This report is based on a non-partisan, logical, commonsense analysis of publicly known facts about the so-called Trump campaign Collusion with Russia.
Before I go in to the reasons, let me state some facts that are important to the analysis. What is a “Collusion”? Speaking to any Russian, including those in Government, is not a collusion. Trying to set up a meeting with any Russian or trying to arrange a meeting between leaders is not a collusion. As far as I know, collusion is for anyone in the campaign to conspire with a foreign country, including Russia, to engage in an unlawful activity that can influence the outcome of the US presidential election.
Hacking of emails: Though all the emails are related to Hillary Clinton, there are actually three different sets of emails. The first and most important one is the group of emails sent and received by Hillary Clinton and saved on her personal server. When Congress and the FBI wanted these emails for their investigation, Hillary Clinton deleted and destroyed over 30,000 of them claiming they are personal in nature. Both high tech (using so called ‘Bleach Technology”) and low tech (hammering blackberries) methods were used in destroying making them impossible to retrieve. The second set of emails were from the DNC or Democratic National Committee. These were sent and received by the DNC including its chairwoman. The third set of emails were from John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign Chairman.
Friendly to Foreign Countries: At the very beginning of campaign, candidate Donald Trump stated his preference to maintain close relations with some countries if elected. These included Israel, India, and Russia. All three were selected primarily for peace reasons. Peace between Israel and Palestinians will lead to peace all over Middle East as well as peace in most Islamic countries. Hence, improving relations with Israel was a priority. Following the lead of Obama administration, Trump campaign thought India could be a god deterrent to China in Asia as well as for maintaining peace in Afghanistan when US forces leave that country. As for Russia, Trump thought they could help in bringing peace to Syria and in negotiating a nuclear deal with North Korea.
No Foreign Policy or National Security Experts would join Trump Campaign: No one thought Trump would get the nomination, leave alone getting elected as the President. When he started winning primaries, reporters started asking him who his foreign policy advisors were. He was forced to come up with some names in a hurry. One of his aides, Sam Clovis of Iowa, assembled a list. This included a 28-year-old George Papadopoulos and a former Merrill Lynch manager in Moscow Carter Page. They had absolutely no foreign Policy experience except for living abroad and dabbling in International business and relations that they highlighted in their resumes.
1. Without any doubt there was Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Thirteen Russians working out of an office in St. Petersburg, Russia placed Facebook and other social media ads in addition to engaging in other disruptive activity between 2014 and 2016 with the primary motive of undermining US democracy. The meddling started with a scouting trip to US by two Russians in March of 2014 long before Donald Trump announced his candidacy. There obviously was no collusion by Trump campaign.
2. Vladmir Putin has several reasons to hate US and meddle in its elections. The foremost is US role in breaking up the Soviet Union. Remember the powerful message of President Reagan “Bring that wall down!” that Russian leader at that time Gorbachav heeded to. Also, Putin was not happy that contrary to the promises made by Reagan’s Secretary of State Baker, US and European nations were expanding the NATO to include some of the former Soviet territories. He was also not pleased by the opposition to his annexation of former Soviet territory Crimea. Thus, his animosity towards US and its democracy was set way before Trump became a candidate. Hence no collusion by Trump here.
3. Facebook and other Social media ads placed by Russians dealt with topics like “Black lives matter”, “How the lands of Native Americans and Mexicans were stolen”, “What a hero SF quarterback Colin Kaepernick is for kneeling down during National Anthems”. They definitely were not pro Trump ads.
4. There were also reasons why Putin wanted Hillary Clinton to lose. After he came to power and when his loyalists won parliamentary elections, Clinton as secretary of state claimed that the elections were fraudulent and undemocratic. When Putin was seeking reelection, Clinton, as Secretary of State, encouraged public protests at his election rallies. Finally, Clinton was instrumental in getting the so called “Magintsky act” passed that froze the assets of several Russian businesses and their principals. Russians claim this was an unjust action by the US for a matter that is their internal business and nothing to do with International affairs. It is Putin’s belief that Clinton did this as a favor to major donors of the Democratic party whose Russian business interests were being represented by the attorney Magintsky before his death in a Soviet jail. For sure, Putin wanted anyone but Clinton to win. If her opponent was Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush, Russia would have wanted them to win. It is not that they wanted Trump to win.
5. Even after Trump won nomination, it is not very clear that they were solely rooting for Trump. On the same day they organized a pro Trump rally in NYC, they also organized an anti-Trump rally across town. When Donald trump won the election, Russians organized “He is not my President” rallies! Clearly, their motive was to mock US democracy and elections.
6. It is clear Russians hacked both DNC emails and Clinton’s campaign manager’s emails. If any American colluded in these efforts, how did they do it? Russians as well as eastern Europeans are known for their technical and hacking skills. They did not need any help in that area. If Russians could organize meetings, place social media ads, acquire US bank accounts under false names by working out of a St.Petersburgh’s office, they did not need an American to tell them what DNC stands for or who the Clinton campaign’s manager was. Moreover, Russia had a diplomatic staff of over 700 in US at that time. It is an open secret that a good number of them are spies. If they needed local help, they had their own people. Most definitely, they would not have taken the help of any one in the disorganized and bumbling campaign organization of Trump. Trump, being a non-politician, had to organize on the fly.
