Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled the first charges in his investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election on Monday. But after two indictments and a guilty plea, there is still no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, as Democrats and their media allies have hoped for months.
Mueller indicted Paul Manafort, who served as Donald Trump’s second campaign manager for several months in mid-2016, on charges of tax fraud, money-laundering, and conspiracy, among others, related to political work done for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. Manafort’s business associate Rick Gates was also indicted. The full indictment, however, does not mention Trump at all, and does not connect the charges against Manafort to any of his campaign activities, much less any kind of collusion between Trump and the Russians.
In addition, it was revealed Monday that a young and inexperienced 30-year-old junior foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, had pleaded guilty earlier this month to a charge of lying to the FBI. According to a court filing, Papadopoulos lied about when he had spoken with a professor overseas who he understood to have ties to the Russian government and who claimed the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including thousands of emails. Similarly, Papadopoulos lied about when he had spoken to a “female Russian national” about arranging a meeting between Russian officials and representatives of the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos told the FBI that his conversations had happened before he joined the Trump campaign, when in fact they had happened afterwards.
But the court filing admits that the proposed meetings never actually took place. Nor is there any evidence that any of the “dirt” that the professor had described was ever shared with the campaign. In fact, the Washington Post had already reported in August that Papadopoulos’s repeated efforts to arrange meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials had been rebuffed — by Manafort himself, among others.
It is theoretically possible that future investigations and indictments could turn up the elusive evidence to back up what is thus far a conspiracy theory about Russian collusion. But Muller’s first efforts have come up empty thus far.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.