By Mona Charen
One column cannot accommodate the list of things you must believe if you trust that Donald Trump is truly the victim of a baseless witch hunt. Consider this a mere stab.
1) Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner did nothing wrong by meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. The emails requesting the meeting specifically mentioned a “Russian government attorney” and added that the requested meeting concerned “very high level and sensitive information” … that “is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” That doesn’t prove a willingness to collude.
2) Concern about Paul Manafort’s extensive links with Vladimir Putin’s former puppet in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, including at least $12.7 million in payments, is, to quote Manafort’s words, “silly and nonsensical.”
3) That Jared Kushner’s attempt, during the transition, to secure a back channel with the Russian government using their secure communications equipment in the Russian embassy was not alarming/inexplicable.
4) That Donald Trump’s stubborn refusal ever to breathe a critical word about Vladimir Putin, even as he has freely criticized U.S. allies, or acknowledge Russian meddling in our election, is not strange.
5) That Michael Flynn’s firing after less than a month on the job was really just because he had misled Mike Pence.
6) That Donald Trump’s pressure on James Comey to go soft on Michael Flynn was purely a measure of loyalty and friendship from a person who has rarely shown those traits before.
7) That Comey’s firing, at least according to evolving White House accounts, was due to his mishandling of the Clinton file — no, wait. It was due to poor management of the FBI, which was suffering from low morale — uh, no. It was because of two factual errors Comey made in congressional testimony. Finally, that it was really over the “Russia thing” — but only because Trump was an innocent man frustrated by Comey’s unwillingness to clear him publicly.
8) 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.”
9) It’s pure coincidence that one of the only foreign policy advisers on the Trump campaign was Carter Page, who was under FBI investigation for Russia ties. In Moscow, he gave a speech denouncing U.S. policy, saying, “Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.” Anti-anti-corruption isn’t disturbing.
10) That White House objections to sanctions against Russia, which passed the Senate 98-2, are purely procedural.
11) That former Manafort partner and Trump surrogate Roger Stone, who boasted about links to WikiLeaks founder and America-hater Julian Assange, and accurately predicted in August 2016 that John Podesta would be next “in the barrel,” was just lucky.
12) That statements by Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. about Russian financial ties are not revealing. Golf writer James Dodson quoted Eric as explaining in 2014 how the Trump organization was able to get financing for various golf courses even after the Great Recession. “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.” Donald Trump Jr., who also traveled to Russia frequently, spoke at a 2008 real estate conference and noted that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” When Donald Trump stated, “I have zero investments in Russia,” he did not say that Russia had zero investments in him, but we should believe his other claim, “I have nothing to do with Russia.”
13) That President Trump’s failure to release his tax returns, despite repeated promises to do so, is because he is under audit.
14) That it’s unremarkable that presidential spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders refuses to say whether Russia is an adversary, a friend or a nation about whom we should be wary.
15) That Donald Trump is the first president since 1949 to cast doubt on America’s commitment to NATO, but this is overdue and good for the U.S.
16) That Donald Trump’s obsessive attacks on “fake news” are not an attempt to inoculate himself against future revelations but just good old-fashioned right-wing hatred of liberals.
Mona Charen is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists.