Dems Shift Focus of Russia Attacks from Collusion to Obstruction
Liberal senators telegraph strategy change in week of broadsides dominated by Comey
This week’s testimony by Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Senate Intelligence Committee suggests Democrats have given up on finding a conspiracy between President Donald Trump and Russian agents, according to legal and political experts.
During the 2 1/2-hour hearing on Tuesday, Democrats mentioned fired FBI Director James Comey’s name 39 times. That is more than the 24 times that anybody — including Sessions himself — uttered the words “collusion” or some version of the word “interference.”
And that was before The Washington Post reported Wednesday that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump for possible obstruction based on his firing of Comey and his interactions with senior members of the intelligence community. Even without that confirmation, Democrats telegraphed a change of strategy during the Sessions hearing.
"There is no doubt Democrats have given up on these conspiracy theories because there's no evidence, and now they've shifted to this bizarre non-investigation of obstruction of justice in an attempt to neuter the president another way," said Joseph diGenova, former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. "This will go nowhere. Democrats are making a big mistake because the American people are sick of this."
The FBI has had a counterintelligence investigation since July of last year, and Comey told a congressional panel in March that the probe includes searching for possible coordination between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. But after 11 months of investigating, the FBI apparently has turned up no evidence. Comey testified last week that Trump was not a subject of any investigation when he left the agency.
"Last month, it seemed the verbal tick was collusion," said Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor. "This month, it's moved on to obstruction. Next month, I don't know what it will be."
Gene Coyle, whose 30-year career in the CIA included a posting in Moscow, said he believes it is unlikely evidence of a conspiracy will come to light if it has not by now — unless a Russian defector were to hand over a trove of information.
"It would be sort of a lucky magic moment like that," he said.
Coyle, who recently retired after teaching for 13 years at Indiana University, said he suspects it is unlikely that the Trump campaign conspired with Russian agents. The Russians, he said, have capable professional hackers who are able to exploit the vulnerabilities of computer systems without assistance from a U.S. political campaign.
"There's a whole lot of wishful thinking by Democrats who can't comprehend why people didn't vote for Hillary Clinton."
He said he believes Russia, like most U.S. political analysts, concluded Democrat Hillary Clinton would win the election. So Russian agents likely tried to dig up blackmail material that they could use against future members of the Clinton administration.
Coyle said Russia as become a "boogeyman" for Clinton supporters upset about the results of the election.
"There's a whole lot of wishful thinking by Democrats who can't comprehend why people didn't vote for Hillary Clinton," he said.
Democrats grilled Sessions on Tuesday about private conversations he'd had with Trump, prompting him to decline to answer. Democrats used terms such as "stonewalling" and "obstruction" during terse exchanges with the attorney general. It helped build a narrative that gained steam with The Post's story on Wednesday.
McCarthy said Democrats on the committee knew full well that Sessions would not answer the questions and likely preferred that he not so they could make their stonewalling accusations. He said Sessions had to preserve the president's right to assert executive privilege. He said that if Democrats were truly interested in getting answers to those questions, they would submit them in writing and ask if Trump intends to invoke the privilege.