Trust Nothing, Defend Nothing

by Jonah Goldberg

I don’t write or even tweet about the Russia investigation much. I think the most I’ve written is that I think it probably won’t pan out and if it does, it’ll be Paul Manafort or Roger Stone or some other expendable type who’ll end up getting to know the underside of a bus. And that’s about it.

I get asked why I don’t write about it more all the time.

One reason is I’m not a legal beagle like our own inestimable Andy McCarthy. I don’t write about how criminal investigations work, nor am I particularly well-versed on the finer details of special-counsel laws.

Another reason is I’ve found the whole feeding frenzy unappealing. The Democrats are clearly in full partisan mode, framing every inconvenient, benign, or even potentially exculpatory detail as a smoking gun. The whole “hacked the election” formulation, used both by the Democrats and by allegedly objective reporters, is a misleading bit of hyperbole. Is “meddled with” or “interfered in” too big a concession to reality?

Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of hyperbole among those most eager to defend Trump on the Russia story. I’ve lost count of how many adjectives Sean Hannity uses to describe the media these days. I think it’s the “Alt-Left, Globalist Mainstream, Deep State, Destroy Trump, Get a Two-Liter Bottle of Pepsi When You Order a MAGA Pizza Media” now. More seriously, the rush to say there’s nothing to the collusion story is a mirror of the rush to insist the story is everything. There’s just not much room to say, “Maybe there’s something here. Let’s wait and see.”

And I think that’s the real reason I don’t write about the story much: I just don’t know. There’s an investigation going on. It will produce its findings. Until then, my attitude is purely wait-and-see.

But here’s the thing: I wouldn’t be surprised by almost any finding by Robert Mueller. If he found no truly damning evidence of collusion, that wouldn’t surprise me at all. Nor would I be shocked if he found evidence of collusion. Sure, if he unearthed a videotape of Trump and Putin plotting their strategy over shvitz, I’d find that shocking. But you know what I mean.

And this is why I marvel at the ability of some people to defend the White House every single day on this story. If there is one thing we’ve learned from this president, it’s that going too far out on a limb brings out the saw. Poor Steve Mnuchin. He went out on Sunday and heaped praise on this joint US-Russia Cyber Fox Force Five idea that the president blurted out on Twitter. Within a few hours, Trump left Mnuchin out to dry. It happens again and again.

It’s the same thing with this Donald Trump Jr. story.

There were no meetings with Russians. Well there was that meeting about adoption with that Russian lawyer (attended by the campaign manager). Well, it was a meeting about opposition research that turned into a meeting about adoption, but I had no idea the Russian government was involved. Then the NYT reports last night about an email saying the meeting was pitched as part of a Russian-government operation. Then this morning the Russian lawyer says it was the Trump team that was desperate for Clinton dirt.

Now this story may end up being wrong, because shady Russian lawyers lie and the press screws stuff up a lot on this kind of thing too. It may be, as one often hears, that this is all an effort by Jared Kushner to screw his brother-in-law and distract the press from his woes. Or maybe it’s all a terrible dream.

But that’s my larger point. Who the hell knows?

What I just don’t understand is how conservatives can mock, scoff at, and ridicule the idea there might be some legs to this story when Donald Trump does everything he can to make it look like there might be a there there. He fired the FBI director. He told the Russian ambassador he did it to thwart the Russia investigation. He told Lester Holt the same thing. Donald Trump is clearly obsessed with the Russia story and with forging a bromance with Vladimir Putin. Both his son and his son-in-law have ties to Russia and keep having to revise their denials, making anyone who believed them in the first place look foolish.

Why not just wait and see?

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