It Depends on What the Meaning of ‘Russiagate’ Is

Blake Hounshell has doubts about whether Trump colluded with Moscow.

Blake Hounshell, editor in chief of POLITICO Magazine, has come out as a Russiagate skeptic. A qualified one, to be sure:

No, I’m not denying the voluminous evidence that Russia, at Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin’s personal direction, sought to meddle in the 2016 election, and that Donald Trump was clearly his man. The indictment on Friday of 13 Russians—and the incredible forensic detail in the 37-page complaint filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team—ought to have convinced any reasonable person that the Russia investigation is definitely a somethingburger. But what kind of somethingburger is it?

[…]

Of course, Mueller has put some serious points on the board. In addition to the 13 Russians and three Russian organizations from Friday’s indictments, we’ve also seen two indictments of Trump associates thus far—former Trump campaign chairman/manager Paul Manafort and his wingman Rick Gates—and two plea bargains, from sometime national security adviser Michael Flynn and volunteer campaign adviser George Papadapoulos. There is also other stuff hanging out there—most of all Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous meeting in Trump Tower, the one he enthusiastically scheduled after being told the Russians on offer had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Mueller’s team has had nothing to say—yet?—about the hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee or Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. And there is no indication, despite the professed optimism of White House lawyer Ty Cobb, that they are wrapping up anytime soon.

There are, of course, odd aspects of Trump’s behavior that arouse suspicions. His obsequious praise of Putin. The aborted effort to roll back the old Russia sanctions, and the failure to enforce the new ones. His refusal to accept that Moscow meddled in the election, despite the conclusions of his own staff, the intelligence community and pretty much everyone looking at the evidence in good faith. Firing his FBI director and reportedly ordering the firing of the special counsel. His constant fulminations against the “Russia hoax.” The fact that he hasn’t directed any effort to safeguard the 2018 midterms. If Trump is guilty, he sure is acting like it.

And there is the fact Trump aides have repeatedly lied about the fact, and extent, of contact between campaign officials and Russia. If the Trump Tower meeting was as innocuous as Donald Jr. says it was, for instance, why the misleading claim that it was about “adoptions”?

So, what is he skeptical about?

I keep coming back the slapdash nature of Trump’s 2016 operation, and the chaos and dysfunction that everyone who covered that campaign saw play out each day. Like the Trump White House, the Trump campaign was a viper’s nest of incompetence and intrigue, with aides leaking viciously against one another almost daily. So much damaging information poured out of Trump Tower that it’s hard to believe a conspiracy to collude with Moscow to win the election never went public. If there was such a conspiracy, it must have been a very closely guarded secret.

Then there’s the Trump factor to consider. Here’s a man who seems to share every thought that enters his head, almost as soon as he enters it. He loves nothing more than to brag about himself, and he’s proven remarkably indiscreet in the phone calls he makes with “friends” during his Executive Time—friends who promptly share the contents of those conversations with D.C. reporters. If Trump had cooked up a scheme to provide some favor to Putin in exchange for his election, wouldn’t he be tempted to boast about it to someone?

That’s both reasonable and not exactly flattering of Trump or his team. Hounshell continues with several paragraphs noting the odd behavior of Flynn, Papadopoulos, and Carter Page–while noting that they’d only pled to lying to the FBI, not any actual collusion with Russia, much less Trump-ordered collusion.

He concludes,

There is, of course, plenty of public evidence that Trump was all too happy to collude with Putin. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” springs to mind, not to mention Trump’s endless invocation of WikiLeaks in the closing weeks of the 2016 campaign. What’s particularly eerie, too, is how Trump’s divisive racial rhetoric and claims about how the election was going to be “rigged” in favor of Hillary Clinton echoes the messages described in Mueller’s latest indictment. Not to mention the voluminous fodder Trump has given Mueller for a (very) hypothetical obstruction of justice case.

Mueller’s team doesn’t leak, and he’s repeatedly surprised us, as he did again on Friday. But I’m still waiting for a smoking gun—and the special counsel hasn’t shown us one yet, assuming he ever will.

I’m essentially where Hounshell is.

