Donald Trump was and is entirely unfit to hold public office. He is a liar and a psychopathic narcissist.

However, he did not "collude" with Russia. His campaign did nothing out of the ordinary in terms of its attempt to use foreign governments to assist it in a domestic political campaign. (As anyone familiar with the history of U.S. politics should be aware.)

In response to Mr. Rauch's bullet points:

1. Yes, it did. So what? The genesis of the Steele dossier was “oppo” research by the Clinton campaign. In other words, the Clinton campaign eagerly and knowingly sought and accepted “dirt” on Donald Trump provided to it by persons the Clinton campaign believed to be current or former Russian intelligence operatives.

2. This is false. Trump publicly asked Russia to release copies of emails that it was widely reported Russia had already stolen and shared with Wikileaks. (The full clip Mr. Rauch links to shows that very clearly.) The difference is significant. If Russia had emails showing wrongdoing on the part of a U.S. government official or office-holder, calling on Russia to release them was what any responsible U.S. politician should do. Which would be more in the U.S. national interest: (i) for Russia to release damaging evidence of criminal or embarassingly unethical behaviour (the “missing 30,000 emails”) on the part of a Presidential candidate in advance of an election; or (ii) for Russia not to release those emails, and use the threat of their release to pressure that person either as a candidate or as President?

3. Some of what the Senate Committee Report reported as fact has subsequently been demonstrated to be false. Most of the speculation contained in the report has subsequently been shown to be unsupported by any evidence. As the Lawfare summary that Mr. Rauch links to noted, the report is “a little more free-wheeling and speculative” than the Mueller Report. It is worth reiterating that there have never been any criminal charges laid against anyone for any of the actions described in the report. The only arguable exception is Paul Manafort, but the charges against him were only indirectly related to his work on the Trump campaign.

4. It has been rather firmly established that these “internal campaign materials” were almost exclusively short “top line” summaries of polling results. None would have been of any intelligence significance whatsoever.

5. We are talking about Roger Stone here, and the evidence at Stone’s trial (as opposed to the allegations in the indictment that Mr. Rauch links to) showed very clearly that although Stone wanted to make himself important by serving as a link between Wikileaks and the Trump campaign, he was never actually able to do that.

6. Absolutely true.

7. This is true. What is also true is that there wasn’t anything to report to U.S. law enforcement activities, because no U.S. laws were ever broken by these “activities” (except for Paul Manafort’s egregious financial misconduct).

The very unfortunate thing about this post by Mr. Rauch is that it does exactly what it accuses the Trump campaign of doing:

“Start with the oldest propaganda trick in the book: simple repetition. Ample research and copious experience demonstrate that the more often we hear something, the more likely we are to believe it. Even debunking a claim tends to hammer it in deeper. Similarly, we are more likely to believe notions that are memorable or come readily to mind. Those biases are so strong that they can fool us even when we’re aware of them.”

The Trump “collusion” narrative has been very thoroughly debunked. It was never more than a fever dream, a miasma of half-truth and speculation. It is distressing to see that a person of Mr. Rauch’s intellect and accomplishments hasn’t yet had that fever break.

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I was going to say something similar but you hit all the nails on the head.

It really is amazing to me that a significant portion of the "collusion" with Russia that happened in 2016 (the Steele Dossier) actually started with Clinton, but since there were intermediaries that apparently makes it all totally fine.

Let's also take a minute to remember - Clinton and the DNC were conspiring to rig the election! Ludicrous that so many people would like to memory-hole this completely, and pretend the fact that Russia had a hand in exposing it is the only salient aspect of the episode.

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"The" election? Are you referring to surreptitious schemes to undermine Bernie Sanders' campaign for the Democratic Party's POTUS nomination, as revealed in the hacked email disclosed by WikiLeaks?

To be sure, the Steele dossier was produced as opposition research for HRC and the DNC, but it did not directly affect the November 2020 election, as its salacious and unverified assertions were not publicly disclosed until January 2021, and the Russian government had no hand in its debunking.

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I thought it was pretty clear I was referring to the primaries.

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Do you understand the difference between Russians and representatives of the Russian government? The Trump Tower meeting was with Veselnitskaya, who represented the Russian government.

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Did you not read any of the above? The Clinton campaign had no way of knowing the (since-discredited) Steele intel didn't originate with representatives of the Russian government.

