Either there is evidence of collusion, or the United States has undertaken a lengthy investigation into its own President. Either way, Trump will be taintedby Jay Elwes / September 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed by Congress to investigate the Trump campaign’s links to Russia, is a busy man. Perhaps not surprisingly for someone who used to run the FBI, Mueller is pursuing a highly aggressive investigation of those people connected to Trump who were also, perhaps, connected to Russia. The New York Times has reported that, when federal agents wanted to search the home of Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign official, they picked the lock of his front door as he slept. Agents then searched his house and examined his computer files. They even took photos of his “expensive suits.”
Mueller is pushing hard and he is wise to do so. The longer he conducts his enquiry, the longer he remains exposed. Much better to get it over with quickly.
And hanging over his investigation is the deeply alarming prospect of what lies at the end of it. Because one of the following two statements is true: Trump’s election campaign was assisted by Russia in the greatest act of political espionage in history; Trump’s election campaign was not assisted by Russia, and the US has descended into a needless episode of political paranoia more poisonous even than the worst excesses of the McCarthy era. Take your pick. It is not a palatable choice.
Whatever conclusion Mueller draws, America’s adversaries will feel a strong sense of schadenfreude. Most pleased of all will be Vladimir Putin. More than anyone else, he is the winner in this rather strange, post-modern stand-off between Russia and the US. Whichever way Mueller’s judgement goes, Russia will always be associated with the mess of the Trump presidency. And the signs are that a political mess in Washington is just what the Kremlin wanted all along.
To take the two statements in reverse order—what if Mueller concludes there is no evidence of collusion? From a legal perspective, a lot of current and former White House employees would breathe a sigh of relief. But the stain would remain. The rumours. The insinuations. The Moscow hotel bedrooms. Trump would always be tainted.
It would also lead us to a further question. If all those stories weren’t true, where did they come from? For a story to exist, someone must make it up. If so, who? The White House’s response would be that it was all a plot by the “mainstream media,” an attempt by a dirty club of sneering liberal elitists to ruin a popular leader whose success had done so much to undermine their world view.
But the rumours have a remarkable consistency, one that the disparate group of reporters and editors of the global media could never achieve. Russia. Trump in Russia. Russian money. Russian deals. Iffy Russian contacts. There is a clear common denominator. If it is all just lies, then the origin of those lies—or at least, the general direction from which they have come—may be very easy to see.
That, perhaps, is the “better-case” scenario. But what of the alternative? What if Mueller concludes that the Kremlin did intercede in the election to denigrate Hillary Clinton and boost Trump? The firestorm would be incinerator hot and it is not certain that the President could withstand the degree of focus that would fall upon his personal circumstances. Even if Mueller found that Trump’s campaign worked with the Kremlin without his knowledge, a political crisis would follow. It’s impossible to know how the disaster would end.
Whatever the outcome of Mueller’s enquiry, Putin has already won. Either he has doled out a cess pool of innuendo and lies to make it look as if he has manipulated the US election to get Trump into the White House—or he has really done so. Whatever the truth, the effect is still the same: Trump is reduced to the role of a puppet fool. The US is severely diminished.
So, which is it? Based on what we know, is there any substance to these allegations? In recent months, British intelligence experts have told me that Trump does indeed have a Russia problem. One of them, Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, told me in an interview earlier this year that: “What lingers for Trump may be what deals—on what terms—he did after the financial crisis of 2008 to borrow Russian money when others in the west apparently would not lend to him.”
This conversation, along with others I have had, makes it seem to me at least, most likely that Mueller is on to something. And if he is, then Donald Trump will forever be remembered as the US President who unwittingly became embroiled in a re-enactment of the Cold War—and lost.