Let me start with the obligatory, I do not particularly like Donald Trump, believe much of what he says or think his campaign was shinny clean. That being said I do like to listen to both facts and common sense, so let’s go:
How We Know Trump’s Campaign Did Not Collude With the Russian Government:
There are a few key points to consider when thinking about the claims that the Trump Campaign for President of the United States in 2016 was seriously aided by the Russian Government:
- It has firmly been established that almost no-one in the 2016 Trump Campaign, including Donald J Trump himself, thought that he had any serious shot at winning until a few days before the election (if then!). Why would anyone intentionally collude with a foreign power unless they thought they were close to a victory? The upside is questionable and downside is massive.
- Most people assume that large scale ‘attacks’ need co-ordination. This is false, From Al Qaeda to political operatives, all that is needed for an effective campaign is a general direction. Individuals and organizations know what do without centralized organization. For example, in the US, the Koch brothers do not need to talk to the Trump or Bush campaigns to know their job is to bang on the Democrats and promote the Republicans. Russia based organizations do not need direction from the Kremlin to know what to do.
- Most of what we have seen thus far in Russia-gate has not been illegal. It was bad form, scandalous, potentially unprecedented in scale, but very little of it was illegal. The US has been running their version of this type of political interference for 50 years including Voice Of America Radio and more recently social media adverts. If you are unconvinced, read this piece titled Database Tracks History Of U.S. Meddling In Foreign Elections from NPR. Remember that improper often does not equate to illegal.
- The 2016 Trump Campaign was a disorganized mess and while individuals definitely crossed the line of “good judgement” while dealing with Russian operatives, it appears that people like Donald Trump Jr were just to inept to make anything of it.
There is certainly evidence that Russians (although not necessarily the Russian Federal Government) tried to manipulate various players and supporters of both the Clinton and Trump campaigns and to gain favor, but that is not illegal or even uncommon. To date there has been no hard evidence that Russian operatives colluded with the Trump Campaign.
I will not be shocked if something more damning comes out in the next few months but I suspect that if it does, it will be related to more clumsy handling of the Trump Campaign than an intentional act of treason.
The actions of the Trump Campaign and Presidency relating to Russian interference have been unacceptable to say the least. They seem to be of the opinion that even asking the questions undermines the Trump Presidency. Obviously, the Russiagate investigations (media, Muller…) have not been helpful to President Trump, but he should embrace the investigation not only to clear his name which will be forever in question without an airing of these grievances, but also to set the new standard for what does get defined as illegal interference in future elections.
Below is an interesting interview discussing the current known FACTS of the Russiagate issue with David Sanger, Steven F Cohen, and Fareed Zakaria. The most interesting section is about half way through when the history of the Russian troll farm in the news recently is explained as a for profit business: