Retraction Of False Russiagate Bombshell From CNN Yesterday Was Just One In A Long List Of Retracted Claims By Media

Yesterday we had yet another example of a story being promoted as a bombshell revelation about Trump and Russiagate, only to be retracted soon afterwards. CNN ran a story claiming that Donald Trump received a web address leading to Wikileaks documents on September 4, 2016 and later corrected the date to September 14. This is quite significant as the information was made public by Wikileaks by the time of this email on the fourteenth. Instead of showing collusion with the Trump campaign receiving secret information from Wikileaks as CNN’s story suggested, all they received was a web address to information which had already been released to the public. CBS and MSNBC were making the same claims of this being evidence of collusion until the story was retracted.

What is remarkable about this is that this is just one in a long string of similar events which have fueled this story. Three CNN reporters had already resigned in June over an incorrect Russiagate story.  Last week I noted that ABC News had retracted a story claiming that Michael Flynn had made contact with Russia during the campaign when it actually occurred after Trump had elected. (This, along Jared Kushner’s reported attempt to achieve a secret backdoor channel to Russia in December, also contradict claims of collusion during the election as there would be no need for such backdoor communications by either Flynn or Kushner if they had been colluding during the campaign.)

In November there was the bombshell that Russia had sent money to its embassies marked, “to finance election campaign of 2016.” Rather than evidence of rigging the US election, it turned out that this money was to fund voting in the Russian election by Russian citizens living abroad.

The claim that seventeen intelligence agreed that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC continues to be cited by Democratic partisans long after it was withdrawn, and despite the lack of any evidence being presented by those in the intelligence community who believe this. Pro-Clinton conspiracy theories are increasingly basing their arguments on claims of secret intelligence which nobody can verify.

Other questionable stories include the Russian web site which, instead of trying to influence the election, contained pictures of puppies. The Congressional testimony showed how ridiculous the entire argument was that Russia influenced the election by using Facebook and Twitter.  It was revealed that Russian-purchased Facebook ads accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half the ads were not even seen until after the election, and many had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton. The biggest success attributed to Russia on Facebook has been to get 5000 to 10,000 people to turn out for a rally–a rally protesting against Donald Trump after the election. The impact on Twitter was not any more significant. The largest of the alleged Russian troll pages had 25,045 followers at its peak, and the others had far fewer.

There have been many other false claims which have been retracted, including the hacking of the US electrical grid and even of our election systems. The Intercept has provided just a small sample:

  • Russia hacked into the U.S. electric grid to deprive Americans of heat during winter (Wash Post)
  • An anonymous group (PropOrNot) documented how major U.S. political sites are Kremlin agents (Wash Post)
  • WikiLeaks has a long, documented relationship with Putin (Guardian)
  • A secret server between Trump and a Russian bank has been discovered (Slate)
  • RT hacked C-SPAN and caused disruption in its broadcast (Fortune)
  • Crowdstrike finds Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app (Crowdstrike)
  • Russians attempted to hack elections systems in 21 states (multiple news outlets, echoing Homeland Security)
  • Links have been found between Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian investment fund under investigation (CNN)

Many of the Russiagate claims are are looking no more valid than the claims of WMD in Iraq which precipitated that war, or the lies which the United States has used to become in wars elsewhere. This is very risky when applied to a nuclear power–where neoconservatives have also desire to seek regime change.

While Donald Trump very likely has had illegal financial dealings with Russia, and the campaign did seek to obtain information on Clinton from Russia, there is no evidence either of actions by Russia which altered the election result, or of active collusion during the campaign. Even if such evidence should arise in the future, it is clear that Democrats were making such claims without evidence at the time. As was revealed in Shattered, Hillary Clinton devised a strategy of blaming others, including Russia, for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing. The claim that Russia affected the election result was largely based upon the Steele Dossier. Clinton and the DNC had covered up their role in paying for this report for months, casting doubt on its reliability.

