Nevertheless, we must take heed of how Russia’s outreach took place.
On the one hand, it is encouraging to see that the Kremlin acted in a manner inconsistent with having blackmail material on Trump. The suspicion that Russia has such “kompromat” has animated the collusion narrative. Of course, the possibility cannot be discounted — if a porn star could shake down our randy grandee for $130K in hush money, how can we be sure Russia’s got nothing on him? From what we can glean so far, though, it looks like Russia was trying to push its way into Trump’s good graces, not extort him.
On the other hand, Russia’s courtship of the NRA, and its apparent leveraging of that relationship to seek inroads to Trump, is disturbing. There is also a new collusion theory: one based on campaign-finance law and therefore very different from the notion of an espionage conspiracy that has guided the investigation up until now. The speculation is that Russia funneled money into the NRA, which in turn lavished it on the Trump presidential bid as well as other GOP candidates — i.e., laundering donations to conceal the foreign source. We should in due haste point out that this is the Left’s wish-upon-a-star scenario (as outlined Friday by New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg, based primarily on a McClatchy report). There is at present no evidence that Russia made multi-million-dollar infusions into the NRA, much less that any political campaign knowingly accepted a ruble.