Two non-scandals

Early this month, President Trump accused Barack Obama of tapping his wires. Trump had no evidence to support this claim at the time he made it and none has emerged since. I think it’s reprehensible that a U.S. president would make this kind of allegation without having solid evidence of its truth.

Meanwhile, many of the left are claiming that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in the hacking of emails of leading Democrats, including John Podesta. For example, Jennifer Palmieri, Hillary Clinton’s former communications director, has stated publicly that she believes such collusion occurred. Leading Democrats, while they seem to have stopped short of making this assertion, have treated it as credible, insisting that it be investigated and calling for a “special prosecutor” and a select committee of Congress to do the investigating

But, as with Trump’s claim against Obama, no evidence has emerged to support the collusion claim. It remains pure conjecture or, more accurately, wishful thinking.

Even former CIA man Mike Morell, a Hillary Clinton supporter who has accused President Trump of being a dupe of Russia, now concedes that there is “no there, there” when it comes to collusion. As Morell put it:

On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all. There’s no little campfire, there’s no little candle, there’s no spark. And there’s a lot of people looking for it.

Yes there are.

Morell went on to note that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, another “deep state” guy with no love for Trump, said on Meet the Press on March 5 that he had seen no evidence of a conspiracy when he left office January 20. “That’s a pretty strong statement by General Clapper,” Morell said.

Yes it is.

In another telling sign that the collusion story is baseless, Democrats are warning members of their base not to expect any evidence to support the narrative. From Glenn Greenwald:

The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies. . .that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. And they are all waiting for the day, which they regard as inevitable and imminent, when this theory will be proven and Trump will be removed.

Key Democratic officials are clearly worried about the expectations that have been purposely stoked and are now trying to tamp them down. Many of them have tried to signal that the beliefs the base has been led to adopt have no basis in reason or evidence.

According to Greenwald, Morell poured cold water on the collusion claim in order to send that signal. He also points to liberal media figures like Ben Smith of BuzzFeed who are now doing the same.

Senate Democrats have also joined the hold-your-horses chorus:

Perhaps most revealing of all are the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee — charged with investigating these matters — who recently told BuzzFeed how petrified they are of what the Democratic base will do if they do not find evidence of collusion, as they now suspect will likely be the case. “There’s a tangible frustration over what one official called ‘wildly inflated’ expectations surrounding the panel’s fledgling investigation,” BuzzFeed’s Ali Watkins wrote.

Moreover, “several committee sources grudgingly say, it feels as though the investigation will be seen as a sham if the Senate doesn’t find a silver bullet connecting Trump and Russian intelligence operatives.” One member told Watkins: “I don’t think the conclusions are going to meet people’s expectations.”

In a sane world, there would be no investigation of charges that everyone in the know acknowledges are without support. The collusion claim is no more worthy of being investigated than Trump’s made-up allegation that Obama had his wires tapped. Democrats floated the collusion claim to injure Trump’s presidency. Trump floated the wire tap claim because he was angry about this and/or because he wanted to change the subject.

In the world we live in, the collusion charge will be investigated. As Greenwald shows, Democrats have riled up their base to the point that they have to push on — even knowing how disappointed the base is likely to be with the result. John McCain is also heavily invested.

And, unlike Trump’s manufactured allegation, the collusion narrative received enough initial approval in the media that Republicans would look like they were hiding wrongdoing if they tried to pull the plug on the investigation. Jeff Sessions’ meetings with the Russian ambassador (though innocuous) and his statement to Al Franken (though in no way dishonest in the context of Franken’s question) preclude pulling the plug.

But let’s not entertain requests for a special prosecutor and/or a select congressional committee. Trump’s “deep state” enemies know there is no evidence of a scandal here. Senate Democrats know it too. It’s time to down-size the search for a fire, not to call in the fire brigade.