Contrary to Donald Trump’s usual attempts to pulverize reality into an unrecognizable heap of dust he can power-snort directly into his fib-pickled brain, the Trump-Russia investigation was neither a witch hunt nor a hoax.
For one thing, Robert Mueller’s report—which former Attorney General Bill Barr (mostly successfully) hid from public scrutiny like a 3-year-old flushing a poopy Underoo—identified at least 10 instances of likely obstruction on the part of our erstwhile pr*sident. The report flatly stated that Trump “engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts both in public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation.”
That sure smells like obstruction to me, and because Trump’s involved, it’s also faintly redolent of deep-fried lard pops with rainbow sprinkles. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress and elsewhere have taken it as an article of faith that Trump was fully exonerated by Mueller, even though Mueller pointedly stated he’d done no such thing. But Republicans have long since decided to pretend that the most corrupt and dishonest human ever to sully this nation’s shores is America’s true savior and lone beacon of truth.
But despite Republicans’ efforts to sweep Trump-Russia collusion under the rug, it’s still there. And occasionally Rep. Adam Schiff, a dogged critic of Trump who was front-and-center during the venal makeup mannequin’s first impeachment, brings some of that dirt back out to show everyone what Trump really was—and is.
Here he was on Thursday, slapping down yet another lost GOP sheep, Kentucky Rep. James Comer:
COMER: “Mr. Speaker, every time Chairman Schiff rises to speak about intelligence and security and holding the president accountable, I get excited hoping that we’re going to hear about that evidence of collusion and all the other investigations that were conducted in this House over the past year … I’ll yield back, absolutely.”
SCHIFF: “Will the gentleman yield? Will the gentleman yield? Well, let me ask the gentleman, are you aware, just by way of illustration, that the president’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly met with an agent of Russian intelligence and provided Russian intelligence with internal campaign polling data as well as strategic insights about their strategy in key battleground states? Are you aware of that?”
COMER: “I think everyone’s aware of every bit of information that you all have tried to peddle over the past four years.”
SCHIFF: “Let me ask you, are you aware that while the Trump campaign chairman was providing internal polling data that Kremlin intelligence was leading a clandestine social media campaign to elect Donald Trump? Are you aware of that?”
COMER: “I think we see every day, Facebook just announced that Russia was trying to do a Facebook campaign in Ukraine, if I remember reading that correctly. Mr. Schiff …
SCHIFF: “Would you like me to go on?”
I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want you to go on, Rep. Schiff. But I can, if you don’t mind.
In fact, collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia wasn’t just proven—it was a flashing red light that should have been widely acknowledged as a scandal for the ages.
As Franklin Foer, a staff writer for The Atlantic, noted in Aug. 2020, Manafort was in near-constant contact with a bona fide Russian agent during the 2016 presidential election campaign:
When Mueller’s prosecutors appeared in court, in February 2019, they implied that the most troubling evidence they had uncovered implicated Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman. This wasn’t a surprising admission. Throughout their filings, Mueller’s team referred to Manafort’s Kyiv-based aide-de-camp, Konstantin Kilimnik, as an active Russian agent. Manafort had clearly spoken with Kilimnik during the campaign, and had even passed confidential campaign information to him, with the understanding that the documents would ultimately arrive in the hands of oligarchs close to the Kremlin.
Well, there’s your collusion, Rep. Comer. Pretty cut and dried. But that’s not all!
The Senate Select Committee’s Aug. 2020 report on Russian interference in the 2016 election went into great detail about Manafort’s Russian connections, but it didn’t get nearly the attention the long-anticipated Mueller report had. Nevertheless, it was damning.
The committee fills in the gaps somewhat. It reports that Manafort and Kilimnik talked almost daily during the campaign. They communicated through encrypted technologies set to automatically erase their correspondence; they spoke using code words and shared access to an email account. It’s worth pausing on these facts: The chairman of the Trump campaign was in daily contact with a Russian agent, constantly sharing confidential information with him. That alone makes for one of the worst scandals in American political history.
And in case you think Trump himself was innocent in all this, think again:
When Manafort—with a pardon dangling in front of him—brazenly lied to prosecutors, he helped save Trump from having to confront this damning story. He wasn’t the only Trump associate to obstruct justice. (The committee has referred five Trump aides and supporters to the Justice Department for possibly providing false testimony.) By undermining investigators, Trump’s cronies rendered Mueller’s report a hash lacking a firm conclusion. They helped detonate the charge of collusion, letting it fizzle well ahead of the 2020 election.
And, of course, in one of the most corrupt moves in U.S. presidential history, Trump later pardoned Manafort, his confederate in collusion.
One can only hope Trump will face his comeuppance before too long—and it appears New York Attorney General Letitia James is bound and determined to make that happen. In the meantime, we all need to speak up whenever MAGAs try to claim the Russia investigation was nothing but a hoax—because, in reality, it clearly exposed Trump as the corrupt asshole we always knew he was.
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