I put “collusion” in quotes because I hate that word, and it’s a poor invention by the media to describe a series of interconnected events. It doesn’t even have a legal definition. It’s utterly useless—like a Rorschach test in word form—yet it’s the word of choice on chyrons across cable news when describing the Trump-Russia investigation. Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian Intelligence Officers for “conspiracy” against the United States—not collusion. The problem is that the phrase “conspiracy theory” has been so thoroughly discredited in our lexicon that the word “conspiracy” is off-putting, despite its very clear legal definition.
Well folks, it’s pretty simple. Team Trump and Russia conspired against the United States. It’s right there in the indictment:
The Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, also communicated with U.S. persons about the release of stolen documents. On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.
Go back to the summer of 2016, and imagine seeing these “I love crime with the Crown Prosecutor of Russia!” e-mails from Donald Trump Jr. in real time. We have become inured to an investigation which has already yielded an absolute bounty. This is a “smoking gun” (another stupid phrase that means whatever its user wants it to) if I’ve ever seen one.
Marcy Wheeler is perhaps the best barometer for the legitimacy of the Trump-Russia investigation. She is an independent journalist who writes about national security and civil liberties, and like famed Trump-Russia agitator Glenn Greenwald, she is one of the last people you will meet who will uncritically accept declarations by the United States government. She began this ordeal as a skeptic, but now is actually involved in the investigation—writing that she gave information to the FBI, that through the separate release of publicly available information later, she realized directly impacts the president. She even floated the idea that Vladimir Putin himself dictated Trump's misleading statement about Jr.'s famed Trump Tower meeting. It's a pretty compelling timeline of events, per Wheeler:
Early July 7: NYT approaches WH officials and lawyers; WH schedules a conference call w/NYT for next morning.
July 7: Trump chats up Putin at dinner. (Note, whenever Melania decides it's time to get revenge on Trump for treating her like shit, she can go tell Mueller what she overheard of this conversation.)
July 8, morning: Conference call doesn't happen. NYT submits 14 questions about the meeting to the WH and lawyers of Trump campaign aides who attended the meeting (do these aides include all of Don Jr, Kushner, and Manafort?); Trump and his aides develop a response on Air Force One, with Hicks coordinating with Don Jr and his lawyer Alan Garten, who were both in NY, via text message.
July 8, afternoon: Jamie Gorelick provides a statement describing his revisions to his security clearance forms.
Trump even told the New York Times that he and Putin were talking about adoptions at the G-20 dinner, and adoptions were the first lame excuse given to the Times. It's not a crime to lie to the press, so Wheeler's plausible, yet insane series of events would explain special counsel Robert Mueller's focus on the drafting of the “adoptions” statement to the Times—which inevitably got walked back to Jr.'s self-published “I love crime!” e-mails embedded at the top of this story.
So forgive me for rolling my eyes at some of the pearl-clutching going on in the mainstream media today. Today's press conference with Putin further confirmed the near-certain fire beneath the light-years-wide plume of smoke that is the Trump-Russia investigation. Trump literally said he's taking Putin's word over Mueller's latest indictment today.
Pres. Trump says intelligence community believes Russia was behind 2016 election interference, but Pres. Putin says Russia was not.
"I don't see any reason why it would be…I have confidence in both parties." https://t.co/pnM34fHNdQpic.twitter.com/vamNbere0Y— ABC News (@ABC) July 16, 2018
And why wouldn't he? Parts of his inner circle are completely exposed, and his only self-preserving option is to deny reality, since reality sure looks like it will include some of his campaign officials dying in prison thanks to the litany of state crimes that people like Paul Manafort undoubtedly committed. We all knew who that “senior Trump administration” official communicating with Guccifer 2.0 in the indictment was before Roger Stone admitted to it. Michael Cohen still has tweets up disputing his stated August 2016 location to The Atlantic, a month in which the famed dossier put Cohen in Prague to pay off hackers (the United States arrested a Russian hacker in Prague in October 2016). Trump's lawyer/fixer said he was in Los Angeles from August 23rd to 29th, yet he has tweets from August 24th geotagged from New Jersey (geotagging is a Twitter feature that displays the location you sent that tweet from).
Trump’s people are complete and utter morons, and they spent an entire summer courting Russians who U.S. Intelligence Agencies have lit up like Christmas trees. A cursory reading of Robert Mueller’s Friday indictment illuminates the harrowing disclosures to come down the line (a candidate for congress allegedly solicited the Russians too). Mueller didn’t charge the Russians expecting them to stand trial, but in order to force Americans connected to those Russian charges to explain themselves in court. This is just getting started, and the fact that Trump was so willing to get down on all fours to lick Putin’s boots today should be indicative of where this is all going.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.