Russian-collusion probe sputters into a search for . . . what again?
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an elaborate story when, suddenly, you have no idea why you are telling someone about, say, the time that you sliced up the soles of your feet while perched atop jagged coral in Cancun? “What’s the point of all this?” you ask yourself, half aloud.
Russia!-Russia!-Russia!-gate has become just like that.
For more than nine months, Democrats and their henchmen in the old-guard media have spun an elaborate tale about Donald J. Trump scheming with Vladimir Putin to steal the White House from Hillary Clinton, who supposedly was born to run America. That yarn has unraveled, as even high-profile Democrats including Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Maxine Waters of California concede, there is no evidence of this Ian Fleming-style grand conspiracy. And . . . now . . . we wonder why we ever started to hear about all of this.
The hunt for reds in October has morphed into a quest for obstructed justice in June. This has become a narrative about nothing.
Democrats desperately tried to turn the Senate Intelligence Committee’s June 13 hearing into a James Bond film full of lawyers. Under oath, Attorney General Jeff Sessions denounced the notion that he secretly met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – perhaps to discuss which swing states the Kremlin would hack for Trump’s benefit, or maybe to stock up on invisible ink.
“I have never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election,” Sessions said, his voice rising in indignation. “Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign. I was your colleague in this body for 20 years, and the suggestion that I participated in any collusion or that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for over 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie.”
Much has been made of Sessions’s April 27, 2016, “meeting” with Ambassador Kislyak at Washington, D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel. Presumably this is where Sessions and Kislyak put the finishing flourishes on the RNC/KGB plot to ease The Donald from Trump Tower to the Oval Office.
The Center for the National Interest has poured ice water all over this mirage. CNI organized the forum where then-candidate Trump delivered a foreign-policy address.
“Ambassador Kislyak was one of four foreign ambassadors who attended the speech that day,” the Washington-based think tank explained in a March 8 statement, which Senator James Lankford (R., Okla.) invoked last week. “The Center for the National Interest extended equal treatment to the four ambassadors attending the event and invited each to a short reception prior to Mr. Trump’s speech.”
CNI’s statement continued:
The reception included approximately two dozen guests in a receiving line. The line moved quickly, and any conversations with Mr. Trump in that setting were inherently brief and could not be private. Our recollection is that the interaction between Mr. Trump and Ambassador Kislyak was limited to the polite exchange of pleasantries appropriate on such occasions.
We are not aware of any conversation between Ambassador Kislyak and Senator Jeff Sessions at the reception. However, in a small group setting like this one, we consider it unlikely that anyone could have engaged in a meaningful private conversation without drawing attention from others present.
This, believe it or not, is the cloak-and-dagger rendezvous for which Sessions has been pilloried.
Sessions and Kislyak also met in Sessions’s Capitol Hill office when he was a Republican senator from Alabama. Lawmakers routinely huddle with foreign officials, among their other taxpayer-funded duties. Indeed, Kislyak has met with Senate Democrats, including Washington’s Maria Cantwell, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, and Rhode Island’s Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse. House Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi of California and Steny Hoyer of Missouri also have spent time with Moscow’s attaché to Washington.
Has anyone scoured these Democrats’ desks for microfilm? Former FBI chief James Comey admitted to the same panel a week earlier that he volunteered thrice to Trump that he was not under investigation.
Anonymous leakers told the error-prone Washington Post Wednesday that Trump now is being probed for possible obstruction of justice, even though Comey repeatedly declined to characterize Trump’s private comments as falling to that level. Further discrediting that story and similar others, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday issued an unusual statement that, essentially, warned Americans to remain eternally vigilant against fake news:
Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous “officials,” particularly when they do not identify the country – let alone the branch or agency of government – with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.
So, for all of the yanked hair and gnashed teeth, the Democrats’ Russian-collusion saga proves to be little more than a paranoid fantasy that has squandered precious time and sabotaged President Trump’s agenda to make America great again.
A version of this piece also appeared on National Review Online.