Head on Collusion

Adam Schiff says “collusion” and “conspiracy” are the same thing.  Apparently the law says different.  “Conspiracy” is “secret co-operation” of two more parties to commit a crime.  So, to prove a “conspiracy,” prosecutor Robert Mueller will need to show that the Trump campaign received something of “value” from the Russians.[1]  Those things of value might have included covertly-supplied (i.e. “laundered”) campaign contributions.   The “conspiracy” element also could include things like co-ordination of the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) e-mails or guiding the Russian social media campaign.[2]

Beyond that, Mueller probably is trying to discover if an understanding existed in which the Russians helped candidate Donald Trump in return for a promise to pursue a policy more friendly to Russia by President if Donald Trump.  One key question appears to be whether anyone in the Trump campaign engaged in “intentional solicitation” for help or co-operation.

In July 2016, Trump publicly urged the Russians to “find” the 30,000 e-mails that Hillary Clinton had deleted from her personal e-mail server.  It seems clear from the story of George Papadopolous and from accounts of the June 2016 meeting between Russians and leaders of the Trump campaign (Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort) that the Russians had claimed that they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.[3]  In August 2016, Roger Stone, a Trump adviser, told someone that he had met with Julian Assange, of Wikileaks.  He predicted that DNC official John Podesta soon would be in for a hard time.  Is having knowledge of something the same as participating in a conspiracy?

Michael Flynn, briefly Trump’s national security adviser, discussed economic sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, then lied about the discussions to Vice-President Pence.  Michael Cohen, one of Trump’s personal attorneys and commonly described as a “fixer,” is alleged to have lied about a visit to Prague to confer with Russians.  Did he lie under oath or only to journalists?

It has been reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Trump in late April 2018 that he is a target neither of the Mueller investigation nor of the Michael Cohen investigation.[4]  Mueller has been at this for quite a while.  He has indicted George Papodopolous, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Michael Flynn, while Michael Cohen has had his home and offices searched.  Is it really possible that he has found no proof of a crime by the president?  Found no one who will “flip” on the president?  Found nothing worth knowing from anyone who is willing to “flip” under the pressure of transgressions unrelated to the campaign?  Or is he just biding his time?

Liberals countered by arguing that “the opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings”: Trump could still become a target at any moment.  Many of their hopes seem to rest on a charge of obstruction of justice related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey.  Comey’s evident loathing of the President he was charged to investigate and a failure by Mueller to discover proof of a “conspiracy” could under-cut the validity of an obstruction charge.  In the court of public opinion, if not in the law courts.

[1] It seems apparent that the “Steele dossier” came from the Russian intelligence service with the intention of helping Hillary Clinton.  So why isn’t the Clinton campaign also under investigation?

[2] “The collusion question,” The Week, 4 May 2018, p. 11.

[3] Clearly they did have some embarrassing materials.  These were released through Wikileaks in August 2016.  Did they have more and “even better” stuff that they held back to use as leverage if Clinton managed to win?

[4] “Giuliani seeks end to Russia probe,” The Week, 4 May 2018, p. 5.

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