Why accusations about Trump and the Russians will go nowhere

The recent controversy surrounding President Trump and his supposed ties to Moscow has always been a non-starter for me.  We are supposed to believe the word of unnamed intelligence officials ensconced in the Beltway suburbs without a drop of firsthand experience, busy leaking to reporters because they are upset about the result of the last election?  Already there's a motivation problem right there.

But I have my own experience that makes me think the whole thing is nonsense except as a partisan setup.

The latest news is that House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has stated that there is no evidence that the Trump camp had any significant contact or coordination with the Russians during the election campaign or shortly after, and he warned against a "witch hunt" over it.

He's right, and I believe him.

Know why?  Because as a longtime journalist, I've talked to Nunes and his staff, usually in the context of California's mismanaged water situation and how it affects California's farmers, the hardest hit of whom are Nunes's constituents.  But I've also talked to his staff not just on water, but on Russia.  What did I find?  The most hard-nosed, give-no-quarter, highly knowledgeable people this side of Russia itself.  People with advanced degrees in Russian area studies.  It's not been widely reported, but I can say with certainty that Nunes's staff are extremely sharp on Russia and well aware of every questionable act from that country.  Nothing gets past them, and they have no naïveté.  If anything, they seem too harsh, but it is likely they have access to intelligence I do not.

If people known to be this hard-nosed are going to say they have no intelligence on Russian shenanigans with the Trump camp, you can bet there is nothing going on.  Given their inclinations and expertise, they would have found it and put it out there.

Here's the other part: as a journalist, I also have contact with Russian sources, the official kind, the pro-Putin loyalists, and more than one from whom I have gotten perspective for writing news stories.  Over the summer, I heard one important thing from all of them, by way of complaint: they were unable to make contact with anyone in the Trump camp.  They wanted to learn what they could about Trump's positions, they were all interested, and they certainly tried, via official channels.  None of it seemed nefarious.  But they still said they got no cooperation.  They said making contact with the Hillary Clinton camp was actually a little easier, but not much.  They forecasted a Clinton win and paid more attention to Clinton's positions in any case.  But even with a secondary focus on Trump, the Trump camp was a complete dead end to them.

Put the two together, and it adds up to a picture that the Trump-Russia "narrative," so obsessed about on the left, will come to absolutely nothing.  I certainly do not know everything about what happened and, like Nunes, think it's right to keep an open mind.  But the reality so far shows that there's no there there, from either side of the equation.

The recent controversy surrounding President Trump and his supposed ties to Moscow has always been a non-starter for me.  We are supposed to believe the word of unnamed intelligence officials ensconced in the Beltway suburbs without a drop of firsthand experience, busy leaking to reporters because they are upset about the result of the last election?  Already there's a motivation problem right there.

But I have my own experience that makes me think the whole thing is nonsense except as a partisan setup.

The latest news is that House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has stated that there is no evidence that the Trump camp had any significant contact or coordination with the Russians during the election campaign or shortly after, and he warned against a "witch hunt" over it.

He's right, and I believe him.

Know why?  Because as a longtime journalist, I've talked to Nunes and his staff, usually in the context of California's mismanaged water situation and how it affects California's farmers, the hardest hit of whom are Nunes's constituents.  But I've also talked to his staff not just on water, but on Russia.  What did I find?  The most hard-nosed, give-no-quarter, highly knowledgeable people this side of Russia itself.  People with advanced degrees in Russian area studies.  It's not been widely reported, but I can say with certainty that Nunes's staff are extremely sharp on Russia and well aware of every questionable act from that country.  Nothing gets past them, and they have no naïveté.  If anything, they seem too harsh, but it is likely they have access to intelligence I do not.

If people known to be this hard-nosed are going to say they have no intelligence on Russian shenanigans with the Trump camp, you can bet there is nothing going on.  Given their inclinations and expertise, they would have found it and put it out there.

Here's the other part: as a journalist, I also have contact with Russian sources, the official kind, the pro-Putin loyalists, and more than one from whom I have gotten perspective for writing news stories.  Over the summer, I heard one important thing from all of them, by way of complaint: they were unable to make contact with anyone in the Trump camp.  They wanted to learn what they could about Trump's positions, they were all interested, and they certainly tried, via official channels.  None of it seemed nefarious.  But they still said they got no cooperation.  They said making contact with the Hillary Clinton camp was actually a little easier, but not much.  They forecasted a Clinton win and paid more attention to Clinton's positions in any case.  But even with a secondary focus on Trump, the Trump camp was a complete dead end to them.

Put the two together, and it adds up to a picture that the Trump-Russia "narrative," so obsessed about on the left, will come to absolutely nothing.  I certainly do not know everything about what happened and, like Nunes, think it's right to keep an open mind.  But the reality so far shows that there's no there there, from either side of the equation.

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