It’s amazing how hard it is to find something when you are not looking for it — if, in fact, you are trying to hide it. After spending the last year pretending to investigate connections between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee ended the charade on Monday by announcing that there was “no evidence of collusion.” Even more incredibly, the GOP majority said there was no evidence that the Russians had been trying to elect President Trump — an assertion contradicted by the U.S. intelligence community and a federal grand jury that indicted 13 Russians for alleged involvement in this operation.
How did the Republicans miss what is evident to everyone else? By shutting their eyes and closing their ears. As Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat, noted, the Republicans didn’t compel testimony from important witnesses and didn’t subpoena important records. The Republicans were engaged not in an investigation but a coverup. They sought to exonerate Trump and smear the FBI and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Chairman Devin Nunes (R.-Calif.) made himself a laughingstock by claiming there was a deep-state conspiracy against the president.
What might the Republicans have found if they were interested in looking? (A shocking idea, I know.) It’s impossible to say for sure, but the public record, summarized by The Post’s Philip Bump, provides compelling, if circumstantial, evidence of collusion.
Former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now a cooperating witness, said that on or about April 26, 2016, he learned from a professor close to the Kremlin that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including “thousands of emails.” Papadopoulos relayed to the campaign offers of Russian “cooperation.”
On June 9, 2016, the entire high command of the Trump campaign, including Paul Manafort (himself linked financially to the Russian oligarchy), Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, met at Trump Tower with a lawyer from Moscow promising to “incriminate” Clinton. Six days later, Democratic National Committee documents stolen by Russian hackers began surfacing on the Web via a hacker named Guccifer 2.0. Early in July, Trump staffers removed language from the GOP platform calling for arming Ukraine to resist Russian aggression. On July 22, the eve of the Democratic convention, WikiLeaks begins releasing stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee.
On July 27, Trump publicly asked the Kremlin to release Clinton’s emails. On Aug. 21, Trump confidant Roger Stone tweeted: “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel,” referring to John Podesta, the chairman of Clinton’s campaign. On Oct. 7, shortly after the release of the blockbuster video in which Trump brags about groping women, WikiLeaks began posting Podesta’s stolen emails. We now know that Donald Trump Jr. communicated with WikiLeaks, and Stone with Guccifer 2.0 and possibly WikiLeaks, too.
During the last month of the campaign, Trump mentioned WikiLeaks 141 times, while denying that Russia was behind the hacks. The Kremlin, meanwhile, undertook a massive propaganda blitz for Trump that reached 126 million Americans via Facebook alone.
After Trump won, his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, held secret conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak that he later lied about to the FBI. The two men talked, in particular, after President Barack Obama announced sanctions on Dec. 28 to punish Moscow for its meddling. Putin did not retaliate and Trump praised his forbearance, suggesting a quid pro quo.
This very short, very incomplete summary can only hint at the connections between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. There is much more we do not know but that Mueller does. For instance, a recent New Yorker article on the Steele dossier noted that during the campaign the head of GCHQ, Britain’s signals intelligence agency, briefed the CIA director “on a stream of illicit communications between Trump’s team and Moscow that had been intercepted. (The content of these intercepts has not become public.)”
It is hard to imagine an innocent explanation for such contacts — or for all the lying that Trump officials have done about them. It is harder still to imagine that Trump was unaware of what his team was up to. He was, after all, personally involved in putting out a false statement that the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower was about “adoptions.” The fact that Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey over the “Russia thing” and has attacked Mueller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein for the same reason, is also highly suggestive. As is the fact that he still refuses to retaliate for the Russian attack on America.
Imagine what Republican lawmakers would have said if this case had involved Hillary Clinton. Charges of “treason” would fill the air. But because it’s Trump, they put party above patriotism. When Mueller comes out with the real story, the dishonor, disgrace and degradation of the Republicans will be complete.