Saturday, August 11, 2018

The key legal issue in the Russia investigation

I enjoyed my MSNBC appearance last weekend very much and I appreciate all the good reaction to it here and on Facebook.  Yet I had studied the state of the evidence in the case quite carefully and I could have said a lot more if given the chance. (There is an excellent chronology at this web site.)  A day or two after my appearance I sent an email to the MSNBC producers, urging them to circulate it, explaining what I might have said.  They replied appreciatively but no one has gotten back to me. Just this morning the New York Times has finally caught on to what the case is about. Here is a slightly longer version of what I wrote early last week.

          According to the indictment of the Russian intelligence officers, the Russians committed two illegal acts. One was breaking into the DNC's (and other) protected computers.  The second--a separate but clearly defined offense--was publishing what they got form the hack. That is a crime specifically defined in the US Code.

          We don't have any evidence that the Trump campaign was involved in the decision to hack (in late 2015 or very early 2016) But there is plenty of circumstantial and direct evidence that they were deeply involved in the decision to publish the material.

          The Russians activated one of their websites, dcleaks.com, on June 8, 2016, the day before the infamous Trump tower meeting that included Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manfort, and three Russian representatives.  Donald Jr. took the meeting based on a promise that the Russians had compromising material on Hillary Clinton.  The Russians began publishing material in the days after that meeting.

          Some time in June, Alexander Nix of Cambridge Analytica, which was already in talks with the Trump campaign, contacted Wikileaks to ask if he could help i preparing hacked materials for release.  This was after Julian Assange had announced that he had such emails.

          On July 14 the Trump campaign got the Republican Platform committee to drop tough anti-Russian language on Ukraine.

          On June 25 Trump tweeted that the new joke in Washington was that Russia hacked the DNC emails "because Putin likes me."

          On June 27 candidate Trump dared the Russians to secure and release Clinton's missing emails, in public. On the same day the Russians mounted a new attack on a server close to her.

          A credible report says that Gucifer--the Russian hacker, it turns out--was in touch with "a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald Trump."  That person is now assumed to have been Roger Stone

           All through the summer, Giuliani and Roger Stone made statements about forthcoming releases of damaging documents by the Russians.

          Meanwhile, Sessions and Flynn were having discussions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak about better relations, sanctions, etc.

          Shortly after the election, Michael Flynn--who had made a profitable trip to Russia some months earlier--began talking to Kislyak about setting up a secure communications channel so as to bypass the US bureaucracy, which might not want improved relations with Russia.

          I believe Mueller and his team must be fully aware of this angle and that we are going to hear more about it.  The Russians and the Trump campaign collaborated in releasing stolen emails, which is a crime. Even if you simply bless some one else's plans to commit a crime, you are guilty.

          That, to repeat, is a slightly enhanced version of what I wrote MSNBC.  Nothing has come of it.  This morning, the New York Times notes that the Mueller investigation is clearly focusing on Roger Stone and specifically cites his statements about Russian releases of documents and his contacts with Gucifer. 

           I believe that all the information I have cited here has been in the public domain for some time.  It seems that today's journalists, especially on television, simply do not take the time to sit down with readily available sources, list the key facts, and make rather obvious inferences about what they might mean.  Instead, they quickly establish "narratives" and run with them for months at a time.  But that is what I was trained to do and have spent my whole life doing.