- Investigators have still found no evidence Trump colluded with Russia
- Politico editor-in-chief confesses “skepticism” of the narrative
- Media slow to admit there’s no evidence of collusion
Thirteen months into President Trump’s administration, there is still no evidence whatsoever that Trump or any of his associates colluded with Russian operatives meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.
That total lack of evidence has some establishment journalists finally wondering if there wasn’t any Trump-Russia collusion after all, despite Democratic conspiracy theories to the contrary.
Politico Magazine editor-in-chief Blake Hounshell over the weekend penned a piece “confessing” his skepticism of the collusion conspiracy theory. Hounshell’s primary argument was that the Trump campaign was too inept to have successfully colluded with Russia without the public finding out.
Political journalists on Twitter passed around Hounshell’s thesis — that maybe the president didn’t collude with Russian hackers and online trolls — as a novel idea.
But the truth is reasons for skepticism have existed in plain sight for months.
The New York Times reported in May 2017 that Russian officials discussed finding backdoor ways to influence Trump without his knowledge through retired Trump adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The NYT’s report was inconsistent with the narrative that Trump was engaged in a quid-pro-quo with Russia, as many liberals have claimed without evidence.
Similar reports in May that Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner suggested opening up covert channels with Russian officials after the election also appear to work against the narrative of a Trump campaign in league with Russia. The fact that Kushner allegedly explored opening channels of communication with the Russians would imply that such channels didn’t already exist.
The NYT conceded in a December story that emails showing Russian attempts to reach out to Trump aide Hope Hicks appeared to “undercut” the collusion narrative.
“In some ways, the Russian outreach to Ms. Hicks undercuts the idea that the Russian government had established deep ties to the Trump campaign before the election,” the NYT noted. “If it had, Russian officials might have found a better entrèe to the White House than unprompted emails to Ms. Hicks.”
FBI agent Peter Strzok, a top agent on the Trump-Russia probe, said in May 2017 that he had yet to see any evidence of collusion between the Trump-Russia campaign. In the text, which became public last month, Strzok note his “gut sense and concern that there’s no big there there.” A source close to Strzok confirmed to The Daily Caller that the agent had not seen any evidence of collusion, despite leading the Trump-Russia investigation for 10 months.
One of the strongest perceived indicators of Trump-Russia collusion among mainstream journalists was a NYT article in February 2017, alleging U.S. intelligence officials had repeatedly intercepted communications between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials in the year leading up to the election.
But then-FBI Director James Comey knocked down that story four months later in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Comey characterized the story as “almost entirely wrong” and suggested anonymous sources are feeding journalists bad information.
The other key point cited by Trump-Russia conspiracy theorists was the July 2016 Trump Tower meeting that Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and campaign manager Paul Manafort took with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton. But the meeting appears to have been a dud and nothing appears to have actually come from it. (RELATED: Everybody Is Forgetting That Clinton Allies Did The Same Thing As Don Jr.)
NBC News published what the network hyped as a “potential bombshell” in September, claiming that Manafort’s notes from the Trump Tower meeting contained a “cryptic” reference to donations in relation to the Republican National Committee (RNC). The story quickly fell apart.