Lots and lots of smoke about Russia

We may not have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt on Donald Trump having nefarious dealings with Russia, but I’d say we’d met the civil standards of clear and convincing evidence.  Dave Leonhardt on the case:

He could make his life easier if only he treated Vladimir Putin the way he treats most people who cause problems — and cast Putin aside. Yet Trump can’t bring himself to do so.

This odd refusal is arguably the biggest reason to believe that Putin really does have leverage over Trump. Maybe it’s something shocking, like a sex tape or evidence of campaign collusion by Trump himself. Or maybe it’s the scandal that’s been staring us in the face all along: Illicit financial dealings — money laundering — between Trump’s business and Russia.

The latest reason to be suspicious is Trump’s attacks on a formerly obscure Justice Department official named Bruce Ohr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Ohr and called for him to be fired. Ohr’s sin is that he appears to have been marginally involved in inquiries into Trump’s Russian links. But Ohr fits a larger pattern. In his highly respected three-decade career in law enforcement, he has specialized in going after Russian organized crime.

It just so happens that most of the once-obscure bureaucrats whom Trump has tried to discredit also are experts in some combination of Russia, organized crime and money laundering. [emphases mine]

It’s true of Andrew McCabe (the former deputy F.B.I. director whose firing Trump successfully lobbied for), Andrew Weissmann (the only official working for Robert Mueller whom Trump singles out publicly) and others. They are all Trump bogeymen — and all among “the Kremlin’s biggest adversaries in the U.S. government,” as Natasha Bertrand wrote in The Atlantic. Trump, she explained, seems to be trying to rid the government of experts in Russian organized crime.

I realize that this evidence is only circumstantial and well short of proof. But it’s one of many suspicious patterns about Trump and Russia. When you look at them together, it’s hard to come away thinking that the most likely explanation is coincidence

Then there is Trump’s paranoia about scrutiny of his businesses. He has refused to release his tax returns. He said that Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line by looking into his finances. When word leaked (incorrectly) that Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank’s records on Trump, he moved to fire Mueller (only to be dissuaded by aides). Trump is certainly acting as if his business history contains damaging information…

“We need to find out whether that is the case and say so. Or we need to find out that is not the case and say so,” Schiff told me. “But to leave it as an unanswered question, I just think would be negligent to our national security.” So far, congressional Republicans have chosen negligence.

Which means that the November elections may determine whether we ever get answers. If Democrats win House control, Schiff will gain subpoena power. If Republicans keep control, just imagine how emboldened Trump will feel. He could mount a full-on assault on the rule of law by shutting down Mueller’s investigation and any other official scrutiny of the Trump Organization.

At this point, who can doubt that Trump wants to do so? Presumably, he has a good reason.

 

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