Let's start with a leftover from last night's edition of Hannity, which is worth highlighting for two reasons: First, it's somewhat mesmerizing -- even on its own terms as a lighthearted, if bizarre, performance. Second, be sure not to miss perhaps the most interesting word in her whole act: "Yet." If you're not listening for it, it'll slide right past:
Has the internet had fun with some turnkey memes? You bet it has. She may be technically correct that we don't yet have rock solid proof of completed collusion, but Donald Trump, Jr's email chain very clearly demonstrates an intent and willingness to collude with the Russian government, with active steps taken to that end. It's right there "in black and white," writes Andy McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who has defended Trump throughout much of the Russia controversy:
Collusion can involve any kind of concerted activity, innocent or otherwise. Conspiracy is an agreement to commit a concrete violation of law. Thus has the collusion question always been two questions: First, was there any? Second, if so, collusion in what? The first question, to my mind, is no longer open to credible dispute. There plainly was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. This is firmly established by emails exchanged in June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr. and an intermediary acting on behalf of Russian real estate magnate Aras Agalarov. A Putin crony, Agalarov is also a business partner of President Trump...we now have solid documentary evidence that the Trump campaign, fully aware that Putin’s regime wanted to help Trump and damage Clinton, expressed enthusiasm and granted a meeting to a lawyer sensibly understood to be an emissary of the regime. Top Trump campaign officials attended the meeting with the expectation that they would receive information that could be exploited against Clinton. That is collusion — concerted activity toward a common purpose. We can argue about whether the collusion amounted to anything, in this intriguing instance or over time. That is under investigation, and deservedly so. To my mind, though, it is no longer credible to claim there is no evidence of a collusive relationship. It is there in black and white.
This poses a serious credibility problem for Team Trump, which adamantly insisted for months that there was zero collusion whatsoever, with Donald Trump, Jr. falsely asserting that he'd never had an arranged meeting with any Russian national at any time. Yes he had. He helped arrange it, over four pages' worth of emails. And I'm sorry, I don't accept the garbage excuse that as a busy political neophyte he "forgot" about this encounter. Contact with Russians was a major controversial issue at the time of his categorical denial. It strains credulity that he could simply overlook that one time that he just absent-mindedly exchanged numerous emails with a friend who was offering to arrange a private huddle with a 'Russian government lawyer,' promising damaging intel on his dad's opponent -- which he eagerly attended with two other top-level campaign officials. That explanation would correctly spark ridicule and rage among conservatives if a Democrat had offered it under similar circumstances. But here's the second part of Andy's piece:
Now we are on to the real question: Collusion in what? There are two aspects to this question: legal and political. As a matter of law, mere collusion is not a crime. As noted above, it must rise to a purposeful agreement to carry out a substantive violation of law. It is not a crime to collude with a foreign government, even a hostile one, if the point is to accept information in the nature of opposition research. The suggestion that it might violate campaign law to accept information — as a “thing of value” — would raise significant constitutional questions while trivializing the conduct, which is egregious because of the nature of the relationship, not the money value of the information. To rise to the level of conspiracy, there would need to be proof, for example, that (a) violations of U.S. law were orchestrated by the Russian regime, and (b) Trump campaign officials knew about them and were complicit in their commission. At the moment, there is no such evidence.
He leaves open the possibility of evidence pointing to the commission of a crime, and also adds that impeachment does not require commission of a specific type of crime to be justified under the law. Still, his broader point is a worthwhile admonition to partisans on both sides, including those casually throwing around the I-word, and even the T-word, which is preposterous. I'll leave you with this -- and do note that it's not "whataboutism" to cite previous examples of conduct that many people are claiming to be "unprecedented:"
I think an American campaign colluding with a foreign government (especially an adversarial one) to win an election is disgusting, and probably should be an illegal act. And I really resent being lied to. Nevertheless, Democrats who are so aghast by what Team Trump appears to have done here must explain why their own side's foreign collusion (the Democratic defense in that piece strikes me as relatively thin) in a number of US elections is somehow okay -- or how the Trump situation is uniquely problematic. I'm all ears.
UPDATE - The official story shifts again. We were told for days that Trump himself was not informed of the Junior/Manafort/Jared meeting. Now, actually, maybe he was -- but not about the Hillary stuff. Uh huh: