In our completely anonymous he-said-she-said scenario here, the most recent say-er has the credibility edge by a nose.
Last week, as noted in this piece, the Washington Post quoted anonymous sources as claiming that Jared Kushner met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on 1 or 2 December, in Trump Tower, and proposed setting up a “back channel” for communication with the Trump transition team, using Russian facilities.
I continue to doubt the “back channel comms proposal” element of this story. The information is not being leaked in a credible manner – the anonymous sources don’t come off like people who directly know something specific from U.S. intelligence (which is how they say they got the info) – and the story itself is full of holes.
At most, it is to be accepted that Kushner met with Kislyak in Trump Tower and had a discussion with him, on topics it is perfectly legitimate for an incoming administration to cover. Other sources have corroborated the fact of the meeting.
Now Fox’s Catherine Herridge has gotten information from another anonymous source that the meeting indeed took place, but it wasn’t Kushner suggesting a back channel for communications. It was Kislyak, and it was to be a one-time set-up for a single-topic discussion.
A December meeting between Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and one of the senior advisers in the Trump administration, and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak at Trump Tower focused on Syria, a source familiar with the matter told Fox News Monday.
During the meeting the Russians broached the idea of using a secure line between the Trump administration and Russia, not Kushner, a source familiar with the matter told Fox News. …
The idea of a permanent back channel was never discussed, according to the source. Instead, only a one-off for a call about Syria was raised in the conversation.
The Fox News report is more credible – unless, that is, you already believe that there were untoward connections between Trump and the Russians. If you believe that a priori, then you might accept the bizarre theory that Trump would want to set up a special back-channel network through Russian facilities, a mere six weeks before he was to assume office anyway – and then would have no need to shelter some theoretical torrent of comms with Russia from a previous president’s snoop squad.
The WaPo story only works if you make a prior assumption of Trump’s guilt, and then use the generic assumption of guilt to cover all the things that don’t make sense. Basically, for the WaPo story to hang together, Trump has to be in urgent need of connection to a Russian mother-ship, such that his transition team can’t contain itself for a few more weeks until it can just establish whatever comms it wants with the Russians.
Interestingly, as I perused Aaron Bandler’s take at Daily Wire today, what principally struck me was how respectful a treatment he was giving the allegations from the WaPo article. It has become patently clear to me that the anti-Trump leak brigade has nothing. Nothing is ever going to pan out as either substantive or actionable. The leak brigade is part of a team that has had Trump and his associates under investigation for many months, and yet has no indictable allegations to make. Leaking out clue after clue, at seemingly calculated intervals, is a tactic – not a reflection of how information is making its way by normal paths to responsible people, who can speak with authority.
That’s why none of it sounds responsible or authoritative. It sounds concocted and paper-thin. Giving too much analytical respect – and precious time – to this series of tactically deployed info-bits is now a form of active un-wisdom. It’s a good question when we’re going to stop lending our minds to it, at no charge.
The conclusion I would draw about Kushner and Kislyak is that their meeting took place, they discussed a way to hold an exchange on the topic of Syria, and the anti-Trump leak brigade took that info-bit and spun it to make it sound as nefarious as possible.
Perhaps the leakers were confident that no fully-inspectable evidence would ever come out to explicitly invalidate their spin. Such a condition would enable them to keep an innuendo campaign alive. Mere innuendo isn’t enough to build a legitimate case in law, but that apparently isn’t the way Trump’s enemies actually envision bringing him down.