They had just entered into that war, and I said, in no uncertain terms, that they were following in the footsteps of a failed, catastrophic US policy. People may disagree with that opinion, and I felt that’s- you know, there are a lot of opinions about that- but I was hardly going to make backroom deals. There was no question about money changing hands.

Unlike most of the people who’ve been dragged into the investigation, I received not a penny, made no backroom deals, no quid pro quo, nothing of the sort. In fact, I was offered support for transportation, and hotel, and all that, which I declined. Not only did I not get a fee, I didn’t even get reimbursement for it. I was there to promote our policy, the same policy that I was advancing throughout the election, and that’s a policy that the American people are actually really interested in hearing. It’s about how we can have a foreign policy based on international law, human rights, and diplomacy, instead of on economic and military domination- how we can come to grips with this nuclear crisis, which is really exploding in many places around the world, which the US and Russia, but particularly the US, in withdrawing from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty a couple of decades ago under George Bush, things have been unraveling ever since.

We’re not in a good way. We need to be talking to each other. And there are many Americans right now who are not happy, whatsoever, with this endless state of war that has cost us over five trillion dollars since 9/11, which is growing by leaps and bounds, which now occupies fifty-seven percent of our discretionary budget. The next biggest expenditure of funds that Congress has control over- you go from fifty-seven percent- number two is like, seven percent. So, it’s absolutely- we have a military budget with a few pieces of window dressing around it, and it has huge consequences for what this means for us here at home. For housing, for education, for bailing out students, which we should be doing for the cost of our nuclear weapons program, begun under Obama, but which is obviously continuing under Donald Trump. It’s one point five trillion dollars for a new generation of nuclear weapons, which is absolutely suicidal, and is part of this arms race that we’re also engaged in.

So, we’re kind of reaching the end of the road right now with this militarization of our economy, of our foreign policy, and of society in general, with terrible consequences at home for our democracy. And the issues I was putting on the table throughout the campaign were the same issues that I was putting on the table in my efforts to speak to the media, to a broad international audience, to leadership, and everyday people, activists in Russia, as well as China, as well as Jeremy Corbyn, who were all people that I had an opportunity to talk with as a part of that trip. It wasn’t just to Moscow, it was also to the Paris Climate Accords, where I had the opportunity to share these policies with a whole lot of people, also including the deputy lead climate negotiator from China.

So, there were a variety of officials who were very interested in this other point of view that we don’t get to hear from- how many poles have we seen lately about where the American people stand? You know, they did a poll in the UK, just before the airstrikes by the UK, the US, and France. You may know about this, Ben, but many people out there don’t, because this kind of information, shall we say, is not being propagated. Support for that kind of aggressive policy was running twenty-two percent in the UK. And there have been no polls that I’ve been able to find establishing what it is in the US, where people are even denied the opportunity to hear another point of view.

BEN NORTON: Well we’re going to have to end part one of our discussion here with Joel Stein. And please join us at The Real News for part two, in which we will continue discussing Russiagate, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation, and the overall talking point of interference in the US election, and what other factors are interfering in the US election. Thanks for joining us, Jill.

JILL STEIN: Thank you.

BEN NORTON: It’s The Real News, I’m Ben Norton. This is part two of my discussion with The Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein. In part one, we discussed how, on Thursday, April 26th, Jill Stein agreed to a request by the Senate Intelligence Committee to submit documents, and e-mails, and campaign materials to the committee for an investigation. What’s interesting about this story, Jill, is of course, many corporate media outlets have attacked you and The Green Party. But one of the things that’s been very misleading is that- there’s this myth that you oppose an investigation into Trump, but actually, you have said very clearly- and in the press release that you published, you called for a “legitimate inquiry into corruption, quid pro quo deals, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and other illegal activity in the 2016 election.” Can you expand?

JILL STEIN: Definitely. And just for the record, to clarify, we put out a press release today, Thursday April 26th, because now we have essentially concluded our handover of materials. So, we’ve been turning over materials for the past couple of months, and have finally completed that process. And in doing so, we’re breaking our silence. We’ve been quiet while the process has gone on. And at this point, we’re sort of stepping back to comment on the process.

