What The Hillary-Russia Collusion Scandal Does – And Doesn’t – Mean

For nearly a year, we’ve heard a consistent drumbeat of doom from the mainstream media: President Donald Trump, as a candidate, must have colluded with Russia in order to skew the election against Hillary Clinton. To support this contention, the media have proposed seven main pieces of evidence: first, the bizarrely warm rhetoric used by Trump himself with regard to the Russian regime; second, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s close relationship with the Russian government; third, former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn’s connections with the Russian government; fourth, former Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page’s apparent connections with the Russian government; fifth, Donald Trump Jr.’s approval of a meeting with Russian government-connected lawyers, supposedly to gather intelligence on Hillary; sixth, Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey and his statement to the Russians that he felt less pressure on Russia now; and finally, news that Trump’s data firm owned by the Mercer family, Cambridge Analytica, reached out to Julian Assange in an attempt to gain access to Hillary’s missing emails.

All of that’s suspicious, but none of it shows actual collusion. At best, it shows attempted collusion. Yet we’ve heard nonstop calls for Trump’s impeachment.

Now, it turns out that precisely the same sort of collusion — this time, more successful — took place in the Hillary Clinton campaign.

For months, members of the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign apparently lied about whether they had funded the creation of an anti-Trump oppo research file through Fusion GPS. That file was compiled by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele; he compiled it by talking with Russian government officials. As Byron York of the Washington Examiner points out, the file itself (revealed earlier this year by BuzzFeed), cites several sources from the Kremlin, including a “senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure,” a “former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin,” and a “senior Russian financial official.” This means that the Hillary Clinton campaign funded a campaign to coordinate with the Russian government on digging up dirt on Trump.

So, the Hillary camp’s confirmed collusion with the Russian government is already more damning than the Trump camp’s suspected collusion with the Russian government.

But here’s where some on the Right go too far.

Today, The Wall Street Journal called on special investigator Robert Mueller to resign. Why? Because of suspicions, as yet unconfirmed, that the FBI under James Comey used the unconfirmed rumors in the dossier in political fashion to gain FISA warrants on Trump campaign figures, and that Comey, in political fashion, either tried to use the FBI or used the FBI to pay Steele in order to continue gathering information on Trump. Thus, the Journal editors suggest that Mueller, who used to run the FBI and is close to Comey personally, ought to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation. Here’s the Journal:

The Fusion news means the FBI’s role in Russia’s election interference must now be investigated—even as the FBI and Justice insist that Mr. Mueller’s probe prevents them from cooperating with Congressional investigators. Mr. Mueller is a former FBI director, and for years he worked closely with Mr. Comey. It is no slur against Mr. Mueller’s integrity to say that he lacks the critical distance to conduct a credible probe of the bureau he ran for a dozen years. He could best serve the country by resigning to prevent further political turmoil over that conflict of interest.

This seems to be jumping the gun, at best. Perhaps Mueller ought to go. But this seems like more of a pretext to shut down the investigation than an actual charge against Mueller. Perhaps the investigation ought to be shut down, but that relies on the assumption that Hillary’s guilt ought to impact Trump’s potential guilt. In a political sense, that’s true. In a legal sense, it probably isn’t.

So, here’s where we are: Democratic insistence that Trump’s Russia collusion decided the election is ironic at best and wildly disingenuous at worst given what we now know about Hillary’s campaign connections with the Russians. This special counsel investigation was started because of Trump defending himself from spurious charges, but it’s ongoing nonetheless, and there aren’t a ton of excuses to shut Mueller down without some serious speculation.

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