WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 09: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House June 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. According to news reports, Iohannis said
NYTimes columnist David Brooks challenged the paper’s dominant narrative in a Tuesday op-ed in which he cautioned critics of President Donald Trump to show restraint in light of the absence of evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
“There may be a giant revelation still to come. But as the Trump-Russia story has evolved, it is striking how little evidence there is that any underlying crime occurred — that there was any actual collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russians,” Brooks wrote.
Brooks’ explicit admission that there is no evidence to suggest the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to interfere in the 2016 presidential election represents a significant departure from what has been the NYTimes editorial position since the multiple ongoing investigations began.
Brooks’ skepticism echoes statements by lawmakers and officials on both sides of the aisle who have addressed the lack of evidence of collusion.
Maxine Waters, one of Trump’s most ardent congressional critics, replied in the negative when asked if evidence of collusion had been uncovered during an April interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Waters’ Democratic colleague, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, joined her in denying the existence of evidence of collusion.
“There are all kinds of rumors around, there are newspaper stories, but that’s not necessarily evidence,” Feinstein told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stood by previous statements he made indicating there was no evidence of collusion during his May 8 testimony in front of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee.
GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah was more forceful in his denunciation of the Russia investigations. In a June interview on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Lee said he had not seen “even a scintilla” of evidence suggesting the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians and added that it was “time to wrap up” the investigations and “move on.”
There are currently three investigations, one by each congressional intelligence committee and one by the Justice Department, examining the scope of Russian interference in the most recent presidential election. None have yielded evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Brooks examines one of the central arguments that Trump’s critics, his own NYTimes colleagues among them, have introduced in an effort to implicate him in nefarious activity and quickly dismisses it.
“There were some meetings between Trump officials and some Russians,” Brooks wrote. “But so far no more than you’d expect from a campaign that was publicly and proudly pro-Putin. And so far nothing we know of these meetings proves or even indicates collusion.”
He goes on to admit Trump has made a number of missteps, including firing former FBI director James Comey and subsequently crafting an ill advised tweet hinting at the existence of recordings of his conversations with Comey.
While he says firing Comey was a mistake, he pushes back against the claim that the firing is evidence of obstruction on Trump’s part, pointing out that if a “democratically unsupervised, infinitely financed team of prosecutors” was unleashed on “a paragon of modern presidents,” like Abraham Lincoln, even he might be tempted to fight back.
He further concedes that an investigation into Russian meddling is warranted and that Trump and his associates would be guilty of treason if they did in fact collude with the Russians but cautions Trump’s critics against “assum[ing] that this link exists.”
Brooks concludes by suggesting Trump may be vindicated in his criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey.
They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
“Unless there is some new revelation, that may turn out to be pretty accurate commentary,” Brooks wrote referring to Trump’s tweet.
Trump Admin Slaps Russians With Sanctions
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a reception dedicated to the celebration of the New Year at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 28, 2016. (PHOTO: MICHAEL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
The Department of Treasury announced sanctions against 38 individuals and organizations for their involvement in the annexation of the Ukrainian regions Crimea and Donetsk.
“These designations will maintain pressure on Russia to work toward a diplomatic solution,” Secretary of Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. “This administration is committed to a diplomatic process that guarantees Ukrainian sovereignty, and there should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations under the Minsk agreements.”
The move from the Trump administration comes amid a slew of claims from opponents that President Trump is too cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Treasury Department said in a statement that sanctions on Russia related to the Ukrainian crisis will remain until Russia honors the Minsk Agreements that call for a ceasefire. The statement also stated that sanctions related to Crimea will remain until Russia “ends its occupation of the peninsula.”
The 38 sanctioned individuals and entities will not be allowed to own property in the U.S., nor will Americans be allowed to do transactions with them.
Some of those sanctioned are key Russian officials such as Petr Jarosh, who is the head of the Russian Federal Migration Service in the separatist “Republic of Crimea.” A Russian bank, TSMRBANK, was also sanctioned as it allegedly services clients in the Russian-backed rebel states Donetsk and Crimea.
This announcement comes the same day as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is stopping by the White House.