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The entire Trump-Russia collusion narrative was always implausible.

  1. The Washington swamp of fixers such as Paul Manafort and John and Tony Podesta was mostly bipartisan and predated Trump.

  2. The Trump administration's Russia policies were far tougher on Vladimir Putin than were those of Barack Obama. Trump confronted Russia in Syria, upped defense spending, increased sanctions and kept the price of oil down through massive new U.S. energy production. He did not engineer a Russian "reset" or get caught on a hot mic offering a self-interested hiatus in tensions with Russia in order to help his own re-election bid.

  3. Russia has a long history of trying to warp U.S. elections that both predated Trump and earned only prior lukewarm pushback from the Obama administration.

It's also worth remembering that President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation had been recipients of Russian and Russian-related largesse--ostensibly because Hillary Clinton had used her influence as Secretary of State under Obama to ease resistance to Russian acquisitions of North American uranium holdings.

As far as alleged Russian collusion goes, Hillary Clinton used three firewalls--the Democratic National Committee, the Perkins Coie law firm and the Fusion GPS strategic intelligence firm--to hide her campaign's payments to British national Christopher Steele to find dirt on Trump and his campaign; in other words, to collude. Steele in turn collected his purchased Russian sources to aggregate unverified allegations against Trump. He then spread the gossip within government agencies to ensure that the smears were leaked to the media--and with a government seal of approval.

No wonder special counsel Robert Mueller's partisan team spent 22 months and $34 million only to conclude the obvious: that Trump did not collude with Russia.

Mueller's failure to find collusion prompts an important question. If the Steele dossier--the basis for unfounded charges that Trump colluded with Russia--was fraudulent, then how and why did the Clinton campaign, hand in glove with top Obama administration officials, use such silly trash and smears to unleash the powers of government against Trump's campaign, transition team and early presidency?

The question is not an idle one.

There may well have occurred a near coup attempt by high-ranking officials to destroy a campaign and then to remove an elected president. Likewise, top officials may have engaged in serial lying to federal investigators, perjury, the misleading of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the illegal insertion of informants into a political campaign, the leaking of classified documents and the obstruction of justice.

So how can we tell that the former accusers are now terrified of becoming the accused? Because suddenly the usual band of former Obama officials and Trump accusers have largely given up on their allegations that Trump was or is a Russian asset.

Instead, John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey, Andrew McCabe and Rod Rosenstein are beginning to accuse each other of wrongdoing.

Even their progressive media handlers are starting to sense the desperation in their new yarns and the possibility that these hired-gun analysts or guests were themselves guilty of crimes and were using their media platforms to fashion their own defense.

The end of the Mueller melodrama has marked the beginning of real fear in Washington.

Comey, the former FBI director, has hit the lecture and television circuit with his now-tired moralistic shtick that he alone had a "soul" while others allowed theirs to be eaten away by Trump. Translated, that means Comey is terrified that former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whom Comey attacked as a Trump enabler, knows that Comey may have broken the law--and may direct prosecutors on how to prove it.

Comey is also in a tiff with his former deputy Andrew McCabe. Both know that the FBI under Comey illegally leaked classified information to the media. But Comey says McCabe went rogue and did it. McCabe's attorney shot back that Comey had authorized it. Comey also claims the Steele dossier was not the chief evidence for a FISA warrant. McCabe insists that it was. It's possible that one might work with prosecutors against the other to finagle a lesser charge.

Former CIA Director John Brennan has on two occasions lied under oath to Congress and gotten away with it. He may not get away with lying again if it's determined he distorted the truth about his efforts to spread the Steele dossier smears. A former CIA official claims that Comey put the unverified Steele dossier into an intelligence community report on alleged Russian interference. Comey has contended that Brennan was the one who did.

It's possible that both did. Doing so would have been unethical if not illegal, given that neither official told President Obama (if he didn't already know) that the silly Steele dossier was a product of Hillary Clinton's amateurish efforts to subvert the 2016 Trump campaign.

In sum, the old leaky vessel of collusion is sinking.

The rats are scampering from their once safe refuge--biting and piling on each other in vain efforts to avoid drowning.


Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Editorial on 05/23/2019

Print Headline: Fleeing the sinking ship


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Archived Comments

  • JakeTidmore
    May 23, 2019 at 9:24 a.m.

    Hanson, like a lost explorer on a dead-end tributary, wishes to divert us from the real river that is still flowing: obstruction. This he pens a column that not only is just an inch deep, but less than a few feet wide. And from this dribble, he proposes that there once was a great river.
    I found Gene Lyons to be more factual and informative:
    "Just days before the 2016 election, The New York Times published a front-page article headlined “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”

    Readers were assured that “even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.”

