Friday, December 29, 2017

Do We Have Proof Of Collusion?

I've recently started corresponding via email with a friend who is viscerally anti Trump.  He has been sending me a series of articles promoting the notion that Trump needs to be impeached for this or that reason.  His latest recommendation is a  New York Times bestseller Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.   My friend suggests that this book confirms that Trump colluded with the Russians to beat Hillary last November.  I'm open to the possibility, but to date, I haven't seen any proof of it.

I recently came across an article about an interview with the author, Luke Harding.  I sent the link to my friend along with my own ideas on the article.  

I came across this article about an interview that Luke Harding did about his book Collusion, which I believe you told me you are reading now.  The original article is by an author whom I do not know, Caitlin Johnstone on a website with which I am unfamiliar,  The link I sent you is from which is an aggregator website.  They post articles from all over the web, some with attribution, some without.  I know Zerohedge very well as a source of "alternative" opinion.  Some conventional sources would label them crackpots.  I wouldn't go that far, but I certainly scrutinize very carefully anything I read there.  Click on the Zerohedge homepage after you have read the article and watched the interview if you want to get a taste of the kind of stuff they publish. 

The article boasts at how skillfully the interviewer, Aaron Mate, destroyed all of Luke Harding's weak arguments and how thoroughly discredited his collusion narrative was.  I didn't see it that way at all.  But I do not think Harding did anything more than propose some not unreasonable possibilities.  I have the same problems with his conclusions as I do with yours.  He makes a great case that Russia interferes in elections, (we do that too) and that Putin is a bad man, and that Trump has had business dealings with Russia, and that Putin had reasons to despise Hillary and prefer Trump, and that Trump is a shallow "malignant narcissist" of the type that Russian agents would try to entrap with so called "honey pot" tactics.  But nowhere....NOWHERE, is there any definitive link between these facts, and the unsubstantiated conclusions that both you and Luke Harding make based on what we actually know.  The fact that you don't like Trump doesn't make your conclusions any more valid.  Not even the fact that you really really really don't like Trump makes your conclusions any more valid.  As conservative writer and podcaster Ben Shapiro says, "Facts don't care about your feelings!"

But I've got a bone to pick with Johnstone and Mate as well.  I don't think Harding proves what he think he proves, but neither do Johnstone and Mate discredit Harding.  In my opinion, Harding makes a very cogent case, a speculative case mind you, of a scenario that COULD fit the facts as we know them.  That speculative scenario forms a framework around which Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation should proceed.  I think it is prudent to pursue those possibilities while also keeping in mind that the dossier upon which much of this speculation depends was compiled and paid for by Trump rivals as opposition research.  That clearly introduces the possibility of a conflict of interest.  It doesn't irreversibly taint the evidence, but it does cast a shadow over its credibility that must be taken account of. 

Harding claims he has presented evidence of collusion.  The author and the interviewer deny any possibility of collusion.  All of them are wrong.  Harding and you are wrong to claim you've proven anything.  The author and the interviewer are right to claim there is no proof, but wrong to claim there is no possibility of collusion.  The truth, and my position, lies somewhere in the middle, at least until Mueller or someone else can come up with something better.

I am uncomfortable with the fact that my reasonable demand for proof is in some circles equated with their unreasonable assertion of no collusion.  Many of the "no collusion" crowd are extreme left wing activists and downright Communists.  Not the sort you would expect to be defending Donald Trump until you consider that what they are really doing is defending Russia.  I don't like being lumped in with that crowd.  It seems that the "no collusion" coalition is composed of Communist Russophiles on one side and Kool-Aid drinking Trump robots on the other.  I am neither.  The venue in which this interview took place was a program called Real News, and it runs on the RT Network.  RT stands for Russia Today, and that network is widely considered an arm of Russian propaganda. The article points to some Tweets from Glen Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill describing how badly Harding failed to make his case.  Greenwald and Scahill tweet prolifically about how lacking in proof the collusion accusations are. Greenwald and Scahill are both left wing journalists, and both write for the Intercept.  I have some respect for both of them as they (at least Greenwald) figured prominently in bringing Edward Snowden's revelations to the public, but as I have subsequently seen more of their writing, it is clear to me that they both are often apologists for the Russians so I don't know if their interest in Snowden had to do with a genuine concern for privacy or just an opportunity to embarrass the United States. Maybe both.   I'll continue to ponder the possibilities there and read their stuff skeptically.   But back to this article I am sending you.  It also cites The Nation as one place where the interviewer in this piece, Aaron Mate, has published.  Indeed, The Nation, through its editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, has staked out the editorial position that the collusion accusations against Trump are groundless.  In my opinion, The Nation is a totally discredited left wing publication that has for decades apologized for Russian actions while spouting antiquated Communist rhetoric.  Once again, they are paradoxically among Trump's greatest defenders.  Or more accurately, they are among Russia's greatest defenders.  Politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows. 

So, enjoy the interview.  Try to understand why I object to Harding's conclusions, and recognize that not all skeptics of collusion are collusion deniers with personal  agendas.  Some of us just insist that you meet the burden of proof standard.