While the chronology of Robert Mueller’s investigation is important (expect Republicans to press him about 1. when he learned there was no collusion, and 2. why he dragged the investigation out so long after that), there’s another line of questioning that may be just as politically potent but as of this moment appears to evade the GOP’s radar.
The Democrats and their marketing team (aka, the political news media) will inevitably remain focused on obstruction and any hints of collusion they can string together. But the majority of us already know that neither of those focuses have any legs, beyond of course what the entirely-discredited media tries unsuccessfully to give them. The one anti-Trump storyline that truly does still have legs despite there being no collusion or actionable obstruction, is that Russia actually wanted to help Donald Trump become President.
The glaring problem with that claim is that from the Intelligence Community’s report on Russian interference (which Republicans have unfortunately and uncritically relied on in the past) to Mueller’s indictments, there is no actual evidence that’s been presented to the American people proving that Russia truly wanted Donald Trump to become President.
Before we go on, let’s dispense of the most obvious naysayers real quick-like: I hear them already…
“Vladimir Putin literally stood in front of the cameras during a press conference with Trump by his side, and told the world that he preferred Trump over Clinton! What more proof do you need?!”
Since we’re all so interested in Russia these days, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. The Russians actually have a name for people like you who, for example, eagerly believe that Vladimir Putin would stand in front of television cameras and not use such a potentially toxic question as an opportunity to manipulate you. They call you “useful idiots.” And I’m sorry you had to find out this way, Columbo, but that’s what you’re being when you bring us that laughable piece of “evidence.”
With respect to whether they wanted Trump to become President, the evidence we do have suggests that the Russians’ primary goal was to stoke discord among our electorate. And when it became clear to them that Hillary Clinton would likely win, and only when it became to clear to them that Hillary would win, did they decide the best way to stoke discord was to attack her and subsequently, essentially by default only, “help” then-candidate Trump.
In other words, the Russians’ efforts weren’t centered on helping Donald Trump. They were focused on hurting the presumptive winner, whomever that may have been.
That’s a very important element that’s left out of virtually all related headlines and stories. And unfortunately, Republicans in Congress also failed to parse this when they uncritically accepted findings that James Clapper provided them, which relied on intelligence and conclusions compiled by — wait for it — John Brennan and James Comey.
Only after the Russians concluded that Hillary would likely win did they work to specifically attack her while, by default, “helping” then-candidate Trump.
What specific evidence did your investigation uncover or reveal that proves the Russians wanted to help Donald Trump become President? Before you answer: We know that when they established Secretary Clinton would likely win, they recalibrated their focus to inflict maximum damage on her standing with the American people. But that same revelation implies that had President Trump been the presumptive winner in the run-up to the election, they would have attacked him and, by default, helped Secretary Clinton. So is it fair to say that the Russians didn’t actually want Donald J. Trump to win with any personal specificity, but rather they wanted to sow discord by trying to discredit the presumptive winner, whomever that may have been? Is it factually inaccurate when the media and others claim that the Russians quote-unquote wanted to help Donald Trump to become President? Doesn’t the evidence suggest, rather, that their real goal wasn’t to help Donald Trump, but to hurt the presumptive frontrunner — whomever that may have been? And if not, if you claim to have discovered more than that, please enlighten this body with any evidence you have that suggests they specifically wanted Donald John Trump to become President before they determined that Secretary Clinton would be the likely winner. Where is the smoking gun for that claim? Because the evidence put forth in the January 2017 IC report tells us four separate times that they only recalibrated their efforts with any specificity after it was clear that Secretary Clinton would be the likely winner. And the evidence in your indictments of the 19 Russian hackers shows that the Russians wanted to avoid attacking not only Donald Trump, but also Bernie Sanders! Is that consistent with the notion that the Russians quote-unquote wanted Donald Trump, specifically, to be President? Or, coupled with the knowledge that they also wanted to avoid Donald Trump’s polar opposite both socially and politically – Bernie Sanders – does it look less like the Russians preferred Trump, and more like they wanted to prop up any candidate who had a lot of enthusiasm in the grassroots but was likely to lose? I think if we’re looking at this seriously, instead of politically, the answer is pretty obvious. The evidence that I’ve personally seen suggests the real goal was to sow discord. And eventually that included hurting the presumptive winner. So I guess my real question is, what evidence did you find, if any, that suggests the Russians wanted Donald Trump to become President before they determined that Secretary Clinton would be the likely winner? Where is that smoking gun, apart from the lazy assumption based on the Russians’ 4th quarter assessment that Hillary would be the winner? And if you didn’t find any such evidence, isn’t it inaccurate to say quote/unquote the Russians wanted to help Trump win? Isn’t that actually a politically-motivated assumption for which there is no actual evidence? Only conjecture, and frankly lazy conjecture at that? Isn’t the accurate and honest conclusion that the Russians didn’t actually care who the players were either way? And that their efforts to sow discord meant attacking the frontrunner, whomever that may have been? And that, in reality, despite the narrative being pushed by the media and others, the Russians’ efforts had nothing to do with any actual preference for an individual, but only for the larger goal of sowing discord?
I just timed myself doing the question, and it’s a little under three minutes. So I think it’s do-able in this setting.
And mind you, I’m no lawyer. This is my first stab at this and I recognize that it may be a wildly off-track attempt at formulating the question. But the subject matter is critical. If we can get Mueller on the record confirming that the Russians didn’t actually want Donald J. Trump to win, but rather they didn’t care who the players were and instead wanted only to hurt the frontrunner — whomever that may have been — it’s a huge win because it closes the book on the last bit of compelling narrative the media and Democrats truly have with respect to the Trump/Russia conspiracy hoax.
H/T to Mike Mukasey who first inspired this thought track in a wildly under-appreciated interview on ABC’s This Week. The clip below is teed up to his refreshingly grounded perspective.
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