Thursday, March 23, 2017

Where Is Trumpgate’s Howard Dean?

Here are the basic facts as we know them at this time.  

1.  The Russian government, either directly or through surrogates, made numerous efforts to degrade Hillary Clinton in the eyes of the public and so swing the election to Donald Trump.  These efforts included not just the hacking and release of DNC emails, but using social media to bombard Clinton fence sitters with negative fake news stories.   

2.  Several highly placed members of the Trump campaign team and people close to the campaign had numerous contacts with the Russian government, including intelligence figures.  One of them, Roger Stone, stated on Twitter prior to the Wikileaks’ dump of the DNC emails that "Wednesday @Hillary Clinton is done. #Wikileaks.”  Without question he knew what was coming.

Given these facts, several conclusions seem warranted, indeed obvious.

1. The Russian attempt to influence the election was so nefarious that it far surpasses Watergate’s break-in of the DNC headquarters.  If members of the Trump campaign team knew of this activity and stayed silent, they are guilty of treason.  If Trump was aware, he is guilty of an impeachable offense.

2.  Given the extent of contacts between Trump surrogates and the Russians during the campaign … not during the transition … it is at a minimum highly suspicious and more than likely that they were aware.  Also, remember that Trump at a news conference back in July said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.  I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”  The official spin was that he was being sarcastic.

This last little nugget seems to have been forgotten as I have not heard it mentioned in connection with the questions raised about the campaign’s contacts with Russians.  It is relevant that two Federal courts in reviewing the Trump travel ban referred to his statements during the campaign about barring Muslims from the country as evidence of the intent of the ban.

The investigations currently being conducted into this matter are behind closed doors, both by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and by the FBI.  And it is more than likely that nothing will come of these investigations because it will be very difficult to prove that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

Collusion requires having a secret understanding.  And that's what both the FBI and the committees are looking into.  But I think that bar is too high.  Even if there was not a secret, unspoken, understanding, if there was just knowledge by the campaign that the Russians were acting to subvert the election and they remained silent, that should be sufficient to prosecute them for treason.  Likewise, if Trump was aware, that would constitute an impeachable offense.

But let’s say that, despite Roger Stone’s Tweet, the campaign was not aware of Russian efforts to subvert the election and swing it to Trump.  If they were trying to cozy up to the Russians during the campaign, letting them know that they would end the sanctions and in other ways carry out Trump’s pledge to have better relations with Putin, the question becomes “why?”  The only thing to be gained by the Trump campaign by such conversations with the Russians would be if they acted to influence the election.  

There is no other possible reason that would explain such conversations during the campaign, as opposed to during the transition.  So, I would hold that merely having such conversations, making such assurances, while perhaps not grounds for criminal prosecution, would if known by Trump be grounds for impeachment.

This matter is of such a high importance that there needs to be a Watergate-style public hearing in Congress so that the American people learn first-hand the full extent of the Trump campaign’s treasonable activity, if in fact that is what occurred.  But barring the emergence of a Howard Dean, who gives the lie to all the denials by Trump and his campaign associates of contact with the Russians regarding sanctions and other matters, it is quite probable that nothing will ever be proven.