Eli Lake Has Hammered the FBI for its Handling of the Russia Investigation. He Weighs In on Trump's Refusal to Concede

One of the most common defenses of President Trump's attempts to overturn the election results is that he was undermined for much of his presidency by the media and the so-called "deep state," primarily through the Russia investigation.

In essence, it's revenge, and if millions of Americans are deceived into thinking that the election was stolen and that American democracy is destroyed -- despite any evidence at all of this -- then that's collateral damage to getting even.

The latest example of this came from Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax. “For two years, the liberal media pushed this Russian hoax theory, and there didn’t seem to be any substantiation at the end of the day and it was a pretty compelling, gripping story — controversial personalities, things happened, sparks were flying,” he told the New York Times' Ben Smith.

Obviously, it's wrong to put vengeance or ego or whatever is motivating the president ahead of and above the welfare of the nation and our future. But even on the merits, what are the facts? Was the Russia investigation a "hoax," as Trump says? What exactly happened with Russian interference in the 2016 election?

Is there any legitimacy in comparing the Russia probe to Trump's refusal to concede?

To untangle all this I spoke with Eli Lake, who is a nationally syndicated reporter who writes for Bloomberg View on national security matters. In the world of legitimate journalism, to distinguish it from the hacks and bad faith actors in partisan media and punditry, Eli has been among the most critical of former FBI Director Jim Comey and his handling of the Russia probe. He has also been very critical of the FBI's handling of former National Security Director James Flynn. Most recently, Eli wrote a column about Trump's pardon of Flynn, titled, "Trump Was Right to Pardon Michael Flynn"

"It’s tempting, in light of Trump’s failure to accept the results of this year’s presidential election, to wave away the evidence that Flynn was railroaded by the FBI and the Justice Department," Lake wrote. But, he concludes, "Every American deserves the same protections under the law — even those who work for Donald Trump."

Eli has debated the Flynn portion of the Russia inquiry elsewhere. He and Ben Wittes did a lengthy back and forth on this a few months ago, and I recommend you listen to it. I mention that only to say that there is a way to interpret the context of the Flynn case differently than Eli does. But I think he has made a compelling case that Flynn was, as he put it, railroaded.

And that's the thing. If I have one take away on the Russia story, it's that it is highly complicated, and it's not easy to reach clear conclusions. It's the opposite of the election, which is an easy call in black and white. There was no cheating that impacted the result, Trump is lying about that, his legal team has produced no evidence of fraud, and he is attacking democracy in what looks like will be a clumsy, failed, but nonetheless autocratic attempt, to use a term from Russian-American writer Masha Gessen, who has called Trump's actions an attempted coup.

In January of this year, Lake published a nearly 8,000-word article summarizing the sprawling and complicated history of the Russia probe, which he characterized as “a cautionary tale...

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