From now until special counsel Robert Mueller delivers whatever he’s going to deliver to the government and the American people, everyone will speculate about who did what, who knew what, and when. This is an exercise in reading tea leaves and inserting bias into reports. That’s what both politicians and mainstream media do in an effort to influence people into feeling one way or another about any particular topic.
Despite the cacophony that surrounds Mueller, President Trump, and Russia, this really comes down to a single question that matters: Did the President or his campaign staff collude with Russia to engage in illegal activities in an effort to win the election?
Up front, it’s important to declare my perspective on the issue. I’d suggest all journalists declare their biases up front, but few will. I’m not a fan of President Trump. I don’t care for him as a man and I am against a few of his policies such as banning bump stocks and promoting fair trade over free trade. I am happy that he beat Hillary Clinton but I felt there were much better options for the GOP and for the nation that were ignored because mainstream media pushed Trump to be the nominee in hopes he would lose spectacularly to Clinton. That didn’t work out for the media or the nation.
Even with my bias, I call things the way I see them and right now, I’m not seeing much coming from the investigation I think it’s very unlikely the President colluded with the Russians to influence the election. Let’s be clear what that means. Do I think members of Trump’s campaign worked with Russians? Yes. Do I think Russians tried to influence the election? Of course. But I am fairly certain the Trump campaign did not participate in activities that would be deemed illegal. They didn’t accept foreign funds to fuel the campaign. They didn’t supply the Russians or anyone else with damaging information about Hillary Clinton. They didn’t actively engage in subverting the election system to “steal” votes or otherwise manipulate the outcome. Most importantly, they didn’t collude with Russia or WikiLeaks to release the hacked emails.
They didn’t have to. Russia and WikiLeaks did all that without input from the Trump campaign.
I believe what the Trump campaign did was on par or possibly below what the Clinton campaign did in working with foreign actors to gather and transmit opposition research about Trump. Both campaigns were wrong for doing so but neither campaign broke the law.
Let’s all understand what’s required to prove this conspiracy. First, the Russians must be proven to have unlawfully “hacked” the election. That doesn’t mean finding Russian social media bots. That means finding proof that the Russians committed illegal activities such as hacking the DNC emails or paying political organizations to promote their messages.
Second, the Trump campaign must be shown to have direct knowledge of the illegal activities. The closest thing we have to that is Roger Stone. If he had direct knowledge that Russia hacked the DNC and/or John Podesta’s emails and gave those emails to WikiLeaks so they could be made public, then there’s something worth investigating. Having that knowledge alone is enough to get him in trouble for not reporting it, but it’s unlikely that route will be pursued. What the investigation needs is actual collusion. That could come in the form of coordinating the release date, giving access to certain people in the media, or aiding in corroboration if any became necessary to prove the leaked documents were real.
From there, Mueller’s team would have to connect the dots directly back to the Trump campaign. Then and only then can any measure of collusion in Russia’s influence of the election be proven.
So far, noise but no substance
Much is being made of Michael Flynn’s, Michael Cohen’s, and Paul Manafort’s upcoming sentences. All have admitted to committing crimes. Cohen has gone so far as to publicize some of the things he knows about the Trump campaign. None of those revelations have linked the campaign to Russia in a conspiratorial manner.
Everything the public knows about the crimes these men committed have nothing to do with Russian collusion. It’s ironic that Mueller’s investigation led to so many charges that have nothing to do with the original scope of the investigation. One might argue the greatest damage this investigation will have on the President is that it demonstrates he likes to surround himself with criminals.
There are only two major players who are in real jeopardy: Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. If they were working with Stone or anyone else to coordinate with Russia on illegal activities, we might see something big come from this investigation. It’s highly unlikely at this point, but that’s really the only thing Democrats and mainstream media can hope for right now.
Democrats and mainstream media are up in arms trying to connect distant dots in a way that proves the President or his campaign stole the election with the Russians. A sober examination of everything we know points far away from that conclusion.