Our Unknowable World 1

The news is full of scandals that can never be conclusively proven true or false.

This week, in a stage setup straight out of Hollywood, FBI Director James Comey appeared before Congress to testify about his investigation into supposed Russian connections with the Trump campaign.  Under the withering fire of Republican senators, he also testified - briefly and evasively - about any investigation into the reportedly "nine current and former officials who were in senior positions at multiple agencies" who feloniously leaked classified private information about Gen. Flynn to anti-Trump newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times.

There's a lot at stake in this drama for both sides.  The Democrats want to push their narrative that Donald Trump is in the White House only by collusion with Russian spies who supposedly hacked the DNC and publicized Hillary's embarrassing emails to boost him to victory.  For the Republican side, the goal is to underscore the felonious actions of the Obama administration in illegally releasing their wiretap recordings of Trump campaign staff, perhaps including, as the President himself famously tweeted, the Trump Tower campaign office itself.

At the moment, the Republicans seem to have an edge among those still capable of rational thought: the Democrats can't claim that Mr. Trump conspired with the Russians AND at the same time claim that they didn't tap his campaign, since the one is offered up as evidence for the other.  Since we know that someone tapped Gen. Flynn, who was part of Mr. Trump's campaign, any claims that the Obama administration didn't tap the rest of Mr. Trump's colleagues have more than a whiff of falsehood, especially as the House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes says they did it.

Anyone hoping for enlightenment from the FBI director was sadly disappointed.  As anyone who's followed the twists and turns of Dir. Comey's checkered career should have expected, he carefully avoided saying anything meaningful at all, and at great length.

Yes, leaking classified recordings is a major felony as every lawyer in the place knows.  No, the Director can't speak to any ongoing investigations, a phrase that should be embossed on the wall of the Senate hearing chamber, and certainly one Director Comey should know by heart, having been excoriated for not following it last time.

Yes, the FBI is investigating supposed Russian influence in the Trump campaign, which we already knew, but no, they have no evidence of anything untoward.  No, there is no evidence of Mr. Obama tapping the Trump campaign - this despite the accepted fact that Gen. Flynn, a member of the Trump campaign, was in fact tapped by - well, presumably the Obama administration?  Doesn't seem like it would be the Russians, but Dir. Comey, having turned coy, has nothing to say about it.

If the Senators are honestly seeking to find out the truth, they have a very long road ahead of them.  Our fear is that, as with so many things in our world today, the truth is simply unknowable no matter how much effort is put into it.

Wheels Within Wheels

Consider Mr. Trump's accusation:

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

This seemingly clear statement has been partially walked back: Mr. Trump didn't necessarily mean Mr. Obama himself personally, he meant the Obama administration; and he didn't mean literal tapping of phones either, since phones don't work that way anymore.

We all know what he meant, though: officials in the Obama administration were listening in to phone conversations involving the Trump campaign.  Liberals are saying that Dir. Comey says this never happened, but we know that Gen. Flynn was tapped!  Or could it be that the entire Flynn conversation and its supposed recording were made up by the New York Times?

One moment, though - Dir. Comey never actually said that Mr. Trump wasn't tapped by Mr. Obama.  Listen closely to the words of a highly skilled and experienced lawyer who's spent many years protecting himself in the most powerful bureaucracy on earth:

COMEY: With respect to the president's tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.

Let's give Dir. Comey the benefit of the doubt and assume he is telling the truth.  What is he actually saying here?

Not much!  He's certainly not saying that Trump-tapping never took place.  He's not even saying that there's no evidence of it.  He's simply saying that it wasn't done by the FBI or the Department of Justice.  In fact, he's not even saying that, he is simply saying that he has found no evidence of it in either of those places, the breadth and diligence of his search being unspecified.

Nothing to See Here, Folks, Just Move Along....

It's been widely observed that Mr. Obama didn't have to tell Lois Lerner that he wanted her to weaponize the IRS to attack his conservative political opponents; she knew he wanted it done and did it without being told.  Similarly, everybody who ever worked for Mr. Comey or for Mr. Obama knows that these powerful people would be embarrassed by evidence that they'd spied on Mr. Trump's organization.  Did Mr. Comey himself personally search every file cabinet in the FBI?  Of course not, he told his minions to check.  Does anyone believe that a low-level clerk who found something that showed the boss to be a liar would reveal it?  The shredders must have feasted during the search.

We know with certainty that the Obama DOJ has lied like rugs in the past: When the news was breaking about Lois Lerner weaponizing the IRS, it was reported that the IRS had illegally leaked a conservative donor list to a liberal group which posted the names on their web site.  The Obama donor who was asked to check out the IRS reported that no crimes had been committed!

Aside from justifiable suspicions about their honesty, Dir. Comey's assurances about the FBI and the DOJ are irrelevant anyway.  Nobody ever thought the Trump-tapping was done by the FBI or the DOJ!  It's always been the intelligence agencies who were suspected of taping Gen. Flynn and other Trump associates.

Dir. Comey had little to say about that possibility, as well he ought not.  How likely is it that the FBI is going to be able to effectively investigate the senior ranks of the NSA?  Come to think of it, how likely is the FBI to find the culprit who leaked the CIA's secrets to Wikileaks, assuming that they're genuine CIA material?

Every denial of this affair suffers from the same problem.  Before the intelligence agencies surveil an American citizen, they are supposed to get a special classified warrant from a top-secret judge in something called the FISA court.  Numerous mainstream leftist news sources have reported that the Obama administration did ask FISA for a warrant to tap Mr. Trump, but they say the FISA court refused, which is something this court is famous for never doing.

Suppose Dir. Comey was granted access to the FISA warrant files and found no sign of a Trump-tapping warrant or found one that had been denied.  Would that prove anything?  No - it's more than possible that individuals at the intelligence agencies tapped Mr. Trump without a warrant, as they have been known to do many times in the past.

We can go further yet.  As no less an authority than Judge Andrew Napolitano explained:

Sources have told me that the British foreign surveillance service, the Government Communications Headquarters, known as GCHQ, most likely provided Obama with transcripts of Trump’s calls. The NSA has given GCHQ full 24/7 access to its computers, so GCHQ -- a foreign intelligence agency that, like the NSA, operates outside our constitutional norms -- has the digital versions of all electronic communications made in America in 2016, including Trump’s. So by bypassing all American intelligence services, Obama would have had access to what he wanted with no Obama administration fingerprints.

This isn't just a tinfoil-hat theory: other experts on CNN, of all places, are suggesting the same thing.  Now, the British intelligence agencies have strenuously denied these accusations, but then, they would, wouldn't they?

Prime Minister Theresa May's job is to do what is best for her country, just as Mr. Trump's job is to do his best for his.  It's easy to imagine that six months ago, sucking up to the likely new president by helping kneecap her opponent might have seemed best for England.  Similarly, now that Hillary's opponent is in the Oval Office instead, it's best to make sure any past conspiracies to defeat him are never proven.  All we know from the denial is that the accusation has been denied.

The point is, it is not possible to know what if anything actually happened - not by Senate investigation, or the FBI, or sworn testimony, or anything short of God Himself reporting from On High.  Everybody involved is proven liars; every shred of theoretical evidence can be easily faked, as Wikileaks has shown time and again.  Although not every last person on earth can be bought, enough can be bought, or threatened, or otherwise pressured to muddy the water beyond all hope of comprehension.

Is the FBI going to subpoena the Russian spies, or even the British ones?  Even if they could, we certainly couldn't believe anything they said, even under oath.

Suppose we had some magical perfect lie detector? Even then, we still couldn't know the truth because there'd be no way to be certain we were interviewing the right spies.

At the end of the day, people will choose to believe Donald Trump or not to.  But it won't be based on any evidence that's even remotely convincing.

It's Becoming A Habit

As far back as the Kennedy assassination in 1963, Americans have had the feeling that their government isn't telling them the whole truth.  In fact, many times over the last half century, evidence emerged proving that their suspicions were correct, albeit not in the specific case of JFK's death, at least not yet.

Mr. Trump knows this full well, having gleefully jumped on board the Obama birth certificate train.  For our part, we tend to believe that Mr. Obama was indeed born in America and thus is a natural-born citizen entitled to be President - but we can't ever know for sure, since there are plenty of legitimate grounds for questions, there are no original records, the people directly involved died long ago, and the only government official who might have known died in a convenient plane crash.

Mr. Obama's own Kenyan half-brother has released what purports to be Mr. Obama's original Kenyan birth certificate.  We sort of believe it's a forgery, but how could you prove the reality and know you'd done so?

Forgeries these days are trivially easy to come by and can as easily be wielded as political weapons; anchorman Dan Rather lost his job over promoting a story about George W. Bush being AWOL using forged documents.  Has he repented of slandering a President of the United States?  Not on your life: to this day Mr. Rather maintains that his "reporting" was, as an infamous New York Times headline put it, "Fake but Accurate."

And really, doesn't that describe the mainstream media to a T?  Everything they present as evidence is twisted, biased, or otherwise faked, and yet, they expect us to believe their analysis is accurate.  Americans don't anymore, and shouldn't.

But the truly interesting question is how we reached this peculiar point, where facts aren't facts and proof isn't proof.  That's a story for the next article in this series.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
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