The ongoing demonization of Russia distracts from far more serious issues facing the United States and undermines American values, including the concept of innocent until proven guilty, congressman Thomas Massie has argued.
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In an op-ed for Real Clear Politics, the Republican lawmaker took aim at “out-of-touch” politicians and journalists who “want us to believe that the Cold War never ended” and that “it’s a crime to talk with a Russian.”
The nation’s “$ 21 trillion national debt, porous borders, and an out-of-control federal government that claims the right to spy on Americans without a warrant” all pose far more serious threats to the United States, the congressman wrote. Pointing to the “disconnect between Beltway talking heads and the American people,” Massie said that “normal Americans” see through the “vast Russian conspiracy” being pushed by the Democratic Party.
Echoing Donald Trump, the congressman noted that what began as only “Russophobic rhetoric” has since morphed into a full-blown “witch hunt,” even though Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has failed to produce evidence suggesting that Russian meddling changed a single vote during the 2016 presidential election.
Massie also lamented the fact that the current epidemic of “Russia hysteria” has perverted the nation’s sense of due process. Using the case of Maria Butina as an example, the congressman argued that the Russian activist has been unfairly treated by the US media and justice system.
“Unlike many accused of violent crimes, Butina (who has not been accused of harming anyone) was denied bail, and is now reportedly being held in solitary confinement in federal prison until her trial. The indictment claims she acted as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. Thin on substance, it oddly suggests, for example, that attendance at a National Prayer Breakfast is something nefarious,” Massie wrote.
He went on to note that the media has produced dubious and highly speculative stories that presume Butina’s guilt – even though the facts don’t match their narrative. “So far, the evidence mostly shows that she is simply a strong supporter of the right to bear arms, has advocated for this right in Russia, and genuinely hoped for improved Russia-US relations. These are not crimes.”
Reflecting on the dangerous precedent that the case will create, Massie posed an uncomfortable question: “What if Russia decided to indict and imprison an American student in Russia based upon thin evidence and charges of acting as an ‘unregistered US agent’? The Golden Rule applies to nations, not just individuals.”
According to Massie, engaging in dialogue with Moscow and searching for “areas of cooperation and peace” is preferable to “constant belligerence that can only lead to war.” The congressman praised his fellow Kentuckian, senator Rand Paul, who recently visited Moscow, arguing that “true leaders understand that dialogue is the quickest pathway to peace.”
Massie concluded: “It’s time to end the obsession with Russia … Let’s stop the bellicose rhetoric and instead start leading by example.”
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