For Donald Trump, yesterday was a bad day to bury good news. While Rex Tillerson’s resignation as Secretary of State dominated the headlines, the biggest and most important story of the day came from Devin Nunes and the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. Their news was good for Trump, and very bad indeed for the Democrats and their supporters in the media.
For over a year, Nunes’ committee has searched for evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election. During that time, the majority of American media have pushed the story that agents of Vladimir Putin not only stole the election and gave it to Trump, but that Trump and his circle ‘colluded’ with them. In other words, that Trump is an illegitimate president, a traitor who conspired with foreign agents.
The Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee has prepared a 150-page draft report. It concludes that Russia ran an ‘active measures’ campaign during the 2016 election. It also describes ‘inappropriate’ contact between Russians and members of Trump’s inner circle. But it finds no evidence of ‘collusion’, or the far-reaching conspiracy described by the pro-Democratic media. Neither, so far, has the Mueller inquiry.
“We spent fourteen months on this investigation, looking for collusion,” Nunes told Fox & Friends on Tuesday, “We didn’t find any.” The Republicans on the committee did fault members of Trump’s circle for ‘bad judgment’ and ‘inappropriate meetings’, such as the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between a Russian lawyer with links to the Kremlin and members of Trump’s inner circle, including Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner. That meeting ‘should never have taken place’, Mike Conway (R-Texas) said on Tuesday. “But,” Conway also said, “We can’t find anything that leads to a collusion string.”
America’s politics are so partisan, and the media so corrupted by partisanship, that most commentators cannot imagine that Russia’s interference was bipartisan. But it is Russian policy to embitter every democratic election west of Moscow with digital bottery, fake news and, in Europe, donations to nationalist parties. To Putin, as to many Americans, the Republicans and the Democrats are merely two sides of the same debased democratic coinage.
Nor do American politicians need Russian help when it comes to debasing their offices. Read Adam Davidson’s August 2017 investigation of the Trump’ Organization’s overseas franchising activities in the New Yorker, and it is hard not to conclude that Trump’s business practices render him unworthy of public office. Then again, we could say the same of the Clintons and the foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Not that the pro-Democratic media has examined Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as thoroughly or as imaginatively as it has picked over Trump’s campaign. Still, the House Intelligence Committee might want to unravel the provenance of the Steele Dossier, the anti-Trump ‘opposition research’ gathered from unnamed Russian contacts by ex-British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of Hilary Clinton’s campaign lawyer Marc Elias. A key Democratic Party operative engaged Steele, a foreigner with links to Russian intelligence, in order to influence the American election. Sounds like a ‘collusion string’ to me.