Clearly, Putin and his government worked to discredit Hillary Clinton and to undermine her campaign, if not to get Trump elected. (I still think they had no idea Trump could win and fully expected to have a damaged Clinton in the Oval Office.) And there are too many bizarre ties between pretty much everyone in Trump’s inner circle with Russia. And, if Trump hasn’t obstructed justice to a level where we’d impeach a President, he’s certainly come perilously close to that line on a regular basis. But I’ve seen no reason to believe there was an actual conspiracy between Donald Trump, his campaign, and the Putin regime to influence the election. Indeed, my strong sense from the beginning is their interests simply coincided and Trump served as a useful idiot.

Of course—and I’m pretty sure Hounshell would agree—collusion with an adversarial power is surely not the baseline standard to which we ought to hold our Presidents. Nor, even, is chargeable obstruction of justice. Constantly playing into Putin’s hands, stuffing his administration with people susceptible to  Russian pressure, and routinely interfering with a full and vigorous investigation into the now undeniable interference in our elections is simply unacceptable. And it doesn’t matter if, as I think is the case, Trump’s interference is motivated by a child-like peevishness over the inconvenience of it all rather than a cover-up of collusion. “Russiagate,” therefore, is scandalous even if Mueller’s investigation reveals nothing more than we already know.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Donald Trump, Russia Investigation, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Not the IT Dept. says:

    “I’m too dumb to collude – Trump 2020!” Nope, exactly a barnburner of a slogan. Doesn’t work for me anyway.

    What we’re going to find out from the Mueller investigation is that money laundering has been going on for so many years between Trump’s businesses and the Russians that Putin owns his pasty white ass completely, and that Trump is basically an employee in his own named company. His status is the only thing Trump cares about and I have no problem believing he doesn’t understand the political ramifications of this whole thing because he doesn’t care enough to understand. He’s terrified of Putin for some reason and it has to be money.




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  2. Gustopher says:

    But then there’s the meeting in Trump Tower with the Russian lawyers, and the email exchange where Idiot Trump Son #1 is planning the meeting, eager to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. The meeting that they first claimed was about adoption programs.

    Well, first they claimed it never happened, then they claimed it was about adoption programs, then after the emails were coming out they claimed that they didn’t get anything good so “no harm no foul”.

    So, it’s not like the Trump campaign didn’t want to collude with the Russians…




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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    What we’re going to find out from the Mueller investigation is that money laundering has been going on for so many years between Trump’s businesses and the Russians

    I think that’s a legitimate possibility. One of the big problems with Trump from the outset was the massive and ongoing Emoluments Clause violations. That he’s still running his shady business in all but name white sitting as President is illegal and unconscionable; yet nobody talks about it anymore.

    @Gustopher:

    But then there’s the meeting in Trump Tower with the Russian lawyers….

    Yes. And maybe that will turn out to be campaign collusion. But it seems more likely to be classic Trump business dealings.




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  4. a child-like peevishness over the inconvenience of it all rather than a cover-up of collusion.

    Excellent sentence.




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  5. Modulo Myself says:

    I’m curious about how the FBI found out about the Russians they indicted. The troll factory was actually written about several years ago in the Times, but what led them to the others? I would not be surprised if it was Trump and his staff.

    Also, it should be obvious that Trump probably doesn’t know what ‘collusion’ actually is like. This is a guy who has his friend David Pecker (lol) buy off the porn stars he’s slept with. And I’m guessing that he thinks this is something that happens naturally, like everybody has a David Pecker to take care of their affairs. He doesn’t think of his actions as intentional. And if you don’t think of your actions as intentional, then it will be impossible for you to collude. So the Russians who were stealing emails and sending out bots were like David Pecker, just part of the landscape.




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  6. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    His dumber son literally wanted to get stolen emails through that meeting. How is that business?




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  7. JohnMcC says:

    It seems that the objection Mr Hounshell has to a full-throated treasonous, conspiring-with-Putin Donald Trump is that he could not keep it a secret if it were true. That would be a comforting belief, that one could peer into Mr Trump’s mind.

    I give the President a bit more credit for the complete human spectrum of talents.




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  8. James Joyner says:

    @Robert Prather: Thanks!

    @Modulo Myself: It’s not illegal to ask Russians if they have any good info on Hillary Clinton.

    @JohnMcC: I think it’s just that conspiracies are really hard and Trump doesn’t show any of the requisite talents.




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  9. michael reynolds says:

    Hounshell’s argument rests on the premise that Trump had to have initiated a conspiracy. Trump did not initiate anything, he was essentially recruited as a Russian intelligence asset. His other argument, that Trump would have bragged about it is easily dismissed – no one brags about being blackmailed or owned.

    It’s always safe to play skeptic. That way, no matter how it turns out, you can’t quite claim credit for being right, but you can make some noises that sound wise. “I had my doubts. . .” I’ve played this game myself when the stakes were low, or I wasn’t really paying attention.

    James, I believe you are reversing cause and effect. Trump did not cause the interference, he profited from it. Trump did not plan the interference, he supported it. Trump is not in love with Putin, he’s owned by Putin. Putin is the chess player, Trump is his pawn. Whether Putin believed Trump would win or not, he only had to believe that Trump would damage the United States win or lose, but do infinitely more damage if he won. No, it was not just about Putin hating Hillary, had that been the case Putin would have backed a Republican more likely than Trump to win – Bush or Rubio, for example.

    Go back to Trump’s core character. His one real asset is his psychopath’s instinct for attacking weakness and projecting himself as a brand representing success. He belittles those in his way, throws anyone under the bus who represents the slightest threat. Right? So, why doesn’t he apply those instincts to Trump-Russia? I know he’s stupid, but I’ve never doubted his instincts as a predator. And yet, when even a few words or actions could inoculate him against charges that threaten to take him down, Trump cannot speak a word of criticism of Putin. And he refuses to implement sanctions vetoed overwhelmingly by Congress. Why? Why is Trump seemingly doing everything he can to validate suspicions? Why would Trump insist on changing the GOP platform on Ukraine to a pro-Russian position? How does that ‘validate’ his win?

    Trump is clearly terrified and panicking. He’s clearly engaged in obstruction, which just digs his hole deeper. All this because he’s worried his ‘win’ will be cast into doubt? I don’t buy it. I think his fear goes much deeper and centers on the likelihood that he is not a billionaire at all. In fact he may be broke, absent laundered Russian money. But that doesn’t exactly exonerate Trump, because it means he is conspiring in a cover-up, attacking the FBI and CIA and media, and he’s doing it solely to cover up his own failure as a businessman. Which again, takes us right back to the likelihood that Putin has Trump’s balls in his pocket, because Putin knows every rouble that’s gone to Trump.

    If anyone on earth can prove that Trump is a loser, it’s Putin. That’s why Putin owns Trump. (And maybe some fun video, too.) Trump is actively covering up not Russian meddling, but his own failures, and by acting to block investigation into Putin’s actions, Trump makes himself part of the underlying conspiracy.




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  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    Trump did not collude with Russia.

    In that “collude” implies a meeting of equals to set out a combined plan that mutually benefited both parties.

    Rather, Trump is a Russian stooge.




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  11. MarkedMan says:

    James, I’m not clear about what exactly you are saying here. It seems obvious by Trump’s obsequious behavior towards Putin and his running attempts to repeal or lessen sanctions against Russia that he is compromised by the Russians and acting in their, rather than America’s, interest. So, given this, are you saying that Trump himself is compromised but not because he personally colluded on election matters? If so, that seems to be making an unimportant distinction. A traitor is a traitor. Or are you saying that you haven’t seen evidence that Trump is compromised at all?




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  12. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    If they went to a meeting hoping to get info they knew was stolen it certainly would be.




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  13. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Frankly I think this line from the Russians indictments…

    “Some defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.”

    (emphasis mine)…is more damning than actual collusion. That the President and his inner circle are so easily manipulated by foreign agents is far more scary than anything else.
    The problem is that if true then Trump has continued to be played by Putin; by not enforcing sanctions, by trying to end sanctions, by changing the GOP platform at the Convention, by refusing to condemn Putin and Russia’s interference. Indeed…by his actions, or lack of actions, it is clear that Trump is welcoming Russia’s attacks on our nation and has no intention to do anything stop it.
    Again; if there is no collusion…we are far worse off than if there were. The idea of the most powerful man in the world being a “useful idiot” is terrifying.




