Keith Olbermann has a web video series hosted by GQ entitled “The Resistance with Keith Olbermann”. The show is reminiscent of the very worst parts (were there ever any good parts?) of his old MSNBC show “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”. These “Resistance” videos engage in the very worst excesses of political extremism, and each episode tends to range from bizarre to excruciatingly confusingly appallingly bizarre. But on Thursday May 11th, Olbermann crossed a line that even mendacious self-obsessed narcissists like himself should never cross. It was a seven-minute seventeen-second video calling for foreign intelligence agencies from around the world – including those from hostile nations like the Glavnoye razvedyvatel’noye upravleniye (or just GRU) in Russia – to assist in bringing down the President of the United States, Donald Trump. One need not be a fan of the current President (I’m not one, particularly, to say the least) to agree that this is simply wrong and must be rejected by all patriots of good conscience. Every American – Left and Right, #MAGA and #Resistance, and everything in between – should want less Russian interference in our politics, not more, and this should be self-evident. The world doesn’t need more unhinged political diatribes. Here’s the clip from Olbermann, with the relevant portions transcribed by me below (emphasis mine):
“I’m Keith Olbermann and this is The Resistance. I appeal to the intelligence agencies and the governments of what is left of the free world. To them as entities, entireties, as bureaucracies making official decisions, and to the individuals who make decisions of conscience. To GCHQ and MI6 in the UK, to the BND in Germany, to the DGSE in France, to the ASIS in Australia, [editorial note: he also randomly adds the PSI of Japan to the list later in his rant], and even to the GRU in Russia where they must already be profoundly aware that they didn’t just help put an amoral cynic in power here, but an uncontrollable one, whose madness is genuine and whose usefulness even to them is at an end. To them, and to the world’s journalists, I make this plea: we, the citizens of the United States of America are the victims of a coup. We need your leaks, your information, your intelligence, your recordings, your videos, your conscience. The civilian government and the military of the United States are no longer in the hands of the people, nor in the control of any responsible individuals on whom you can rely … For months we have heard that your organizations have damning evidence against Donald John Trump. Whatever evidence you may have, you cannot conceal it any longer … Now we need your help. Whatever there is on Trump, reveal it … A dictator-in-training has betrayed our Constitution … What you have, we need and we need it now … For now, the rest of us who only want our democracy back, we can have no rules either. We will take the risk of re-establishing the rules later on … We need what you have and we need it now and we need it made public … If we go under, you’re next. The freedom you save will be your own. Resist. Peace.”
In response to his self-important pontificating, the Internet would proceed to collectively dunk on Olbermann, and with good reason. Remaining free of foreign influence is critical for our country, but Olbermann invites it. And a respect for the rule of law is crucial to our society, but Olbermann rejects it. In response to his juvenile screed, I put out a mini-Tweet storm on the GQ video thread, where I began by saying “I’m no @realDonaldTrump fan but @KeithOlbermann asking foreign intel agencies to overthrow the president is the definition of treason.” And then I launched into a discussion about how dangerous of an idea this was, especially with regard to seeking help from the GRU in Russia, a notorious bad actor on the world stage. But was my initial gut reaction correct? My Tweet was a bit hyperbolic, but what Olbermann is advocating for really does skirt quite close to some pretty bad stuff. Let’s delve into this very briefly.
Article III, Section 3 of the US Constitution says the following about treason: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.”
And the current relevant statute in the US Code defines treason in the following manner: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”
Now, why would it be absolutely unpatriotic, undoubtedly foolish, and arguably (though not definitively) treasonous to call on a foreign intelligence service to bring down our president? Well, let’s just talk specifically about his direct appeal to the GRU – the Russian military intelligence agency that Olbermann mentions by name. The GRU is essentially Putin’s not-so-secret secret weapon, a nefarious actor that is responsible for a long list of truly egregious crimes: attempting to meddle in the US election in 2016 through both hacking and spreading propaganda; likely attempting to interfere in the recent French election in the same manner; spreading political chaos throughout much of Eastern Europe; aiding Russian efforts in Syria; assisting in the invasion and occupation of Crimea; and fomenting civil war in eastern Ukraine. The vast majority of these activities were carried out either directly against the United States or at the very least against American allies & interests. Make no mistake: the GRU (along with the FSB and other assorted Russian outfits) is an heir to the vaunted KGB and should be treated as such.
Indeed, in its analysis of Putin’s Russia’s role in attempting to interfere in the 2016 election, our nation’s Office of the Director of National Intelligence compiled a report put together with input from the entire intelligence community (IC), and the GRU was a central focus. It was an unprecedented intelligence summary entitled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” – and the GRU is named as a prime culprit:
“We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks … The General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) probably began cyber operations aimed at the US election by March 2016. We assess that the GRU operations resulted in the compromise of the personal e-mail accounts of Democratic Party officials and political figures. By May, the GRU had exfiltrated large volumes of data from the DNC … We assess with high confidence that the GRU used the Guccifer 2.0 persona, DCLeaks.com, and WikiLeaks to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets … Content that we assess was taken from e-mail accounts targeted by the GRU in March 2016 appeared on DCLeaks.com starting in June … We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks. Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity. Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.” [Editorial Note: The GRU is mentioned by the IC no less than eight separate times in this IC document.]
There is no denying that Russia is no friend to the United States, and to call on Russian intelligence to interfere in American politics even more than it already has is a foolish, reckless, mind-numbingly stupid thing to do. GQ should be ashamed that it hosts such nonsense on its site, Keith Olbermann (if he still can feel normal human emotions like shame) should be ashamed to have pushed for something this anti-American, and #TheResistance should be ashamed to have him as their self-promoting mouthpiece. This nation deserves answers on Russia – but asking the GRU for the truth on Putin is like asking the KGB for the truth on the Soviet Union — their literal existence is predicated on misdirection & obfuscation, not truth-telling. So yeah, Keith? Please go away, and for good this time. Oh, and GQ? Stick to style tips & fashion advice, and try to leave the how-to guides on the commission of light treason to others. Hopefully that’s something that everyone can agree on.
Update: Since the publishing of this article, Keith Olbermann began tweet-complaining about an old SNL sketch from 2008 where Ben Affleck plays Mr. Olbermann in a sketch loosely titled “Keith Olbermann Overreacts to Everything” and/or “Keith Olbermann is Indignant.” It is truly a classic piece of comedy and well worth revisiting as Mr. Olbermann makes a play for relevance again in the Era of Trump and #TheResistance (you can see the clip below):