Politics

Dems Escalate Trump-Russia Rhetoric to Keep Story Alive

Illinois congressman claims 'probable cause' of collusion, offers no specifics or evidence

A Democratic congressman on the House Intelligence Committee on Monday basically accused President Donald Trump’s campaign of working with Russia to throw the 2016 election to the GOP.

It is as far as any member of Congress has gone so far in definitively alleging that the Trump campaign broke laws in the run-up to the presidential election — and the charge was made without providing or citing any additional evidence.

“Let me put it this way: In the totality of circumstances, I believe if you compare it to a criminal case, there’s probable cause to believe there was cooperation between the Russians and the Trump campaign.”

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) made the charge on CNN in response to a question about the cable channel’s reporting on Friday that FBI investigators believe Russia tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign.

“Let me put it this way: In the totality of circumstances, I believe if you compare it to a criminal case, there’s probable cause to believe there was cooperation between the Russians and the Trump campaign,” he said.

Quigley’s statement goes beyond what CNN has reported. The news organization reported that intelligence analysts at the FBI found signs of “possible collusion” between the campaign and Russia. But CNN added that those same officials said there was not enough evidence to show that any American committed crimes.

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If there were “probable cause,” as Quigley asserted, presumably the FBI would have sought criminal charges.

Quigley offered no evidence to back up his statement.

“Beyond that, I can’t get into those specifics,” he said. “But if the American public saw what I had seen and they had listened to what I have heard, they would want a full-throttled investigation into what took place.”

Of course, there already are multiple investigations, including by Quigley’s own committee. And that investigation, at the demand of Democrats, is moving forward without the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who agreed to step down from the probe.

In addition, the Senate Intelligence Committee is looking into the matter, and FBI Director James Comey announced his agency is conducting a criminal probe — the very basis of the information about which Quigley was commenting.

“I don’t want to mention any specific person,” Quigley said. “But it is very clear. I think the intelligence communities are in agreement. The Russians successfully hacked into our democratic process, and I believe there is enough evidence to go forward that there was collusion.”

The only person named in the CNN report is Carter Page, who by all accounts played a minor role on the campaign. Trump mentioned him as a foreign policy adviser in an interview in March 2016, when the campaign was just beginning to fill out policy positions. But Page, who had business interests in Russia and delivered a speech in that country in 2016 that was highly critical of U.S. foreign policy, never even met Trump. Page told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he attended meetings with Trump and then clarified that by “meetings,” he was referring to rallies.

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If Page did try to cut some sort of deal with Russia regarding the election, it is far from clear he was in a position to speak for the campaign.

Quigley said the Russia investigation needs more manpower.

“We need a lot more lawyers and accountants and resources, and we need to work in several countries to understand fully how the Russians successfully attacked our democratic process,” he said.

Quigley did not explain, nor did CNN anchor John Berman ask, why the hundreds of lawyers and accountants at the FBI are not equipped to conduct that investigation.

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