John : You said there was no need to conclude with Russia, but there were so many accusations and contacts with the Russians. How do you balance this?
Sanders : It's really just for me. The president was far from being the best candidate. He had a better message and he avoided Hillary Clinton. That's why he's president. He did not have to, nor did he talk to the Russians. Quite simple.
That seems simple. I suppose this is justifying proof that neither President Donald Trump nor anybody else has entered his inner circle with …
Wait a minute. That makes no sense. None. And I'll explain why.
Let's start with what we know.
- We know because it was the unanimous conclusion of the intelligence community that Russia tried to intervene in the election to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton, Believing that the billionaire businessman was better for them.
- We know that many people in Trump's orbit, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former Foreign Policy Advisor, George Papadopoulos, former Trump Michael Cohen, have been found guilty of a fake statement either at the congress or on federal investigators (or both) about the nature and breadth of their contacts with the Russians during the campaign.
- We know that Trump's former political adviser Roger Stone is accused of congressional misconduct for his knowledge of WikiLeaks, the website that serves as the e-mail center that the Russians stole from the Democratic National Committee and chairman's servers of the Clinton campaign John Poststa.
- We know that many contacts between Trump's and the Russians date back to the spring of 201
- We know that in June 2016, three of Trump's senior officials – Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kouchner and Paul Manaufort – met with the Russians, the Trump brass summit took under the promise of Clinton's "dirt."
- We know that Manaport, the campaign's president at that time, shared information with a Russian with some ties to the Russian intelligence operation.
Sarah Sanders wants you to believe that all these facts are insignificant, because Donald Trump is a better candidate than Hillary Clinton. Which, um, what?
The core error of Sanders' "simple" explanation is that it implies that Trump's ability as a candidate and the ability of his campaign members to unite with the Russians are mutually exclusive. That you have to choose one or another option: Or Trump is a big candidate (and therefore does not have to conclude collusion to win) or his country is in a plot.
Which, of course, is funny. It is quite possible that Trump has won for his own merits as a candidate (and Clinton's shortcomings as a candidate) and his members of his campaign allied with the Russians to try to improve his chances. This is the same principle that Trump repeatedly claims he does not need the Russians to intervene in the election because he is a better candidate. Both things can be true! Nothing of this can be said to have any evidence that Trump himself had spoken to the Russians. We do not. What can be said, however, is that he is a good candidate, which is largely insignificant in terms of whether there was a collusion between his country and the Russians. Will any member of his circle know in the summer of 2016 that his good candidate would have ensured that he had won the White House? There is no chance – especially because any available metrics (research, fundraising, message discipline, organization of swing states) suggests that it is likely to lose and potentially lose a large part.
And even if one of Trump's allies believed he was the better candidate. and it will win the story of victory, it is hardly surprising to believe that they may have adopted any coordination with the Russians as yet another way to help this effort. Why leave the ammunition unbridled?
Again – and this is important – there is no definitive proof of a collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Maybe Muller's report will find some. Maybe he will not. But anyway, the fact that Donald Trump was, in the opinion of Sarah Sanders, the senior candidate in the 2016 elections, has roughly zero dependence on the question of collusion. Like none.