The media remains all screwed up on collusion

I planned to call my first post of the day “The Shifting Meaning of Collusion.” Then I saw the title of Scott’s post. That’s the disadvantage of waking up at 10:00 in the morning rather than five hours earlier.

But I want to amplify Scott’s point. Claims of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia arose in connection with Russian computer hacking. The hacking was the one significant set of acts we knew, or were pretty sure, Russia had committed to interfere with the presidential election.

The question was: did Trump or his team collude with Russia in the hacking? This was the original meaning of “collusion” in the context of the election.

Such collusion would be a serious offense — akin to the Watergate break-in but with the added dimension of involvement by a foreign adversary. We don’t want foreign adversaries breaking into the computer files of one of our political parties. A candidate who helped them accomplish this, or encouraged it, would have committed a serious offense against our democracy (and possibly one or more crimes).

So far, however, no evidence has emerged that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the computer hacking. And “so far” now means about a year.

Instead, we are told that President Trump’s son met with a Russian lawyer who is said to have “Kremlin ties.” Allegedly, he met with her after it was suggested to him that she had information damaging to Hillary Clinton and/or the Democrats. This is, as Scott says, the new meaning of collusion.

The problem is that there’s nothing wrong with a campaign operative meeting with a person, Kremlin ties or not, who may have adverse information on the opposing candidate or her party. You can call such a meaning “collusion” for effect if you like, but that’s taking liberties.

Did the Washington Post collude with the source who gave it the Billy Bush-Donald Trump p***y grab tape? If the Clinton campaign had received that tape, would it have colluded with the source?

I don’t think so. Receiving information is not collusion.

Nor does it become collusion if the provider of the information is distasteful or corrupt. If a political campaign received proof from a mobster that the opposing candidate was in bed with the mob, receipt of this information would not be collusion.

Nor, more to the point, there would not be anything wrong with accepting the information, provided the campaign did nothing improper in exchange for obtaining it — e.g. promising to go easy on the mobster who offered the information.

The Trump, Jr. story isn’t about collusion. So far, as Scott says, it’s about collusion comedy.