7. The DNC hacking exposed the inner workings of the Democratic party campaign. Clinton’s chief opponent was Bernie Sanders. In late 2015 and early 2016, his supporters, including Congresswoman Tulsi Gabarrd, were complaining loudly that DNC and its chairwoman Debbie Wasserman were favoring Clinton over Sanders in issues like limiting the number of debates. The hacked emails confirmed the same leading to the resignation of Wasserman. Donna Brazile who took over as Chairwoman confirmed that the primary election was rigged in favor of Clinton. The hacked emails helped Sander’s cause though they were too late to help him win. Trump was no where in the picture as he was not contesting for Democratic nomination. Russians would have loved for Sanders to win partly because he is a self-avowed Socialist. It is ridiculous to even think that any one in Trump campaign colluded with Russians to hack DNC emails.
8. During the entire election campaign (both primary and general), there was lot of talk about the missing 30,000+ emails of Hillary Clinton. Many believed that Russia may have hacked her server before she destroyed these emails using some sophisticated high technology. The emails were thought to have some adverse information and the common thinking was Russians were holding them to blackmail her once she got elected. Trump in a televised public rally shouted out “Russia, if you have the missing 30,000 emails, please release them!” Many point this as proof that Trump campaign colluded with Russia. That is beyond ridiculous! If there was a collusion, it would have been done through a very secret channel. Trump would have used that channel to request those missing emails and not in a nationally televised public meeting.
9. Opponents cite the Trump tower meeting on June 9, 2016 between Trump people and Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya & her associates as proof of collusion. The attorney was working for a Russian billionaire whose US assets were frozen as a result of the US sanction, Magintsky act, to punish Russia for its human rights abuse. In return, Russia banned US adoption of Russian orphans. She was lobbying Washington for couple of years to get rid of the sanction that was punishing her client and other wealthy Russians for acts committed by their government. The meeting was requested by Rob Goldstone, a colorful British music promoter for the billionaire’s singer son. In an email to Donald Trump, Jr., whom he had met at US Pageant in Moscow. Goldstone promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump, Jr. invited Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort to attend the meeting. In addition to Goldstone, the Russian attorney came with two Russian American men- one a translator and the other an agent for the billionaire and a Clinton supporter. From all accounts (including testimony by some participants), the Russian attorney offered no incriminating info about Clinton. Instead she talked only about the need to vacate Magintsky act and resume US adoptions. The promise of “Dirt on Hillary” was obviously a ruse by the intermediaries to set up the meeting. The dirt they wanted to give was solely about why Clinton got that act passed. It is reported that Kushner was so bored by the subject that he texted his assistant to pull him out of the meeting with a phone call. Manafort sat through the entire meeting going through messages on his phone. Needless to say, this was no collusion meeting. If it was, it would have been conducted in a secret place among no more than two or three people. Instead, the meeting was in a public place like Trump tower that included a colorful British promoter, a Clinton supporter, and a man (translator) in hot pink color jeans and hot pink color shirt. Yes Donald Trump, Jr. may have been naïve in accepting the invitation but it was no collusion meeting.
10. We have heard repeatedly on TV, as well as in other media that more than 30
people have been charged with crimes related to the Russian probe and 5 of them have already pleaded guilty. This may be a very convincing argument to continue the probe. If we take a closer look at these charges, it will be anything but convincing. The five guilty pleadings are:
A) George Papadopoulos: The probe presumably started when the 28-year-old George Papadopoulos bragged in a drunken state in London pub to the Australian ambassador in July 2016 that he has some Russian contacts who promised him the missing 30,000 emails of Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making material false statements or lying to the FBI. What did he lie about? On March 10, 2016 he was informed by the Trump campaign that he will be one of the foreign policy advisors that was officially announced on March 23, 2016. On March 14th, he met a London Professor Joseph Mifsud, of Malta origin, who was running an International Institute there,. He stated to the FBI that he met this Professor before he joined the Trump team and not after. Papadopoulos may have honestly thought that when he met the Professor, he was not officially a Trump foreign Policy advisor and therefore should answer the way he did. Or, he may have been confused about the exact dates. In the worst case, he may have told a white lie. What difference does it make? In any case, the Professor did not brag to Papadopoulos that he has Russian connections and access to Hillary Clinton’s missing emails until much later and definitely not in their first meeting on March 14th. Whether this meeting was before or after he became an advisor is totally irrelevant. How can this be a materially false statement? Moreover, there is a big mystery about Prof. Mifsud who represented to Papadopoulos that he is a friend of Russian foreign minister and introduced him to a young Russian lady claiming she is a niece of the Russian president Putin. Mueller’s prosecution team has claimed in court papers that Prof. Mifsud has Russian intelligence connections. But when the investigation got hot, this Professor disappeared from the scene abandoning his live-in girlfriend and their child. A high official in Malta govt. accused this Professor as a fraud and snake oil salesman. Interestingly several news sources have stated that this man has CIA, FBI, and British intelligence connections but none with Russian intelligence and its government! It is more than obvious that Papadopoulos guilty plea has absolutely nothing to do with collusion with Russia.
