Not that my opinion really matters, since I’m no more informed than anybody else who reads the news, but if I were placing bets here’s where I’d place them.
- I’d bet that Russia was indeed behind the hacks that they are accused of perpetrating, and that the hacks were intended to find damaging dirt on Clinton or her associates. The purpose was not primarily to alter the result of the election but to weaken the expected victor, someone Putin saw as hostile to Russia generally and to him personally. They had the means, they had the motive. There’s some evidence they did it. And there’s really very little reason for them to have been assiduous about hiding that evidence — indeed, if the goal was to damage Clinton rather than elect Trump, it’s not obvious that they wouldn’t have wanted everybody to know what they were capable of doing.
- It’s clear that the Trump campaign was eager to talk to the Russians about their hopes for a better working relationship with Russia. I would assume, therefore, that in their discussions ideas about removing sanctions, recognizing Russian claims to Crimea, or similar matters were floated. It would be weird if they weren’t.
- I would not be surprised if the knowledge that Trump promised to be a more friendly administration had some bearing on Russian decision making about how to use any damaging information they obtained. So even if the timing of one or another action suggests communication, it doesn’t necessarily suggest collusion.
- Indeed, I would be surprised to learn that there was any outright collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to break American laws. Among other things, it’s just a weird idea for a conspiracy, with limited upside and huge potential downside.
- On the other hand, I assume, based on a wide array of circumstantial evidence, that Trump personally has a number of extremely shady business associations with a Russian flavor to them. Because of this, I would be surprised if the Russian government did not have some degree of financial leverage over Trump, and I would be surprised if they did not have damaging information that he would prefer to keep hidden. Which is why I have long felt that the thorough investigation of Trump’s finances is a far more urgent matter than finding out who met the Russian ambassador when.
I also encourage people genuinely interested in the story to follow Josh Marshall’s ongoing writing about it. He’s doing actual research, not just quoting anonymous leakers, and he’s not flying off the handle. On the contrary, he recently laid out an outline of what the innocent explanation of what we know so far would look like. And it’s pretty convincing, with the caveat that there is undoubtedly more that we don’t know. My own suspicion is that the “more” that we don’t know is mostly about dirty money rather than anything directly related to interference in the election.