The Russian farce

But all such accusations of Trump-Russian complicity, based on admitted leaks from intelligence agencies, required some sort of hard evidence: leaked transcripts of Trump officials clearly outlining shared strategies with the Russians, hard proof of Russian electronic tampering in key swing states, doctored e-mails planted in the Podesta WikiLeaks trove, travel records of Trump people in clandestine meetings with Russian counterparts, or bank records showing cash payoffs.

Yet a hostile media, in collusion with intelligence-agency leakers, has so far provided no such proof. John Podesta had as much invested in Russian profiteering as did former Trump aides. Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation had as many financial dealings with pro-Russian interests as did Trump people. The ubiquitous Russian ambassador had met as many Democratic grandees as he had Trump associates

The lack so far of hard proof gradually created a boomerang effect. Attention turned away from what “unnamed sources” had alleged to the question of how unnamed sources had gathered surveillance of the Trump people in the first place — as evidenced by media reports of General Flynn’s conversations, of Trump’s private talks with foreign leaders, and of allegations of electronic contact between Russian and Trump Tower computers.

In other words, the media and their sources had gambled that congressional overseers, law enforcement, and the public would all overlook surveillance that may have been illegal or only partly legal, and they would also overlook the clearly illegal leaking of such classified information on a candidate and a president-elect — if it all resulted in a scandal of the magnitude of the Pentagon Papers or Watergate.