As the week marches on, the 'Watergate moment' over Trump's ties to Russia that Democrats are eagerly hoping for is slowly withering away.
A report from ABC news released this morning cites a senior intelligence official who confirms that “no evidence gathered by the FBI so far suggests Trump associates knew they were talking to Russian intelligence officers.”
This is an important distinction. The media has been breathlessly questioning the Trump campaign's “contact with Russia” as if the country is an underground terrorist cell. It's a silly question because U.S. businessmen, U.S. officials, and even U.S. tourists are presumably in 'contact with Russia' on a regular basis.
The real issue is whether Trump or his campaign aides were knowingly communicating with Russian intelligence officers, and even more specifically, whether Trump or his aides were conspiring with them to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.
According to the ABC report, the FBI has so far uncovered no evidence of that.
The New York Times story published earlier this week attempted to prove it anyway with the sensationalized headline: “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.” However, once you read the actual story - as I did and discussed here - you find that even they can procure no evidence that Trump aides did so knowingly. As the NYT admitted:
...it is not unusual for American businessmen to come in contact with foreign intelligence officials, sometimes unwittingly, in countries like Russia and Ukraine, where the spy services are deeply embedded in society. Law enforcement officials did not say to what extent the contacts might have been about business.
They admit it again in another paragraph:
The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election. The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
As it turns out, both news reports square quite nicely with each other.
As ABC said, “A senior intelligence official told ABC News last night that no evidence gathered by the FBI so far suggests Trump associates knew they were talking to Russian intelligence officers.” This is where we are and where, until new evidence comes to light, where we'll continue to be.