As someone who’s been a target of Russiagate, and as you point out, I have, in my campaign- feels like there is a valid purpose in finding out, in lifting the veil here, and finding out what went on in the election, and what illegal activity took place in the way of corruption, quid pro quo deals, etc, obstruction of justice, money laundering. And we’ve seen a steady stream of this. I think I may be the exception among those who’ve been investigated, in that there’s not a money stream here, there’s not even a trickle or a drop of money changing hands. But, you know, Paul Manafort money laundered some eighty-plus million dollars, and so on. That’s sort of- there’s a lot of money changing hands here. Or Jared Kushner, who received oodles of money in loans from various companies that then got perks by way of forgiving regulations that- they didn’t want to restrict their development of pipelines, and so on.

So, there’s a lot of very untoward stuff coming to light here. It’s unfortunate that it took a special investigator to look into this, because- or that it’s just restricted to the Trump campaign, because this, unfortunately as we know so well, this is that “swamp,” you know, which has only grown deeper under Donald Trump. But that swamp is really well-established. And personally, I value that part, particularly the Mueller investigation, because there is a really valid investigation going on, of this corruption, to put a blanket term on it. That’s really good. But on the other hand, you don’t want Russiagate being misused, and overreaching, to where it becomes a tool for promoting censorship, and warmongering, and the oppression of independent third political parties, opposition parties, which is also how it’s being used. And it’s become in the Democrats’, the DNC’s effort, to distract from the very disturbing revelations of the DNC leaks. Suddenly, they had to really change the topic, and it became Russia 24/7. And there are lots of allegations out there of collusion, etc. But in terms of solid proof, I am certainly not convinced. A lot of skeptical analysts- I think I’ve heard you point out real problems with the collusion theories.

On the other hand, corruption there’s plenty of. And it’s important that that corruption be addressed. And the fact that there was apparent obstruction in Donald Trump’s effort to prevent the firing and investigation into his national foreign adviser, and his efforts to dismiss Comey, and his actual dismissal of James Comey, the FBI director, and so on. So, there was certainly an appearance of obstruction of justice, which is also illegal, and demands investigation. So, in that sense, I have very much been supporting that legitimate function of the investigations, but objecting vehemently to the intrusion on our basic civil liberties, on the reckless and dangerous warmongering that’s going on, and the censorship which has really been ramped up, based on extremely shoddy evidence around Russian social media interventions through the Russian Internet Research Agency. It’s actually laughable, compared to what real intervention looks like. You know, Cambridge Analytica and the Facebook scandal is really kind of the poster child of what real social media intervention and meddling looks like.

BEN NORTON: Yes. Let’s talk about that really quickly. A few points to hit. One, you mentioned corruption allegations. There is no doubt in my mind, and I think we’ve seen some reporting that Trump had shady business in Russia. Of course, he also had extremely shady business deals and practices in the Gulf, specifically in the UAE. Also, now we know, we see both the Kushners and the Trumps potentially implicated in shady business in India, China, and elsewhere. But moving on to Cambridge Analytica, of course, that’s the elephant in the room. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen some serious investigation into Cambridge Analytica’s actual work hacking the US election, if you will. And even beyond that, I know The Green Party, as you have repeatedly stressed, is in fact the only party that has called for an investigation into potential voting machine hacking in the 2016 presidential election.

So, can you talk about the forms of potential alleged election interference, whether it be hacking of voting machines, whether it be the corporate control over these voting machines, and whether it be Cambridge Analytica, that are not getting enough attention? While we hear all these reports about Russiagate, we don’t see as much investigative reporting into other things. You can also, of course, mention Crosscheck and voter repression, which has- even though the Democrats have, in the past, paid lip service to this, I don’t really see people talking about Crosscheck anymore. Interstate Crosscheck.