I suspect that Clinton’s claims that Russia was responsible for her loss continue to receive credibility from much of the media because many are unwilling to believe that Donald Trump could have beaten Hillary Clinton, despite all the evidence that Clinton was an extraordinarily weak and unpopular candidate long before the election. Their personal biases might have led to these repeated examples of journalistic carelessness in which they ran with stories which seemed to confirm their suspicions without doing sufficient fact checking. Retracted stories with false information continue to be cited by Democratic partisans.

Trump Family Values

The Daily Beast looks at the high degree of nepotism in the Trump administration:

Most people have heard of Ivanka and Jared, but the first family is far from the only group of relatives staffing the Trump administration.

A Daily Beast examination of public records reveals that there are at least 20 families, joined by either blood or marriage, in which multiple members hold some federal post or appointment. They include the families of some of Trump’s most prominent campaign supporters and agency officials, including one cabinet officer. The posts range from senior White House staff to more ceremonial and advisory positions.

A few of the most prominent cases came to the fore in recent weeks with the hiring of Eric Trump’s brother-in-law to be chief of staff at the Department of Energy and the nomination of Brett Talley to a federal judgeship in Alabama. In paperwork filed with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Talley failed to disclose that his wife is the chief of staff to the White House senior counsel Don McGahn—presenting a potential conflict of interest if the administration ever argues a case in Talley’s court.

But McGahn too has a direct relation in the administration. His wife, Shannon McGahn, was hired in May as a policy adviser to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. In March, Trump tapped former Ford Motor Company lawyer Jim Carroll to join McGahn’s team. Carroll has since moved over to the Office of Management and Budget, where he serves as general counsel. But before he did, the White House hired his son, James Carroll III—whose previous professional experience consisted of a stint as the sports editor of his college newspaper—as a staff assistant…

Multiple additional examples in the full post.

First Indictments Involve Money Laundering But Plea Bargain By Papadopoulos Could Be More Important

The indictments expected all weekend turned out to the least interesting outcome considering that Manafort’s indictment had been expected for quite a while. The indictments of Paul Manafort and associate Rick Gates are based upon financial crimes as I predicted. This action fails to help the cases made by partisans on either side. This is unrelated to the charges that Trump colluded with Russia to affect the election results as Hillary Clinton and Democratic partisans claim. It also contradicts pro-Trump partisans who have called Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt. It is also rather embarrassing to Donald Trump that, as Lawfare put it:

The president of the United States had as his campaign chairman a man who had allegedly served for years as an unregistered foreign agent for a puppet government of Vladimir Putin, a man who was allegedly laundering remarkable sums of money even while running the now-president’s campaign, a man who allegedly lied about all of this to the FBI and the Justice Department.

The more important development today might turn out to be that George Papadopoulos is entering into a plea bargain, which probably would have only been offered if he has information on people higher up in the campaign. This is the second incident we know about in which people in the Trump campaign spoke to Russians about getting information on Hillary Clinton. From The Washington Post:

Papadopoulos has agreed to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians. Specifically, he falsely claimed that they had occurred before he joined the campaign in March 2016. He had communication with a professor who had contacts in the Russian government; this professor told him that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” The professor introduced him to a Russian national who was supposedly Vladimir Putin’s niece (it turned out she wasn’t), and to someone who supposedly had connections in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Based on those conversations, Papadopoulos pressed the campaign to set up meetings with the Russians, a suggestion that never came to fruition.

As with the meeting attended by Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner, there was an interest in obtaining information from Russia but no evidence than they were provided any information which helped the Trump campaign or altered the election result. While it is widely assumed that Donald Trump was probably aware of the meeting attended by his son and son-in-law, there is no evidence of this. Perhaps Papadopoulos has information regarding which people in the campaign were encouraging such meetings with Russia, and whether this includes Donald Trump.

