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EERIE PARALLELS BETWEEN SALEM WITCH TRIALS AND TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBES Jun 19, 2018 Source: USA Today
The principles of the Salem witch hunts still apply today. Despite slim evidence, Donald Trump's team has already been found guilty in public.

J.D. Gordon: I am learning what it is like to be caught up in the Russia witch hunt

 

The principles of the Salem witch hunts still apply today. Despite slim evidence, Donald Trump's team has already been found guilty in public.

By J.D. Gordon
 

In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed 20 men and women after a Salem court found them guilty of witchcraft. Nineteen were hanged, one was crushed to death. Seven died while in prison. More than 200 were accused and collectively imprisoned, bankrupted and defamed. 

In 2017, after witnessing Members of CongressObama associates, journalists and pundits continually attack me and Trump Campaign colleagues on national television, in major newspapers, and on-line, I visited Salem and its multiple Witch trial museums. It was a pilgrimage of convenience after I decided to cancel a public speaking appearance at nearby Harvard University because of my concerns over unseemly student protests like at Yale and Berkeley. 

What I learned in Salem was chilling: the witch trials have eerie parallels to Trump-Russia probes. 

In a 2016 Washington Post opinion piece, Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem, described the trials as “our earliest instance of conspiratorial fantasy and reckless demonizing, of the brand of national distemper that grips us in anxious times.” Well said.

More: Donald Trump's 'witch hunt' has evoked whining for more than a year now

Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia investigation is a year old. Too soon to 'wrap it up.'

Prior to visiting Salem, my witch trial insights were based on high school history classes and the partially fictionalized account in Arthur Miller’s "The Crucible."  A 1953 play later remade into Hollywood films, it challenged the 1950s “red scare,” an anti-communist witch hunt spearheaded by the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. While it’s true that screaming, convulsive little girls threw fits before their innocent victims who were subsequently hanged, "The Crucible" wasn’t the whole story.

Attack on outsiders

In totality, the Salem Witch Trials represented a campaign of terror by the establishment against perceived social outcasts in 24 communities throughout the colony. They hauled in troublemakers, beggars, debtors, the promiscuous and anyone who dared challenge the Special Court of Oyer (hear) and Terminer (decide).

The gold standard for prosecution was “spectral evidence” — the other-worldly concept that alleged witchery suspects sent their spirits into the night to attack people as they slept. Though impossible to prove, it destroyed innocent lives anyway.

Now fast forward 325 years and imagine substituting “spectral evidence” with “collusion.” Two years after the Trump-Russia probes began secretly under the Obama administration in 2016 to explore collusion, where’s the solid evidence — spectral or otherwise?

 

Some claim that Don Jr.’s meeting at Trump Tower and related e-mails in June 2016 seeking dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians amount to evidence of collusion. They say President Trump’s role in crafting an explanatory statement aboard Air Force One was too. Yet nothing but bad publicity came from either political rookie mistakes — one ill-advised meeting and a father’s natural instinct to protect his son.

Despite Trump legal and communication team denials that he was involved in drafting the statement, that seems more like evidence of rushed mistakes by a sleep-deprived staff under siege than any sort of collusion with Russia. When I served on the campaign as the full time director of national security, we couldn't even collude among ourselves. Seems not much has changed in the White House.

What about Carter Page, George Papadapoulos?

How about Carter Page’s infamous trip to Russia in July 2016? As campaign e-mails show, he went as a private citizen to give the commencement address at Moscow’s prestigious New Economic School. Yes, the same exact venue where President Obama spoke in July 2009.

Or how about George Papadapoulos, the mysterious Maltese professor and Australian High Commissioner to the U.K.?  Despite the countless sensationalist headlines, the best the Special Counsel could do was charge him with false statements. He was basically guilty of rumor mongering and acting like a gadfly in London.

And what about Roger Stone, Julian Assange, the DNC and Wikileaks?  Again, despite intense media speculation, no solid evidence of collusion has been produced after two years and multiple Congressional and federal investigations. In a leak-prone Washington, where are the leaks?

And the latest bombshell that Roger Stone and Michael Caputo were approached by a Russian who allegedly wanted $2 million for dirt on Hillary Clinton? Well in a 2015 court filing on his immigration status, that same Russian claimed to be an FBI Informant for 17 years. Coincidence? 

Fortunately, marching people to the gallows and physically killing them is no longer fashionable. Today’s accusers now march people before TV cameras stalking them like prey outside the halls of Congressional Committees, the Special Counsel and Grand Jury — to kill their characters.

While roughly 50 Trump associates have appeared before such investigations, none have been charged with anything remotely connected to collusion — the stated reason for multiple probes. Yet four are likely headed to prison anyway. Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were charged with past financial crimes. Retired General Michael Flynn and George Papadapoulos were strong armed into guilty pleas by the Special Counsel for false statements. 

That leaves dozens of Trump associates like me with overturned lives and high legal bills to defend ourselves from this modern day witch hunt — despite zero evidence of wrongdoing on our parts. Thank goodness for my campaign colleague Michael Caputo, his lawyer Ralph Lorigo and their grassroots supporters at the Michael Caputo Legal Fund for paying my 5-figure legal bills.  

While times may have changed since 17th century Salem, human nature hasn’t.  Powerful establishment figures still want to destroy outcasts. They’re outraged that a troublesome outsider like Donald Trump literally took their power and they’re trying to ruin him and associates who helped win the election.  

They’ve resorted to any means necessary – including espionage on political opponents, selectively leaking classified information, wholesale defamation, misleading Congress and the American people. It’s one mass crime scene by those purportedly representing “law and justice.” Congress should fully investigate those behind such attacks on our democracy and follow the evidence wherever it leads.

J.D. Gordon is a former Pentagon spokesman in the George W. Bush administration and a retired Navy commander. He has served as a full time senior national security & foreign policy advisor to Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Herman Cain. 

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/06/19/eerie-parallels-between-salem-witch-trials-and-trump-russia-probes-column/700200002/

 

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