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Thiessen in WaPo on Mueller indictments: Russiagate “no further forward”

Indictments show poor judgement by Trump in choice of aides; not evidence of collusion with Russia

FILE -- FBI Director Robert Mueller III testifies during a hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, May 16, 2013. The Justice Department has appointed Mueller to serve as a special counsel to oversee its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced on May 17, 2017. (Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

In my recent articles about the Manafort and Papadopoulos indictments I pointed out that neither indictment in any way touches on the allegations of collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia which are at the heart of the Russiagate conspiracy allegations.

See in particular my most recent article on these two indictments in which I said that they take the Russiagate allegations no further at all.

I was therefore very struck to see exactly the same point made in an article by the Washington Post by Marc A. Thiessen, a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.

Here is what he has to say about the indictment brought against Paul Manafort

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s court filing tells a sordid tale of influence-peddling on behalf of Yanukovych, Vladi­mir Putin’s man in Kiev. But while Monday’s revelations were in no way an indictment of Trump-Russia collusion, they were a searing indictment of Trump’s judgment in bringing Manafort into his campaign in the first place.

(bold italics added)

As to the Papadopoulos indictment Thiessen goes into more detail.

Firstly he makes the same point which I have made: that Papadopoulos was an inexperienced and very junior aide with an over-developed imagination whose attempts to set up a meeting between Putin and Trump came to precisely nothing

The statement goes into great detail about Papadopoulos’s efforts to court a Kremlin-connected professor, a “niece” of Putin (who was not actually his niece) and a “Russian [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] connection.” But Mueller’s court filing also shows that those contacts produced little. Papadopoulos was unable to set up the meeting between Trump and Putin in Moscow that the Russians desperately wanted. (A footnote in the plea deal quotes an email between campaign officials that said, “We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips.”) When it became clear the Putin meeting would not happen, Papadopoulos tried to pitch himself to travel to Moscow to represent the campaign, which also never happened. In other words, Papadopoulos was a peripheral figure whose failing efforts to impress the campaign with his Russian contacts seem to have come to naught.

Then Thiessen makes two points which I have also made: (1) the emails referred to in the Papadopoulos indictment are clearly Hillary Clinton’s own emails, not the DNC’s or John Podesta’s emails, making the reference in the indictment to these emails a red herring; and (2) the failure on the part of anyone in the Trump campaign to show any interest in these emails or to support Papadopoulos’s activities in any way is actually further proof that NO collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was taking place.

Much has been made of the professor telling Papadopoulos that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and thousands of “emails of Clinton.” But the document does not indicate that anyone at the Trump campaign took Papadopoulos up on this. Moreover, WikiLeaks did not release “emails of Clinton” but Democratic National Committee emails — so it’s not clear that the professor’s offer was any more truthful than his introduction to Putin’s “niece.” Because Papadopoulos has been a government informant since his arrest in July, perhaps there is more to come on this front. But as former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy points out, the statement of offense seems to be more exculpatory than incriminating for Trump: If the Russians were offering Clinton emails through Papadopoulos, “that would mean Trump and his campaign had nothing to do with the acquisition of the emails” and thus had not committed a crime. Accepting “dirt” from Russian sources would have been unsavory if it happened. But that’s arguably less unsavory than the Clinton campaign paying for dirt on Trump from Russian sources.

In conclusion Thiessen says – exactly as I have done

………there’s still no more public evidence of criminal collusion with Russia than there was before charges were brought.

Thiessen also makes the perfectly valid point that the appointment of obviously damaged or inadequate individuals like Manafort and Papadopoulos to the Trump campaign reflects very poorly on Donald Trump’s judgement.

However that is not the issue in the Russiagate scandal, where the charge have been of collusion and criminality between the Trump campaign and Russia bordering on treason, not of incompetence on the part of Donald Trump and the people appointed by him.

Many people (including myself in my first article about the Manafort indictment) have made the point that the indictments against Manafort and Papadopoulos seem to be intended to keep the Russiagate investigation on the road following the catastrophic revelation of the previous weeks: that the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign paid for the Trump Dossier, and that responsibility for paying for the Trump Dossier was then passed to the FBI by the Democrats following the election.

The best discussion of the implications of that remains in my opinion the article by Joe Lauria

If the presentation of the indictments really was intended to divert attention away from the role of the Democrats and of the FBI in manufacturing the Russiagate scandal, then I doubt it will succeed.

The big secret – the real big secret of the Russiagate case – is now out, which is that the Democrats paid for the two reports – the CrowdStrike report and the Trump Dossier – which lie behind it.

As the case against Manafort becomes bogged down in court hearings – as it will – and as the case against Papadopoulos fades from view – as it also will – I expect this to become gradually clearer, and people to be following up on it.

What do you think?

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