The Puzzle Comes Into View

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
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With last night’s report in the Times, I think we are officially past the point of the ‘was there collusion’ question. There was. The President’s son now has the barest argument that he tried to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton which he was told came from a Russian government campaign to help his father become president, only to find it was insufficient. 

To me this seems like a generally meaningless and highly implausible distinction and claim. We are now into the territory not of ‘was there collusion or contact’ but how substantial was it. Given the circumstantial evidence, it’s always seemed probable to me that there were contacts or perhaps winks and nods somewhere. There were just too many points of contact between Trumpland and people tied to the Russian government for their not to be. But was it mere encouragement and heads ups, or did it go deeper. Was there – to use that word everyone resists – an actual conspiracy involving members of the Trump entourage and members of the Russian government?

I was looking over my notes this morning. The timeline of events with the Don Jr news manages to be considerably more damning than that news on its own. I’m going to write those notes up and try to publish them later this morning.

For now a few thoughts.

If we posit a relationship between Trump or his advisors and people in the orbit of the Russian government prior to 2016, would a critical overture be made to Don Jr through a lawyer unknown to Trump? That raises several questions in my mind.

There’s another point to keep in mind. I don’t know how important it will be. We know about that Peter Smith story from The Wall Street Journal, the old Republican operative who was trying to find Clinton emails and was looking for – whether or not he found them – Russian operatives who might find them. There’s also that notorious late July press conference where Trump asked the Russians to hack Clinton’s emails to find the 30,000 emails her lawyers had deleted from her private server after determining they were personal in nature.

We don’t know that anything came of either of these efforts or statements. But I’ve learned more recently about how much people in the RNC and GOP operative world, far back into 2015, were transfixed with the idea that her personal server had been hacked and that somebody somewhere had those emails. Again, we don’t know anything came of this. But it seems clear that those 30,000 emails – not Podesta’s or garden variety emails from the DNC – were the real holy grail that all these folks were looking for or at least hoping would turn up. This may yet come up as part of the story.

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.
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