Out of the Blue: Russia issue not going away | SierraSun.com

Out of the Blue: Russia issue not going away

Mike Restaino
Out of the Blue

I overheard a conversation on an airplane this week. You're supposed to mind your own business while traveling, I know, but when the guy across the aisle began an hourlong tirade with "Ugh – these damned Democrats," I only pretended to read my novel: I wasn't going to miss a word of what he had to say.

It's always useful to look at issues from various perspectives. Even for somebody as staunchly, irrefutably left as this Incline Village Idiot, contemplating big-ticket controversies from viewpoints directly opposed to my own often shakes loose valuable insights.

If I were a more outgoing person, I would have forced my way into the discussion my fellow travelers had because they had a thesis that I hadn't considered. They went out of their way to never mention The Worst Supporting Actor Razzie Winner (Ghosts Can't Do It — 1990) by name, but the specter of Donald J. Trump peppered every detail of their conversation.

Their basic idea was that if Republicans on board the Trump train can keep their hopes up, this "Russia thing" will blow on by. Those darned Democrats keep trying to make a big deal out of it, and if the world simply lets their collective hot air argue itself silly, the entire affair will disappear.

It goes without saying that I certainly do not agree with this argument, but for the sake of discussion, let's test it out.

The question, at least for me, involves what Russian entities interacted with DJT and his campaign as he was running for president. Trump has stated many times that he has no knowledge of this, that any construct that his team had anything to do with Russian enterprises is "fake news." So on one flank of this thing, if all Americans just believed the president, we could put the story to bed. Should we take the dude at his word, the "Russia thing" could go bye-bye.

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That tactic doesn't hold any water, though, because love him or hate him, the guy lies. Yes, we're all culpable of little white indiscretions, and politicians especially have long lists of half-truths and unsavory credibilities, but this guy trips over himself on nearly a daily basis with often baffling fictions.

Another quadrant I have trouble wrapping my head around is the idea that these undocumented interactions with Russians were casual, precedented affairs, that all suspicion surrounding them is feedback noise from a Democratic bloc still whining about losing the election.

I say this all the time, but liberals lose elections all the time. Yes, ending in first place at the end of long races has unequivocal merit, but as our president is learning, politics isn't about winning contests no matter what. Liberal voices try to bring attention to causes close to them at varying volumes all the time, whether they claim an endgame prize or not.

I almost scoff in disbelief at the notion, but what can we glean by assuming the meetings with Russians by members of the Trump team had no nefarious intentions to them? Is it normal for high-profile campaigns to stage these kinds of talks?

The legalese here is complicated, but most legal scholars agree that a very big difference lies in whether information "of value" was exchanged, or if data or secret info was "solicited." WIthout a transcript of the exchange, I suppose it's fair to say that, for example, Donald Trump Jr. was merely engaged in opposition research, that no commodities or equivalents of cold hard cash changed hands at all.

This might be the case, but especially over the last month, every time this argument is offered, something suspicious gets revealed that makes it impossible to fully believe. DJT can blame leaks all he wants, that secret info in the White House needs to stay secret, but whether it's public knowledge or not, if his son or attorney general or son-in-law or daughter (this list is likely to grow) shot the breeze with high-profile Russian folks, that makes him, and by proxy, his team, seem like they're up to no good.

Or perhaps you're just reading this and labeling me another whining Democrat. This "Russia issue" might be smoke and mirrors propagated by the left, but after listening to my fellow travelers flush that idea out at 35,000 feet, I doubt it will fall apart any time soon.

After all, just imagine how easily Republicans would let it go if it was Chelsea Clinton working in the White House and taking meetings with Russians. That would be a big ol' nothing-burger, right?

Mike Restaino is a writer and filmmaker based out of Incline Village. He is also a founding member of the North Tahoe Democrats. He can be reached at mike@northahoedems.org.