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Yglesias writes: "Republicans from Donald Trump on down have made 'no collusion' a mantra. The term itself is ill-defined in this context; you won’t find it in the US code. But roughly speaking, the question is whether the campaign got involved with Russian agents who committed computer crimes to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election."

Trump and associates. (photo: Javier Zarrracina/Vox)
Trump and associates. (photo: Javier Zarrracina/Vox)

There's Actually Lots of Evidence of Trump-Russia Collusion

By Matthew Yglesias, Vox

13 June 18

The untenability of the “no collusion” talking point.

n all of this, in any of this, there’s been no evidence that there’s been any collusion between the Trump campaign and President Trump and Russia,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday at his weekly press conference. “Let’s just make that really clear. There’s no evidence of collusion. This is about Russia and what they did and making sure they don’t do it again.”

From Ryan’s perspective, it would be convenient if it were true that Robert Mueller’s investigation had turned up no evidence of collusion, but it simply isn’t.

Republicans from Donald Trump on down have made “no collusion” a mantra. The term itself is ill-defined in this context; you won’t find it in the US code. But roughly speaking, the question is whether the campaign got involved with Russian agents who committed computer crimes to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

The verdict on this is unclear. But there is certainly plenty of evidence pointing toward collusion; what you would call “probable cause” in a legal context, or what a journalist might simply consider reason to continue investigating the story. And the investigating thus far, both by special counsel Mueller and by journalists working on the story, has been fruitful. The efforts have continued to turn up contacts between Trumpworld and Putinland, cover-ups, and dishonesty.

Even as recently as Friday afternoon, we got new indictments charging Trump’s former campaign chair and his former GRU operative business partner with witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

It’s important, obviously, not to prejudge a case. It turns out that Saddam Hussein was acting like a man who was covering up a secret nuclear weapons arsenal because he didn’t want the world to know how weak his defenses really were.

By the same token, it’s certainly possible that the various Trump-Russia contacts never amounted to anything and that they’ve been consistently covered up for some reason other than an effort to hide collusion. But both the contacts that have been revealed so far and the deception used to deny their existence are certainly evidence of collusion — evidence that should be (and is being) pursued by the special counsel’s office and that should not be dismissed by the press or by elected officials.

The circumstantial case for collusion

It’s worth backing up to recall what we all saw on camera before anyone knew anything about an FBI investigation, before FBI Director James Comey was fired in an effort to halt the investigation, and before Mueller and his team revealed anything:

  • Two separate hacks of Democratic Party emails — one purloining a trove of internal Democratic National Committee emails and one that stole a ton of correspondence from John Podesta’s personal Gmail account — were perpetrated over the course of 2016, by what are now believed to have been agents operating on behalf of the Russian government.

  • These emails were not immediately released, and they were not released by the hackers who obtained them. Instead, the emails were disseminated to the public by using Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as an intermediary. Their releases also seemed strategically timed — the DNC emails disrupted efforts to create a show of unity between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at the beginning of the Democratic National Convention, while the Podesta emails were released right after the infamous Access Hollywood tape.

  • Trump and his campaign, at the time, believed these emails were a big deal and cited them frequently. Trump built substantial portions of his campaign messaging around narratives — typically half-true at best — contained in the emails, and made no bones about welcoming the hacking.

  • “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks,” he said on several occasions on the campaign trail, and he also explicitly called on the Russian government to hack and release Hillary Clinton’s emails.

  • Trump also spent the 2016 campaign running an overtly pro-Russian campaign message, praising Vladimir Putin’s leadership, defending him from allegations of murdering his political opponents, and calling for a realignment of US strategy in Syria and Ukraine.

I would not necessarily call any of this “evidence” of collusion, but it’s certainly grounds for suspicion. It gave the impression that Trump was on some level coordinating his campaign messaging with the Russian hackers, and that either he was taking a pro-Putin line in exchange for Russian help or he sincerely believed in the pro-Putin line and therefore saw nothing wrong with accepting Russian assistance.

That said, Trump was asked about this possibility explicitly during the campaign. And during the campaign and the transition, both he and his team issued at least 20 denials of any contact between his camp and the Russians. And where evidence really enters the picture is that they were lying.

