The Quest to Prove Collusion is Crumbling

(The Washington Post) - While everyone is fixated on President Donald Trump’s unbecoming and inexplicable assault on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the media has been trying to sneak away from the “Russian collusion” story.

That’s right. For all the breathless hype, the on-air furrowed brows and the not-so-veiled hopes that this could be Watergate, Jared Kushner’s statement and testimony before Congress have made Democrats and many in the media come to the realization that the collusion they were counting on just isn’t there.

As the date of the Kushner testimony approached, the media thought it was going to advance and refresh the story. But Kushner’s clear, precise and convincing account of what really occurred during the campaign and after the election has left many of Mr. Trump’s loudest enemies trying to quietly back out of the room unnoticed.

Cable news airtime and in-print word count dedicated to the nonexistent collusion story appear to be dwindling. Democrats and their allies in the media seem less eager to talk about it, and when they do, they say something to the effect of “but, but, but … Kushner didn’t answer every question … He wasn’t under oath … There are still more witnesses … What about this or that new gadfly?” They are stammering. And it hasn’t taken long for news producers and editors to realize that the story is fading.

At last, the story that never was is not happening.

There are a few showstoppers from Kushner’s testimony that make it obvious to any fair-minded, thinking person that there was no collusion with Russia. In his own words, Kushner makes it clear that his actions were innocent but, at times, misguided and ill-conceived. He plainly states he had “hardly any” contacts with Russians during the campaign and found his June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and the infamous Russian lawyer to be an absolute “waste of time.”

Democrats and their allies in the media have exhausted themselves building a scandalous narrative surrounding the Russian lawyer meeting, but according to Kushner, the meeting was so useless that he “actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after [he] had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.”’ Maybe the collusion didn’t take very long, or maybe he realized what the lawyer had to say was a useless farce and he wanted to get on with his day.

Much to the dismay of Trump’s haters, Kushner’s account of events even further proves just how far the media has stretched the collusion story. When the campaign received an official note of congratulations from Russian President Vladimir Putin the day after the election, Kushner had to send Dimitri Simes of the Center for the National Interest an email asking for the name of the Russian ambassador so that he could reach out and confirm the message’s authenticity.

So, that’s that. If you can’t remember your handler’s name, you can’t be guilty of nefariously colluding with that person. How much collusion could Kushner have possibly done with someone whom he had so little communication with that he could not remember his name and did not know how to contact him?

Sure, there are others still in the crosshairs of the collusion-hunters, but Kushner has been the biggest target if for no other reason than he is the only one serving in the White House. Paul Manafort is a private citizen, and he departed the campaign before the general election campaign really started. Donald Trump Jr. is implicated only in the one ill-advised and now-shown-to-be-pointless encounter with a few gadflies. The media can knock itself out trying to find some left-behind paperwork or some other scrap to hang onto, but the dead end is in sight. The quest for collusion is crumbling.

With the Democrats and their allies in the media beginning to walk away from the collusion story, the single biggest thing keeping this story alive is the president’s obsession with it. No doubt the issue will continue to be irresistible to some of Mr. Trump’s haters. Some will never believe the truth, no matter what else is revealed.

But if Democrats and the president’s worst enemies can begin to silently acknowledge the obvious and move on, perhaps Mr. Trump can, too. Maybe now he will see the futility of continuing to whine, tweet, moan and seethe about the whole non-affair. Maybe the president will now see that he should leave Sessions alone so that he can get on with his work. Maybe he will let special counsel Robert S. Mueller III quietly do his job and the whole “Russian collusion” affair won’t even be a footnote in the retelling of the story of the Trump campaign.


Ed Rogers is a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses and several national campaigns.