A few things we know

Porterville Recorder - - OPINION - Michael Car­ley Michael Car­ley is a res­i­dent of Porter­ville. He can be reached at mcar­ley@gmail.com.

The pres­i­dent and his sup­port­ers are var­i­ously call­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­flu­ence in the elec­tion and his cam­paign’s pos­si­ble co­op­er­a­tion with that in­flu­ence, a “witch hunt” or a “noth­ing­burger.” It is any­thing but.

One thing we’re all go­ing to have to learn is some pa­tience. Com­pare the time­line to Water­gate. From the time of the orig­i­nal bur­glary of the Water­gate Ho­tel to Nixon’s res­ig­na­tion was over two years. Dur­ing that time, most in Nixon’s party con­tin­ued to sup­port him, right through all the cor­rup­tion, ev­i­dence, and in­ter­fer­ence in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

It is sim­i­lar in­ter­fer­ence that may undo Trump. We don’t cur­rently know what will be found re­gard­ing his and his cam­paign’s ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the elec­tion, but his re­peated at­tempts to shut down the in­ves­ti­ga­tion sug­gests he is wor­ried and could prove more crim­i­nal than the elec­tion ac­tiv­i­ties them­selves.

So, Trump sup­port­ers who are hop­ing the pres­i­dent will be ex­on­er­ated or who will not be­lieve any ev­i­dence against him, are go­ing to have to wait this out. It’s go­ing to take a while. The same can be said of his op­po­nents who can­not wait to see him leave of­fice.

The orig­i­nal FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which has now been turned over to Robert Mueller and a team he is com­pil­ing, was fo­cused on how much Rus­sia in­ter­fered in our elec­tion process, and, as a corol­lary, the ex­tent to which, if at all, the Trump cam­paign co­op­er­ated in that in­ter­fer­ence. That Rus­sia did in­ter­fere is be­yond ques­tion. Our in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are con­vinced that they were in­volved in the hack­ing of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee. There is some doubt about this, on the po­lit­i­cal right and left, in part be­cause the first­hand ev­i­dence of it is not pub­lic, but the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are unan­i­mous.

What’s more, that wasn’t the only in­ter­fer­ence. Rus­sians also pushed “fake news” at­tack­ing Sec­re­tary Clin­ton and their on­line bots swept the web with com­ments on on­line ar­ti­cles and so­cial me­dia posts. The ac­tual im­pact of this is dif­fi­cult to mea­sure. It is also the case that Rus­sians weren’t the only ones with bots and there are some fake news sites on both sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum. But right or left, it should be in­ves­ti­gated.

An­other thing we know is that not one, but sev­eral mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign seem to have for­got­ten to in­clude con­tacts with Rus­sia dur­ing the cam­paign on their re­quired dis­clo­sure forms. If this were one per­son, one in­stance, one might chalk it up to an over­sight, but it is many al­ready.

Lead­ing the way is Michael Flynn, who lasted only 24 days as the pres­i­dent’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor. Flynn led the chants of “Lock Her Up” at the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion and tweeted out fake news, in­clud­ing one ex­press­ing anti-semitism. Dur­ing the cam­paign, he was work­ing for the govern­ment of Turkey, but had not reg­is­tered as a for­eign agent. Af­ter the cam­paign, he dis­cussed sanc­tions with Rus­sians who were be­ing mon­i­tored by US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, but lied about it pub­licly.

The pres­i­dent was warned about Flynn by act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral Sally Yates, who he later fired, and by Pres­i­dent Obama, just af­ter the elec­tion. He ig­nored th­ese warn­ings.

Af­ter ask­ing, but not re­ceiv­ing, a pledge of loy­alty from FBI Di­rec­tor Comey, the pres­i­dent asked all oth­ers to leave the room and asked Comey to back off the Flynn in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It’s hard to imag­ine a more clear cut case of ob­struc­tion of justice.

Then Trump fired Comey, who along with Yates, and Preet Bharara, makes at least three peo­ple he has fired who were in­volved in in­ves­ti­gat­ing him or his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

As for whether there is col­lu­sion with the Rus­sians, it is clear there was. Emails re­leased by the pres­i­dent’s son con­firm that he and other lead­ers of the cam­paign agreed to a meet­ing with Rus­sians which was set up on the ba­sis of the Rus­sian govern­ment’s de­sire to help the Trump cam­paign.

The im­me­di­ate line among the pres­i­dent’s sup­port­ers was to move the goal­posts. Now, de­spite months of denials it sud­denly didn’t mat­ter that the cam­paign clearly col­luded with Rus­sia. They just say it isn’t il­le­gal. And if you want to guess at how wor­ried they are, con­sider that they are now at­tack­ing Mueller and his team, at­tempt­ing to un­der­mine his cred­i­bil­ity.

I’ll leave ques­tions of le­gal­ity to the in­ves­ti­ga­tors and lawyers. Space does not per­mit a more com­plete de­tail­ing of what we al­ready know. And Mueller’s team has a wide lat­i­tude, and is ex­pected to ex­am­ine any­thing that may come up in con­nec­tion with their orig­i­nal man­date. It may be that fi­nan­cial crimes are the big­gest re­sult.

But, what we do know is that this “noth­ing­burger” is chock full of meat. And, we’re just get­ting started.

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