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Even from the perspective of a non-Trumper, this article is a politically motivated hack job. Really deficient in both reasoning and support. Waste of my time.

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What did he get wrong?

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See the other commenters. They all describe my issues with the piece quite well. It's just patently tendentious rather than analytical, which is disappointing.

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To the extent, Trump “colluded” with Russians, I agree that there were lots of strange public pronouncements and shady low-mid level meetings with random Russians.

I guess my question is, what was the quid pro quo? It seems to me that Russia has tried to influence every election here for decades and this was no different. (As many countries try to influence elections all over the world). As memory recalls, they spent like $100k on Facebook ads, which is sort of laughable. Wikileaks? They’ve been working that for many years. My point is, they would be doing all of this regardless of whether Papadopoulous had a shady meeting at a bar in London. It’s not as though Russia was on the sidelines and the Trump campaign spurred them to action. My sense is their contact was largely incidental, and not the impetus for Russian activity.

What did Trump give Russia in return? Seems to me, he was much more hawkish on Russia than Obama or Biden despite the bizarre sycophantic rhetoric. Looking at policy, Nordstream, sanctions, diplomats, bombing in Syria, etc. I don’t see where Putin got any favors for his work aside from nice words— which seem to be part of Trumps bizarre but sincerely held beliefs going back to well before his presidential run. Biden comes into office and immediately gave Nordstream a green light and now Putin is poised to invade Ukraine with little resistance.

I agree it was unseemly and unethical and even vaguely illegal in spots. But we were told that the President was essentially a Manchurian candidate. Totally beholden to Putin and ready only there to do his bidding on anything and everything. A “Russian Asset” according to Clapper and others. This seems patently false. Biden and Obama were much more dovish towards towards Russia and the record clearly shows that.

Frankly, the Hunter Biden laptop stuff seems to me to be a much more clear cut example of corruption, trading geopolitical influence for personal financial gain. But of course, this is studiously ignored by the media.

I’ve never been a fan of Trump: but this story destroyed my confidence in our mainstream media. Particular NYT, WaPo, and CNN. They are Fox News equivalents and I had always thought they were much better than that. I was wrong.

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The quid pro quo was removal of sanctions. He tried to do that, but Congress passed legislation preventing it.

There were other things he did: trying to get Russia back into the G7, undermining NATO, rewarding Manafort's strategic lying to prevent all the facts from coming out etc

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The harsh on Russia stuff you mention exclusively originated in Congress. He delayed putting sanctions in place until the very last minute, and in some cases blew past the deadline. The weapons he gave to Ukraine came with the huge caveat that they had to be placed hundreds of miles away from where they were useful. He then delayed further aid until his attempted shakedown became public.

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You make a fair point as it relates to congress and sanctions. At the same time, hawkish Russian actions were by no means "exclusively" done by congress. Bombing Syria in response to chemical weapons did not originate in congress. (Contrast to Obama's "red line" nonevent) Blocking Nordstream, which is of enormous geopolitical and economic importance, was not an act of congress and was ironically reversed by Biden right after he nixxed the domestic Keystone Pipeline. Expelling diplomats in response to the UK poisoning was not an act of congress either.

As far as letting Russia back into the G-7, compare that to the "Russian Reset" that Obama-Hillary pursued. Pretty much every administration in my lifetime has looked to warm relations with Russia, so this is not something unusual or alarming. We also had the invasion of Crimea which went essentially unanswered from the Obama administration, and we may well be about to witness the unopposed invasion of Ukraine under Biden.

I'm not trying to play "whataboutism" here, rather my point is simply that if Trump was a Russian stooge, he was a pretty bad one and from where I sit, the Trump administration was actually WORSE for Russia's interests than Obama/Hillary or Biden. I was led to believe that Trump was literally a Russian puppet doing Vlad's bidding with every waking moment. I just can't see that in light of the facts.

Re: NATO. Yes, I agree that Trump undercut NATO with his rhetoric, but my best read of the man is that he really has a distaste for multinational organizations, especially ones where the US provides outsized contributions and he publicly trashed almost all of them at some point. The UN, WHO, all the trade deals, Paris Accord, etc. I could go on, but my point is that it is not at all clear that his distaste for NATO was a favor to Putin as it was simply consistent with his transactional world view. Note that I didn't care for this at all. But there is a long way between my distaste for this sort of policy and Trump being an actual Russian asset.

