This is likely because, as of now, there is no concrete charge to make. There is no evidence that the president or his close advisers have broken the law in their communications with Russian officials. There is no reliable evidence that anyone “collaborated” with Russian officials to influence the election, or that Russian influence was more than indirect (i.e., votes may have been swayed by WikiLeaks’s exposure of the DNC e-mails, but Russia did not “hack the election,” in the sense of manipulating voting machines). Even Manafort, Stone, and Page, the three advisers with the closest and most troubling ties to the Kremlin, have not been shown to have done anything prosecutable. All of this is provisional, of course — and must remain so until the congressional intelligence committees complete their investigations — but it’s noteworthy nonetheless, as critics on right and left compare Donald Trump to Richard Nixon and whisper about impeachment.
What, then, is the problem with the administration’s Russia ties? The news from El País is instructive.
Part of Donald Trump’s appeal was that he would keep out of the White House Hillary Clinton and her whole network of should-be felons. The Right’s chief concern about the Clinton Foundation and the Clintons’ “charitable” work was that it provided a veiled way for parties — especially foreign parties — with alarming agendas to purchase White House influence. Right-leaning voters were convinced that the Clintons would not surround themselves with responsible, ethical public servants, but with people happy to sell American policy to the highest bidder.
If the Trump administration is entangled with the Kremlin, it seems — so far, at least — to be in precisely this way. With no interest in upholding any normal standards of public integrity, the White House has been willing to engage any comer with influence, and so time and again put its highly questionable judgment on display. This was Trump’s m.o. during the campaign, recall. There was no carefully plotted endgame in his praising Alex Jones; he was simply happy to help anyone who helped him. The same impulse goes a long way toward explaining not only the administration’s decision to invite a Russian gangster to breakfast, but its enthusiasm for individuals associated with the alt-right and much else. The White House is unconcerned with the dictates of propriety; it is self-interested and reckless.