Jim Hartman: Examining question of Russian collusion
December 14, 2017
A sinister storyline from already known facts could hold both President Trump and Hillary Clinton guilty of "collusion" with the Russians in 2016 — with much still to be learned.
The first point that needs to be understood about "collusion" — it's not a crime. The word "collusion" refers to a collaboration in common activity that's not necessarily criminal. What prosecutors care about is "conspiracy," an agreement by two or more people to commit a crime.
The allegations made in the 12-count indictment against former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort invite belief in "collusion" with the Russians. Far from "draining the swamp," the Trump campaign chose a known scoundrel to serve as campaign chair for four months, until August 2016. Manafort had an extensive history of representing foreign rogues and tyrants, most noteworthy being the pro-Russian former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
The indictment alleges Manafort pocketed a staggering $75 million in "consulting fees" from 2006-2016 from shady pro-Russian Ukrainians. Manafort worked as a "volunteer" for Trump from March to August 2016, resigning when news stories surfaced he had illegally received $12.7 million from pro-Russian interests. Manafort still maintains close ties to Russian intelligence.
Prior to his resignation, Manafort managed Trump's Republican National Convention activities in July 2016, including the writing of the Republican Party platform. Under Manafort's leadership, the Trump campaign orchestrated the adoption of a platform on Russia and Ukraine that was at odds with almost all of the party's national security leaders. Ronald Reagan stood up to Russian aggression in Europe and defended democratic principles abroad. The GOP 2016 platform was a major departure from the "Reagan Doctrine."
Trump's view of Russia has always been friendlier than most Republicans. Trump claimed he would "get along very well" with Vladimir Putin and called it a "great honor" when Putin praised him. Trump called for a reduced U.S. commitment to NATO; wanted to give the Russians a free hand in Syria; and said he didn't see Russia as a dangerous threat. Trump has done extensive business in Russia since 1987.
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Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton also gives the appearance of "collusion" with the Russians. Investigations are restarting concerning the 2010 "Uranium One" deal giving Moscow 20 percent of America's licensed uranium mining capacity. This involved a Canadian businessman friend of Bill Clinton bundling donations totaling $148 million, all directed to the Clinton Foundation. Ultimately, permission was granted by Mrs. Clinton on behalf of the State Department to buy a controlling stake in Uranium One, with other government approvals following. Bill Clinton also pocketed a $500,000 speaking fee from the Russians.
A second vein of Russian "collusion" for Hillary Clinton is the financing of the 35-page so-called "Trump dossier" assembled by Christopher Steele, a onetime British spy. After denying any involvement, the Clinton campaign acknowledged paying for the "dossier." Virtually all of the sources are Russian, meaning Democrats have been indirectly "colluding" with Moscow disinformation to bash Trump for purportedly doing the same thing.
Hillary Clinton now believes Russian operatives under President Vladimir Putin caused her to lose the election. But Clinton, back in 2012, mocked Mitt Romney saying it was "somewhat dated" to be concerned over Russia, adding he "was stuck in the 'Cold War' mind warp" and Russia was, in fact, "an ally."
While Romney was excoriated by President Obama and on the editorial pages of the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle for his assertion Russia was our "No. 1 geopolitical foe," he has been proven right. The Russians' war in Georgia, annexation of Crimea, the separatist strife in eastern Ukraine, violation of Baltic states air space, meddling in Syria, Mali and with North Korea , proves his point.
Will we ultimately conclude both Trump and Clinton "colluded" with the Russians, or were they simply profoundly wrong about Russian intentions?
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa.