The Ses­sions hear­ing showswho’s re­ally col­lud­ing

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Editorial Page - BY MARC A. THIESSEN

Ac­cord­ing to the U. S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, Rus­sia’s ob­jec­tives in med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion in­cluded not only hurt­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s chances but also un­der­min­ing “pub­lic faith in the U. S. demo­cratic process,” “im­pugn­ing the fair­ness of the elec­tion” and call­ing into question “the U. S.- led lib­eral demo­cratic or­der.”

If the spec­ta­cle of the past few months is any in­di­ca­tion, Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin is cer­tainly suc­ceed­ing in these lat­ter goals.

And here is the great irony: Those who are falsely claim­ing that Trump was un­der FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion for col­lu­sion with Moscow are, in fact, the ones in­ad­ver­tently col­lud­ing with Putin to un­der­mine Amer­i­can democ­racy.

Case in point is the cam­paign of McCarthyite char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion on dis­play in the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing last week. No doubt Putin was smil­ing as At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions was forced to re­but what he cor­rectly called “ap­palling and de­testable” ac­cu­sa­tions that he col­luded with the Rus­sians and lied to the Se­nate.

Ses­sions tes­ti­fied that the much­vaunted “third meet­ing” be­tween Ses­sions and the Rus­sian am­bas­sador at the Mayflower Ho­tel — which Ses­sions re­port­edly failed to dis­close — did not hap­pen, at least not be­yond pos­si­ble in­ci­den­tal con­tact that he doesn’t even re­call.

There­was a time when air­ing un­proven allegations of co­or­di­nat­ing with the Krem­lin was seen as bad form. Now it is com­mon prac­tice in Wash­ing­ton. These kinds of false charges and in­nu­endo di­rectly as­sist Rus­sia in its ef­forts to un­der­mine pub­lic con­fi­dence in our demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions. Those rais­ing such ac­cu­sa­tions with­out proof are, wit­tingly or un­wit­tingly, do­ing the Krem­lin’s bid­ding.

For months, Democrats ( aka “The Re- sis­tance”) have been spin­ning the false nar­ra­tive that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was un­der FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion — an ef­fort to call into question the va­lid­ity of his pres­i­dency.

In March, Democrats used it as a pre­text to ar­gue that Trump did not have the le­git­i­macy to fill a Supreme Court va­cancy. Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Charles E. Schumer of New York de­clared in a floor speech that the Se­nate should not vote on Neil Gor­such’s nom­i­na­tion be­cause Repub­li­cans “stopped a pres­i­dent who wasn’t un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion” from fill­ing the seat.

Two days later, Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, D- Mass., said the same thing, declar­ing, “The FBI has re­vealed that the sit­ting pres­i­dent of the United States is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. And it raises a re­ally, I think, im­por­tant question and that is whether or not a pres­i­dent who is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI ought to be ram­ming through a Supreme Court nom­i­nee that would have a life­time ap­point­ment.”

The me­dia glee­fully echoed these false claims. The day be­fore James Comey tes­ti­fied, CNN blared: “In tes­ti­mony, Comey will dis­pute Pres­i­dent Trump’s blan­ket claim that he was told he wasn’t un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.” In fact, Comey said pre­cisely the op­po­site.

When Sen. James Risch, R- Idaho, asked, “While you were di­rec­tor, the pres­i­dent of the United States was not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Is that a fair state­ment?” The for­mer FBI di­rec­tor replied: “That’s cor­rect.” Even then, CNN was not will­ing to con­cede its er­ror, declar­ing in a so- called “cor­rec­tion” that “Comey does not di­rectly dis­pute that Trump was told mul­ti­ple times he was not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

No, Comey did not fail to “di­rectly dis­pute” it, he di­rectly con­firmed it. The CNN story — and its non- cor­rec­tion cor­rec­tion — was “fake news.”

Not only that, Comey also tes­ti­fied that Trump never tried to get him to stop the probe into Rus­sia’s elec­tion med­dling, which Comey ex­plained was a sep­a­rate mat­ter from the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of dis­graced for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn.

Not only did Trump not ask Comey to stop the probe, the for­mer FBI di­rec­tor told Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R- Fla., “He went far­ther than that. He said, ‘ and if some of my satel­lites did some­thing wrong, it’d be good to find that out.’ “Ru­bio pressed Comey, ask­ing whether he was tes­ti­fy­ing that Trump ef­fec­tively said, “Do the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. I hope it all comes out. I have noth­ing to do with any­thing Rus­sia. It’d be great if it all came out, peo­ple around me were do­ing things that were wrong.” Comey replied, “That was the sen­ti­ment he was ex­press­ing. Yes, sir.”

Given these facts, Trump has le­git­i­mate rea­son to be frus­trated. If you knew you were not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI, but ev­ery­one was say­ing you were, you’d want the truth to get out. And you might be up­set with an FBI di­rec­tor who re­fused to lift the “cloud” hang­ing over your ad­min­is­tra­tion by con­firm­ing that he was not in­ves­ti­gat­ing you.

That said, Trump has been fu­el­ing the lib­eral feed­ing frenzy with his tweet­storms tak­ing his crit­ics to task. If Trump knows he did noth­ing wrong— and if he re­ally wants to find out whether any of his “satel­lites” did — he should stop talk­ing and tweet­ing about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, let spe­cial coun­sel Robert S. Mueller III do his work and fo­cus on his job: gov­ern­ing.

His daugh­ter Ivanka Trump was re­cently asked how she dealt with the me­dia frenzy over Rus­sia. She replied, “I’m try­ing to keep my head down, not lis­ten to the noise and just work re­ally hard to make a pos­i­tive im­pact in the lives of many peo­ple.”

That’s a good strat­egy — and one her fa­ther ought to em­u­late.


At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions tes­ti­fied be­fore the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee on Tues­day.

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