Bungled collusion

The Russia scandal has entered a new phase, and there’s no going back.

For six months the White House claimed that this scandal was nothing more than innuendo about Trump campaign collusion with Russia in meddling in the 2016 election. Innuendo for which no concrete evidence had been produced.

Yes, there were several meetings with Russian officials, some only belatedly disclosed. But that is circumstantial evidence at best. Meetings tell you nothing unless you know what happened in them. We didn’t. Some of these were casual encounters in large groups, like the famous July 2016 Kislyak-Sessions exchange of pleasantries at the Republican National Convention. Big deal.

I was puzzled. Lots of cover-up, but where was the crime? Not even a third-rate burglary. For six months, smoke without fire. Yes, President Trump was acting very defensively, as if he were hiding something. But no one ever produced the something.

My view was: Collusion? I just don’t see it. But I’m open to empirical evidence. Show me.

The evidence is now shown. This is not hearsay, not fake news, not unsourced leaks. This is an email chain released by Donald Trump Jr. A British gobetween writes that there’s a Russian government effort to help Trump Sr. win the election, and as part of that effort he proposes a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” possessing damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Moreover, the Kremlin is willing to share troves of incriminating documents from the Crown Prosecutor. (Error: Britain has a Crown Prosecutor. Russia has a State Prosecutor.)

Donald Jr. emails back. “I love it.” Fatal words.

Once you’ve said “I’m in,” it makes no difference that the meeting was a bust, that the intermediary brought no such goods. What matters is what Donald Jr. thought going into the meeting, as well as Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, who were copied on the correspondence, invited to the meeting, and attended.

“It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame,” Donald Jr. told Sean Hannity. A shame? On the contrary, a stroke of luck. Had the lawyer real stuff to deliver, Donald Jr. and the others would be in far deeper legal trouble. It turned out to be incompetent collusion, amateur collusion, comically failed collusion. That does not erase the fact that three top Trump campaign officials were ready to play.

It may turn out that they did later collaborate more fruitfully. We don’t know. But even if nothing else is found, the evidence is damning.

It’s rather pathetic to hear Trump apologists protesting that it’s no big deal because we Americans are always intervening in other people’s elections, and they in ours. You don’t have to go back to the ’40s and ’50s when the CIA intervened in France and Italy to keep the communists from coming to power. What about the Obama administration’s blatant interference to try to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu in the latest Israeli election? One might even add the work of groups supported by the U.S. during Russian parliamentary elections—the very origin of Vladimir Putin’s deep animus toward Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, whom he accuses of having orchestrated the opposition.

This defense is pathetic for two reasons. First, have the Trumpites not been telling us for six months that no collusion ever happened? And now they say: Sure it happened. So what? Everyone does it.

What’s left of your credibility when you make such a casual about-face?

Second, no, not everyone does it. It’s one thing to be open to opposition research dug up in Indiana. But not dirt from Russia, a hostile foreign power that has repeatedly invaded its neighbors (Georgia, Crimea, Eastern Ukraine), that buzzes our planes and ships in international waters, that opposes our every move and objective around the globe. Just last week the Kremlin killed additional UN sanctions we were looking to impose on North Korea for its ICBM test.

There is no statute against helping a foreign hostile power meddle in an American election. What Donald Jr.—and Kushner and Manafortdid may not be criminal. But it is not merely stupid. It is also deeply wrong, a fundamental violation of any code of civic honor.

I leave it to the lawyers to adjudicate the legalities of unconsummated collusion. But you don’t need a lawyer to see that the Trump defensecollusion as a desperate Democratic fiction designed to explain away a lost election—is now officially dead.


Charles Krauthammer, who has won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, writes for the Washington Post.


23cal says...

Pretty damning coming from a right-wing stalwart.
He puts his finger exactly on a major point. The right wing----See comments in this newspaper for specific examples----- keeps saying "Exactly what law did he break?"
Krauthammer's answer: "There is no statute against helping a foreign hostile power meddle in an American election. What Donald Jr.—and Kushner and Manafort did may not be criminal. But it is not merely stupid. It is also deeply wrong, a fundamental violation of any code of civic honor."
Explaining this repeatedly to people who have no honor is like throwing pearls before swine. Apparently, it is impossible to shame the shameless.

Posted 17 July 2017, 6:56 a.m. Suggest removal

Jfish says...

Too bad no left wing columnists are this honest when something happens on their side. Most of them are still denying that the DNC stole the nomination from Bernie Sanders.

Posted 17 July 2017, 7:27 a.m. Suggest removal

RBear says...

23cal, you should read Jennifer Rubin's op-ed in WaPo about the moral rot of the Republican Party.