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  14. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: There’s clearly a special weakness vis-a-vis Russia; we just don’t know what it is. But Trump is also simply indifferent to rules and can’t comprehend the notion that they ought apply to him.

    @MarkedMan: I think Trump may well be compromised, if nothing else for his dealings with Russia as a private citizen. I’m saying that’s not what motivated the investigation. Moreover, I’m saying that, if Mueller ends his investigation without being able to find rock solid evidence of collusion, we shouldn’t conclude that Trump is vindicated.

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Trump’s being a dupe, while scary, isn’t criminal.




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  15. Kathy says:

    I’ve said before, elsewhere, that if Trump had colluded with the Russians, he’d brag about it. maybe not on Tweeter or other public forum, but privately and likely to many people. So that it would have become public knowledge by now.

    On the other hand, there’s too much deference to Putin past Trump’s admiration of dictators, and there’s the matter of his tax returns he promised to release and hasn’t. I’m sure he’s hiding something, connected to Russia, that is either embarrassing, illegal, or both.

    He might be covering for someone else, but I don’t think so. he doesn’t strike me as someone who’d hesitate to throw his family under the bus if it benefited him.

    BTW can a president’s, or in this case Trump’s, tax returns while in office be released under a FOIA request?




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  16. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s not illegal to ask Russians if they have any good info on Hillary Clinton.

    True, I think. I believe that it would clearly be illegal for Russia to supply such info, a thing of value provided to the campaign by a foreign government. It may also be legal for junior to offer to provide relief from the Magnitsky sanctions as quid pro quo for the hypothetical emails.

    The whole thing seems to have fallen apart with the realization the Russians had DNC and Podesta emails, not the famous 30,000.

    IANAL, so a question, perhaps for Doug, who is. Attempted murder is a crime. Attempted theft is a crime. I think attempted wire fraud is a crime. Is an attempt to conspire to violate campaign finance laws a crime? If so, does Jr. not appear guilty of said crime based on public information?




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  17. Gustopher says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Again; if there is no collusion…we are far worse off than if there were. The idea of the most powerful man in the world being a “useful idiot” is terrifying.

    Here’s an even more terrifying scenario: The Russian agents set up the meeting, offer up the damaging information, and the Trumps don’t understand the value of the information or how to use it, so the Russians just move forward.

    The Trumps might not be “useful idiots,” they might be “useless idiots.”




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  18. Modulo Myself says:

    It seems pretty easy to believe that Trump, while in Russia, was not exactly faithful to his wife. But it’s hard to believe that any video of him having boring vanilla sex for ten seconds with an indifferent model is going to matter. The most damaging thing I can think of him being on caught on tape doing is having a 14-year old boy give him a blowjob. The fact that he’s paranoid about being drugged makes me kind of wonder if he was not–at one time in the early 2000s–given E or ketamine and then taped with a teenage boy. The idea of the pee tape made him go nuts, which is bizarre, considering what else is out there. Unless of course it’s not a woman.




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  19. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @James Joyner:

    Trump’s being a dupe, while scary, isn’t criminal.

    Agreed. But it’s worse than being criminal…it’s downright dangerous for the nation.




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  20. CSK says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    There isn’t anything sexual Trump could get up to that the Trumpkins wouldn’t forgive or condone. Even if they were shown a video of him committing necrophilia with the corpses of 2-year-olds, they’d claim it was photoshopped.




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  21. Kylopod says:

    @CSK:

    There isn’t anything sexual Trump could get up to that the Trumpkins wouldn’t forgive or condone.

    Fixed.




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  22. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    No argument there.




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  23. Joe says:

    Trump wants to define “collusion” as something he actively arranged and further wants everyone to believe the issue here is collusion as he defines it. When it turns out to be anything else – and I have always been in full agreement with @michael reynolds on this – Trump will claim he is vindicated because he did not collude. The part of this country called Trumpistan will agree.




