The Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 election was slipped out to the public with less fanfare than a new menu item at Captain D’s. And like the actual Mueller report, released weeks after Attorney General William Barr produced his whitewashed summary, Republicans are just hoping everyone will read their topline statements and ignore what the investigation really found.
Somehow, after Republicans have declared over and over that there was “no collusion,” they’ve been sitting on a report that shows that Donald Trump’s campaign manager was in constant contact with a Russian operative, that both WikiLeaks and Roger Stone knew they were part of a direct pipeline from Vladimir Putin, and that the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort was in fact a meeting with Russian spies designed to get information that could be used against Hillary Clinton. And that Ivanka Trump coordinated the daily drip of words from Moscow.
The Senate report, in fact, proves everything that had been said since before the election—Trump’s campaign directly collaborated with Russia, on multiple occasions and in various ways, to alter the outcome of a U.S. election. It also shows that multiple members of Trump’s campaign lied to investigators about these connections, and that Republican senators have been aware of these facts even as they have scorned the Mueller investigation and defended Trump and his campaign. So what are Republican senators doing about it now? Lying, of course.
The Senate report shows that Manafort was directly involved in passing along information to a Russian intelligence agent and accepting information from that agent. That’s collusion by the head of Trump’s campaign. The investigation could have stopped right there and moved on to providing information to the House for impeachment.
It didn’t stop there. It went on to explore how Ivanka Trump coordinated the use of stolen documents provided by Russia to make Trump’s attacks on Clinton more effective. How Stone helped Moscow coordinate WikiLeaks information to run cover for Trump. And how Manafort’s close coordination with Kremlin sources “represented a grave counterintelligence threat,” The report isn’t just damning, it’s damning to helling. It could not be more conclusive and more authoritative in showing that there was genuine coordination between the Trump campaign and Putin’s plans. Trump took everything Putin would give him, and begged for more.
Evidence in the report shows that Manafort’s chief contact, Konstantin Kilimnik, was connected not just with providing information to the campaign after the fact, but to the whole plot to break into DNC servers in the first place. The Trump campaign wasn’t the lucky beneficiary of a Russian plot that was already in effect. The whole thing—the break-in at the DNC, the distribution of emails through WikiLeaks, the false claims about Ukraine—was a joint Trump/Putin production from the start. They didn’t just collude, they were partners.
Why they were partners from the start is also underlined in the report, as the fifth volume contains information directly related to the leverage Putin had over Trump. That includes not just witnesses corroborating the existence of the “pee tape,” but a possible affair between Trump and a former Miss Moscow as well as a visit to a Moscow strip club. All of this, along with Manafort’s existing connections to Moscow, meant that Trump and other members of the campaign “presented attractive targets for foreign influence, creating notable counterintelligence vulnerabilities,” according to the report.
Almost as an aside, the report shows that Donald Trump and his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen negotiated repeatedly to cover up evidence in exchange for a pardon—and then everyone involved lied about it to Robert Mueller. Though that part was already known.
So what are Republican senators going to do about a report—their own report—that lays bare Putin’s tawdry leverage over Trump, the openness of Trump’s campaign to foreign influence, and the lies that campaigns staffers told to investigators every step of the way? As Lawfare points out, Republicans have a very simple solution: lying. Over and over, Republican senators have issued statements repeating the idea that the report shows “no collusion,” in direct contradiction of the actual contents.
Republicans in the Senate deserve credit for allowing the investigation to run its course rather than doing a Devin Nunes and popping out a Trump-praising nonsense piece while claiming that everything is good. But they deserve zero credit for running away from their own report or for making claims that the report doesn’t show what it clearly shows.
And while Republicans are scanning Mike Pompeo’s stack of documents looking for possible avenues of attack against Joe Biden, Biden could do a lot worse than simply making advertisements out of segments of the report created by the Republican-led Senate.