WASHINGTON — No collusion?! Is he kidding?!
Inquiring minds want to know why Donald Trump is threatening to take away the security clearance of Bruce Ohr, the government’s foremost expert on the Russian mob.
Trump’s personal lawyer for more than a decade, Michael Cohen, said Trump conspired with him on felonies to pay bribes to a porn star and a Playmate model not to talk about the alleged affairs they had with Trump while he was married. Cohen is going to prison for his role in the crime, which he said was an illegal effort to win Trump the White House.
Throughout the entire election campaign in 2016 Trump tried to put a plan together to build a Trump tower in Moscow.
In Helsinki, Trump leaned over backward to praise Vladimir Putin despite firm evidence Putin ordered the interference in the 2016 election. Russia is still meddling in our elections and ordered the deaths of former Russians living in London.
Trump’s son Donald Jr. met with a Russian lawyer close to Putin hoping to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. During the meeting he talked to an “unknown number” on his cell phone. Trump has an unknown number. Trump then promised a huge rally that he would soon be laying out some information on Clinton that his supporters would want to know.
A federal grand jury this year indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies on charges of interfering in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller laid out what was called a sophisticated plot to wage “information warfare” on the U.S. It has not yet been explained how Russians gained access to sensitive and comprehensive information needed to change votes.
Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele wrote: “An intelligence exchange had been running between” Trump’s team and the Kremlin, with the direct knowledge of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Within this context Putin’s priority requirement had been for intelligence on the activities, business and otherwise, in the U.S. of leading Russian oligarchs and their families. Trump and his associates duly had obtained and supplied the Kremlin with this information.”
A new book by Craig Under, “House of Trump; House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia,” argues that such an information highway was run out of the offices of Bayrock Group, a real estate development company that operated in Trump Tower in Manhattan in the early 2000s and partnered with the Trump Organization. Unger writes that Trump indirectly kept tabs on Russian oligarchs who laundered billions they hoped Putin didn’t know about. Foreign real estate, including Trump properties, received much of the money made in industries once owned by the Russian government.
Many of the odd comings and goings between Russian mobsters and Trump already have been pieced together by The Washington Post. For example, alleged Russian mobster David Bogatin bought five apartments in Trump Tower in 1984 for $6 million.
Unger says that Trump permitted himself to become compromised by Russia years ago. The Russians who used Trump “ensured that he was beholden to Russia’s money, and its power. All largely unseen. With deniability.”
When Trump’s businesses repeatedly went bankrupt, when U.S. banks refused to lend him money, foreign banks were there to help. When Russia provided embarrassing emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, Trump eagerly disseminated them. Trump at one point even publicly told Russia to “find” Hillary Clinton’s personal emails.
In “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” Michael Isikoff and David Corn argue that Trump has done nothing to stop the vulnerability of our democratic institutions to Russian manipulation.
The most important man in America remains Mueller, the special counsel, who refuses to leak, to give interviews, to appear in public as he plods on to investigate what happened in 2016. He may or may not find evidence that Trump engaged knowingly in criminal behavior. But he eventually will tell us, without fear or favor.
Trump keeps insisting there was “no collusion.” Collusion is not a crime. But conspiring with foreign nationals is a crime and violating campaign finance laws is a crime. And acting against the best interests of the nation is reprehensible.
As Trump often says, we’ll have to wait to see how this all turns out.
But it sure looks as if a whole lot of colluding was going on.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at [email protected].