In summary, The Trump administration was, on balance, hawkish towards Russia as they undertook a handful of pretty strong anti-Russian policies while doing a few things that were either normal outreaches to Russia or Trumpy stuff that could be construed as beneficial to Russia if you looked at it right (such as NATO rhetoric). But the media simply ignored the hawkish stuff and all of the context and jumped on any vaguely pro-Russia tidbit as evidence of collusion. The fantasies of impeaching Trump and the "walls caving in" and imminent collapse of the administration etc completely overtook the facts on the ground.

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The counter intelligence investigation was properly predicated, but the criminal investigation of Trump was not. Those are two different animals entirely and something that people like Mr. Rauch regularly ignore in order to begin the significant base stealing that occurs in articles such as this. For example, what crime exactly did Mr. Manafort commit when he gave polling data to the Russians? Yet this episode is often cited as proof of the conspiracy. In the United States we investigate crimes, not individuals. James Comey, under oath and in public, admitted there was no evidence of criminal activity on the part of Donald Trump, yet the investigation and the media proceeded as if he was obviously guilty and that disputing that fact was an admission of bad faith. If Mr. Rauch is so concerned with misinformation, he should start with his own.

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I wrote the two following paragraphs, which pick apart Mr. Rauch's robbery-solicitation analogy, before reading past the first sentence of IHF's previous comment, subparagraph 2 of which, I now realize, cogently argues an essential point that I was also intent on making. Still, I'd like to think that my critique is not entirely superfluous.

* * *

The solicitation-of-robbery "analogy" is specious. It glosses over the fact that the material that Trump openly urged "Russia" to publicly divulge -- i.e., the 30,000 messages that had been erased from Hillary Clinton's illicit private email server -- was something that neither Hillary Clinton nor anyone else had any right to destroy or otherwise conceal from the public. To the contrary, Hillary Clinton had a legal obligation to preserve those messages and hand them over to government custodians with the responsibility to disclose them upon request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. Unfortunately, no one from Russia or anywhere else produced those missing documents -- most likely because Hillary's minions had performed the task of erasure well and thoroughly before a hacker could get ahold of them, or perhaps because a hacker's client concluded that public disclosure of the missing messages would disserve his own interest.

Other specious aspects of the robbery-solicitation "analogy" are that the conduct ascribed to the solicitor is surreptitious, whereas Trump's call for disclosure was quite public, and that the result of the solicitor's scheme would be to remove valuable property from its lawful owner and place it in his hands instead, whereas Trump's objective was public revelation of information that had been illegally concealed.

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People see what they want to see in the 2016 election. What no one pays attention to is Putin’s goal, destabilization of Western democracies. He didn’t have to influence the 2016, or any other, election to succeed. Putin just had to make Westerners think he influenced the election. And in their greed and thirst for power, every major candidate colluded with Russia in 2016. The Clinton campaign was also flush with staffers connected to Russian oligarchs, including one of my favorite Clintonistas, John Podesta. The Russians have been funneling money to the Libertarian Party since well before the fall of the Soviet Union to subvert conservatism in the US. According to major news outlets, even Jill Stein’s and Evan McMullin’s accepted significant donations traced back to Russia. So no matter who won, Putin would have been able to convince a significant plurality that he’d influenced the election, thereby undermining faith in Western-style liberalism. Until we realize that Russian influence is infiltrating all sides and address that threat, Putin’s going to keep winning. And partisan finger pointing just plays into his game.

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Thank you for a well-written article. However, "facts" are irrelevant. The two "sides" do not agree on anything, including the fact that Trump incited a coup and tried to overthrow a free and fair election.

I truly believe we are heading towards a Civil War and thank God every day that at least one of my children no longer lives in this country.

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The definition of "collusion" deployed in this article represents a shift of the goalposts from the discourse that followed Trump's election, which was focused on the possibility of secret collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. (I personally fell for some of this hype, at the time.)

Mr. Rauch seems to have a blind spot when it comes to the media's failings in the Trump years. Let us not forget the sort of headlines we saw in The New York Times (nor the way the question of "collusion" was framed then by the NYT, vs. how it's framed now by Rauch): https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/us/politics/russia-intelligence-communications-trump.html

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I have admired Mr. Rauch's writings for a couple of decades and will soon read his latest book, "The Constitution of Knowledge". But there is something unsettling about this essay. Here is an example of what unsettles me:

"Was the dossier dodgy? Yes, but it was widely understood to be unconfirmed gossip, which is why reputable media outlets declined to publish it until Buzzfeed (improperly, in my view) dumped it all out."