The Clinton campaign has said it is beyond the pale to be working with foreigners, but we also know of at least two occasions when Clinton also worked with foreigners to affect the election results, including the recent revelations about the Clinton campaign and the DNC funding the Trump Russia dossier despite their earlier denials. The optics of the Trump campaign working with Russia to obtain information may appear worse than the Clinton campaign working with other foreigners, but any legal issues arising from this are likely be the same.

This is the the first action from Robert Muller. It remains to be seen if further indictments regarding money laundering get closer to Donald Trump and his family. It also remains to be seen whether Mueller has uncovered any direct evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, or of other actions allegedly performed by Russia to affect the election result.

In related news, Politco reports that Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, is stepping down from the Podesta Group following reports that he is under investigation by Robert Mueller. From Politico’s report:

The investigation into Podesta and his firm grew out of investigators’ examination of Manafort’s finances. Manafort organized a PR campaign on behalf of a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Podesta Group was one of several firms that were paid to do work on the PR campaign to promote Ukraine in the U.S.

Podesta Group filed paperwork with the Justice Department in April stating that it had done work for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine that also benefited the same Ukrainian political party that Manafort once advised. Podesta Group said at the time it believed its client was a European think tank untethered to a political party.

The Hill reports that the Maryland Attorney General is investigating Jared Kushner “over alleged questionable debt collection practices and poor maintenance at several of its properties in that state.”

It Is Mueller Time: Who Will Be Indicted And What Are The Charges?

Often news is dropped on a Friday to limits its coverage. In this case, the news that Mueller is preparing his first charges in the Trump investigations, is dominating the news this weekend. As CNN reported:

A federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources briefed on the matter.

The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.

The first obvious question is who will be charged. Paul Manafort,  Michael Flynn, and Carter Page lead the lists in speculation. I don’t think anyone will be surprised if one or more of them are indicted next week. There will be greater surprise if Jared Kushner, Donald Trump, Jr., or perhaps even a Democrat is indicted now that we have learned that the Podesta Group is also under investigation.

The next question is what the actual charges will be. From what has been released to the public so far, we have see much more evidence of a cover-up and obstruction of justice than we  have seen of the original crimes. There have been indications that Mueller is conducting the investigation more as would be expected if the concentration is on financial crimes including money laundering.

The evidence released to date for collusion leading to an actual change in the presidential election result  looks quite weak–with indications that this was more an excuse from Hillary Clinton to deflect blame for her own mistakes which caused her to lose. The stronger case for any sort of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia might involve Paul Manafort who allegedly offered to give a Russian billionaire private briefings on the campaign. However there is no evidence that such briefings took place and past speculation has also primarily been on an indictment for financial crimes such as money laundering or tax evasion.

There is also the meeting which both Donald Trump, Jr. and Kared Kushner attended with Russians, which they were lured to attend with promises of information on Hillary Clinton. However it appears that was only to get them to attend with the Russians reportedly having nothing to offer. While it indicates a willingness on their part to collude with Russia, there is no evidence that such collusion actually occurred. There very well could be legal violations in their actions, but this falls far short of Clinton’s claims of Trump and Russia working together to alter the election results.

Whatever indictments are issued, this means that the matter moves from a primarily political fight to a legal battle where rules of evidence prevail and Donald Trump’s cries of a witch hunt are even more meaningless. As occurred with Watergate, early indictments might lead to deals which ultimately result in evidence against those higher up. Also as with Watergate, a big question will be what did the president know and when did he know it.

Update: First Indictments Involve Money Laundering But Plea Bargain By Papadopoulos Could Be More Important

Jared Kushner Failed To Disclose Private Email Account To Senate Intelligence Committee

We have significant new information regarding Jared Kushner’s use of private email. As I discussed earlier in the week, if his attorney has been telling the complete truth (which is a big if), then Kushner does not appear to have violated the rules regarding the use of personal emails as Hillary Clinton did. The differences were that Clinton exclusively used a private server, destroyed over half the email with claims later shown to be false that she only destroyed private email, discussed classified information in her private email, and failed to turn the email over to be archived as required. Kusher’s lawyer had claimed that he primarily used government email and that he has turned over copies of private email discussing government business to be archived.

