The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Big Collusion Narrative Keeps Melting Down

After two days and almost six hours of high-stakes public testimony, I’m struck by the total lack of any compelling claims supporting the “big” collusion narrative, that Russia conspired with Trump or Trump officials to “hack” the election. While we certainly aren’t privy to all the relevant information or all the relevant testimony, nothing that James Comey said last week or that Jeff Sessions said today (much less any of the questions directed his way) contained so much as a meaningful hint that the committee was on the verge of uncovering the political scandal of the century. Rather, the focus keeps shifting to much narrower questions regarding Trump’s decision to fire James Comey — questions that are important but far less historically consequential than any claim that a president or his attorney general are traitors to their country. 

Here’s where we stand:

1. Not only is there no evidence that Trump personally colluded with Russians or ordered anyone to collude with Russians, there’s now evidence that he hasn’t been under personal investigation by the FBI.

2. There is absolutely zero available evidence that Jeff Sessions colluded with the Russians.

3. Similarly, there is so far no evidence that even Trump’s more unsavory aides – men like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn — colluded to influence the election

4. To the extent that there is evidence of wrongdoing connected with a foreign power, it deals not with the election itself but rather with Flynn’s alleged failures to disclose foreign payments and contacts. 

Millions of American believe the worst about their current president, claims every bit as toxic in their own way as “truther” smears against George Bush or “birther” smears against Barack Obama. The Trump collusion narrative has gotten a far wider and more respectable hearing than either of the two conspiracy theories that plagued the Bush and Obama administrations. Truth is truth, and it’s important for responsible people to not just understand and respond to actual evidence — no matter where it leads — but also acknowledge its absence. And so far the absence of evidence points to Trump’s innocence of some of the worst allegations ever leveled against an American president or his senior team. 

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