Whether the Steele Dossier was "dodgy" or not and how much, once Buzzfeed published it, it became a media food staple with only passing, at best, recognition of its dodginess. Think of Rachel Maddow's almost frequent flogging of the report, and she was far from alone in that.

In essence, what Mr. Rauch writes about Trump is also true of how the mainstream/left-wing media dealt with the dossier and made it sound as if reputable and plausible: “ Start with the oldest propaganda trick in the book: simple repetition. ”

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THANK YOU Peter. I am so tired of having to listen to the likes of Greenwald and Taibbi gaslighting everyone on this.

To those who somehow think that what Trump did was equivalent to the Clinton campaign soliciting opposition research that ended up producing the Steele Dossier, it isn't even close. Steele was a respected informant and a British intelligence agent. The people who contacted Trump made it clear that they were acting on behalf of the Russian government. Where the oppo research came from is irrelevant, because the Clinton campaign *never used it*. (Nor, for that matter, did they even hire Steele directly - that was done by the research company.) In fact nobody even knew what was in it until *after* the election.

Trump, on the other hand, made every attempt to distort what Clinton did, despite having little comprehension of it (they ended up doing essentially the same thing with Trump staffers having classified conversations on their personal cellphones). And it worked.

Whether or not you think the term "collusion" applies here, there is no question that Russia engaged in an aggressive campaign of disinformation that included wooing and supporting Donald Trump, and the Trump campaign willingly accepted that help.

His campaign manager had recently made a fortune undermining Ukrainian democracy on behalf of the Russians. The investigation was completely legitimate, and we would have been positively negligent had we not conducted it.

The only thing exonerating Trump is his ignorance and gullibility, and the fact that Putin knew better than to give Trump's detractors the rope with which to hang their new ally. They didn't need to. Russia succeeded in accomplishing their goal: the undermining of our national unity and our social fabric. And Trump was the lynchpin, because it never occurred to him that he had a duty to his country above his own interests.

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Read Taibbi's analysis of the election in Virginia. Then read any article from the so-called left and so-called right. You wouldn't know what real journalism was if it bit you on the nose.

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Can you clarify by what you mean about Greenwald and Taibbi? What are they gaslighting?

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Eric's failure to reply strongly suggests, that his aim was to hurl cheap shots, not to present serious thinking. Typical Wokester tactics.

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Mr. Rauch's pseudo intellectual vomitus of non-facts is further evidence that the left will continue attempting to gaslight the public about the 2016 and 2020 elections and "Russian collusion" until voters speak in a united voice to shut them down at the ballot box in 2022 and 2024. Can't come a minute too soon.

Thought about unsubscribing to Persuasion after reading this gooey piece; hopefully it will be an exception and not the rule.

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Yah it’s like Persuasion is giving a voice to the Washington Post or the Atlantic. Don’t they have a big enough platform already? I’ll probably unsubscribe to Persuasion too if stuff like this continues to be shared. I pay for my subscriptions to substack venues largely if I feel they represent a relatively uncommon perspective that should be amplified. If I want to read Democratic Party propaganda I can get that for free from legacy media.

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“ Start with the oldest propaganda trick in the book: simple repetition. ”

I’ve lost count of the number of times journalists of Jonathan Rauch’s caliber have repeated the Trump Russian collusion narrative.

I believe the biggest thing that annoys me about how Jonathan and others that share his peculiar delusions talk about our current political environment is their seemingly utter lack of knowledge or disregard of historical and contemporary context.

We are asked to share in their deranged mind destroying blinding hatred of Trump while ignoring things like the fact that the Democratic Party chose to help Trump win the Republican ticket in 2016, which we know because of Wikileaks, that source of information Jonathan seems to despise, I suspect because it has made some of his favored politicians look bad.

I suspect Jonathan is one of those journalists who are fretting about the danger to democracy(tm) Trump and the Republican Party represent to America while being completely apathetic about the Democratic Party arguing in court that they are not responsible for holding fair democratic primaries.

Perhaps persuasion can get some writers who are not so obviously sectarian. It’s usually more persuasive.

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So absurd and horrible how his hard core voters still call themselves "patriots"

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