Thursday, 21 March 2019

No Evidence of Collusion

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After two years of leaving no stone (real or imaginary) unturned in its investigation, the Senate Intelligence Committee is in the final stages of its Trump/Russia collusion investigation and winding down to a conclusion. And similar to the House Intelligence Committee — which ended its investigation last year — the Senate Intelligence Committee did not find “anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia,” according to Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the committee.

Burr’s concise and articulate comment was made during an interview with CBS News for an article that was published online the first week of February. In that interview, Burr could not have been more clear or less ambiguous: “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.”

That statement — hinting that the committee may release its report in coming weeks or months — comes after two years during which the committee interviewed more than 200 witnesses and reviewed more than 300,000 pages of documents. Given the depth and breadth of the investigation and lengths to which investigators went, it seems clear that if there were evidence of collusion, it would have been uncovered. Instead, as Burr’s comment makes clear, no such evidence has come to light. The week after his interview with CBS News, Burr broke it down into even smaller pieces for people who may have mistaken his previous statement, telling NBC News for an online article, “There is no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

There is no honest way to interpret that other than to conclude that after two years, 300,000 pages, and 200 interviews, the committee has found nothing that shows collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Democrats Cling to the Narrative

Not surprisingly, Democrats pretend otherwise, while hoping against hope that something — anything — will come out that they can use to prop up the failing narrative of Trump/Russia collusion.

Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner (D-Va.) was quick to muddy the waters with baseless and unfounded accusations, claiming that “there’s never been a campaign in American history ... that people affiliated with the campaign had as many ties with Russia as the Trump campaign did.” It seems Warner is pretending not to be aware of the campaign of his good friend Hillary Clinton — going all the way back to Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. (See the sidebar on page 12.)

And while Warner told reporters on February 12 that he disagrees with Burr’s characterization of the evidence, he refused to offer any rebuttal, saying, “I’m not going to get into any conclusions I have.” Warner’s silence on the subject is deafening — especially coming on the heels of saying he disagrees with Burr’s summary. One is left to ask: If Warner had some concrete reason for his disagreeing, wouldn’t he say so?

Warner is not the only Democrat to downplay Burr’s remarks, but even the others quoted in the NBC News article stopped short of disputing Burr’s characterization that there is no evidence “that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.” The NBC News article stated that “Democratic Senate investigators who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity did not dispute Burr’s characterizations, but said they lacked context.”

But those Democratic Senate investigators did not fill in the context they claim is lacking — opting instead to grasp at straws and cast aspersions. One Democratic aide is quoted as opining, “We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude.’” As if that is all that’s missing here. 

And trotting out tired, old lines from the past two years, one Democratic Senate investigator said, “Donald Trump, Jr. made clear in his messages that he was willing to accept help from the Russians,” adding, “Trump publicly urged the Russians to find Clinton’s missing emails.” 

Of course, far from providing missing “context,” both of those episodes are well known and would certainly have been part of the “evidence” considered by the committee. That means, of course, that they are taken into context in Burr’s assertion that the committee saw no evidence “that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.”

To put in the for-what-it’s-worth column, both of those claims are bogus. 

First, Donald Trump, Jr.’s willingness to “accept help from the Russians” was not — by any honest person’s definition — anything like collusion; it was opposition research. He believed he had an opportunity to get information on Clinton that would hurt her campaign. Furthermore, the phrase “from the Russians” is ambiguous and misleading — likely deliberately so. Don, Jr.’s meeting was not with a Russian official, but with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, a private Russian citizen who claimed she had information damaging to Clinton. This is not the smoking gun proponents of the collusion narrative like to pretend it is. In fact, opposition research is a normal part of politics, like it or not. 

As for Trump having “publicly urged the Russians to find Clinton’s missing emails,” this is less of an issue than Don, Jr.’s meeting with Veselnitskaya for two related reasons. First, it was not a serious request for digital intel from a foreign power, but a politically expedient sound bite intended to gain points at a press conference. Because far from the way it has been portrayed in the liberal mainstream media, what Trump actually said cannot honestly be interpreted as “Trump publicly urg[ing] the Russians to find Clinton’s missing emails.” What Trump actually said on July 27, 2016 — after publicly denying for the umpteenth time that he has any ties to Russia — was:

Photo credit: AP Images

This article appears in the March 18, 2019, issue of The New American. To download the issue and continue reading this story, or to subscribe, click here.

