Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Of Course They Colluded

Via the New York Times:

A sprawling report released Tuesday by a Republican-controlled Senate panel that spent three years investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election laid out an extensive web of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Kremlin officials and other Russians, including at least one intelligence officer and others tied to the country’s spy services.

The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, totaling nearly 1,000 pages, drew to a close one of the highest-profile congressional investigations in recent memory and could be the last word from an official government inquiry about the expansive Russian campaign to sabotage the 2016 election.

It provided a bipartisan Senate imprimatur for an extraordinary set of facts: The Russian government disrupted an American election to help Mr. Trump become president, Russian intelligence services viewed members of the Trump campaign as easily manipulated, and some of Mr. Trump’s advisers were eager for the help from an American adversary.

The report portrayed a Trump campaign that was stocked with businessmen with no government experience, advisers working at the fringes of the foreign policy establishment and other friends and associates Mr. Trump had accumulated over the years. Campaign figures, the report said, “presented attractive targets for foreign influence, creating notable counterintelligence vulnerabilities.”

Like the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who released his findings in April 2019, the Senate report did not conclude that the Trump campaign engaged in a coordinated conspiracy with the Russian government — a fact that Republicans seized on to argue that there was “no collusion.”

But the report showed extensive evidence of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and people tied to the Kremlin — including a longstanding associate of the onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, whom the report identified as a “Russian intelligence officer.”

The Senate report was the first time the government has identified Mr. Kilimnik as an intelligence officer — Mr. Mueller’s report had labeled him as someone with ties to Russian intelligence. Most of the details about his intelligence background were blacked out in the Senate report.

Mr. Manafort’s willingness to share information with Mr. Kilimnik and others affiliated with the Russian intelligence services “represented a grave counterintelligence threat,” the report said.

It also included a potentially explosive detail: that investigators had uncovered information possibly tying Mr. Kilimnik to Russia’s major election interference operations, conducted by the intelligence service known as the G.R.U.

With any other president at any other time, this would be huge headline material in the same way that a memo from the FBI created havoc for Hillary Clinton four years ago. But now the news that the Russians actively interfered with the election in collusion with a Trump campaign manager barely makes it above the fold at the New York Times and doesn’t rate the front page of the Washington Post.

This changes nothing.  Republicans will continue to spout the Trump line that it’s all a hoax and the 1,000 pages doesn’t say what it says.  Trump lied to the FBI and the committee, which is a felony.  I can predict with confidence that this won’t even be remembered by October, and even if it is, it will be shrugged off; “So what else you got?”

I wish I was wrong.