Ben Wittes connectsTrump and the Russians

Today on Lawfare, Ben Wittes gives the best and clearest analysis of the Mueller Report on the eager collaborative effort between the Trump camp and the Russians.

I say this with some authority because (1) I’ve read a lot of the Mueller Report and therefore know what I’m talking about; and (2) Ben is my cousin. (In Yiddish, my appreciation and name-droppery for and of Ben is collectively called nachas.)

Some of my favorite lines as a teaser, with bits of bolding for a couple of delicious bites:

GRU Hacking Directed at the Clinton Campaign

If the active measures section of the report is exonerating of Trump and his campaign, the section that follows it—the Russian hacking section—is not. It is much worse than is commonly understood for Trump.

So let’s tease it out, because it’s actually a whopper.

This was not “no collusion.” It was Keystone Kollusion—and the incompetence of it is likely the reason no crime was committed.

In other words, it wasn’t that Trump was above dealing with Russian hackers to get Hillary Clinton’s emails. He not only called publicly on the Russians to deliver the goods on his opponent, he privately ordered his campaign to seek the material out. He did this knowing himself—clear from his public statements and very clear from the actions of those who acted on his request—that Russia would or might be the source.

The reason there’s no foul here is only that the whole thing was a wild conspiracy theory. The idea that the missing 30,000 emails had been retrieved was never more than conjecture, after all. The idea that they would be easily retrievable from the “dark web” was a kind of fantasy. In other words, even as a real hacking operation was going on, Trump personally, his campaign, and his campaign followers were actively attempting to collude with a fake hacking operation that wasn’t going on.

It is not illegal to imagine stolen emails and try to retrieve them from imagined hackers. But it’s morally little different from being spoon-fed information by Russian intelligence. The Trump campaign was seeking exactly the spoon-feeding it was accused of taking; it just couldn’t manage to find the right spoon, and it kept missing when it tried to put any spoons in its mouth.

It’s a remarkable story, and it’s not a flattering one. If nobody ran afoul of the law, the likeliest explanation is the dumbest of dumb luck.

It is a remarkable story, and Ben tells it better than anyone I’ve read.



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