The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Hole in the Collusion Theory: Why Didn’t America’s Spies See It?

(Jim Bourg/Reuters)

The belief that the Russian government had colluded or coordinated its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election with Donald Trump and his campaign always required overlooking one glaring question: How could a nefarious, bold, authorized-at-the-highest-levels effort like this completely escape the watching eyes and ears of every single American intelligence agency?

Way back in May 2017, I wrote:

The intelligence community is presumably always watching the Russian government as closely as they can. The FBI counterintelligence guys presumably track Russian agents on our soil as much as possible. You figure the NSA can track just about any electronic communication between Russians and figures in the Trump campaign.

If there was something sinister and illegal going on between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, the U.S. government as a whole had every incentive in the world to expose that as quickly as possible. They didn’t expose it before Election Day, they didn’t expose it before the Electoral College voted, they didn’t expose it before Inauguration Day… How many months have the best investigators in the United States been digging into this?

Even with the enormous resources of the FSB, how likely was it that Vladimir Putin would be able to contact Trump and his associates, negotiate the terms of the collusion, and act out the conspiracy over a period of several months without any U.S. intelligence agency finding any evidence of the collusion at all?

If you were an American intelligence agency and you uncovered evidence of an American presidential candidate in cahoots with Russia to hack the computers of the rival party, you would sound every possible alarm immediately, right? Why would you wait around on something like this?

The longer Special Counsel Mueller’s probe went on, the less likely it seemed that he had some sort of smoking gun that pointed to Trump working with Russia — much less the idea that Trump had been a Russian asset for years, as a New York magazine cover piece speculated in July.

In January, I noted, “if Mueller did find evidence that Trump was working on behalf of Russia, I’d hope he would tell the public sooner rather than later. This doesn’t seem like the kind of conclusion that you can leave sitting on your desk during a long weekend.” A whole of liberals scoffed and said, “just wait and see!”

Well, now we see.

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