The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), continued to argue there is evidence the Trump campaign colluded with Russia already out there in public, in his efforts to keep the special counsel going.
“Whether these facts and others that are not public amount to proof beyond a reasonable doubt is another matter, and will be for a jury to decide if Bob Mueller obtains an indictment—that is, if the Republicans allow him, and Congress, to do his job,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
That is despite the former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell saying in an interview just last week that he still sees no evidence of collusion — the same assessment he had nine months ago, before the start of the Special Counsel.
“I still don’t see any evidence of a crime. It doesn’t mean there is any. I just don’t see it,” he told Politico‘s Susan Glasser on December 11.
Morell — no fan of Trump — also said “there might be a benign explanation” for everything Democrats and Trump critics have said was evidence of collusion, and that he would not be surprised if the special counsel concludes that the Trump campaign did not violate the law with its interactions with the Russians.
“Why? Because, as you know, the New York Times, the Washington Post, every media outlet that is worth its salt has reporters digging into this, and they haven’t found anything,” he said. “And I think that, had there been something there, they would have found something. And I think Bob Mueller would have found it already and it would have leaked.”
Nonetheless, Schiff has continued to argue that there is evidence of collusion, and furthermore, that it is hiding in plain sight. His argument goes like this:
The Russians first tried to message the Trump campaign it had emails through low-level volunteer foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos in April. Then the Russians tried to again approach the campaign, this time at the highest level, promising dirt on Clinton during a meeting with Donald Trump Jr.
Trump Jr.’s disappointment and lack of interest sent a signal to the Russians that he wanted better dirt, and the Russians then responded by publishing hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton aide John Podesta. The campaign then touted the emails, and sought to undermine Obama administration sanctions on Russia.
“To claim that these facts show no evidence of collusion requires a willingness to avoid seeing what is in plain sight, or to credit the self-serving explanations of the same Trump officials who misled the country about these same meetings,” Schiff wrote in the December 19 op-ed.
According to this theory, the Trump campaign would not even have to be aware it was colluding with Russia.
When Schiff put forth this argument during an recent interview with CNN, host Jake Tapper asked if there was any evidence the Russians actually communicated to the Trump campaign that this was what they were doing, Schiff said, “I can’t comment. That’s an issue we have been investigating. And I don’t want to comment at this point or not what the state of that evidence is.”
Despite the special counsel costing taxpayers more than $6.7 million dollars over its initial five months — which does not include the cost of three congressional probes also looking into the matter, Schiff and other Democrats are arguing that Republicans are trying to shut the probe down prematurely.
The House intelligence committee has held more than 11 hearings with more than 60 witnesses so far. Schiff said in the op-ed that Republicans were refusing to interview dozens more. He has expressed fears that if the congressional probes end, then there would be more pressure on the special counsel to end, too.
Democrats, including former Attorney General Eric Holder, have also tried to suggest that President Trump would fire Mueller, even though Trump on Sunday said he had no intention of doing so. Holder has urged people to take to the streets if Mueller is fired.