Stephen Kotkin of Princeton had an excellent piece about Russia and Trump in the New York Times the other day. He pours scorn on the idea of collusion:
As our lawmakers put financial pressure on Moscow, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Intelligence Committee and the special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating allegations that the Trump campaign might have coordinated with Russian intelligence on the hacking and tarnishing of the Clinton campaign. Americans will eventually learn the truth.
But we don’t need to wait for their official reports to know that the notion that the Russians sought out the help of the Trump campaign is hilarious. It would be like LeBron James asking me for shooting tips. I play pickup, but c’mon.
Anyone who knows the likes of Carter Page or Roger Stone, or even more seasoned bumblers like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, would laugh at the idea that the Russians needed their assistance. Did some of the characters in Mr. Trump’s circle seek to ratchet up their status or fatten their wallets by sucking up to Russians and wittingly or unwittingly expose themselves to foreign intelligence operatives? Maybe. Yet the collusion story is ultimately a sideshow.
Kotkin went on to note where there is certainly wrong-doing of some sort:
An investigation into Trumpworld for collusion, moreover, could morph into the equivalent of looking for bacteria on a pile of dung. Large parts of the overpriced real estate sector involve money laundering, with Russian, Chinese, Arab and even Iranian money.
This is why this might be the most ominous passage in today’s Washington Post story about the (inevitably expanding) Mueller probe:
The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.
From the left, Josh Marshall makes the same point (with glee, of course):
If Mueller is taking a serious prosecutor’s lens to Trump’s financial world and the financial worlds of Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn and numerous others, there’s going to be a world of hurt for a lot of people. And that is if no meaningful level of 2016 election collusion even happened.
All of this is why Andy’s piece on the homepage about how to legitimately limit Mueller’s reach is so important.