To date, scandalous accusations of treason against Trump haven't borne out
Incendiary claims unsupported by public evidence after almost a year of probes[hr]
The following is a news analysis[hr]
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]year after questions were first raised, there’s no evidence that Donald Trump “colluded” with Russia in order to get elected, according to prominent Democrats and Republicans who have reviewed information or received briefings.
It’s too early to call it a closed case, because various investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 campaign and links to Trump associates continue. That reportedly includes probes by the FBI, Republican-led congressional committees, and the military. The FBI has largely stayed mum on its work. But President Trump claimed James Comey, as FBI Director, personally told him he was not under investigation. Later, Comey confirmed that in Congressional testimony.
It’s significant that no evidence of wrongdoing by Trump has publicly surfaced long after multiple players in politics and media began insisting there was collusion. Among the allegations of treasonous behavior was a “dossier” peddled to the media and published in January. It made lurid claims about Trump ties to Russia, involving bribery and prostitution. But it turns out the dossier wasn’t an intelligence report; it was campaign opposition research compiled by Trump political opponents.
Several months ago, Former Defense Intelligence Agency chief James Clapper told Congress that the sourcing trail of the dossier was so poor, that the entire file was excluded from in an intelligence community assessment in January. This past week, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr told reporters that they had been unsuccessful to date in finding out who paid for the dossier's opposition research against Trump. "Unfortunately the committee has hit a wall," said Burr. "We have on several occasions made attempts to contact Mr. Steele, to meet with Mr. Steele, to include personally the vice chairman and myself as two individuals making that connection. Those offers have gone unaccepted." Christopher Steele is the operative who compiled the dossier.
Yet despite the persistent dearth of evidence, there’s been no widespread backtracking by those who have made claims against President Trump to date.
The Flynn Question
Whether President Trump conspired with Russia in some way is separate from questions about some of his associates, including former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
Among other matters, Flynn is under fire for:
- Having discussions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. that he didn’t disclose to President Trump or Vice President Mike Pence (not inherently against the law, but an ethics question and the reason he was let go from the Trump administration, according to experts); and
- Allegedly failing to seek permission from or disclosing to the U.S. government his $67,000 in payments from Russian organizations (a possible violation of federal law, according to members of Congress).
A Flynn spokesman has said he informed the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) before and after giving a paid speech in Moscow. DIA spokesman Jim Kudla confirmed that Flynn reported prior to his trip "in accordance with standard security clearance procedures."[hr]
The problem with the media, politicians, commentators and pundits getting ahead of the evidence or contradicting it entirely, is that it erodes trust in the accuracy of information. If and when real evidence emerges, the public may mistrust what they read and hear.
Here are 17 public statements about lack of evidence by those who have reviewed evidence or been briefed, followed by a sampling of 10 claims against Trump. What were the claims based on if there was no evidence yet? (Italics emphasis added)[hr]
1. The New York Times
Nov. 1, 2016
According to the newspaper, the FBI says there’s no definitive connection between Donald Trump and the Russian government, reaching that conclusion after a wide-ranging investigation. The Times cited law-enforcement officials who said any cyberattacks carried out were "aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Trump." The FBI also found no conclusive evidence of deliberate communications between Trump and a Russian bank, that were alleged earlier.
2. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin, House Speaker)
Feb. 28, 2017
“No one has ever showed us any evidence that any collusion had occurred between an American involved with the political system and the Russians.”[hr]
3. James Clapper (Former Obama Director of National Intelligence)
March 5, 2017
“[Regarding] NSA, FBI…CIA…Director of National Intelligence (DNI), that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians, there was no evidence of that included in our [January] report," Clapper testified. He was asked, "…but does it exist?" He answered, "Not to my knowledge."
4. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California, House Intelligence Committee Chairman)
March 20, 2017
During a hearing, Nunes questioned then-FBI Director James Comey:
NUNES: Do you have any evidence that any current Trump White House or administration official coordinated with the Russian intelligence services?
COMEY: Not a question I can answer…
NUNES: Well, I think -- I understand that…but I can tell you that we don't have any evidence and we're conducting our own investigation here.
5. James Comey, then-FBI Director
March 20, 2017
Comey was asked if he agreed with former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Clapper who said there was “no evidence” of “collusion between the members of the Trump campaign and the Russians.” Comey replied, “I think he's right about characterizing the [January] report which you all have read.”[hr]
6. Rep. Chris Stewart, (R-Utah, House Intelligence Committee)
March 20, 2017
“At this point, everyone on this dais should agree with Mr. Clapper because we in the committee have seen no evidence, zero, that would indicate that there was collusion or criminal wrongdoing between any members of the previous [sic] administration or campaign and Russian officials.”[hr]
7. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California, House Intelligence Committee)
April 2, 2017
When asked, "Can you say definitively that there was collusion, there were people affiliated with the Trump campaign who were working with Russians to time the release of damaging information about Hillary Clinton that had been hacked either from [Hillary campaign chair] John Podesta or the DNC?" Schiff replied, "I don’t think we can say anything definitively at this point."[hr]
8. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California, Senate Intelligence Committee)
May 3, 2017
When asked if she had evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, Feinstein replied, “Not at this time.”[hr]
9. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia, Senate Intelligence Committee)
May 8, 2017
"People that might have said they were involved, to what extent they were involved, to what extent the president might have known about these people or whatever, there is nothing there from that standpoint that we have seen directly linking our president to any of that."[hr]
10. James Clapper (again)
May 8, 2017
At a hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) asked Clapper if it's still accurate that he has no knowledge of the existence of evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. Clapper replied, "It is."
11. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California)
May 9, 2017
Rep. Waters has repeatedly stated that President Trump “has colluded with the Russians,” but when asked if she has seen evidence to back up her claims, Waters replied: “No, we have not.”[hr]
12. President Donald Trump
May 9, 2017
In a letter of termination to FBI Director Comey, President Trump wrote that Comey had informed him “on three occasions that I am not under investigation.” (This was later confirmed by Comey, contrary to reporting that stated Trump was "lying.")[hr]
13. James Clapper (yet again)
May 28, 2017
On NBC, Clapper states that in looking at possible Russian collusion, "my dashboard warning light was clearly on" but "I have to say, at the time I left, I did not see any smoking gun certitude evidence of collusion."
14: Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
June 4, 2017
On CNN, Sen. Warner is asked whether he has seen any evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. He says: "There is a lot of smoke," but "we have no smoking gun at this point."[hr]
15. Former FBI Director James Comey (again)
June 8, 2017
Comey confirmed to Congress that he had, indeed, told President Trump three times that he was not personally under investigation.
16. Jeh Johnson, Obama Homeland Security Secretary
June 21, 2017
In Congressional testimony, Johnson was asked whether, at the time he left the government in January 2017, he had "seen any evidence that Donald Trump or any member of his campaign colluded, conspired or coordinated with the Russians or anyone else to infiltrate or impact our voter infrastructure?" He said, "Not beyond what has been out there open-source, and not beyond anything that I'm sure this committee has already seen and heard before, directly from the intelligence community. So anything I'd have on that is derivative of what the intelligence community has -- and the law enforcement community."[hr]
17. Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) at press conference with Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA)
Oct. 4, 2017
"We can certifiably say that no vote totals were affected, that the tallies are accurate. The outcome of the election, based upon the counting votes. They did not in any way shape or form that we've been able to find alter that." As for collusion with Russia, "the issue of collusion is still open, that we continue to investigate both intelligence and witnesses, and that we're not in a position where we will come to any type of temporary finding on that until we've completed the process."[hr]
A sampling of claims against Trump:[hr]
1. Politics USA and Huffington Post writer Sarah Jones
"October Shocker: FBI Has Explosive Information on Trump Conspiring With Putin"
“Senator Harry Reid dropped the bomb that the FBI and national security experts possess "explosive information" about ties and coordination between Russia and Donald Trump and his campaign.”
Oct. 30, 2016[hr]
2. Money & Power blog by Keith Girard
"Trump Treason: Did He Collaborate With Russians to Steal Election?"
Dec. 9, 2016[hr]
3. Politico story written by Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia Evelyn Farkas
“When it comes to Russia and its relationship with Donald Trump, the election hacking may be only the tip of the iceberg.”
Dec. 12, 2016[hr]
4. Was Trump lured into a Russian honey trap?
Jan. 12, 2017[hr]
5. New York Times letter to the editor by Michael Morell, former acting head of the CIA
"Does Vladimir Putin 'own' Donald Trump?"
“In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
Feb. 10, 2017
6. Tweets by former NSA intelligence analyst John Schindler
“He will Die in Jail”: Intelligence Community Ready to “Go Nuclear” on Trump over “The President’s collusion with Russian intelligence.”
Feb. 15, 2017[hr]
7. Michael Moore Tweet:
"Trump 'Colluded' With Russians, Should Step Down"
Feb. 16, 2017[hr]
8. Newsweek story by Ryan Goodman
"The Russian plot: how Putin and Trump colluded"
Feb. 17, 2017[hr]
9. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
President Donald Trump “absolutely was in collusion with the Kremlin and Putin and Russia during the campaign.”
Feb. 17, 2017[hr] Pre-order "The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think and How You Vote," the sequel to my New York Times best seller "Stonewalled."[hr]
10. Daily Kos article by writer Mark Sumner
"Comey revealed that the FBI had possible evidence of collusion with Russia—then Trump fired him"
May 10, 2017[hr]