Two great conspiracy theories emerged from the frenzied chaos of the 2016 presidential election cycle: Donald Trump as Russia’s Manchurian Candidate and John Podesta being part of a child-sex ring, popularly known as “Pizzagate.”
Neither have any solid basis in fact and rely on absurd context-free interpretations of rather benign information. Nonetheless, both persist.
While Pizzagate rages on the dark reaches of the internet, occasionally bubbling up into the news, the Manchurian Candidate theory has been embraced by much of the mainstream media. Though, like Pizzagate, it’s not altogether clear how sincere some of the primary peddlers are as both are great for clicks.
We now know part of the reason why the Manchurian Candidate conspiracy theory has such resilience in the establishment media is because it was being pushed at the highest levels of government.
According to The New York Times, the Obama Administration began a concerted effort to shovel raw intelligence files about Team Trump’s connections with Russia throughout the government, even lowering clearances to see the information. This series of events is in some ways reminiscent of how raw intelligence was spread and used to bolster the conclusion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction prior to its invasion.
The spread of raw intelligence adds further evidence to the notion that the classified intelligence leaks are likely coming from Obama loyalists still, or recently, within the government. An executive order by President Obama shortly before leaving office ensured more people would see the intercepted communications.
The leaking of those intercepts to the press has already brought down (now former) National Security Advisor Mike Flynn. The newest target appears to be Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A “former senior American official” claims Sessions met with the Russian ambassador despite testimony before the Senate that he had no contact with the Russians.
Sessions said in a statement that he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign.” The meeting with the ambassador came in the context of Sessions’ role as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he met with numerous ambassadors.
But in the conspiratorial mindset, any meeting with a Russian ambassador is now a sign of guilt. Never mind that senators meet with ambassadors all the time and for a number of reasons, including the Russian ambassador.
But if the Times’ story is correct, it would be reasonable to expect the leaks to continue until the Trump Administration cleans house of all Obama appointees or discovers which ones are leaking.
There remains no solid evidence to believe President Trump is being controlled by Russia or is “Putin’s Puppet,” a talking point that initially emerged from the Hillary Clinton campaign.