B) Michael Flynn: The second key guilty pleading is that of Michael Flynn. He was nominated as the National Security advisor after Trump won the election. During the transition period President Obama expelled several Russian diplomats for meddling in the 2016 US election. It was widely expected that Russia will retaliate and take similar action. Two members of the Trump transition team, who were handling foreign policy matters, Kushner and Sessions asked Flynn to contact Russian Ambassador and request him not to retaliate that could have irreversible consequences. Accordingly, he called the Ambassador couple of times and there was nothing wrong with it. Logan Act prohibits private citizens from negotiating American policy with foreign governments. But General Flynn was named as the National Security advisor and he had every right to contact Russian or any other government on policy matters of the new administration. It is surprising that two FBI agents went to his office to question him about this and even more surprising that Flynn denied contacting the Russian ambassador. It is quite possible that he did not want to reveal the policies of the new administration and told them a white lie. For that, he paid a great price and lost his job. It has been reported that he pleaded guilty when the Mueller team threatened to indict his son for a prank call he made about Hillary Clinton. It has also been reported that Flynn could not afford, just as other people who pleaded guilty, to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees if he chose to fight. Obviously, his guilty plea has absolutely nothing to do with collusion with Russia.
C) Rick Gates: Another guilty plea is that of Rick Gates who is a longtime business associate of Paul Manafort. They both worked as political and business consultants in Ukraine after it gained independence from Russia. When Manafort became campaign chairman for Trump, he recruited Gates as his deputy. Gates continued to work in the campaign even after Manafort was forced to resign. He and Manafort made lot of money as consultants in Ukraine and took advantage of offshore tax havens to avoid US taxes. Both of them were indicted by Mueller team for tax evasion and similar charges. Calling it unfair Manafort decided to fight it and his case is still pending. On the other hand, Gates pleaded guilty and publicly stated that he is doing it simply because he can not afford to pay the legal fees that could have added up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. But his guilty pleading has nothing to do with collusion with Russia.
D) Alex van der Zwaan: He was a Europe based attorney with a large US law firm that did some legal work in Ukraine. Since he, Manafort, and Gates worked for the same client, the then President of Ukraine, they knew each other. When asked by the Mueller team, he denied that he had recent contacts with Gates. This was obviously a lie. He may have done it to avoid getting caught up in the legal mess of the Russian probe. When presented with evidence, he had no choice but to plead guilty of lying. But this guilty please has nothing do with collusion with Russia.
E) Richard Pinedo: The last person to make the list of guilty pleas secured by the Mueller team is one Richard Pinedo who has nothing to do with politics. He has been in the business of creating bank accounts with stolen identities and selling them to any one who has a need for fake accounts. The Russian team working out of St. Petersburgh needed US accounts to place Facebook ads and pay for other illicit activities associated with meddling in US elections. They obviously found Pinedo online who sold them fake bank accounts without knowing who they were. His guilty plea has nothing to do with collusion with Russia.
In addition to the five who have pleaded guilty, 13 Russians based in St. Petersburgh have been indicted for meddling in US elections. Just days ago, an additional 12 Russians were indicted for hacking But there is no evidence or even motivation that Trump campaign colluded with them for reasons already stated. The other important indictment is that of Paul Manafort, the former Chairman of Trump campaign. He was brought in to the campaign when Trump was losing delegates even after winning some primaries. Manafort had experience as a delegate counter and recruiter when he worked for President Reagan. He was not brought in because of his Russian experience. When Corey Lewandowski, the previous campaign manager was forced to resign because of an altercation with a reporter, Manafort took over as a manager for a short time before he too was forced out when his Ukraine and Russia connections became public. This would not have happened if he was involved in any collusion with Russia. In any case, he was charged, just like Gates, for tax evasion and money laundering issues that took place ten years before Trump even became a candidate. Konstantin Kilimnik, an office manager for Manafort in Ukraine, was also charged with similar issues for activities between 2005 and 2012. Needless to say, these indictments or guilty pleadings have absolutely nothing to do with collusion with Russia.
It is both disturbing and sad that the special counsel team has resorted to hardline prosecution tactics of threatening serious consequences if persons of interest do not confess and then using those confessions to elicit testimony against their real target even if that testimony is not truthful. Similar tactics by ‘win at any cost’ prosecutors all over the country have convicted scores of innocent people.
It is equally sad that main stream media as well as some prominent members of both US Senate and Congress are using the same indictments and guilty pleas to keep the ‘Collusion with Russia’ story alive. More than any outside threat our own people are causing serious harm to our great democracy. Hopefully, they will come to their senses before it is too late.