Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion: Is Mueller zero­ing in on col­lu­sion?

The Week (US) - - News -

Spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion is “clos­ing in” on Pres­i­dent Trump, said Jill Abram­son in The­Guardian.com. A flurry of bomb­shell court fil­ings last week drew the most ex­plicit con­nec­tions be­tween Trump and Rus­sia we’ve seen so far. Michael Co­hen, the pres­i­dent’s former lawyer, pleaded guilty to ly­ing to Congress about a po­ten­tial deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. In or­der to pro­tect the pres­i­dent, Co­hen ini­tially told con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors that the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion stopped pur­su­ing the deal in Jan­uary 2016. He now ad­mits the com­pany’s out­reach to Rus­sia con­tin­ued through June, well into the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Mean­while, Trump was lav­ishly prais­ing Putin, pledg­ing to forge friend­lier ties with Rus­sia—a key strate­gic goal for Putin—while adamantly in­sist­ing, “I have ZERO in­vest­ments in Rus­sia.’’ Dur­ing that same pe­riod, Rus­sian hack­ers pro­vided Wik­iLeaks with a trove of stolen emails in­tended to dam­age Hil­lary Clin­ton’s can­di­dacy. A draft court fil­ing re­leased last week re­vealed that in Au­gust 2016, long-time Trump buddy Roger Stone pushed right-wing au­thor Jerome Corsi to “get’’ the emails from Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange. Corsi soon emailed back to say, “Word is friend in em­bassy [As­sange] plans 2 more dumps… Im­pact planned to be very dam­ag­ing.’’ The very next day, Stone and Trump spoke on the phone. Soon after, Wik­iLeaks be­gan its first email dump. If Trump knew about those stolen emails in ad­vance and cheered their re­lease, it means he was com­plicit in a for­eign con­spir­acy to in­flu­ence the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. That would “make the Water­gate bur­glars look pos­i­tively classy.”

Dream on, said Matthew Walther in TheWeek.com. After nearly two years of hunt­ing, Mueller “has en­snared much small game but no large mam­mals.” Thanks to Mueller’s ef­forts, we know that Trump sur­rounded him­self with liars, tax cheats, and other shady char­ac­ters. What we haven’t seen is solid ev­i­dence that Trump ac­tu­ally col­luded with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment. The rev­e­la­tion that Trump nur­tured a pipe dream of build­ing a lux­ury sky­scraper in Moscow means lit­tle, es­pe­cially since it never went any­where. Yet once again, said Ed­die Scarry in Wash­ing­tonEx­am­iner.com, Trump’s crit­ics breath­lessly tell us that we’ve reached a “turn­ing point,” that the “walls are clos­ing in” or “the noose is tight­en­ing.” They’ve been us­ing these same clichés for a year now. Wake me when Mueller ac­tu­ally comes up with some­thing. You’re not pay­ing at­ten­tion, said Conor Frieder­s­dorf in TheAt­lantic.com. All along, the Krem­lin has known it could ex­pose Trump for ly­ing about his at­tempt to build a Trump tower in Moscow—giv­ing Rus­sia black­mail lever­age over Amer­ica’s pres­i­dent. “Elected of­fi­cials have re­signed in dis­grace for less se­ri­ous trans­gres­sions.” Trump de­fend­ers dis­miss ev­ery rev­e­la­tion about the Trump team’s dozens of Rus­sian con­tacts as “low-level shenani­gans,” said Jonathan Chait in NYMag .com. “Trump him­self,’’ the de­fend­ers say, “has noth­ing to fear.” If that’s true, why has Trump lied over and over to cover up those con­tacts? Why did he fire then–FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey for pur­su­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and then–At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions for re­cus­ing him­self from it? Why is he still dan­gling a par­don for former cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort, when that of­fer will be­come part of Mueller’s ob­struc­tion of jus­tice case? The pres­i­dent’s ly­ing and ob­struc­tion makes no sense— “un­less Trump is, in fact, guilty.”

Col­lu­sion or not, Trump’s con­duct was “un­ac­cept­able,” said

David French in Na­tion­al­Re­view.com. Trump re­peat­edly praised Putin dur­ing his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, dou­bling the au­to­crat’s ap­proval rat­ing among Repub­li­cans. All the while, Amer­i­cans never knew that Trump was try­ing to make mil­lions off a hos­tile for­eign power. “That’s in­tol­er­a­ble.” Up to now, I’ve been a skep­tic about Rus­sian col­lu­sion, said John Pod­horetz in the New York Post. But the co­in­ci­dences are be­com­ing too much to over­look. Not long after Corsi tipped off Stone about the up­com­ing Wik­iLeaks dump, he passed on ad­vice that Trump should start talk­ing about Clin­ton’s health. “And Trump did.’’ Add to that pos­si­ble quid pro quos be­tween Putin and Trump, and it’s start­ing to look as if Muller “just might have a case.”

My con­ser­va­tive friends who’ve elected to de­fend Trump had bet­ter pre­pare them­selves “for what Mueller may find,’’ said Matt Lewis in TheDai­lyBeast.com. The “un­der­belly of Trum­p­land’’ is about to be ex­posed, and it will be un­seemly at best—crim­i­nal at worst. What if Mueller pro­duces ev­i­dence that Trump was “com­pro­mised’’ by his Rus­sia con­tacts, or sought to use his of­fice for per­sonal gain? “The peo­ple who de­fend the in­de­fen­si­ble—who put “loy­alty” to a man (not prin­ci­ple or Amer­ica) above all else—will not be judged well by his­tory.’’

Co­hen: A dam­ag­ing rev­e­la­tion

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