Accusations continue to fly at Trump’s Cabinet
by James Bouffard
Conspiracy theories about Trump’s ties to Russia existed prior to the election and have only intensified since the inauguration.
With the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and investigation from the FBI and Congress, the media has had a field day with the possibility of Trump’s campaign conspiring with the Russian government to influence the election. Their irresponsible and politically motivated scramble for ratings is unsurprising considering their love of scandal and contempt for Trump.
They are right in covering the investigation and any possible wrongdoing, but none of the alleged ‘connections’ between Trump’s campaign and Russia seem very promising in revealing anything too scandalous.
Flynn’s resignation has reinvigorated the media’s obsession with this topic. His unauthorized conversation with the Russian ambassador forced his own hand. Nobody knows what was discussed and there’s no evidence the Trump administration was aware of the phone call.
It is easy to believe something nefarious is taking place. The media seems fixated on this idea but doesn’t want to address the reality that foreign governments constantly interfere with each other’s elections without involving the candidates themselves and that Russia had a vested interest in doing so given Trump’s foreign policy was more sympathetic to them than Clinton’s.
This alone isn’t evidence of a conspiracy and suggests a more mundane truth. Even if Flynn was doing something criminal, he was one person within Trump’s cabinet. Other Trump advisers meeting with Russians shouldn’t be surprising considering the scope of people they have to work with.
These meetings have still produced suspicion and speculation and probably nothing more. The truth is less interesting than fiction and case-by-case examination of these meetings isn’t supportive of any conspiracy theory.
For starters, former Foreign Policy Adviser Carter Page met with Russian spy Victor Podobnyy about three years before he worked for Trump’s campaign. Page had business ties to Russia at the time and believed Podobnyy worked for Russia’s UN Mission.
There’s no evidence they discussed anything beyond the energy business, and Podobnyy had not yet been revealed as a Russian spy.
Another more recent meeting occurred between Russian banker Sergey Gorkov and Trump’s adviser, son-in-law and confidant, Jared Kushner. It’s been conjectured that Trump plans to lift sanctions against Russia in exchange for the clandestine support they supposedly gave during the election.
It’s also been established that Gorkov’s bank, the VEB, has not lobbied to lift sanctions and Kushner has met a variety of political and business leaders from around the world as part of his position and has volunteered to testify before Congress regarding the matter. The third and final meeting took place in January between Trump donor and brother of Betsy DeVos, Erik Prince, an unnamed Russian businessman and the prince of the UAE.
It’s unknown how influential Prince and this mysterious Russian are to their respective governments, and it’s unknown what they talked about. Nothing conclusive or definite is known beyond this.
Individually these cases are suspicious and collectively warrant some type of investigation. The public’s concern and the media’s attention are justified and desirable. But the latter’s obsessive coverage is disproportionate to the magnitude of the evidence: These are a handful of cases that haven’t produced anything damning, and the media has ignored the fact that Trump himself hasn’t been implicated in anything.
This isn’t to say he shouldn’t be criticized—there is a lot to criticize him for. But his unlikely conspiring with Russia shouldn’t be the focal point of it; issues like health care, Syria and the economy have serious consequences for real people.
The media’s credulous coverage of conspiracy theories detracts from the attention given to other problems and is a disservice. Going down rabbit holes that lead to nowhere in order to grab viewers doesn’t help anyone and violates the journalistic ethics many of these smug talking heads profess.