Posted 17 July 2017, 7:35 a.m. Suggest removal

23cal says...

Good article RBear. Amused that it contained an answer to JFish's comment: "Let’s dispense with the “Democrats are just as bad” defense. First, I don’t much care; we collectively face a party in charge of virtually the entire federal government and the vast majority of statehouses and governorships. It’s that party’s inner moral rot that must concern us for now. Second, it’s simply not true, and saying so reveals the origin of the problem — a “woe is me” sense of victimhood that grossly exaggerates the opposition’s ills and in turn justifies its own egregious political judgments and rhetoric. If the GOP had not become unhinged about the Clintons, would it have rationalized Trump as the lesser of two evils? Only in the crazed bubble of right-wing hysteria does an ethically challenged, moderate Democrat become a threat to Western civilization and Trump the salvation of America."
Additionally, JFish's comment is simply not true. The DNC kerfuffle was thoroughly covered by "left wing" and centrist (which they also identify as "left wing") columnists and media.

Posted 17 July 2017, 7:51 a.m. Suggest removal

REV2018 says...

As the investigations into trumps treason continue, evidence keeps stacking up. There now is no question that trump, his family, his advisors, and members of his cabinet ALL have colluded with a foreign government - Russia - to rig the 2016 election. Trumps lawyers and most republicans are DESPERATELY looking for loopholes to fend off calls for a Bill of Impeachment. Their current defense? "Well yeah, it was unethical, unprincipled, and cowardly but it wasn't illegal." WOW! There's an endorsement the American people can be proud of!

Trump has embarrassed and humiliated our country long enough. He and his gang of crooks are driven by greed and power. 300 years as the greatest nation on earth. And now we've come to this...

Posted 17 July 2017, 9:33 a.m. Suggest removal

WhododueDiligence says...

Jfish, fact checkers and other analysts (fivethirtyeight's analysts for example) have debunked your claim that the DNC misbehavior by a few of its leaders deprived Sanders of the Democratic nomination. Those analysts pointed out that super delegates comprised only one-sixth of total delegates and Clinton would have won the nomination by a large margin even if the super delegates had been more evenly split.
Sanders himself wanted super delegates to support him in proportion with the percentage of popular votes he received in the primaries, and if that would have been the case Clinton would still have won easily. Analysts pointed out that Clinton won the popular vote by a double-digit percentage margin and by 3.8 million votes in the primaries. They pointed out that the only age group which supported Sanders was the 18-29 voters, 70 percent of whom supported Sanders but they comprised only 17 percent of all voters, while voters older than 45 supported Clinton by a similarly large margin and they comprised 60 percent of all voters. Analysts also pointed out that the DNC's primary rules--which as always were set in advance--sometimes wound up favoring Sanders, in states with caucuses instead of primaries for example which had low turnout due to the time commitment of attending caucuses.
In addition to 23cal's response to Jfish, which notes that the DNC kerfuffle was thoroughly covered across the political spectrum, we should also remember what happened to those involved in the DNC kerfuffle when the kerfuffle was exposed. They resigned.

Posted 17 July 2017, 11:51 a.m. Suggest removal

3WorldState1 says...

Yeah but, Clinton...well, Clinton, she...uh,
Pearls before swine...

Posted 17 July 2017, 1:11 p.m. Suggest removal

REV2018 says...

Why is Donald STILL running against Clinton?

Posted 17 July 2017, 2:29 p.m. Suggest removal

Packman says...

Dr. K pretty much nails it. Although it seems Jethro Trump took the meeting more out of ignorance of its implications and eagerness to help his dad win. In context, the meeting happened before all the Russian narrative started and Jethro might have considered the implications had it been August or September. Or not. In my humble opinion he's dumb as a sack of hammers to meet with a total stranger(s) on the word of some goofball publicist.
It's interesting the incriminating email included the words "Russian government attorney". The question of a set-up needs investigating as much as any of it. Russian meddling can come from any and all directions or so it would seem.

Posted 17 July 2017, 3:40 p.m. Suggest removal

3WorldState1 says...

Except that Russians are not strangers to the Trump family. Kanye would be on the street, after pissing away his daddy's fortune, if it weren't for those "strangers".

Posted 17 July 2017, 4:18 p.m. Suggest removal

ARMNAR says...

Yep. Cheeto Mussolini is beholden to Russia big time. Always has been.

Posted 17 July 2017, 5:44 p.m. Suggest removal

carpenterretired says...

Bingo to 3WorldState1 , the smartest conservatives Krauthammer and George Will have both gone south on the orange buffoon ,but those of the Trump base have yet to realize they have been had.

Posted 17 July 2017, 6:53 p.m. Suggest removal

Log in to comment