JILL STEIN: Exactly, in the same way that Russiagate has sort of become the obsession. Turn on MSNBC, which Norman Solomon nicknamed, MSDNC. You know, it’s like 24/7, “Russia, Russia, Russia, let’s not talk about the outrageous Trump package, let’s not talk about the Authorization for Use of Military Force,” which essentially betrays congressional responsibility for declaring war and overseeing war, and so on. We’re not talking about anything here, and that includes the whole issue of election interference. Election interference is not just Russia, Russia, Russia. Although, great powers do this, and certainly Russia is trying to interfere in our elections.

I have no doubt, although I haven’t seen the evidence for it, but one can presume that’s going on, in the same way that the US is doing the same. And there’s this whole reciprocity thing here, which is also completely left out of the picture. And elected officials are talking about this as if this is a one way street, when in fact, it’s been very well established that it’s generally in the US, which is head and shoulders ahead of Russia in terms of interfering in foreign elections. We have done this forever, and we’ve been way ahead of Russia in the track record for doing so. And so, the issue here- in my view, there are several issues that are that are conflated in the so-called Russia investigations, and supposedly, this is supposed to improve our confidence in our elections.

I don’t think our confidence in our elections is exactly improving. We’re not seeing things resolved. And then you have the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal, basically where you’re seeing data on eighty-seven million people being weaponized, being micro-targeted with manipulative messaging and so-called psychological operations at a military scale. And we haven’t begun to really scratch the surface to know exactly what’s going on here, but it looks extremely nefarious and powerful, relative- you know, with something like thousands of data points, up to thousands of data points, on each of eighty-seven million people, in order to intervene in the election.

So, this looks like interference on steroids, actually. And as Greg Palast has pointed out, Cambridge Analytica is just one of many such, or at least several such organizations, including Karl Rove’s so-called Data Trust, and the Koch brothers have their own version of this. So, there’s a lot of data out there that has loads of information on us, which is essentially being weaponized for the purpose of interfering in our elections. And this is really quite outrageous. Let me also acknowledge, there’s the whole background issue of money in politics. The same guy, Robert Mercer, who funded, essentially- the main funder for Cambridge Analytica, which has so distorted, or appears to have really distorted, our election process, is the same guy who funded Citizens United, which opened the floodgates to the interference of big money throughout the rest of the election process.

So, the process is extremely corrupted at many levels. You have big media that gave away the store to Donald Trump, over three billion dollars worth of extra prime time media given to Donald Trump, because he was “damn good for CBS corporate profits.” Not just CBS, obviously, but that was the statement of Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, who just said out front, “He may not be good for America, but he sure is damn good for CBS.” So, is that the basis on which candidates are elevated to the highest service of our public airwaves? We should be reclaiming the public airwaves, and making them available, essentially at no cost. These are public airwaves, which should be part of public service. And they should be available to ballot qualified candidates that candidates need to know about.

We should be opening up our debates, and have inclusive debates, so that- the American people not only have a right to vote, we have a right to know who we can vote for. So, we’re calling, to summarize, we’re calling for an emergency commission. The midterms for 2018 are rapidly approaching, and we’re not exactly minding the store here, and addressing the threats, and there are so many of them. We should have a nonpartisan commission, rather than the partisan commissions we currently have in Russiagate, which are representing the two parties. But most Americans don’t identify- or shall we say, the plurality, the largest group of Americans, don’t identify with one or the other of the major parties. We should have an emergency commission for election protection and voting justice that ensures that every American has, not only the right to vote, but the right to a vote that we can trust, that is accurate, secure, and just, and free from the scourge of Jim Crow in our elections.

BEN NORTON: Well, unfortunately, we’ll have to end it there. Thanks so much for joining us. This is The Real News, and we were interviewing Jill Stein, who was the presidential candidate for The Green Party in both 2012 and 2016. Thanks for speaking with us, Jill.

JILL STEIN: Great to talk with you, Ben. Thanks so much.

BEN NORTON: For The Real News, I’m Ben Norton.