Trump and Russia: It’s the Cover-Up That Suggests a Crime

Just for the record: what do I think about all the ties between Russia and the Trump team, anyway?

Answer: I don’t know. It seems pretty clear that Russia hacked email accounts and otherwise interfered with the election in order to help Trump. It’s also true that Trump is unaccountably friendly toward Vladimir Putin. And it’s further true that a surprising number of people in Trump’s orbit have business in Russia or periodic contacts with highly-placed officials in Russia.

That’s all reason for suspicion. But it probably wouldn’t convince me that anything truly nefarious was going on except for one thing: the Trumpies have gone to such considerable lengths to hide their contacts with Russian officials.

This could just be reflex: being a Russian stooge is a bad thing, so one’s default position should always be to deny any dealings with Russia. Or it could be that many of the contacts are embarrassing for reasons unrelated to the campaign. There are other plausible explanations too.

But this is why every new revelation gets such attention. I’m pretty open to the idea that Jeff Sessions didn’t mean to mislead anyone when he told the Senate he hadn’t met with any Russian officials. He might well have been thinking of Russians in Russia, not with the ambassador in Washington DC. But if that’s the case, then why the obviously fishy excuse that he “can’t recall” what they talked about? Why did Mike Flynn “not recall” what his conversations were about? In general, why the extended cover-up of everything related to Trump aides talking with Russians?

In this case, it’s not that the cover-up is worse than the crime. It’s the fact that the cover-up suggests there might be a crime being covered up. Without that, this whole story might have gone nowhere.