The Corner

Law & the Courts

Putting Collusion to Bed

An email in response to my insta-reaction to the Barr letter:

I am generally a fan of your work but you make an error when you say that Mueller, per Barr, found “no evidence” that Trump colluded with Russia. What Barr says is that Mueller concluded that the evidence didn’t establish that Trump colluded with Russia. That’s a very different thing.

Thanks for the kind opening.

We may disagree on what counts as real evidence. Take, for example, the fact that a Trump-campaign official expressed interest in Russian assistance. Does that count as evidence for the accusation that the campaign aided Russian hacking? I’d say the fact makes the accusation more likely to be true than it would be in the absence of that fact; but it does not make the accusation very likely to be true. I’d treat it, then, as de minimis evidence.

I started my column by defending the presumption that Barr is telling the truth about the Mueller report. If Mueller found more than de minimis evidence that Trump or his associates aided Russian hacking, for example, then Barr’s letter was misleading. It would be especially misleading since Barr suggested that Mueller had significant evidence pointing both for and against guilt of obstruction; the clear implication was that the evidence of collusion was less compelling. I doubt Barr would have taken the enormous risk of distorting the report in that way. But I favor the release of as much of the report as possible, so that we can evaluate that question for ourselves.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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