CNN reports a new aspect which of the case with Kushner being accused of failing to disclose the private email account when testifying before the Senate:

In his closed interview with the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner did not share the existence of his personal email account, which he has used for official business, CNN has learned.

CNN has also learned that the chair and vice chair of the committee were so unhappy that they learned about the existence of his personal email account via news reports that they wrote him a letter via his attorney Thursday instructing him to double-check that he has turned over every relevant document to the committee including those from his “‘personal email account’ described to the news media, as well as all other email accounts, messaging apps, or similar communications channels you may have used, or that may contain information relevant to our inquiry.”

The emphasis in the letter on “all other” personal accounts not known by the committee would seem to be a reflection of the frustration the committee leaders feel with that fact that Kushner was not up-front about the existence of his personal email account and their desire for him to cover the bases of all his possible communications avenues when responding to their letter. This issue could become more serious if there emerge any emails or communications related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that Kushner has not turned over, and whether he did so with the express purpose of concealing information from the committee.

If this is true, it would not be the first time Kushner failed to disclose relevant information:

Kushner has been criticized in the past for initially not disclosing more than 100 contacts with foreign leaders including those from Russia, as well as ownership of a multimillion dollar tech company with links to Goldman Sachs and businessmen Peter Thiel and George Soros. Kushner was also one of three top campaign officials or surrogates who failed to disclose a June 2016 meeting with a woman billed as being with the Russian government and having incriminating information on Hillary Clinton.

Of course Hillary Clinton was also far from honest in her testimony before Congress. Her testimony to the FBI, when she faced a more serious risk of perjury and was therefore more likely to be honest, differed significantly from what she had been saying before Congress and to the American people.

Comparing Kushner and Clinton’s Use Of Private Email

Following the news reports that  Jared Kushner used a private email account for government business, Congressional Democrats have announced plans to launch an investigation. There are additional reports of Ivanka Trump and other White House advisers using personal email. The comparisons to Hillary Clinton are obvious, but based upon the reports from Politico it is not clear that Jared Kushner actually did violate the law as Hillary Clinton did.

During the email scandal I found that many supported or opposed Clinton based upon partisan affiliation with no real understanding of the issue. It is worth looking at the specific violations committed by Hillary Clinton and to compare this with what we do know so far about Kushner’s use of private email. The problem is not simply that Hillary Clinton used private email, but that she used private email exclusively and through a personal server. The law does allow the use of some communication by private email, but requires that this be turned over to the government for archiving.

Hillary Clinton not only failed to turn over her email until forced to long after leaving her position as Secretary of State, but she destroyed over half of the email. Clinton claimed that this was personal email, but some of the destroyed email was uncovered showing that she was lying. Email she destroyed did directly involve government business. Clinton had also denied that any classified information was sent over her private server, but this was also later found to be untrue.

Politico reports the following about Jared Kushner:

“Mr. Kushner uses his White House email address to conduct White House business,” Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner, said in a statement Sunday.

“Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account. These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal rather than his White House address.”

If this is all true, then Kushner very well could have been acting within the law. Politico also reports that, “There is no indication that Kushner has shared any sensitive or classified material on his private account, or that he relies on his private email account more than his official White House account to conduct government business.”

Of course Kushner’s innocence is dependent upon statements from his attorney being true, and obviously his attorney would not be making statements to incriminate him. A key factor in Clinton’s case was that she repeatedly lied about the matter, despite being repeatedly corrected by media fact checkers, as well as the report of the State Department’s Inspector General. Clinton even lied about the Inspector General’s report in her book What Happened.

In other words, matters would be far worse for Kushner if it turns out that he failed to turn the email over, had destroyed email, was using private email exclusively, or had sent any classified information over private email–all things which Clinton had done in violations of the law.

