Did Sen. McCain ‘col­lude’ with Rus­sia?

Ac­cept­ing ‘op­po­si­tion re­search’ is a game any num­ber can play, and of­ten do

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Al­lan H. Ryskind Al­lan Ryskind was a long­time edi­tor and owner of Hu­man Events. His lat­est book is “Hol­ly­wood Traitors.”

With the “Rus­sian scan­dal” con­tin­u­ing to roil the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, Democrats and the me­dia ap­pear al­most giddy with the prospect of in­flict­ing per­ma­nent in­jury on the Trump pres­i­dency.

What set off the new­est round of spec­u­la­tion about the Trump team’s Putin con­nec­tion was the leak that Don­ald Trump, Jr., set up a meet­ing last June with a Rus­sian lawyer af­ter he had been in­formed that she had in­for­ma­tion prov­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton had en­gaged in crim­i­nal con­duct. Jared Kush­ner, Trump Sr.’s son-in-law, and Paul Manafort, then Trump Sr.’s cam­paign man­ager, were also in at­ten­dance and, as a re­sult, are now in the cross-hairs of the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s special coun­sel and var­i­ous con­gres­sional com­mit­tees.

But the Democrats and the me­dia aren’t the only folks in high dud­geon. Charles Krautham­mer and An­drew Mc­Carthy, ma­jor stars in the con­ser­va­tive fir­ma­ment, have joined in, ac­cus­ing the Trump forces of hav­ing clearly “col­luded” with Rus­sian agents in this sup­pos­edly ne­far­i­ous get-to­gether, a word that the re­lent­lessly anti-Trump Wash­ing­ton Post lov­ingly high­lighted when post­ing their col­umns.

In my Web­ster’s New World Dic­tio­nary, Third Edi­tion, the main def­i­ni­tion says “col­lu­sion” is “a se­cret agree­ment for fraud­u­lent or il­le­gal pur­pose, con­spir­acy.” Sim­i­lar def­i­ni­tions pop up in a host of ma­jor on­line dic­tio­nar­ies.

Yet Mr. Krautham­mer and Mr. Mc­Carthy ad­mit there’s no ev­i­dence, none — at least so far — that any of the three en­gaged in fraud or il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity at the meet­ing or that the ef­fort to gather op­po­si­tion re­search — which was never pro­duced — was a crime. So why then did th­ese highly lit­er­ate word­smiths feel com­pelled to use a toxic term that so pleased Pres­i­dent Trump’s en­e­mies and in­stantly in­vokes evil or crim­i­nal con­duct? Mr. Mc­Carthy even vaguely hints that if it can be proved that the Trump cam­paign “covertly” acted with a for­eign gov­ern­ment “against U.S. in­ter­ests” — how vague is that phrase? — im­peach­ment might well be in or­der.

Based on the avail­able ev­i­dence — though we never know what shoe is go­ing to drop next — the meet­ing seemed nei­ther fraud­u­lent nor il­le­gal nor even im­moral.

Con­sider this: If you were a top ad­viser to a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and some­one close to Pres­i­dent Putin promised to give you doc­u­ments that showed the main op­po­nent of your can­di­date had com­mit­ted crim­i­nal con­duct, wouldn’t you feel com­pelled to seek this in­for­ma­tion out? Even if that per­son had an un­sa­vory rep­u­ta­tion? Or had ties to an un­friendly for­eign gov­ern­ment? Wouldn’t you be derelict in your duty to spurn the chance to see the in­crim­i­nat­ing stuff that, if ver­i­fied, could turn an elec­tion around?

Few con­demned Sen. John McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, for se­cur­ing ex­tremely dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion con­tained in that now fa­mous anti-Trump dossier based largely on Rus­sian sources. Mr. McCain has no rea­son to like Mr. Trump: not only be­cause of his rancid at­tack against the se­na­tor’s war record, but his mul­ti­ple pro-Putin state­ments and Mr. Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial be­lief that he has the moxey to carve out var­i­ous deals with the Rus­sian dic­ta­tor.

Though Mr. Trump’s read­ing of the Rus­sian oligarch may have merit, that’s a con­ceit many folks across the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum find not only du­bi­ous but dan­ger­ous.

Thus Mr. McCain, fu­eled by his deep dis­trust of both Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, de­cided to seek out the na­ture of this ma­te­rial, not car­ing where it came from and even though cur­rent and ex-Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials and the FSB (for­merly the KGB), pro­vided some of the doc­u­ment’s most damn­ing con­tents.

Mr. McCain also had rea­son to be­lieve that much of the dossier was ac­cu­rate. The ma­te­rial, re­port­edly paid for by an op­po­si­tion re­search group linked to both Hil­lary back­ers and “Never Trumpers,” was as­sem­bled by Christo­pher Steele, a Rus­sian ex­pert who had long held key po­si­tions in MI6 (Bri­tain’s CIA) and was head of the Rus­sian desk from 2004-2009.

More­over, as Van­ity Fair tells us, Mr. McCain and David J. Kramer, who works for a McCain for­eign pol­icy in­sti­tute, were briefed on the dossier by Sir An­drew Wood, the ex-Bri­tish am­bas­sador to Moscow, while the pair were at­tend­ing the Hal­i­fax In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity Fo­rum in Nova Sco­tia.

As a re­sult, Mr. Kramer flew to Lon­don, met up with Mr. Steele and re­turned to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., with Mr. Steele’s re­port, hand­ing it to Mr. McCain. Mr. McCain, in turn, gave it to FBI direc­tor James Comey in De­cem­ber of last year. Buz­zFeed then ei­ther posted Mr. Steele’s fin­ished doc­u­ment on­line, or, as some be­lieve, one of its drafts, for all the world to see.

The dossier, some 35 pages, con­tained dozens of highly in­flam­ma­tory “find­ings” from cur­rent and ex-Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials al­leg­ing shady business deal­ings by both Mr. Trump and his aides and Mr. Trump’s pur­ported scan­dalous sex­ual con­duct. Fur­ther­more, ac­cord­ing to the dossier, a “for­mer top in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial” said that the FSB “has com­pro­mised Trump through his ac­tiv­i­ties in Moscow suf­fi­ciently to be able to black­mail him.”

Surely, this was worth scru­tiny, even though the dossier is now viewed as dis­cred­ited and Mr. Steele him­self has walked back his find­ings, ex­co­ri­at­ing Buz­zFeed for pub­lish­ing what Mr. Steele con­cedes are un­proven charges.

The pres­i­dent and his team can be sharply crit­i­cized for many things, but if John McCain acted in a pa­tri­otic man­ner by se­cur­ing op­po­si­tion re­search on Mr. Trump from Putin­friendly sources, why should Mr. Trump’s peo­ple be faulted for at­tempt­ing to do the same thing when it came to Hil­lary?

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