I have mostly abstained from blogging on the Mueller investigation and the whole question of Trump campaign connections with the Kremlin, largely because from the beginning I have always been more impressed by what we don’t know than what we do know. Some people enjoy speculating on the basis of fragmentary evidence, but that’s not my thing. And of course, the speculation is driven by wishful thinking—the wish that Mueller will come up with stuff that could lead to the downfall of the Trump presidency. I share that wish, but I’m not inclined to obsess over every new, tantalizing piece of circumstantial evidence that the Trumpites were in cahoots with the Russians. Mueller’s latest moves show that he is pursuing this investigation with skill and determination. I’m fairly confident that we will eventually learn what can possibly be learned.
As of now, what we do know is that there was complicity by people in the Trump campaign with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. (For a good summary, you can check out this from Vox.) By complicity I mean an awareness of the Russian efforts and a willingness to benefit from them. Such complicity is deplorable, but it falls short of actual collusion, which I define as an active role in coordinating with the Russians. And we don’t yet know if the complicity/collusion involved Trump himself. Certainly, much of his behavior suggests guilt. I’m thinking especially of Trump’s efforts to impede and ultimately bring down Comey, and his personal fabrication of a phony cover story, soon blown away, for the June 2016 meeting between Trump Jr., Kushner et. al. with a Kremlin-connected lawyer. So yes, there’s plenty of smoke, but the fire still isn’t quite visible. But Mueller is far from finished.