Another question would be whether there was any attempt to cover up illegal activities. Kushner has been suspected of both financial crimes and possibly colluding with Russia to affect the election results (with the evidence for the former being far more significant than the later). Uncovering evidence of discussing such matters by private email would be of greater significance. Hillary Clinton violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State and there have been questions as to whether there is evidence of influence peddling in the email she destroyed. We will probably never have an answer regarding this.

From a political perspective, it would be quite hypocritical for anyone in the Trump administration to violate the law as Clinton did after all their cries to “lock her up.” It would also be quite foolish considering the political price paid by Clinton. However, politicians do tend to be quite hypocritical. Hillary Clinton had accused those in the Bush administration who used private email of shredding the Constitution, despite more lax rules being in place under Bush than in 2009.

Update:

Jared Kushner Failed To Disclose Private Email Account To Senate Intelligence Committee

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

In follow up of my post yesterday on the McCarthyism we are seeing from many in the Democratic establishment in their attacks on the left, it is worth mentioning some signs of sanity from some Democrats. While it only applies to some, Politico has written that Democrats fear Russia probe blowback:

Democrats are increasingly conflicted about how forcefully to press the issue of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Fearful of alienating voters who appear more concerned about the economy and health care, Democrats campaigning in districts across the country are de-emphasizing Russia in their rhetoric — and some are warning that a persistent focus on the Russia investigation could backfire.

“In the races where I’m working, I think voters think that Russia is important and that the questions need to get answered,” Bill Burton, a veteran Democratic consultant, said at a political convention this past weekend. “But they’re mostly sick of hearing about it, and they want to hear politicians talk about things that are more directly important in their lives.”

…California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s running for governor, was even more direct in a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The Russia investigation, he said, “doesn’t do anything for Democrats at all … It’s a loser.”

The problem for Democrats goes beyond this. While we do not know the final results or everything which Mueller has uncovered, based upon what has been released it increasingly looks like the Democrats have gone far beyond the facts in making this a political issue. While the Russians may have meddled to some degree in the election, the fact is that the Russians have attempted to meddle in our elections for decades–just as we have meddled in their elections and the elections of many other countries.

The arguments from Democrats fall apart when they try to blame Russia for Clinton’s loss. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign both shows many of the mistakes made by Clinton which accounted for her loss, along with how she decided within the first twenty-four hours upon the strategy of blaming others. Russia did not force Clinton to ignore the rust belt states, or do a terrible job of campaigning there when she realized she was in trouble. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the rules in setting up her private server, and then repeatedly lie about it for months. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State, and use her career in politics for personal financial gain. Russia did not force Clinton to take extreme pro-war positions and other conservative views which alienated many potential Democratic voters. 

While Donald Trump along with members of his family and campaign have had many suspicious actions involving Russia, there has been no evidence of successful collusion between them to impact the election. I have long believed that Trump’s actions were based more upon possible financial crimes and covering up activities of his family and associates. Last spring week former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in his Congressional testimony: “To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results.” We have not seen anything to alter this.

While Donald Trump, Jr. showed he was not above meeting with Russians to attempt to affect the election, it turned out that Russia had nothing to offer. The closet thing we have to evidence that Russia might have attempted to hack the election showed that they were not successful. The stories of Jared Kushner seeking a back channel to communicate with Russia both suggests that this was over financial dealings, and raises the question as to why he would need to set up a back channel after the election if they had already been colluding with Russia.

There remains questions as to whether the claims from the intelligence community that Russia was responsible for the Wikileaks release of email are any more valid than the claims of Saddam having WMD before the invasion of Iraq. Even if the investigations should show that Russia was responsible for the hacked email, nobody has seriously questioned the accuracy of the information released by Wikileaks. The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. The undemocratic manner in which a major political party picks its nominees is a far more serious threat to democracy than anything actually achieved by Russia.

