Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Democratic Senator Chris Coons walked back a striking claim he made last week about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Coons now says he doesn’t “know of any conclusive proof” collusion took place.
As I noted Friday, Sen. Coons appeared on MSNBC and claimed the FBI had transcripts containing evidence of collusion with Russia. He said, “There are transcripts that provide very helpful, very critical insights into whether or not Russian intelligence and senior Russian political leaders, including Vladimir Putin, were cooperating, were colluding with the Trump campaign at the highest levels to influence the outcome of our election.” Asked to clarify that transcripts showing collusion existed, Coons replied, “I have not seen them. I believe they exist.”
This makes it sound as if the evidence is there and Coons somehow knows it but has been prevented from getting his hands on it for some reason. But Sunday, in an interview with Chris Wallace, Coons offered a very different explanation. “What I was trying to make clear Chris, and I appreciated a chance to restate this, is that I don’t have and I don’t know of any conclusive proof one way or the other about whether there was collusion between senior levels of the Trump campaign and Russian officials,” he said.
This is a big change from what Coons was saying Friday. Chris Wallace compared it to McCarthyism. “Isn’t there more than a whiff of McCarthyism for you as a U.S. Senator to say there are transcripts out there that provide insight into whether or not there was collusion, but you don’t even know whether they exist,” Wallace said.
“To be clear, Chris, what I was trying to encourage was that the intelligence committee be given access to the raw intelligence,” Coons said. Asked again if he had any “hard evidence” of collusion, Coons replied, “Chris, I have no hard evidence of collusion.” Coons then suggested that releasing Trump’s tax returns might provide such evidence.
Later, Wallace asked, “Is the point here to keep this White House from being able to do what it’s trying to do by continuing, at this point, evidence-free debate about collusion with the Russians?” “That’s not my goal, Chris,” Sen. Coons replied. But let’s fact it, Coons is on a fishing expedition. He has no evidence of collusion and he knows of no evidence of collusion, despite saying he did last Friday.
One possible explanation for this lack of evidence: There was no collusion. That’s what the NY Times reported a couple weeks ago. It’s also what Rep. Devin Nunes said last week. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Sunday on Meet the Press that he is not aware of any evidence showing collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
This story remains a Democratic media panic in search of evidence. Fact-free insinuations, like the one by Sen. Coons Friday, are intended to keep the White House on the defensive and give Democrats space to call for a further fishing expedition. Unless some actual evidence of collusion is identified, the partisan whisper campaign should be ignored.