If it is Russia [that hacked both the DNC and Clinton campaign e-mails], it’s really bad for a different reason. Because it shows how little respect they have for our country when they would hack into a major party and get everything. 

But it would be interesting to see — I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

Second, to the logical mind, this episode actually dispels the spectre of collusion. If Trump was colluding with the Russian government, he would not have needed to make any public request of Russia; he would simply have passed it along through his handlers. But logic, as the American people have seen for the past two years, has nothing to do with the Trump/Russia collusion narrative.

No Collusion

Against all of that “context,” Burr’s public statements that his committee did not find “anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia” and that “there is no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia” stand out in sharp relief. No evidence was found because there is no evidence to find. 

It is noteworthy that this is the exact conclusion reached by the House Intelligence Committee last year. The logical conclusion of the lack of evidence after the myriad investigations is that the Trump campaign did not engage in collusion with Russia. 

That point is further indicated by the fact that Justice Department and congressional sources have been reported to have said that Mueller is close to wrapping up his investigation, as well. So far — after nearly two years of conducting an investigation so wide-ranging that it could justly be called a free-rein investigation — Mueller has not produced one shred of evidence related to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

While nearly 40 people have been indicted as a result of the Mueller investigation, none have been charged with collusion. The closest Mueller has come to that elusive target is his charging 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies with conspiracy, related to a Russian propaganda effort designed to interfere with the 2016 elections, and Mueller’s charging 12 officers of Russia’s military intelligence service with crimes related to the hacking and leaking of DNC and Clinton campaign e-mails in 2016. 

It seems obvious to everyone except those married to the collusion narrative that if the Trump campaign had been colluding with Russia, at least someone would have been indicted by Mueller for collusion. 

Network Media Blackout

While Burr’s statements about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s failure to find any evidence of collusion should have led the news cycle, the exact opposite was true: The mainstream networks that have given major coverage to everything related to allegations of Trump/Russia collusion completely ignored this new development. The Media Research Center took the time to calculate the coverage ABC, CBS, and NBC gave to the collusion narrative. It totals 2,202 minutes of air time. To put that in perspective, if you spent Monday through Friday and took a 30-minute lunch break each day, watching that coverage would be a full-time job for that week. Watching the network coverage for the statements by Burr that there is no evidence of collusion would take exactly zero seconds.

Only after Warner disagreed with Burr’s “characterization” did ABC run a segment — and that segment focused on Warner’s remarks. On February 13 — two days after Burr’s statements — Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos seized the opportunity afforded by Warner’s rebuttal-without-substance to report that Republicans and Democrats on the committee were “at odds over the conclusion of their investigation.” That entire segment was a whopping 50 seconds, in which Burr’s remarks served merely as a reference for Warner’s statement that he “respectfully disagrees.” 

ABC’s senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce spent 14 of those 50 seconds accusing President Trump of “seizing on all this, tweeting, and falsely claiming that the Senate Intelligence Committee has now concluded that there is no evidence of collusion.”

So having ignored the story while apparently waiting for something to occur that would allow them to spin it to fit the collusion narrative, ABC used Warner’s remarks as a jumping off point to accuse President Trump of “falsely claiming” exactly what the chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee explicitly stated: There is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. 

Neither NBC nor CBS — which had the exclusive interview with Burr for its online report — gave any airtime at all to the story. It is a strange thing when a network ignores its own exclusive. But then again, the exclusive doesn’t fit the narrative. And ignoring the narrative does not appear to be an option.

Coming to an End?

While Burr was clear to say that the committee is not quite finished with its work and he did not place a timeline on the release of an official report, he did indicate that it will be sooner, rather than later. He told CBS News, “We know we’re getting to the bottom of the barrel because there are not new questions that we’re searching for answers to.”

It is little wonder, after more than two years of digging, reading, interviewing, and investigating — only to find nothing of significance — that there are no new questions. That means, of course, that there will be no new answers. And Chairman Burr has clearly concluded that there was no collusion.

While there will almost certainly be a Democrat rebuttal to the official report once it is released, it seems as if that official report will exonerate President Trump once again. Not that that will matter to Democrats, and their rebuttal then will likely make no more sense than their rebuttal now. 

Photo credit: AP Images

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