    The Mueller Report, of course, concluded exactly the opposite. Electing Trump was Job One at the Kremlin. Meanwhile, the Trump campaign, if it didn’t necessarily participate in a criminal conspiracy, secretly played footsie with Russian intelligence. Its expectation, Mueller concluded, was “that [the campaign] would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

    And so, it very much did.

    Entirely convinced of his own integrity, Comey has mounted his high horse regarding Barr’s insinuations. “The AG should stop sliming his own Department,” he wrote. “If there are bad facts, show us, or search for them professionally and then tell us what you found. An AG must act like the leader of the Department of Justice, an organization based on truth. Donald Trump has enough spokespeople.”

    So no, none of these alleged traitors is going down easy, which means they’re not going down at all. Expect a murky report filled with legalistic quibbling. But treason? No how, no way.

    Meanwhile, the latest conspiracy theory getting Trumpists all hot and bothered derives from a book by George Papadopoulos, the fired Trump aide whose barroom braggadocio started the whole fool thing. Entitled “Deep State Target,” it portrays its author as the pigeon in a dastardly plot cooked up not by Russians, but U.S., British, Israeli and Australian intelligence.

    History records that it was indeed the perfidious Aussies who tipped U.S. intelligence that a Trump aide was running his mouth in a London bar about the Russians having “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of stolen emails. He also claimed to be keeping company with Vladimir Putin’s niece, and to be on a first-name basis with Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Sometimes he makes stuff up, Papadopoulos."

  • Morebeer
    May 23, 2019 at 9:46 a.m.

    By my count this is the fifth time the D-G has run this same Hanson column. Mueller found and detailed lots of collusion. Proving a campaign-wide conspiracy wasn’t possible because key witnesses like Kilimnik had fled to Russia, were unreliable liars (Manafort), or couldn’t recall anything that occurred in 2016 (Trump).

  • Morebeer
    May 23, 2019 at 10:07 a.m.

    As for Russian sanctions, after Obama and our NATO allies imposed sanctions the ruble tanked and the Russian economy seriously contracted. Following the poisonings in Russia by Kremlin agents, Trump was reluctant to impose sanctions, but the Senate passed them, and Trump waited until the last day to implement them. Oh, and Helsinki.

  • Morebeer
    May 23, 2019 at 10:48 a.m.

    It’s also laughable to write that Putin fears that Trump is spending more on the military. In a sea or air war, Russia would lose to Britain or France. It has one aircraft carrier and economy only a little larger than Spain’s. Putin is running a kleptocracy and strives only to stay in power and assist his allied oligarchs and crime bosses in the ongoing financial rape of the state. Sanctions and the Magnitzky Act interfere, and Trump seemed like Putin’s best bet for relief. Putin attacks his weakest non-NATO neighbors to burnish his strongman image and drive up nationalist fervor. Putin backs corruptible leaders in other countries, like Yanukovich and Trump, or divisive ones like Le Pen, to achieve his ends and weaken his foes.

  • Waitjustaminute
    May 23, 2019 at 11:18 a.m.

    MoreBeer; so, you begin by saying it's laughable that Putin worries about our military build up, but then you end by saying he supported Trump "to weaken his foes." Which is it, because it can't be both.

  • Morebeer
    May 23, 2019 at 12:27 p.m.

    Corrupt leaders weaken their nations, Waitaminute. So do divisive ones. Even nations with powerful militaries can be brittle if their leaders are corrupt or tyrannical. Saddam got his head handed to him by Iran even though he had a technological weapons advantage. The Soviet state fell for a number of reasons, not the least was the inability to defeat a Taliban that had no armor or air power. After abandoning the Iran deal despite protests from our European allies, how likely is it that Trump will be able to create a united front against Iran, even if it restarts its nuke program. Fat Donnie is on his own. Even Israel is hamstrung with Hezbollah on its doorstep.

  • 0boxerssuddenlinknet
    May 23, 2019 at 3:35 p.m.

    kind of fun watching them tear at each other though.Trump will be reelected in 2020 and none of the fools in the DNC stable thank the good Lord. wonder what they will blame their loss on this time ? China , the moon? Hormones ?

  • Lifelonglearner
    May 23, 2019 at 9:10 p.m.

    If it looks like he is going to lose, Trump will return to his 2016 campaign slogan that the election was rigged. It sure was. In his favor, by Putin.

  • Packman
    May 24, 2019 at 8:48 a.m.

    Hanson nails it. Great column full of facts and truth. And libs just can't deal (see JakeTidmore as Exhibit A, morebeer as Exhibit B, livelonglearner as Exhibit C)).
    The campaign that actually colluded with Russia was Hillary's. This will all be made clear in the coming weeks as the IG's report includes newly declassified documents and AG Bob Barr does his job. Drip, drip, drip.