- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 28, 2019

J.D. Gordon, a retired Navy commander and former Trump campaign official, thought he had finally escaped Russia fever by winter 2019.

Little did he know how high up the priority ladder he stood for special counsel Robert Mueller, his 40 FBI agents, 19 prosecutors and various support staff including intelligence analysts.

It was all about 44 words on Russia-invaded Ukraine in a plank of the Republican Party platform.

The draft plank called for committing the U.S. to confronting a “return of Russia belligerence.” Amended, it became even tougher.

But Mr. Gordon says the liberal media and Democrats perpetuated a hoax that distorted what he did as the campaign’s director of national security.

Mr. Gordon’s Trump-Russia involvement was one of the first issues tackled by Mueller prosecutors when they moved into Justice Department office space in May 2017. As the 22-month investigation ended, Mr. Mueller was still asking him questions.

DOCUMENT: GOP draft planks

“The so-called collusion trail started with the GOP platform,” Mr. Gordon told The Washington Times. “Unbelievable.”

To Trump advisers like Mr. Gordon, the focus on the Ukraine plank came to illustrate the extremes of the Trump-Russia investigative whirlwind, in which an innocent encounter and a tweaked platform became crime scenes.

“Scorched-earth-style defamation against Trump and associates has become a national pastime by the legacy media over the past few years,” Mr. Gordon said, “aided and abetted by government investigation leakers who committed countless felonies in the process.”

By early 2019, Mr. Gordon had been grilled by three congressional committees. He twice sat down with the Mueller team.

Over nearly three years, reporters telephoned with accusatory questions and, he said, produced inaccurate stories. They sparked such intense harassment from Twitter liberals that he filed three complaints with the FBI cybercrimes unit.

Then the phone rang in February. The special counsel’s office wasn’t done. It wanted to talk to him — for a third time, in person — even as it was proofing its 448-page report for submission to Attorney General William Barr on Russia election interference. Mr. Gordon complied, adding to his five-figure legal bills.

“I’m still in debt,” said the OAN TV network analyst, who once manned the Pentagon press room.

The Mueller team’s prioritizing the Ukraine plank was puzzling for Mr. Gordon since it involved a relatively common political decision: how to finish the section of the Republican Party platform on national security and specifically on relations with a former Soviet property that now was the victim of Russian aggression.

After all the investigating, Mr. Mueller’s March 22 report came to the same conclusion that Mr. Gordon told lawmakers and prosecutors: There was no Russian influence in the platform.

Mr. Gordon’s woes began on July 11, 2016, as the platform’s national security subcommittee convened in Cleveland. As a backdrop, candidate Donald Trump was talking of improving relations with Moscow. Russia had invaded Ukraine in 2014, ending its cozy, six-year relationship with the Obama administration.

The draft plank gave a brief mention to Ukraine in one section on pages 41-42. But on pages 49-50, the platform labeled Russia a menace and vowed, “We will not accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force, in Ukraine, Georgia, or elsewhere.”

These were hardly the words of a political party kowtowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As a final vote approached, a single delegate pledged to Sen. Ted Cruz offered an amendment to commit a future President Trump to providing “lethal defensive weapons” to Kiev.

Mr. Gordon believed the language conflicted with Mr. Trump’s theme. A compromise was reached. Mr. Gordon won passage of new wording that said, “We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine.” He also accepted the delegate’s language on threatening new sanctions.

To Mr. Gordon, the political process worked: A delegate wanted stronger language, and a compromise was reached.

The bottom line: Nothing was removed from the existing draft plank, and the final language on Ukraine was tougher on Russia than the original.

The press covered the session, Mr. Gordon said. No one wrote a story.

But those facts didn’t get in the way of liberals’ criticism when news of the change eventually led to stories.

‘Feel like a war criminal’

The Democratic Party-financed dossier, written by former British spy Christopher Steele, said there was an “extensive conspiracy” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. The Ukraine plank stood as proof, the left said.

Worse for Mr. Gordon, he had chatted briefly with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak at a convention reception. News of the encounter deepened the Russia plot, even though Mr. Kislyak was invited to Cleveland by the Obama State Department along with 80 other diplomats.

And there was the Paul Manafort angle. The now-convicted tax fraudster had reaped millions of dollars from a Russian-tied political party in Kiev. He must have dipped a hand into writing the Ukraine plank, so logic said.

After a news report said the Trump team “gutted” Ukraine platform language, Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, tweeted: “Never thought I would see the party of Reagan go soft on Russia, and ignore Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Sad!”

“Had I known that literally countless people would try to ruin my life for joining the Trump campaign, I would have stayed away,” Mr. Gordon said. “I have been made to feel like a war criminal.”

Mr. Schiff now heads the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He has hired former prosecutors and launched an open-ended investigation into Mr. Trump’s businesses and family members.

While in Republican hands, the House intelligence committee issued its no-Russia-collusion report in 2018. It sought to set the record straight on Ukraine. Finding No. 28: “The change in the Republican Party platform regarding Ukraine resulted in a stronger position against Russia, not a weaker one.

“It has been widely reported that the 2016 Republican Party platform was weakened with respect to Ukraine, perhaps as a favor to Russia or some other nefarious reason. After reviewing the Republican Party platform amendment process, interviewing those involved, and reviewing document productions, the Committee determined that the original plank was strengthened, rather than weakened, and there is no evidence that language advocating for the provisions of ‘lethal defensive weapons’ was improperly removed,” the Republican-majority report said.

The committee found no evidence that Manafort was involved.

Then, finally, the Mueller report came on March 22 with its exoneration: no Russia influence from Mr. Kislyak or anyone else. Manafort wasn’t involved.

But even there, Mr. Gordon said, Mueller prosecutors misstated facts.

For example, here is the exonerating paragraph: “The investigation did not establish that one Campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia,” the Mueller report said.

Mr. Gordon said he didn’t “dilute” the platform. The lethal weapons for Ukraine amendment were never part of the platform.

Second, the Mueller report quotes the new language of “appropriate assistance” but stops the quote there. The next words are “to the armed forces of Ukraine.”

The platform pledged direct assistance to not just the country but specifically to the military in its struggle against Russian-backed forces.

Mr. Mueller loaded his prosecuting staff with Democratic donors. Trump people believe the narrative on collusion contains unfair innuendos.

“As for release of the Mueller report, while I’m glad it debunked years of hashtag, resistance-driven conspiracy theories and media hysteria, those 448 pages were designed to permanently wound if not destroy Trump and associates for life,” Mr. Gordon said.

He said he points out to reporters that the draft platform contained confrontational language on Moscow on pages 49-50, and defended Ukraine sovereignty.

“Most journalists ignore exculpatory evidence that clears Trump and associates,” he said. “They prefer to ignore previously false or misleading news reports, preferring to just move along for the next hit piece.”

Mr. Gordon still can’t leave Trump-Russia behind. Retaking power in January, three Democratic House committee chairmen have opened new investigations. The House Judiciary Committee asked Trump-connected people for troves of documents. Mr. Gordon said he complied.

One irony: For all the liberal talk of gutting the platform, one of the Trump administration’s first national security moves was to approve the transfer of state-of-the-art Javelin anti-tank weapons to Kiev. The kinds of “lethal defensive weapons” the Cruz delegate had wanted were shipped.

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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