Blaming Clinton’s loss on Russian propaganda on social media ignores the strong opposition to Clinton from many segments of the political spectrum and the large amount of anti-Clinton material which would be present independent of Russia. People on the left have opposed DLC Democrats like the Clintons since the 1990’s, and have opposed Clinton’s neoconservative interventionism since the Bush years, independent of any Russian influence. Russia certainly cannot be blamed for similar Democratic loses in 2010 and 2016 when they also performed poorly by running as a Republican-lite party. The real problem is that by copying the policies of Republicans, Democrats turn off many potential voters while failing to win over Republicans.

Politico is right that Democrats run the risk that they will not win elections based upon their anti-Russia hysteria because this is not the major concern of voters. Democrats face a greater risk that their initial claims might be shown to be unsubstantiated partisan claims, further damaging their credibility. In October, Hillary Clinton claimed that Donald Trump would be threatening democracy by not accepting the results of the election. Democrats now risk being held to Hillary Clinton’s own standards.

Shepard Smith Speaks Out About All The Lies From The Trump Administration

So many lies have come from the Trump administration that even an anchor at Fox is starting to complain about all the lies. Shepard Smith had this to say about the various stories being told about the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and Russians when speaking with Chris Wallace:

Fox News can now confirm new, more — Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, the lawyer from Russia, the interpreter, this new guy we found out about today, and a mystery person. John Roberts confirms there was an eighth person in that meeting. We don’t know, there may have been more, but there was an eighth. Jared Kushner filled out his form, I think it’s an F-86, saying who he’d met with and what he had done.

Very important stuff, you can go to prison for messing it up, you know, intentionally. He went back and added 100 names and places. None of these people made it. It’s still not — we’re still not clean on this, Chris.

It’s — if there’s nothing there and that’s what they tell us, they tell us there’s nothing to this and nothing came of it, there’s a nothing burger, it wasn’t even memorable, didn’t write it down, didn’t tell you about it, because it wasn’t anything so I didn’t even remember it, with a Russian interpreter in the room at Trump Tower.

If all of that, why all of these lies? Why is it lie after lie after lie? If you’re clean, come out clean. You know, my grandmother used to say “When first we practice to — oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

The deception, Chris, is mind boggling. And there are still people out there who believe we’re making it up, and one day they’re going to realize we’re not, and look around and go, “Where are we? And why are we getting told all these lies?”

Shepard Smith has varied from the hard line pro-Republican viewpoint at Fox at times, but it is also rare to see such outright acknowledgement about government lying including using the L-word. The Fix is calling this a “Cronkite moment” referring to when Walter Cronkite spoke out about the lies being told about the United States involvement in Vietnam.

This is a bit of an exaggeration. Walter Cronkite speaking out against the war is often seen as precipitating a turning point in public perception of the war. The majority of people in the nation is already opposed to Donald Trump and realizes he is a liar. However it would be more comparable if this leads to a change in perception of Donald Trump among Fox viewers.

Democratic Congressman Files Article Of Impeachment Against Donald Trump

It was only a matter of when. A California Congressman has introduced an article of impeachment against Donald Trump. The Hill reports:

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) formally introduced an article of impeachment against President Trump on Wednesday that accuses the president of obstructing justice during the federal investigation of Russia’s 2016 election interference.

This is the first time a lawmaker has offered an impeachment article against Trump, and it comes as Democrats have debated whether it is politically wise to press the case for impeachment at this time…

In filing his impeachment article, Sherman argues that Trump’s abrupt firing of James Comey as FBI director in May amounts to obstructing justice and “high crimes and misdemeanors” amid the probes of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government to swing the election…

He cites Comey’s allegations that Trump pressured him to drop the FBI’s investigation into ousted former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as Trump’s shifting story on why he fired Comey.

“In all of this, Donald John Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as president and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office,” the article of impeachment states.

So far only one other member of Congress, Al Green of Texas, is supporting the action.

