Congressman Adam Schiff lays out the circumstantial case for Trump/Russia collusion in his opening statement before the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, did an impressive job in Monday’s hearing of laying out a strong circumstantial case for collusion between Russian operatives and members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. But there is a flaw in the former federal prosecutor’s reasoning.
The flaw lies in the Californian’s seeming contention that Russian intelligence released damaging information on Hillary Clinton and the Clinton political machine via Wikileaks in exchange for Trump policy stances on NATO and Ukraine. That’s wrong, for a couple of reasons.
To be clear, as longtime readers already know, I’m sure that the remarkable pattern of Trump and his associates lying about their linkages with Russia is part of an effort to hide something quite damning about their behavior. Something else in their behavior.
Because Russian intelligence was going to deploy “weaponized” take on the Clintons no matter what Trump and his people did.
And because Trump had already adopted the stances on NATO and Ukraine that Russia prefers.
My Russian sourcing ― high-ranking yet unofficial ― told me early on that the intention was always to go after the Clintons. To be clear, I don’t communicate with the Kremlin, have turned down appearances on Russia Today, haven’t gotten a dime from Russia-related sources, and found Vladimir Putin, the FSB security service chief when I met him while trying to help Russian liberal reformers in the ‘90s, to be impressive, capable, and unlikable.
As I said in “Why The Russians Hold A Sword of Damocles Over Hillary (and Bill) Clinton” last July, which is when the current Democratic narrative articulated by Schiff has some sort of negotiation taking place, the Russian purpose from the beginning was to delegitimize the Clintons in the US and around the world. And to make American politics look not like a shining exemplar but a cesspool.
Hillary’s prospective presidency was to be unpopular and hobbled coming out of the starting blocks, with Clinton set up for Putin’s rhetorical attacks as a thoroughly corrupt hypocrite.
I also laid out the very longstanding reasons for Putin’s and Russian enmity toward the Clintons. That exists for far broader reasons and goes back far beyond the usual recent circumstances cited in the media, going back to the Clintons’ championing of NATO encirclement of Russia during its supine early post-Soviet days in the 1990s. (NATO having been established to counter the now defunct Soviet Union.)
As for the pro-Russian policy stances supposedly needed in exchange for Russian action against the Clintons, Trump has been a Putin fanboy for at least 10 years that I know of. I knew that Trump had been bashing NATO and it had been supposedly underpaying members and undermining U.S. commitment to NATO for more than a year before the July Carter Page trip to Moscow that Schiff references. In fact, Hillary had already attacked Trump a year ago for supposedly wanting to pull the US out of NATO.
And Trump had already pooh-poohed Putin’s move on Crimea and eastern Ukraine after the Hillary-promoted regime change in Ukraine during the climax of Putin’s Sochi Winter Olympics.
Why make a deal for things that are already happening?
“Also, according to Steele’s Russian sources, the Trump campaign is offered documents damaging to Hillary Clinton, which the Russians would publish through an outlet that gives them deniability, like Wikileaks. The hacked documents would be in exchange for a Trump Administration policy that de-emphasizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and instead focuses on criticizing NATO countries for not paying their fare share – policies which, even as recently as the President’s meeting last week with Angela Merkel, have now presciently come to pass.”
from Congressman Adam Schiff’s opening statement at the House Intelligence Committee hearing
Schiff is referring there to the very controversial so-called “Golden Showers” report by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who prepared an opposition research document for anti-Trump forces in both major American political parties.
As I noted, Trump had already adopted pro-Russian stances on those matters. No “prescience” was required.
Steele further has it, in Schiff’s narrative, that the Trump team would deliver language in the Republican Party platform. But why would that matter, since potential President Trump was already on board? Party platforms aren’t that important, and forcing such language through in a political process with a lot of pushy activists around would attract undue attention.
And let’s not forget that the Russian intel released by Wikileaks, which I believe is only part of what they have on the Clintons, came out in an essentially haphazard manner and was largely dismissed by the media during the campaign as relatively low-impact.
Trump and his people have lied so often and so desperately ― including the president’s bizarre attempt to distract with the obviously false claim that Barack Obama had his phone at Trump Tower bugged ― that it is all too clear they are hiding something important about their Russian links.
The question remains, what are they hiding and why?
Is it something flakey, essentially half-baked and ultimately mercenary, as may well be with this pirate crew of characters? Perhaps.
Is it something around Russian cyber manipulation of social media flows around pro-Trump “news” propaganda? Perhaps. That sort of thing does seem to be a particular interest of some of Trump’s most important backers.
It’s too soon to say. Which is why it is a good thing that intelligent, active players like Schiff and other key Democrats, not to mention the FBI, are hard at work to tear away the Trumpian veils around all this rot.