Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Is ‘Collusion with Russia’ Over?

Yuri Gripas/Reuters
Mueller may be seeking to defend at least the investigative decisions made by the FBI and the Justice Department, institutions he served for many years.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been a busy fellow for the past week. Rapid fire, his indictment of several Russian nationals for meddling in the 2016 election has been followed by a guilty plea, for lying to investigators, from a lawyer tied to Trump-campaign figures Paul Manafort and Richard Gates; a new indictment against Manafort and Gates that, as anticipated, added tax- and bank-fraud charges (in Virginia) to already existing money-laundering charges (in Washington); and finally, just breaking as this is written, a guilty plea from Gates on charges of defrauding the United States and lying to the FBI.
As President Trump’s champions emphasize, what is most notable about this array of allegations is an omission: Nowhere has the special counsel charged any kind of criminal collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Of course, “collusion with Russia” was the suspicion — or, skeptics would counter, the carefully crafted political narrative — that launched the Mueller investigation. So has the collusion theory been abandoned? Is the fundamental rationale for the Justice Department’s appointment of a special counsel, which has addled the Trump administration for seven months, now a big “Never mind”?
I don’t think so. At least, I don’t think that’s the way Mueller is looking at it.
To be sure, not only is there no “collusion” allegation in the new indictments; the Trump campaign is barely mentioned. It has no ostensible relevance to the charges against Manafort, Gates, and the lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan. To the limited extent that the campaign is mentioned in the indictment against the Russian nationals, any contacts that campaign officials had with Russians are said to have been unwitting. That fact would seem to cut sharply against the notion of collusion, for had there been a collusive Trump–Russia relationship, there would have been no need for Russian operatives to dupe Trump-campaign officials.
Read the rest from Andrew C. McCarthy HERE.

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