Edited May 22, 2019 at 6:45 EDT
From the beginning, a lot of people around Donald Trump have said that he resented the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election because it would undermine the legitimacy of his election.
We’ll never know for sure. But there’s a very strong case to be made that, without Russian interference, Trump loses Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, which Trump won by a margin of just over 100,000 votes, and Hillary Clinton is our president.
According to the Mueller Report, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort periodically shared internal polling data on the races in four key battleground states – Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian/Ukranian who American intelligence services has identified as someone with close ties to the GRU, (Russian intelligence), if not a Russian GRU agent himself.
Presumably, the polling data was passed onto the Internet Research Agency, the internet trolling center run by the GRU out of St. Petersburg. The IRA micro-targeted Americans through Facebook and Twitter and other social media to convince them to vote for Trump or Jill Stein or no one at all. Facebook’s data, (and maybe Cambridge Analytica’s), enabled the Russians to target African-Americans who had shown an interest in Black Lives Matter in their online history. So, African Americans in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Milwaukee were reminded of Hillary’s “super predators” remark from 1994. The undervote for president among African Americans in Detroit alone was over 70,000 votes. Trump won Michigan by fewer than 12,000.
Targeting folks with emails is relatively easy these days. But remember that the Russians hacked the emails of the DNC and of Hillary’s campaign chair John Podesta, and released them through WikiLeaks at crucial times in the election cycle. The day before the gavel came down at the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks released the Russian-hacked internal emails of the Democratic National Committee – emails which showed that some staffers at the DNC favored Hillary over Bernie. It’s questionable whether, and to what extent, and in what way, the personal views of DNC members expressed in those emails were acted upon – but they certainly gave Bernie supporters cause to believe that the Democratic National Committee had put its thumb on the scale during the primary season.
“The email leaks have revealed everything. This whole election was rigged,” said an angry Bernie delegate, “We knew. This was just proof. This was just vindication.” Even Bernie, who urged supporters to work for Hillary at the first day’s California delegation breakfast to work for Hillary, was booed by his own delegates.
That doesn’t happen without Russian hacking. And there is no question that many Bernie supporters carried that resentment throughout the rest of the campaign and did not vote for Hillary when maybe they otherwise would have.
The Podesta emails that came out just a few hours after the Access Hollywood video, suggesting some coordination between Wikileaks and the Trump campaign – specifically in the person of Roger Stone. We don’t know that from reading the redacted Mueller Report, because, it would seem, that was part of the redacted material. But we do know this from the original Stone indictment:
During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Organization 1 and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign. STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organization 1.
But didn’t Barr say in his press conference just before the release of the Mueller Report that it had concluded there was no collusion? Yeah. But Barr was lying. Just look at the sleight of hand Barr uses to create the impression that the Special Counsel Mueller couldn’t find anyone connected to the Trump campaign who played a role in timing the release of the hacked emails.
The Special Counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts. Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy. Here too, the Special Counsel’s report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials. (My italics and bolding.)
There is no applicable collusion law because there is no collusion law! We know that because Mueller told us that on page 2 of the Mueller Report. “We applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of collusion.” And under conspiracy law, Stone would have had to have “participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy” in order to have “illegally participated.“
This is why people hate lawyers. And William Barr in particular.
At least Barr made an effort to say something that is technically true, if deliberately misleading. But take a look at this from Mike Pence and former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen:
PENCE: The fact is, Russia meddled in our 2016 elections. That is the unambiguous judgement of our intelligence community… And while no actual votes were changed, the United States of America will not tolerate any foreign interference in our elections from any nation state.
NIELSEN: Two years ago, a foreign power launched a brazen, multi-faceted influence campaign…to distort our presidential election. Let me be clear: our intelligence community had it right. It was the Russians…. Although no actual votes were changed in 2016, any attempt to interfere in our elections is a direct attack on our democracy.
Am I wrong to be bothered as much as I am by this? That the Vice President of the United States and the then-DHS Secretary are so willing to insult the intelligence of anyone who bothers to give their words a moment of thought?
Of course, the Russian interference changed votes. And in one direction. At the end of the election, the word cloud for Hillary consisted of one enormous word: “E-MAILS.”
I heard Chris Christie the other day on a panel. He kept taunting Democrats, “Trump won the election. Get over it!” Sure. Donald Trump won the election. He also very likely had the election stolen for him with the help of a foreign power. Is that supposed to be okay? Are foreign powers like Russia and China going to take over the roles of Super PACs? Are they going to determine who our president is, who sits on our courts, on the Supreme Court? There’s a very good chance that Russia already did. Will we throw away our Constitution to get past an election? Will it now be okay to collude with foreign powers as long as your attorney general can say it was done without technically violating the law?
Now instead of billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers, and George Soros, will campaigns have to rely on tacit, wink-wink, arrangements with foreign countries that can attack our elections? And not just Russia and China? North Korea? Kazakhstan?
This isn’t worth Congress investigating? This isn’t worth Congress demanding testimony from those who know what happened? Who have been party or witness to obstruction of a Special Counsel’s investigation into what really happened during the 2016 election?
This isn’t worth impeachment hearings if Trump continues to exert executive privilege over every document subpoenaed by Congress, every witness called to testify? Unlike any other president in our nation’s history?
Yes. Russian interference questions the legitimacy of his election. And not doing anything about it threatens the legitimacy of our democracy. Of the rule of law. Of the whole idea of the United States of America.
By preventing McGahn and Barr and Mueller and Donald Jr., et all, from testifying and withholding the unredacted Report and every other document subpoenaed from Congress, Donald Trump has given the House no choice. It must go immediately to impeachment hearings.