What Clearer Evidence Of Collusion Do We Need?
It is a testament to either Donald Trump’s mastery of deflection or his capacity to continually break the norms, boundaries, rules, and laws of our country, or both, that the news that Paul Manafort was sharing polling data with a representative for one of Putin’s oligarchs during the 2016 campaign was not the absolute dominant news story yesterday afternoon and evening. Somehow, clear evidence that the Trump campaign manager was colluding, or, to be perfectly legal, was engaging in a conspiracy to provide Russians with private polling information that could be and apparently was used to target specific localities and populations in the United States was overshadowed by the possibility that the President would create a constitutional crisis by fraudulently declaring a national emergency at the southern border in order to extricate himself from a political bind of his own making.
For two years, Trump’s defenders have claimed that there is no evidence that the Trump campaign actively helped the Russians influence the election. They would grudgingly admit that the Russians were constantly approaching the Trump campaign to offer help but categorically deny that there was any evidence the Trump campaign had colluded or conspired with the Russians to make that happen. Those denials, of course, gloss over Don Jr.’s response to the Trump Tower meeting, Trump’s direct request to the Russians to hack and release Hillary’s emails, Cohen’s continuing negotiations for Trump Tower Moscow, and much, much more. Now, we have clear evidence that the Trump campaign was supplying the Russians with polling information, both public and private, that could help them target their social media attacks on Clinton. And, because Rick Gates is also named in this effort, it could be that this information continued to be passed to the Russians even after Manafort left the campaign in August, 2016, although, as we have discovered, he never really left the campaign completely. What clearer evidence of collusion do we need?
It defies belief that this is not the most important story of the moment. It is far bigger than Trump’s speech, which was his usual boilerplate propaganda, or even the shutdown which Trump incredibly largely ignored last night. The fact that it is not is because either the media already knows that the Trump campaign engaged in collusion or, more likely, yet another example of the press giving Trump a free pass. Last night’s free prime-time airtime provided by the networks for what was essentially a fundraising effort by the President is a classic example of how badly the media has been cowed by Trump. As David Frum notes, “Relative to the truth, the prestige press in this country has a PRO-Trump bias. Relative to the truth, Trump gets easier coverage than he deserves”.
As Clint Watts says, “This is the closest thing we have seen to collusion. The question now is, did the president know about it?”. This doesn’t seem close to collusion; it is collusion. And based on his words and actions, it seems almost certain that the President knew. The more relevant question now is whether Mueller can prove it.