Less than a week after the release of the massive Panama Papers, we have our first attempt by Republicans to use the papers to loosely (and I'm using the term generously) connect the massive global bribery scheme to Hillary Clinton. This attempt is being spearheaded by John R. Schindler, a self-described "security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer" according to his bio for his current employer, Observer.com. Schindler has an interesting history that includes being placed on leave from his teaching position at the U.S. Naval War College in 2014 for allegedly taking and posting a "racy" photo online and sending it to a woman not named Mrs. Schindler. He then added fuel to the fire by subsequently deleting all of his social media accounts while an investigation took place. Prior to that, he had been a frequent contributor to Politico and Foreign Policy but was later investigated for allegedly using social media to intimidate those who disagreed with his views, especially those who became critical of the NSA and its tactics, something Schindler was strongly in support of. With a penchant for both alleged cyberbullying as well as adultery, it should come as no surprise then that John R. Schindler identifies himself as a Republican.
And it should be even less surprising that Schindler wants to get back into conservative America's good graces by attempting to smear Hillary Clinton, something that they've been doing for twenty-five plus years.
Roughly three hours ago, Schindler composed an article on TheObserver.com detailing an alleged connection between The Podesta Group, a Democratic lobbying group with ties to the Clinton campaign, with Sberbank, Russia's largest bank and one specifically singled out in the Panama Papers. This follows up previous articles by conservative outlets The Washington Free Beacon and The Daily Caller who both attempted to explain the same alleged connection. To briefly explain the "scandal" one should know that the Podesta group was founded by Tony and John Podesta in 1988 and has been closely working with both the Democratic Party as well as the Obama administration. John actually served in the Clinton administration as both a deputy and then chief of staff during President Bill Clinton's second term. He then served as an advisor for President Barack Obama before stepping down in February of 2015 to serve as chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Tony Podesta has not been as involved with presidential politics himself but he has been consistently identified as one of the most effective lobbyists in Washington, D.C. for his work on behalf of the Podesta Group and its lobbying efforts.
So the Podesta brothers are no small potatoes, which is precisely why Schindler targets them in his attack. In the article, Schindler points out that the Podesta Group registered with the U.S. Government as a lobbyist for Sberbank in March. When this occurs, the lobbying group is legally required to name three staffers who will be interacting with the company in question so it should come as no surprise that Tony Podesta was named as one of the three. The other two were former assistant secretaries of state Stephen Rademaker and David Adams. The group officially registered "on the scope of U.S. sanctions against Russia for its role in the Ukraine conflict and whether relief is possible."
No, really. That's the extent of the facts that Schindler provides. A U.S. lobbying group with ties to Hillary Clinton recently decided to do business with Russia largest bank to look at the role of sanctions and debt relief. This bank, Sberbank, was recently outed in the Panama Papers but has denied involvement.
The rest of Schindler's article is filled with pure conjecture. Schindler implies that Sberbank wanted to help its public image so it reached out to the Podesta Group, a well-respected American lobbying group, to do business. Schindler also implies that nobody "was surprised that Sberbank wound up in the Panama Papers" leading the reader to believe that it was common knowledge that the bank was Vladimir Putin's way to "support clandestine Russian intelligence operations" and to "provide cover for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service." Lastly, Schindler implies that should either one of the Podesta brothers be offered a position in a future Clinton administration, then Clinton herself would need to explain the fact, as Schindler states, that for Sberbank "the Podesta Group is their lobbyist in America."
That sound you hear in the background is the sad trombone of Schindler's half-assed attempt at a hit piece. In an effort to resurrect his standing in conservative circles, he composed a veiled attack that is so weak that not even Drudge Report has picked up on it and this is the kind of piece that is traditionally right in their wheelhouse. Maybe it's because the article hasn't been fact-checked (The Podesta Group was started in 1988 not 1998. Wikipedia is your friend.) Maybe it's because John and Tony Podesta aren't household names. Maybe it's because the Panama Papers don't directly name Hillary Clinton so this is as close as conservatives are going to come. Maybe it's because simply doing business with a bank means you aren't the one engaging in potentially illegal activity. Or maybe, just maybe, it's because the article is so absurd and John Schindler is such a partisan hack that nobody takes him seriously anymore.
Not even Matt Drudge.