Saturday, July 15, 2017

Hard Evidence of "Furtive" Collusion, But Not Yet "Systemic" or "Sustained"

OK, it's time for me to drop "But her emails" jokes.  We are well past that now.  We now have rock-solid proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians in the form of (the delicious irony!) e-mails between Donald Trump, Jr. and a go-between with the Russian government.  I don't really have much to add to the topic because other people have said it all, but let me give it a shot anyhow.

Kellyann Conway has now gone on record demanding "hard evidence of systemic, sustained furtive collusion."  I'd say we are about halfway there.  The e-mail exchange rates as pretty hard evidence.  It shows Junior received a message from Rob Goldstone, a show biz publicist whose clients include Emin Agalarov, a popular Russian singer who does not appear to be of any importance himself, but is the son of a prominent Russian oligarch.  Goldstone wrote:
Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.
The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. 
This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin. 
What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?
"Crown prosecutor" is a British office not used in Russia.  The Russian term is apparently Prosecutor General and the American equivalent is the Attorney General.  In other words, this is a very high-ranking official in the Russian government -- and apparently he really is friends with the Agalarovs. But more to the point, Goldstone was nonchalantly speaking of "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," something he apparently expected Junior to know about.  He was also offering "very high level and sensitive information."  Junior's response was, "I love it."  From then on their e-mail exchanges bore the re line "Russia - Clinton - private and confidential."  The two clowns then attempted to set up a telephone conversation with Emin, but Emin apparently considered the matter too sensitive to discuss by phone and instead arranged a meeting with "The Russian government attorney."  Junior said that his brother-in-law (Jared Kushner) and campaign manager Paul Manafort would also attend.

So, we have an e-mail exchange in which Junior's awareness of Russian support for his father was taken for granted, and in which he showed himself eager to accept information from the Russian government.  We also have him introducing Trump's son-in-law and campaign manager to the information.  And we have it from the most unimpeachable source possible -- Junior himself.  In fact, a seasoned security expert has commented that if he had seen so damning an exchange from anyone else, he would have dismissed it as a forgery.  We also have confirmation from the participants that such a meeting did take place, even though the disagree about what happened.  I have also seen speculation that the Russians may have deliberately directed Goldstone to make such incriminating comments for purposes of possible future blackmail.  Presumably the possibility of Junior deliberately tweeting out the exchange on Twitter was not something the Russians had taken into account.

That looks like pretty hard evidence of collusion to me.  Also, given that all parties have kept this meeting secret until now, that Jared Kushner twice failed to disclose the meeting on his security form and that (by some rumors) even the FBI, CIA and NSA did not know about the meeting until it came out in the New York Times, I would say the meeting was pretty furtive.*

I will admit we are not to "systemic" or "sustained," at least not yet.  But circumstances are suspicious and after dismissing any thought of collusion as a far-fetched hypothetical and even "tinfoil hat territory," I am not willing to extend any further benefit of the doubt to Trump and company.

*It also seems a reasonable assumption that the Russian actors knew that they were probable targets for NSA surveillance and for that reason did not directly communicate with Junior either by phone or e-mail, instead using as their intermediary a British show biz publicist, who was most unlikely to be any sort of a target.  

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