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  24. teve tory says:

    CSK says:
    Monday, February 19, 2018 at 15:30

    @Modulo Myself:

    There isn’t anything sexual Trump could get up to that the Trumpkins wouldn’t forgive or condone.

    Tony Perkins says he gets a mulligan for having an affair with a pornstar and then paying for her silence. Evangelicals are always yelling about sex and immorality and homosexuality because of a phenomenon called reaction formation. There’s a good Wikipedia page about it.




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  25. CSK says:

    The head of Judicial Watch, Tom Fitton, is urging Trump to pardon Flynn, Manafort, Gates, and Papadopoulos on the grounds that the DOJ and the FBI are too anti-Trump to handle their cases fairly.




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  26. teve tory says:

    Exclusive: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has grown to include his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition https://t.co/3qAz9askqA https://t.co/hnmQTQiAXB




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  27. Kylopod says:

    @teve tory: A few months ago Hugh Hewitt wrote a column mocking liberals for their bafflement at Trump’s popularity among evangelicals. Hewitt argued basically that what liberals don’t get is that it’s Trump’s policies, not Trump as a person, that makes conservative Christians go gaga over him.

    The funny thing is that I haven’t found that to be the case. I’ve encountered plenty of Trump supporters who admit off the bat that Trump is a terrible person, but who claim to like his policies. But evangelicals (or at least the most vocal of them) seem to have been swept up in the Trump cult of personality more than any other single group except for maybe white nationalists. They talk about Trump like he’s saintly. A serial womanizer and admitted sexual assaulter who is clearly not very religious; who held socially liberal views until very recently in his life; whose publicly espoused value system is about the most absurd mockery of Christianity imaginable, in which he basks in the most crude and vulgar expressions of the material rewards of wealth and fame. What’s notable is that they don’t seem to support him despite these traits, but in many ways because of them.

    The closest precedent I can think of to this is when Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential bid. Giuliani was a multiple divorcee, an admitted adulterer, and an openly pro-choice Catholic. He made a few noises during the campaign about “strict constructionism,” which everyone knows is code for “I’ll appoint justices who will overturn Roe.” But unlike Romney or Trump he maintained his pro-choice views on the campaign trail. And this was at a time when the GOP field included several apparent bona fide pro-lifers, including an actual Baptist minister. Robertson ignored them all and embraced the brash New York secularist.

    Similarly–and it’s important to remember this point–a number of evangelical leaders embraced Trump during the primaries, when the field included staunch so-cons like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee, none of whom were married more than once and all of whom appear to be committed Christians–at least, you wouldn’t expect to hear any of them describing the Communion wafer as “my little cracker” and claiming they’ve got nothing to repent for.




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  28. Lit3Bolt says:

    The smoking gun will be the change in the Republican party platform concerning Ukraine in exchange for the e-mails. The timeline matches and this was commented on extensively in real time. But the media focused on the e-mails and criticism of HRC instead.




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  29. PJ says:

    @Kylopod:

    There isn’t anything sexual Trump could get up to that the Trumpkins wouldn’t forgive or condone.

    A video of Trump ordering one of his mistresses to have an abortion.

    Nah. Not even that. It would be forgiven since they would argue that he would save millions unborn by picking conservative justices for the Supreme Court.




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  30. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    What they like about Trump is that he’s an oaf. He talks just like them, as they note with pride. And…scratch a fundamentalist, and very often you find a racist misogynist xenophobe. Trump is that, and that’s what they love about him.




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  31. al-Ameda says:

    If and when Mueller gets into the financial connections between Trump and his real estate company and Russian ‘financiers’ we’re going to see why Trump has been reticent to criticize Russia for any reason whatsoever, let alone their election disinformation operation.




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  32. Lit3Bolt says:

    @James Joyner:

    Trump’s being a dupe, while scary, isn’t criminal.

    When a Republican does it, none dare call it treason.




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  33. Kylopod says:

    @CSK:

    What they like about Trump is that he’s an oaf. He talks just like them, as they note with pride. And…scratch a fundamentalist, and very often you find a racist misogynist xenophobe. Trump is that, and that’s what they love about him.

    I agree, and I’d put it this way: they like him for the same reason he vanquished his rivals in the primary, because he delivered “red meat” better than any of them. In other words, he’s the perfect embodiment of the American right-wing “id.” And conservative evangelicals are one of the groups most receptive to this effect. They’re the types of people who have long been the core audience for figures like Rush Limbaugh. At bottom, what animates them isn’t ideological purity on issues like taxes, it’s a sense of grievance, of losing their cultural power in an increasingly diverse America. Trump understood that better than his Republican critics have ever been able to grasp, and without actually sacrificing the elite GOP’s policy agenda despite a few rhetorical nods in that direction.

    Trump seems to have an intuitive sense exactly how to push these people’s buttons. So, for example, he describes global warming as a hoax devised by the Chinese–two birds with one stone, it seems. Elite Republicans question global warming all the time due to their commitment to the fossil-fuel industry, but the denial appeals to religious fundamentalists because it undermines all the hoity-toity scientists in their lab coats telling us that evolution is a fact (what most conservative evangelicals really care about, I suspect). That’s part of how the GOP has maintained its coalition for the past few decades, but Trump simply cut to the chase.




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  34. James Joyner says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    When a Republican does it, none dare call it treason.

    We’re not at war with Russia, so it wouldn’t be treason. But the whole point of the post is that what we already know to be true is scandalous and outrageous even if we can’t prove collusion.




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  35. Tyrell says:

    “That’s all, folks!”




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  36. Barry says:

    @Kathy: “I’ve said before, elsewhere, that if Trump had colluded with the Russians, he’d brag about it. maybe not on Tweeter or other public forum, but privately and likely to many people. So that it would have become public knowledge by now.”

    Somebody pointed out that it took well over a year for the Stormy incident to become public – 15 months.




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  37. MBunge says:

    “Russiagate,” therefore, is scandalous even if Mueller’s investigation reveals nothing more than we already know.

    And if you’d written this a year ago, it might have meant something. You know, back when people like me were pointing out how little sense the whole “Collusion!” business made. Unfortunately, as best I can tell you basically sat around with your thumb up your butt saying nothing while Trump-critics dived headlong into hysterical paranoia. I mean, have you read the comments around here?

    As such, there is no way you or anyone else is going to be able to spin anything short of “Collusion!” as a serious scandal. Oh, you’ll try but even most Republicans and conservatives who don’t care for Trump will notice to immense moving of the goalposts from “TRUMP IS PUTIN’S SLEEPER AGENT” to “Trump behaved unwisely.” It’s not like example 1,000,000,001 of Trump violating establishment norms is going to make any more difference than the first 1,000,000,000.

    The furor over “Russiagate” has never been about anything more than giving the people who were wrong about Trump an excuse other than their own stupidity and the promotion of a dangerous fantasy about removing Trump from office. It doesn’t look like either of those things are going to happen.

    Mike




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  38. MBunge says:

    @James Joyner: But the whole point of the post is that what we already know to be true is scandalous and outrageous even if we can’t prove collusion.

    Are you referring to the failure of Obama’s FBI to do anything about the Russians, the fact the Russians seemed to understand electoral politics better than Hillary, or how we’ve wasted a year and a mountain of political capital on hysterical fear-mongering and paranoid delusions about “Collusion!”?

    Mike




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  39. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    As such, there is no way you or anyone else is going to be able to spin anything short of “Collusion!” as a serious scandal

    As I told you before, “collusion” (I really wish people would stop misusing this legal term) was the door opener. It served to initiate the investigation.

    And it has served its purpose. That aspect is done now. Aside from the obviously useful political aspects of releasing these indictments at this stage of the game, we’re now moving on to the real prize(s). Take caution to keep up, or you’ll end up being the guy shouting at the rain about an issue nobody else cares about any longer.

    LOL, wait, what am I saying … 🙂




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  40. milprof says:

    A third possibility between active collusion and useful idiot, is being compromised. Whether a sex video or more likely, illegal financial dealings or just being massively in hock to Kremlin-connected oligarchs, Trump could have “aligned interests” for reasons more sordid and hidden than naive love of authoritarians or political opportunism. There wouldn’t have to be any active cooperation, or even any explicit discussions of the threat and expected behavior to avoid it being carried out. Trump is probably savvy enough to know when someone has him over a samovar and to act accordingly, and Putin certainly smart enough see the advantage of staying indirect.

    Being personally compromised as President wouldn’t be collusion per se, but it would still be a different and worse sort of thing than just having shared interests and no sense of decency.




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  41. gVOR08 says:

    “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

    Someone raised some interesting points a few days ago. First, when’s the last time we declared war? 1941? Yet we’ve been at war many times since. What does “enemies” mean?

    Second, we believe that a cyber attack is an act of war. A hypothetical: had American citizens knowingly provided military intelligence to Japan in Sept ‘41, before we were at war, would we not have charged them with treason? Perhaps on the grounds that they knew there would be war? If, hypothetically, Jr. provided data used for a cyber attack, would he not be guilty of treason? Even if he was too dumb to realize it?

    IANAL, but I wonder if a case could be made for treason. Or at least threatened.




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  42. Lounsbury says:

    shall be quite happy withy petulant and childish obstruction of justice as the lever in the end.




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  43. JKB says:

    The insanity is strong here.

    Collusion isn’t a thing in this context. Who pray tell was defrauded even if two or more people worked together?

    Obstruction of Justice? For the President doing what is fully within the purview of his office? Let me know when you’ve found where he destroyed evidence. Firing a subordinate, i.e., the FBI director, is not obstruction. Neither would be ordering the FBI director to drop an investigation, much less asking him to. There could be a political cost, but not a legal one.

    Emoluments clause? I recently read an article by a law professor that the clause doesn’t apply to elected, only appointed officers. There is enough uncertainty to ensure that this would be unlikely to be resolved by SCOTUS until after 2024.

    All in all, the more plausible story is that Putin set this REI (Russian Election Interference) as payback for Hillary’s interference in the Ukrainian election. He surely had no concern that “More Flexible” Obama would dare take action to put a stop to it.

    All in all, Trump’s election has been a bad deal for Putin. ISIS is on the run, Russian “contractors” in Syria are under fire. The US is now a net oil exporter putting a real pinch on Putin’s oil revenues, much less his use of oil and gas supplies to put pressure on the EU and others.

    And really, as Obama quipped, the 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back. Maybe if Obama had taken Russia serious as a foreign adversary in 2012, they wouldn’t have had free reign to interfere with the election in 2014-16.




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  44. MarkedMan says:

    @JKB: this argument that it can’t be obstruction if he only did things he was legally authorized to do is one of the Trumpoids more pathetic and desperate rationalizations. I’m legally authorized to drive a car, but if I deliberately run someone over it is murder.




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  45. gVOR08 says:

    @JKB:

    All in all, Trump’s election has been a bad deal for Putin.

    You funny.




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  46. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    If declared war is the standard, an American could do business with North Korea and face nothing more than a charge of violating sanctions. Have we declared war on ISIS? Are they not the enemy?




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  47. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t think declared war is the standard; SCOTUS has been clear that various Congressional authorizations to use military force are tantamount to a declaration. It’s murky in cases where we’re not in armed conflict. Jane Fonda was never charged with treason during Vietnam, even though that was an informally declared war. I think we could probably convict someone of treason for helping the Taliban in Afghanistan or ISIL. Probably not on the DPRK but there are all sorts of statutory violations they’d be committing. We do business with Russia on a regular basis, but there are various sanctions on the Putin government and various individuals. I don’t think treason is a possibility there. (Unpatriotic behavior? Sure. Disloyalty to the country? You betcha. Conduct unbecoming a President? We’ve been there since the inaugural speech.)




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  48. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: I wouldn’t expect to see anyone charged with treason in “Russiagate” simply because treason charges are so very rare. Even the Rosenbergs were not charged with treason, but rather under the Espionage Act. IIRC the only American charged with treason in the past 60 years was Adam Gadahn, and he was killed in a drone strike in 2015 so there was no actual trial.




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  49. Tyrell says:

    Before Mueller unplugs his computers, packs his bags, and heads to a private beach, he should look at the Federal Reserve and the missing trillions. See Senator Sanders grill Bernanke on “missing trillions of the Federal Reserve”




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