For Trump crit­ics, term ‘col­lu­sion’ packs a punch

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

Law­fare In­sti­tute and Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, the lan­guage dis­pute broke wide open in a pod­cast by Preet Bharara, the for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney in Man­hat­tan fired by Mr. Trump in 2017.

In a late June pod­cast of “Stay Tuned with Preet,” Mr. Bharara in­sisted the word is be­ing mis­used in the 2016 elec­tion le­gal saga.

In ev­ery­day, non-le­gal lan­guage, “col­lu­sion” means peo­ple se­cretly work­ing to­gether to do some­thing il­licit. The le­gal word for such ac­tiv­ity is “con­spir­acy” — the term Mr. Mueller has used in his in­dict­ments against some of Mr. Trump’s as­so­ciates.

Law­fare’s Vic­to­ria Clark delves into what she calls “the in­tel­lec­tual his­tory of the word “col­lu­sion” in the con­text of the Rus­sian elec­tion med­dling story” say­ing le­gal minds are “in­trigued by how the pres­i­dent can sim­ply tweet ‘NO COL­LU­SION!’ to con­vey a huge amount of mean­ing to his sup­port­ers and op­po­nents alike.”

Ms. Clark’s re­search points to us­age of col­lu­sion dat­ing back to July 22, 2016, — the day Wik­iLeaks re­leased more than 19,000 emails hacked from the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee.

Two days later, she notes, Hil­lary Clin­ton’s then-cam­paign man­ager, Robby Mook, told CNN that, ac­cord­ing to “‘ex­perts,’ Rus­sian state ac­tors had stolen the emails from the DNC and were re­leas­ing them through Wik­iLeaks ‘for the pur­pose of ac­tu­ally help­ing Don­ald Trump.’”

While Mr. Mook did not specif­i­cally use the word “col­lu­sion,” mul­ti­ple press ac­counts of his com­ments did, she ex­plains. It then spread quickly with the Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner, ABC News and CNN all us­ing it later that day, July 24.

“From there it was off to the races,” Ms. Clark writes. “Over the next two weeks, the word ‘col­lu­sion’ was used hun­dreds of time.”

Use of the term spiked again in Oc­to­ber 2016, when Wik­iLeaks pub­lished more than 50,000 emails from John Podesta, Ms. Clin­ton’s cam­paign chair­man.

The fi­nal months of 2016, her re­search found, saw more spar­ing use with the word of­ten de­fined as al­leged “ties” Mr. Trump might have had to Rus­sia or Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

The word then seemed to per­ma­nently at­tach it­self to the story on Dec. 9, 2016, when The Wash­ing­ton Post first re­ported that the CIA had con­cluded Rus­sia in­ter­vened in the 2016 elec­tion in or­der to aid the Trump cam­paign. Again the orig­i­nal story did not use the col­lu­sion la­bel, but sub­se­quent pub­li­ca­tions of the Post’s find­ings took up the cry.

The word be­came such a com­mon short­hand for the en­tire con­tro­versy that even Mr. Trump’s sup­port­ers — and Mr. Trump him­self — em­braced the word as a short­hand for the en­tire col­lab­o­ra­tion ac­cu­sa­tion.

Mr. Trump’s son, Don­ald Trump Jr., and Trump son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner were among those who in­sisted they had never col­luded with any Rus­sian agents, and Mr. Trump rou­tinely de­nounced the col­lu­sion charge as the heart of the “witch hunt” Mr. Mueller and the Democrats are pur­su­ing.

Al­though she con­sid­ers it a “le­gal non sequitur,” Ms. Clark said the C-word is likely to stay with us, giv­ing the pres­i­dent’s crit­ics the op­por­tu­nity to hint at wrong­do­ing with­out hav­ing to pro­duce a smok­ing gun, stay­ing away from the more pre­cise — and harder-to-prove — charge of con­spir­acy.

“The term caught on, I think, be­cause it cap­tured the gen­eral sus­pi­cion that the cam­paign was some­how in on the hack or know­ingly ben­e­fit­ing from it — while care­fully elid­ing the fact that no tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence had yet emerged ty­ing the Trump cam­paign to the Krem­lin,” Ms. Clark wrote.

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