The Trump-Russia collusion narrative is dead

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on February 22, 2018

The grand jury indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities for their alleged efforts to interfere with the 2016 election. The indictment says the Russians hid their involvement in this scheme and communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign. There was no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the scheme.

Boom. The Democratic Trump-Russia collusion narrative is dead.

But the left will continue to argue that Russia handed the presidency to Donald Trump. Expect them to claim this is proven by two things: the sophistication of the election interference effort; and the allegation that the accused Russians promoted the Trump campaign and worked to disparage Hillary Clinton.

Don’t be fooled. The indictment says the Russian election interference effort started in 2014. It says that the Russians staged rallies for and against Trump after the election and also promoted the Bernie Sanders campaign.

These facts strongly indicate this was a Russian campaign to sow confusion in the United States and to undermine Clinton, who Russian officials expected to win the election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein noted that the indictment does not allege the Russian operation changed the outcome of the presidential election. This is similar to what the U.S. intelligence community found. It reflects the fact that while this scheme was an egregious assault on our democracy, it was far too small to have any effect on the election.

Consider that while the indictment alleges the Russian operation spent thousands of dollars per month in social media ads and had hundreds of fake Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. In contrast, the Clinton campaign spent tens of millions on social media ads and had hundreds of staff working on social media. There also were hundreds of pro-Clinton organizations, including labor unions that conducted their own massive social media efforts on behalf of Clinton.

To put this in perspective, last November Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said the estimated $100,000 that Russian entities spent in social media ads to affect the 2016 presidential election was “like five one thousandths of one percent” of the $81 million spent by both campaigns on social media ads.

The bottom line from the indictment: no Trump campaign collusion with Russia. The Russians did not hand the election to President Trump.

Now Special Counsel Mueller must turn to real and far more serious instances of election meddling and collusion with the Russians by the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Obama administration to damage the Trump campaign. These efforts included misleading the FISA (Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act) Court to approve electronic surveillance of a Trump campaign staff member and leaking highly classified National Security Agency intelligence to the press.

Although Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election is a serious matter that must be addressed, Democratic abuses to weaponize U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to win a presidential election represent grave threats to our democratic system. There must be indictments of everyone involved in Democratic election meddling as soon as possible.

Fred Fleitz served in national security positions for 25 years with the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the State Department and the House Intelligence Committee staff.  Mr. Fleitz is now senior vice president of the Center for Security Policy, a national security think tank. 

Published Feb. 17, 2018 at Fox News and Center for Security Policy. Reprinted here Feb. 22, 2018 for educational purposes only. Visit the website at centerforsecuritypolicy .org.