Let’s talk about collusion

It’s been awhile. Our esteemed POTUS is back in the country, after zipping across various oceans, to the Middle East and Europe, where he hectored our closest allies about NATO ‘dues’ they don’t in fact actually owe, shoved the President of Montenegro, offended the Pope, and grabbed hold of a palantir orb with some of his Arab pals, in an apparent attempt to communicate with Sauron. (He does seem to like back channel communications). Meanwhile, the various investigations into the Trump/Russian connections keep trudging onward. Let’s catch up.

Have you had this experience? You’re talking to a Trump supporter, and you mention the Russian connection, and they look at you smugly and say ‘can you show me any evidence of actual collusion?’ And you can’t. And we still can’t; not quite yet. But we’re getting closer.

For example: this. In case you don’t want to click on the link, here’s the gist: the Wall Street Journal reported that, last summer, a Florida GOP operative named Aaron Nevins was in communication with a Russian hacker who goes by Guccifer 2.0. Guccifer had hacked into the DCCC computers, and provided Nevins with all kinds of information useful to the Trump campaign. Memos with self-oppo research (where you hire someone to look for dirt on your candidates, so they can be prepared for ads). Databases of voters in key districts. Nevins called it ‘a map to where all the troops were deployed.’ Also, internal details about congressional districts in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia, which were eventually used to create attack ads in those states. I’ll grant you that Nevins wasn’t involved in the national Trump campaign. But he shared his link to Guccifer 2.0 with Roger Stone, who was a highly placed advisor to the Trump campaign. Stone piously insists that he didn’t share that link with anyone else. We’ll see.

So, yes, there is absolutely evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russia: Guccifer to Nevins to Stone. Of course, the Russians are offering pro-forma denials that Guccifer worked for them, but US intelligence sources know better. And there’s no evidence, so far, that Stone shared Nevins’ information with anyone else in the Trump national campaign. Still, this is collusion. This is what it looks like.

And here’s why it’s significant. Remember the second Obama Presidential campaign? Remember 2012? Well, the Democrats created what the Washington Post called “a high-tech political start-up whose main purpose was to put more people on the streets, armed with more information about the voters they were contacting, than any campaign had ever attempted.” They created a nonpareil voter database, allowing volunteers to contact undecided voters with better information than anyone had had before.

That database still exists, and has expanded. And in the waning days of the 2016 campaign, one of the advantages Hillary Clinton seemed to have was what pundits called ‘a strong ground game.’ She had more volunteers than Trump did, and they had this database to guide their efforts. So if polling showed a race as tied, it seemed likely that Hillary would outperform expectations, because she would working with better information.

But if that database was in the hands of the Republicans, that advantage could be lessened, or even eliminated. And look at what Nevins said he got from Guccifer: “sensitive information on voters in key Florida districts, breaking down how many people were considered dependable Democratic voters, undecided Democrats, Republican voters and the like.” Maybe not the entire database, but clearly at least some of it.

So, yes, there was collusion, and yes, it could easily have made a difference in the election.

What was the other major turning point in the election? Surely, it has to have been the Hillary Clinton email scandal, and the various twists and turns in that whole story. And a key moment in the election came when James Comey, the FBI director, announced that the FBI was not pursuing a criminal investigation into Hillary’s emails. He could have just let it go at that. But he didn’t. He chose to use that opportunity to give Secretary Clinton a real scolding. Remember?  “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

Why did he do that? Well, we know a lot more about it now. As Business Insider describes it, Comey received a document regarding the Clinton investigation, a purported memo between Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the DNC, to a staffer for George Soros, saying that she had been assured by Loretta Lynch (Obama’s Attorney-General), that the Justice Department planned to go easy on Hillary. This memo is a fake. US intelligence has confirmed that its a  Russian creation. It’s not genuine. And Comey immediately mistrusted it. But it informed his decision-making nonetheless.

According to Business Insider, Comey “feared the document would be leaked and cast doubt on the credibility and independence of the FBI’s email-server probe — part of why he decided to bypass the Justice Department and announce the findings of the investigation in his impromptu press conference in July. CNN reported that sources close to Comey said he “felt it didn’t matter if the information was accurate, because his big fear was that if the Russians released the information publicly, there would be no way for law enforcement and intelligence officials to discredit it without burning intelligence sources and methods.”

So there we have it. The Russians hacked into DCCC computers, and got enough information to negate the Clinton campaign’s ‘ground game’ advantage. And perhaps the biggest turning point in the campaign, Comey’s press conference chiding of Hillary Clinton over the email scandal was driven by the FBI’s possession of a fake document they didn’t think they could properly or effectively expose.

Would Hillary Clinton have won without Trump having these improper advantages? Did the Russians really win the election for the Donald?  I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. Was there collusion? Absolutely, but who know who high it went. These news stories are highly significant, but they don’t constitute proof of anything. Still, the investigation needs to continue. We need to know. A hostile foreign power may well have put their favored candidate in the White House. That’s got to concern every patriotic American.

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