Russia investigation: The year ahead
“What a shame,” said Heather Digby Parton in Salon.com. “Just as the Trump troops had finally come up with what they thought was a put-away shot of the Russian investigation, the damn thing blew up in their face.” Until last week, President Trump’s defenders were insisting that the entire investigation into his campaign’s contacts with Russia was triggered by a tainted dossier compiled for the Clinton campaign. But last week, The New York Times reported that the FBI in fact opened its investigation, now led by special counsel Robert Mueller, before the dossier surfaced. The real trigger? Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos drunkenly boasted to an Australian diplomat in May 2016 that Russian hackers had political “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” Papadopoulos was told about the emails by a London-based professor with strong Kremlin ties—suggesting an aggressive Russian operation “to establish secret channels at various levels of the Trump campaign.”
Some skepticism is warranted, said David French in NationalReview.com. Like numerous breathless newspaper articles on the Russia investigation, the Times report is based on “unknown, anonymous sources and ‘documents’ not available to the reader.” Why was this story leaked to the Times now? In addition, the story doesn’t indicate that Papadopoulos shared the supposed Hillary “dirt” with anyone else in the campaign. So far, the publicly available evidence seems to suggest while that some Trump campaign aides were “willing and eager to receive damaging information from the Russians,” nothing illegal came of those conversations. In other words, no collusion.
Can you be serious? asked Colin Campbell in NewRepublic.com. The Russian theft of Democratic emails was a crime, and if the Trump campaign encouraged their release—perhaps in return for sanctions relief—that would be a criminal conspiracy. To believe that Trump himself did nothing wrong, you’d have to believe he was “totally out of the loop” as “his sons, son-in-law, and other advisers met with Russians and solicited Russian dirt on Hillary.” In the coming year, Trump’s defenders have reason to be nervous, said Philip Ewing in NPR.com. Papadopoulos and former national security adviser Michael Flynn are cooperating witnesses; Mueller’s team is also digging through financial records, emails, and intercepted communications. “2018 could deliver an action-packed conclusion to the Russian imbroglio.”