Credit where credit is due: At least Kellyanne Conway was transparent about admitting she just moved the goal posts on Russia and collusion. And, boy, did she move them.
Here's what Conway said on “Fox and Friends” on Friday morning:
Even the goal posts have been moved. We were promised systemic — hard evidence of systemic, sustained, furtive collusion that not only interfered with our election process but indeed dictated the electoral outcome.
Yes, I know: Conway was actually accusing others of moving the goal posts. But these two sentences, in truth, represent her own effort to do just that. If this is truly the White House's stance going forward — and I remain unconvinced that Conway is truly leading the White House's messaging here or elsewhere — it's tantamount to an admission of guilt for Donald Trump Jr. but a promise that it wasn't part of a larger effort.
Conway seems to be suggesting a little bit of collusion or attempted collusion might have been okay. She is setting the standard at “hard evidence of systemic, sustained, furtive collusion.” But this is quite a bit different from the White House's repeated promises that there was no collusion, period — dozens of them in total, according to some counts. This is a statement that has been made over and over again, and never qualified in the way Conway just did. A sampling:
- “There is no collusion — certainly myself and my campaign — but I can always speak for myself and the Russians — zero.” — Trump in May
- “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?” — Trump tweet in May
- “There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey. But there’s been no collusion, no obstruction and virtually everybody agrees to that.” — Trump last month
- “Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election.” Trump tweet in May
- “There was simply no collusion that they keep trying to create that there was” — Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday
“Zero collusion” and “simply no collusion” is apparently creeping into “no systemic or sustained collusion.” Conway seems to be saying, yes, this meeting was yucky and probably a bad idea, but it wasn't part of anything bigger.
The second part of her statement is equally brazen. She says those looking into collusion have said this effort “not only interfered with our election process but indeed dictated the electoral outcome.”
Conway's standard now apparently isn't just a concerted collusion effort; it's now a concerted collusion effort that was the determining factor between having a President Clinton and a President Trump. In other words, it has to have actually made the difference.
This just isn't true. Nobody who is seriously looking at this can say with any certainty that this Russian interference or alleged collusion truly made the difference, and the intelligence community has explicitly said it wouldn't weigh in on that question.
There may be some people who believe the collusion was systemic and sustained and that it changed the outcome. But the media and the intelligence community have been much more circumspect about all of this. This is laughable spin from Kellyanne Conway, and it suggests just how much trouble Donald Trump Jr. and the White House are in.