In Walden, Henry David Thoreau says, "Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk." What Thoreau was referring to was the practice of some New England dairy farmers to dilute their milk in order to make a bigger profit. The liquid still looked like milk and mostly tasted like it, but if a trout could swim in it . . . .
Coincidence? Just circumstantial evidence? How are we to make sense of a series of meetings between a number of President Trump’s close associates (Paul Manafort, Carter Page, JD Gordon, Walid Phares, Flynn, Jeff Sessions and others) and people tied to Russian Intelligence (Vladimir Putin, Igor Sechin, Sergey Kislyak et al)?
The coincidence becomes even harder to defend when one includes WikiLeaks in the mix. According to British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, Russian sources shared with the Trump campaign documents damaging to Hillary Clinton, which they disclosed would be released through WikiLeaks with the apparent quid pro quo that in exchange for this advantage in the election, the Trump Administration would de-emphasize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and undermine NATO, which in fact happened.
During the campaign, Trump political adviser Roger Stone revealed that he had foreknowledge of future WikiLeaks releases, including, right up until election day, hacked emails from Clinton campaign manager, John Podesta. There is evidence that some in the Trump camp knew the content of such leaks before they were released, even warning of an “October surprise.” Trump exploited the WikiLeaks data to the hilt. In July, he said, “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” In the month leading up to election day, he referred to WikiLeaks 164 times, often praising it: “Wikileaks, I love Wikileaks!”
The Trump administration and the majority of Republicans want to convince us that with all of this, there is no connection, no correspondence, and that ultimately circumstantial evidence is no evidence at all.
Yet, when circumstantial evidence is as overwhelming as it is with the many known contacts between Trump’s people and Putin’s people (with more being revealed all the time), and the content and outcome of those meetings increasingly uncovered, it should be placed in the “trout in milk” category: if one sees a fish in a can of milk, one has to conclude that, contrary to all we know of fish, at least one can swim in milk or that the milk has been diluted. Although there are no witnesses to the farmer’s duplicity, we can be certain, as one anonymous critic has observed, “the squiggly rainbow didn’t come from a cow’s udder”!
In relation to the same data Trump and his allies see as coincidence, Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, asks:
Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated, and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they have employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know, not yet, and we owe it to the country to find out.”
Later, having been privy to additional sources, Schiff affirms that the evidence is “more than circumstantial” and that continuing the investigation is critical:
“The stakes are nothing less than the future of liberal democracy.”
As Ian Fleming says, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”
And a trout swimming in milk is at the very least highly suspicious.