The rat-a-tat-tat pace of politics that gave many of us a headache in 2017 is not likely to let up in this new year of 2018. In this boomer opinion piece, BoomerCafé co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs gives us a preview of one thread that runs through much of the political discourse which, in all probability, isn’t going away.
What’s that our President keeps saying? “Everybody knows that there was no collusion.” That’s his story about claims of collusion between his campaign and Russia, and he’s sticking to it. “There is absolutely no collusion, that’s been proven by every Democrat is saying it.”
Aside from his typically tortured syntax and his disregard for facts, that’s what Mr. Trump told The New York Times a few days after Christmas: “Everybody knows the answer already. There was no collusion.”
I repeat myself because the president repeated himself. 16 times in the Times interview he repeated himself. “Everybody knows that there is no collusion.” As if saying it often enough would convince the world that it’s true.
Sorry Mr. President, but “everybody” doesn’t know that and the world is not yet convinced. Not the Justice Department, not the House Intelligence Committee, not the Senate Intelligence Committee. Which are moving ahead with their investigations. Led in each case, by the way, by Republicans.
Of course we also don’t know that the allegation is false, but that’s the point. Both special counsel Robert Mueller — a Republican himself — and the committees in Congress are trying to find out. Until they do, whether Russia did or did not tamper with an American election to secure its desired outcome is an open question. As are the more damning questions for Trump: during the campaign, did he personally engage in criminal behavior, even indirectly, to win? And in the wake of his victory, was he guilty of obstruction of justice, if not something worse?
Now, since this is an opinion piece, here’s an opinion. By most impartial accounts, Robert Mueller is a straight-laced straight shooter. That’s something few would say about Donald Trump, whose relationship even with “the dishonest media” is stronger than his relationship with the truth. If there is no evidence of collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign, then there is no percentage for Mueller to keep chasing after it anyway.
Don’t forget, he already has brought up four Trump associates on criminal charges including two big names — former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort. So far, his record is two convictions and two other pending indictments. Trump surrogates will argue that it all ends there. But the convictions were for lying to federal agents about contacts with Russians. Which raises the question, if there was nothing untoward about those contacts, why would they lie?
Robert Mueller isn’t just spinning his wheels and it doesn’t look like “it all ends there.” Apparently to stay out of prison, Flynn has agreed to answer whatever he is asked about the Trump campaign. Mueller has thousands of financial records and personal emails and other communications from the Trump team that could uncover a smoking gun, if there’s any smoke at all.
So don’t be fooled by the silence. The website FiveThirtyEight did a comparison of special counsel investigations over almost four decades and concluded that of those that produced criminal charges, “the first occurred more than a year, on average, after the special prosecutor was appointed— while Mueller’s investigation produced its first charges after less than five months.” The investigation is slow, it is methodical. But it is not standing still.
Of course disciples from Trump’s base are doing their best to discredit the special counsel and now they’re bringing up the Clinton campaign’s own shenanigans with Russia and yes, maybe there’s enough misconduct to go around. But don’t forget two things. First, Trump won the election, Clinton didn’t. So if there was any collusion, arguably it helped put Trump in the Oval Office and he’s the one who’s accountable. Second, all they’re trying to do is take your eyes off the ball. Don’t fall for it. Trump is the ball. He can deny collusion, he can call it all a witch hunt. But we won’t know until the investigation is complete. So far, as we launch into 2018, it appears it’s not even close.