There was extensive outreach between Trump and Russia

In reality, as exhaustively documented by the Moscow Project, there were extensive communications between people in Trump’s orbit and Russian government figures or others who had, or purported to have, close ties to the Putin regime.

Some of this communication — including Michael Cohen’s January 2016 email to Dmitry Peskov and Ivanka Trump’s October 2015 exchange with Dmitry Klokov — was ostensibly about efforts to construct a Trump-branded building in Moscow. Some of it, including the various escapades of George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, involved relatively peripheral players in Trumpworld, who didn’t have strong pre-campaign ties to Trump or play a post-campaign role in the administration.

But some of it was quite high-level and explicitly about the campaign. Donald Trump Jr., for example, took a meeting with the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank while attending the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Kentucky in May 2016. The meeting was arranged by a US conservative activist named Paul Erickson, who got in touch with senior Trump campaign aide Rick Dearborn to set it up, explicitly as a step toward creating back-channel communications between Russia and the campaign.

And, of course, Trump Jr., along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting whose purpose was explicitly described as “part of Russia and its support for Mr Trump” and was said to involve incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

That Trumpworld was clearly open to both political collusion and financial dealmaking with the Russian government doesn’t demonstrate that either actually occurred. But it’s unquestionably evidence in favor of the possibility. The fact that all of this was lied about and swept under the rug is further evidence (though, again, not proof) that there was Russia-related wrongdoing that is being covered up. And it’s striking that we continue to learn new things about contacts between Trump and Russia — the Ivanka story is new this week — rather than there having been a moment at which everyone got religion and decided to come clean.

And then there’s Paul Manafort.

The Manafort-Deripaska nexus is very suspicious

Paul Manafort had worked for years in Republican Party politics in the 1970s and ’80s, but by the second decade of the 21st century, he was primarily working in Ukraine. Then in March 2016, Donald Trump hired him to run his presidential campaign and smooth over badly frayed relations with the GOP establishment.

Two weeks after he boarded the Trump train, Manafort emailed Konstantin Kilimnik, who’d been his key lieutenant in Kiev for years:

“I assume you have shown our friends my media coverage, right?” Manafort wrote.

“Absolutely,” Kilimnik responded a few hours later from Kiev. “Every article.”

“How do we use to get whole,” Manafort asks. “Has OVD operation seen?”

OVD, in this context, is Oleg Deripaska, a wealthy Russian oligarch to whom Manafort was deeply in debt. Critically, despite the debts, Manafort agreed to go work for Trump for free. But he wanted to know how he could use his unpaid work for Trump to “get whole” with Deripaska.

Manafort, in other words, clearly saw his work for Trump as directly linked to his work for pro-Russian forces. Manafort is also currently preparing to stand trial for a broad array of financial crimes related to this work. It’s conventional for both the Trump camp and Manafort’s legal team to say that the charges are unrelated to the 2016 campaign, but that is merely assuming the conclusion. If Manafort did in fact use his US activities to “get whole” with his former client, then the two issues are clearly quite linked.

The truth in this matter is, as with much of the rest of the story, unclear. But, again, there is clearly evidence here.

The collusion in plain sight

Last but by no means least, it’s worth recalling that there’s something fundamentally odd about the entire framing of the collusion question.

A political candidate’s relationship to a hostile foreign power would normally be framed differently. The discovery of covert collusion would be used as evidence that the candidate harbored a secret desire to repay the foreign power. But in Trump’s case, there was absolutely no secret! Trump quite openly ran on a pro-Russia platform, adopting Russian views on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, defending Putin’s character, and vowing to break up the NATO alliance.

It’s of course not illegal for a candidate for office to espouse pro-Russian foreign policy views. But to an extent, there was plenty of “collusion” in plain view throughout 2016 — crimes were committed and Trump openly praised them; he offered pro-Russia policy in exchange for Russian assistance, received the assistance that he sought, and has labored ever since to avoid investigating or punishing Russia’s crimes.