Of course it is rather early and the number of members supporting impeachment could increase after the current investigations, which are still in an early stage, are concluded. The firing of James Comey does certainly appear to have been done in order obstruct his investigation. At present there is far further evidence of a cover-up on the part of Trump and members of  his administration than of the actual crime. While it is possible that evidence of collusion with Russia to swing the election will be uncovered during the course of the investigation, there is not yet clear evidence that Donald Trump did collude with Russia.

I have suspected that, at least, Trump was acting to protect members of his administration, and that any crimes very likely involved their financial dealings. The recent revelation of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with an attorney close to the Russian government, based upon an offer of information about Hillary Clinton, along with actions of Jared Kusnher, suggest that Donald Trump might have engaged in obstruction of justice to protect members of his family, along with members of his campaign staff and administration.

In order for impeachment to succeed it would require a simple majority vote in the House, but also require a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove the president. Therefore it would require bipartisan support to remove Trump regardless of how well the Democrats do in the 2018 election. So far only two presidents have ever been impeached, including Bill Clinton, and technically no presidents have ever been removed from office by this route. Richard Nixon was forced to resign when his impeachment and conviction appeared inevitable.

An alternative mechanism under the 25th Amendment could also be used to remove Trump if he could be declared unfit to perform the duties of the presidency. While a quicker mechanism, this would be even more difficult to achieve as it would have to be initiated by the vice president and requires the support of two-thirds of each House should the president contest the action.

Investigate Trump, But Hold Off On Claims Of Treason

The information recently released about the meetings between Donald Trump, Jr. and others in the Trump campaign, along with the emails which have been released, show signs of violation of election laws. This is yet another in a long string of meetings which members of the Trump campaign have failed to disclose. This also gives justification for investigations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, but the actual significance of this remains unclear considering that the meeting was with a lawyer who now says she never had any information on Clinton.

This opens additional avenues for investigation for both Robert Mueller and Congress. Although Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied that Donald Trump was aware of the meeting at today’s press briefing, I would bet that Mueller will be looking into this.

A huge problem with the 24/7 stream of news and constant discussion on social media is the temptation to come to conclusions immediately. We certainly need to wait and see what comes out of the investigations. That said, I have suspected from the start of this affair that Donald Trump has been trying to obstruct the Russia investigation to protect members of his campaign (along with possibly covering up financial improprieties). With Donald, Jr involved (along with Jared Jushner), this certainly raises the stakes.

As Shattered revealed, Hillary Clinton latched onto the Russia story within twenty-four hours of losing the election to place blame for her loss on others. Tim Kaine and other are now raising questions of whether Trump committed treason. Whatever crimes might have been committed by Donald, Jr. and others, treason does not appear to apply. This is discussed further at Axios and Vox. From Vox:

The revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was offered incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” and that Junior enthusiastically accepted and pursued the offer, is shocking. What Trump Jr. did could very well be a crime under federal campaign finance law.

But some politicians and commentators are raising the possibility that he committed an even graver offense: treason. “We’re now beyond obstruction of justice,” US Sen. and former Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said. “This is moving into perjury, false statements, and even into potentially treason.” Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s White House ethics lawyer, declared on MSNBC that Trump Jr.’s behavior “borders on treason” even before the worst revelations about the incidents came out. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) commented, “If this isn’t treasonous, I’m not sure what is.” According to Merriam-Webster, searches for the definition of “treason” are on the upswing.

This is nonsense. Whatever Trump Jr. did, it’s definitely not treason. Treason is a very specific crime with a definition set forth in the Constitution that Trump Jr’s conduct doesn’t come close to meeting, for one simple reason: The US is not at war with Russia…

What Trump Jr. did was outrageous. But that doesn’t make it treason, and it’s irresponsible to keep throwing the term around willy-nilly.

Of course many Republicans have been guilty in throwing around the term, often with even less justification, when attacking Democrats.