The time has passed for Republicans and conservatives to drop the charge that Russian meddling in the U.S. electoral system is part of a witch-hunt, instituted by Democrats to challenge the legitimacy of Trump’s Electoral College victory.
While some of them argued, as one congressman did, that the charges were a “nothingburger,” they now have shifted their narrative. As Charles Krauthammer put it:
[After] telling us for six months that no collusion ever happened, [they] now say “Sure it happened. So what? Everyone does it.”
And that is no defense. There is a big difference between finding legally public information that is damning while undertaking opposition research, and showing a willingness to take derogatory information on one’s principal opponent (in this case, Hillary Clinton) from a foreign government that is our adversary.
It’s not just Krauthammer who has owned up to this truth. Other conservatives writing for National Review have joined him. David French explains:
[T]here now exists evidence that senior members of the Trump campaign tried unsuccessfully to facilitate Russian government efforts to defeat Hillary Clinton.
It’s as simple as that. And the evidence for this came not from WikiLeaks or the Democratic Party’s so-called “resistance,” but from Donald Trump Jr. himself. Fearing that the New York Times had gained access to his private emails, Trump Jr. went online and promptly posted his emails with Rob Goldstone, the publicist with Kremlin ties, who was offering:
[O]fficial documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.
Trump Jr. then arranged a meeting believing that the “official documents and information” would be useful in defeating Hillary. Trump Jr. was so excited, he emailed back:
I love it especially later in the summer.
The meeting to get the goods on Hillary was deemed so important that eight people attended it, including Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. That the Russians disappointed them by focusing on repealing the Magnitsky law or that seeing that they were not getting what was promised they cut it short is not a defense.
The New York Post’s editorial board proclaimed “Donald Trump Jr. Is an Idiot,” because he not only attempted to collude with the Russians but involved Manafort and Kushner, which the paper deemed “criminally stupid.” NR’s columnist Mona Charen listed the sixteen things one has to believe — all are preposterous — “to Buy the Witch-Hunt Narrative.” Here’s my favorite on her list:
That it was irrelevant that Trump told the Russian ambassador and foreign minister in the Oval Office the day after Comey’s sacking that the FBI director was a “nut job” whose removal had relieved “great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
And finally, in a column titled “The Benefit of the Doubt is Gone,” Jonah Goldberg showed that despite his prior reservations that any collusion had taken place or was being considered, he no longer could deny the evidence.
So, many observers, even those who have given Trump some time before reaching any conclusions, have had enough. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include Donald J. Trump. Trump said to reporters on Air Force One going to Paris:
I’m not saying it wasn’t Russia, what I’m saying is that we have to protect ourselves no matter who it is. You know, China is very good at this. I hate to say it; North Korea is very good at this. Look what they did to Sony Studios.
His one big problem is that our intelligence agencies have all concluded that the hacks on our electoral system were indeed carried out by Russia, and Russia alone.
Since the president himself evidently still does not want to accept the truth either of Russia’s responsibility for the hacking or for his son’s bad judgement or malfeasance, some of his followers are backing him up. Of course, this includes Joel Pollak, the editor of Breitbart, who still serves his friend in the White House, Steve Bannon. Hence Pollak claims “there is still no evidence of ‘collusion’ between the Trump campaign and Russia.” By putting it in these terms, he can entirely avoid the real issue — that there was attempted collusion, and had the Russian meeting delivered what was promised, Donald Trump Jr. would have been more than glad to receive it and to use it during the campaign.
Then there is the continued claim of conspiracy appearing at Frontpagemag.com. Matthew Vadum, a regular correspondent for the site, actually speculates:
[Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya] perhaps was sent to America to hurt Donald Trump’s campaign for president? And if Veselnitskaya had less-than-honorable intentions, what role, if any, did Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee play in this unfolding drama?
In other words, they have turned the evidence of Russian attempts to work with the Trump campaign against Hillary Clinton into an effort by the Clinton campaign to compromise Trump.
This leaves dedicated Trumpists — who follow everything Trump says even when he immediately contradicts what he said a few hours or days earlier — standing without any doubts. It is good to see that serious and thoughtful conservatives are following the evidence, and not what their political sympathies for the GOP dictate.