As Guy wrote last week, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) has retreated from his claim that there’s solid evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agencies. Now, his colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee also concede that there may be zero evidence of such activity after a month into their investigation (via John Sexton/Buzzfeed) [emphasis mine:]
A month into its sweeping investigation into the Kremlin’s efforts to undermine the US election, the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to answer all those questions — publicly, coherently, and fast. As the days tick by, they’re less and less sure they’ll be able to.
Even some Democrats on the Intelligence Committee now quietly admit, after several briefings and preliminary inquiries, they don’t expect to find evidence of active, informed collusion between the Trump campaign and known Russian intelligence operatives, though investigators have only just begun reviewing raw intelligence. Among the Intelligence Committee’s rank and file, there’s a tangible frustration over what one official called “wildly inflated” expectations surrounding the panel’s fledgling investigation.
Since the probe was first announced in December — days after the FBI and CIA told Congress they believed the Kremlin had worked to elect Trump — political infighting has fundamentally shifted its mandate. Instead of a surgically precise examination of the raw intelligence that led US agencies to conclude the Kremlin attempted to tilt the election, the Intelligence Committee investigation has quickly become the catch-all for any politician’s lingering questions related to Moscow. Now, several committee sources grudgingly say, it feels as though the investigation will be seen as a sham if the Senate doesn’t find a silver bullet connecting Trump and Russian intelligence operatives.
“I don’t think the conclusions are going to meet people’s expectations,” a second official said.
Lost in the political shuffling is the fact — concluded by 17 US intelligence agencies — that the upper echelons of Russia’s government directed an operation aimed at manipulating and disrupting the US election, and to a notable degree, succeeded. Short of an impeachable offense, officials are concerned the public is missing the forest for the trees.
So, the first part is something we’ve known for a bit: there’s zero evidence of so-called collusion, though that has not quelled the Democrats’ obsession with Russia. Any Trump aide who has met with a Russian foreign official is considered a breadcrumb on a trail could point to collusion, where in reality it’s probably a case of both sides doing their jobs; the Russian meeting with staffers of a person who could potentially become the next president of the United States and the Trump aide meeting with the Russian aide and the officials of other nations to establish a possible working relationship. This is not unusual. It’s also not unusual for members of Congress to meet with foreign officials as well, especially if you’re on the Senate Armed Services Committee, like former senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
As we’ve noted before, it quite interesting how in four years, Democrats can go from laughing at Republicans for suggesting that Russia is our biggest geopolitical foe to public enemy number one in less than five years. Some on the Left have also noted this descent into Russophobia concerning meetings between Trump aides and Russia is nothing more than “neo-McCarthyite furor” that could damage relations on future projects.
Also, the propaganda and fake news that was peddled by the Kremlin through social media trolls and their state-funded media outlets had zero impact on the election. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg said their platform, which was used disseminate some of these stories did not sway the election, The Economist reported on a study that also concluded that fake news did not play a pivotal role in the 2016 election. Russia didn’t succeed in undermining Clinton’s presidential ambition. Hillary Clinton did that to herself. Period.
Note: It was three agencies (CIA, NSA, and FBI), not seventeen that worked on the report about Russian meddling during the 2016 election.