Here, ultimately, is where Paul Ryan’s argument completely falls apart. The speaker says “there’s no evidence of collusion” but also isn’t willing to go full Trump, denounce the investigation as a fraud, and call for its end. Instead, he says, “this is about Russia and what they did and making sure they don’t do it again.” But Trump has always been clear that he doesn’t think Russia did anything wrong, doesn’t want the full details to become known, doesn’t want anyone punished, and has no particular interest in making sure they don’t do it again. And that, itself, is perhaps the most powerful evidence of collusion. your social media marketing partner


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+6 # sriskin 2018-06-13 10:28
The most palpable act of collusion was the ADMISSION by Donald Trump senior that in exchange for 'dirt' on Hillary they discussed 'adoptions' with the Russians. The word 'adoptions' 'admits' they were speaking about the Magnitsky Act; i.e., Trump was offering to kibosh the sanctions. Sanctions for dirt; quid pro quo; straight out criminal collusion even under the new strict definitions of the S. Ct. And all Trump's 'little guys' kept running to Kislyak to say "No sanctions; we'll lift the sanctions." "Admissions" is a legal term which, roughly, means "I am guilty; I ADMIT the crime." The standard nonsense, that the use of the word 'adoptions' was a lie, is so ironic. It was the only truth Trump told in the whole affair. And, more irony, it was Trump attempting to 'play lawyer' which, because of his abominable ignorance, turned out to do more damage to him than any other single statement or act. QED COLLUSION on the right, on the left, right down the middle.
+13 # PCPrincess 2018-06-13 13:39
Has anyone else noticed how quiet they've been able to keep Assange? They still must be very worried that he may spill the beans about the true 'hacker' - (hint: it wasn't Russia) The truth is actually pretty easy to find if one looks and is interested in knowing it.
-1 # BetaTheta 2018-06-13 15:26
So, enlighten us.
+2 # Benign Observer 2018-06-14 08:16
You could enlighten yourself if you would read Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein or Noam Chomsky -- those right-wing Russian collusionists!
-5 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-06-13 15:32
Did you read Randy Credico on his meeting with Adam Schiff. Credico told Schiff that Assange wanted to speak with him and other on the congressional committee. Schiff responded:

"WikiLeaks's Assange reportedly offers to show Schiff ‘there was no collusion"

Schiff, "“Our committee would be willing to interview Julian Assange when he is in U.S. custody, not before.”

Sessions said recently that the US was close to getting Assange in custody. But clearly, they don't want Assange to talk because he would blow the "collusion" story out of the water.

Assange is in real danger right now.
-8 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-06-13 16:28
Hard to believe that people keep writing these "nothing-burger s." Nothing here rises to the level of anything suspicious at all. Mueller's cases are falling apart, as they get into court. His outsized claims are just not standing up to the requirements of evidence by judges.

The real "collusion" was the CIA/MI-6/Hillar y campaign/Fusion / and some others to fabricate a Russia connection.

Just a correction for the record:

1. "a hostile foreign power" -- Russia is not a hostile foreign power. It is not an enemy. In about 2012, the neo-cons and Hillary began to conceptualize a new cold war. They because talking about Russia as an enemy. In fact, the neo-cons are our enemy, not Russia.

2. "Trump quite openly ran on a pro-Russia platform" -- this is not true. He suggested that he'd want to have better relations with Russia. Nothing is wrong with that. It was the right thing to say, unless you are under the spell of the neo-cons and their new cold war.
-1 # BetaTheta 2018-06-13 22:07
RR, you never cease to amaze with your wading into the cloud of choking smoke and insisting there is no fire here. Move on, folks, nothing to see.

By the way, you have still not addressed my request for a SPECIFIC reference for your claim on a recent post that “Even Steele is saying [the Steele dossier] is false.” It’s not in the affidavit you referenced. Not that it is particularly important, but it is emblematic of your penchant for throwing a lot of unverified flak into each post, then moving on before you can be called on it. The tactic even has a name: “The Gish Gallop.”
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-06-15 16:12
Beta - I never throw out unverified flack -- ever. I"ll post the comments by Steele, but you should now post the supporting evidence that would show the Steele Dossier is true.

Why has Steele not been interviewed by the congressional committees or Mueller?
-3 # BetaTheta 2018-06-15 20:10
We'll be waiting for that reference, though I'm mystified as to why it is not at your fingertips, as everything else seems to be. Hate to belabor this again, but as far as the dossier being "true," neither I nor Steele has ever claimed that. Raw intel meriting further investigation, remember?

It is YOUR convenient straw man, employed to distract from your own claim that he himself is calling it "false." That extraordinary assertion requires a verifiable quote and source.
+1 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-06-16 19:34
"Raw intel meriting further investigation"

In other words -- pure and unadulterated bull shit. The kind they dished out by the boat loads in 2002-03 in order to make people like you support an invasion of Iraq.
-2 # BetaTheta 2018-06-16 21:35
So, now you are imputing out of the blue that I supported the Iraq invasion?? Where did that come from? You get testy and careless when called on to produce. In this case, source and quote that is apparently not forthcoming, as it doesn't exist.
-8 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-06-13 19:32
We don't hear much about Stormy Daniels and Avenatti any more. That case seems to have petered out. A judge threw the case out because Avenatti appeared too many times on CNN. The judge said he could either be in PR or an attorney with a case before the court. Not both. Avenatti chose to be a PR man and withdrew the case.

Now Avenatti's assets have been seized by another judge for a $10 million debt he has refused to pay. The court seized all the money raised by the crowd funding venture.

So Aevnatti is broke, with no case, and is no longer interesting to CNN. A loser.

The collusion stories are going the same way. A judge is about to toss out the case against the Petersburg Trolls. Mueller won't comply with discovery orders and give evidence to the defense because he says giving evidence to the defense would jeopardize the security of the US. The judge said bullshit. If you don't give it to the defense, you can't use it in court. So Mueller asked if he can prosecute the case with no evidence. I have not seen the judge's response. Should come out soon. I think the judge will toss out the case. The real reason Mueller won't turn over the evidence is that he does not have any. He got caught with his pants down and he has no where to hide.

So much for the collusion. When it comes to presenting evidence in a court or to congress, Mueller won't have much.
0 # relegn 2018-06-14 05:52
Even putting aside the Russian involvement in the 2016 election and our Supreme Leader's knowledge of same there is plenty of "evidence" that our Supreme Leader is unfit for office. The constant and transparent Lying about every issue alone would be cause for Impeachment.
-2 # Benign Observer 2018-06-14 08:09
This is a brilliant summation of the case for collusion, starting with the title:

"There's actually lots of evidence of .. collusion"

followed by:

"I would not necessarily call any of this 'evidence'"

Got it in one! Yes, it's undeniably, magnificently illustrative.

Week after week we're told there's 'collusion' -- even though there's no legal crime called 'collusion' -- a great thing for propagandists, who can be vague and foreboding with just a soupcon of menace.

Week after week those still in denial about Hillary's loss (a more accurate depiction than 'Trump's win') are strung along with meaningless articles like this.

Denial junkies get their fix for another week, convinced that soon (soon!) GOP savior Mueller, abetted by like-minded altruistic 'patriots' (ack) like Jim 'clap him in cuffs' Clapper and John 'oh well if we can't torture let's drone kill' Brennan lead liberals around like puppets (or is it dangle them like nose-ringed steers?) 'Oh please, Mr. Murderer/Perjur er/Assassin, please save us from the horrible monster Trump!'

This also perfectly illustrates the msm's neglect of counterfactuals . For instance Assange has said, several times, as has the diplomat who accepted the Podesta emails, that it was not Russia -- which is perhaps one reason Assange is still demonized and isolated. "Oh! so inconvenient he is," as Yoda would say.

Here's a dupe leading other dupes to a miserable end -- a perfect summation.
+1 # Benign Observer 2018-06-14 08:28
You know what it's like to be a parent/friend and watch your offspring/pal heading into what will undoubtedly be a painful 'learning experience' while you are helpless to protect them?

That's how I feel watching this Mueller investigation. He can queue up an exoneration shortly before the midterm elections, ramping up GOP enthusiasm. That, coupled with the Democrats' total mishandling of everything Trumpian, will surely result in another midterm disaster.

The 'blue tsunami' has been downgraded to a 'blue wave' and in the coming months may well become a 'blue tinkle'. And then what will liberals do? Pop a xanax and vote for losers like Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi, lamenting further losses, bewildered at why they never seem to get ahead, while RMF and eric tell us to stfu and vote for any Democrat offered, even the ones who were Republicans last week.

I'm angry at the politicians who are supposed to represent us, not corporations, and frustrated at the ignorance of the liberals who keep falling for their bullshit. But Schadenfreude cannot be truly enjoyed when the results mean further degradation of our government, lives lost, lives ruined, a country on the verge of collapse.

Who will save us from ourselves when we are so fucking determined to fail?

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