- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 31, 2020

Democrats have not given up on selling a Trump-Russia election conspiracy, according to Rep. Eric Swalwell’s Twitter battle with former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.

Mr. Grenell tweeted at Mr. Swalwell last week as he accused Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of lying about collusion.

Mr. Grenell noted that no witness in the committee’s investigation offered evidence of a conspiracy, yet Democrats told the public there was such criminality. A leader in that pronouncement was Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and now the committee’s chairman.

Earlier this month, the committee finally released transcripts of witnesses’ closed-door testimony.

Mr. Grenell tweeted May 28: “I read the transcripts. There were lots of questions from Democrats. Lots. You just didn’t find any collusion when they were under oath — so the transcripts were the only thing you didn’t leak to the DC media.”

Mr. Swalwell, California Democrat, responded by citing four incidents he believes make up a Russia conspiracy.

χ “Manafort gave polling data to Russians.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report went into this in some detail. Paul Manafort, briefly President Trump’s campaign chairman, provided polling data to his business associate in Ukraine to give to a Russia-friendly political party.

The Mueller report said Manafort did so as a display to party officials of his influence inside Trump world. He hoped it would get him back on their payroll, where he had earned millions.

χ “@realDonaldTrump lied about Trump Tower Moscow deal during the 2016 primary season.”

This has to do with Mr. Trump’s short-lived effort to build a hotel in Moscow in 2015-16. He signed a negotiating document but ended talks. Mr. Trump has never developed any hotel complex in Russia.

His former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about exactly when the negotiations ended. He told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that talks stopped in January 2016; they actually had ended in June, deeper into the campaign.

χ “Jr. meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower.”

In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. took up a Russian’s referral and agreed to meet at Trump Tower with a Moscow lawyer who supposedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton. The meeting lasted 20 minutes. The lawyer had no such information and instead wanted to talk about easing economic sanctions on rich and influential Russians, according to the Mueller report.

χ “@realDonaldTrump asking Russia to hack @HillaryClinton.”

At a press conference in Florida in July 2016, Mr. Trump referred to the more than 30,000 Clinton emails that were destroyed by her computer technician. At the time, House Republicans were seeking the messages in a probe into her mishandling of classified material while secretary of state. She had stored her State.gov emails on an at-home computer server. Some contained classified information.

“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

All of those emails have never materialized though the FBI found some in recipients’ devices.

Those are Mr. Swalwell’s four instances of Trump-Russia collusion he gleaned from the declassified House transcripts.

Republicans contend that if any party colluded with the Russians it was the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Together, they funded the work of Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who tapped Moscow sources to write a dossier filled with more than a dozen criminal allegations against Mr. Trump and aides.

Clinton operatives spread the dossier among the FBI, Congress and the news media. The dossier became a major piece of evidence for the FBI in targeting Trump allies.

Subsequent federal probes have disproven Mr. Steele’s claims against Mr. Trump. And Mr. Grenell pushed for the declassification of documents that show that intelligence agencies had warned the FBI that some of the Steele claims were deliberate Kremlin disinformation.

At a March 2017 House intelligence hearing with then-FBI Director James B. Comey, Mr. Swalwell referred to one of the Steele dossier allegations, though not by name and place. Mr. Steele alleged that Mr. Trump frolicked with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013, when he and NBC Universal staged the Miss Universe pageant.

A subsequent Justice Department report revealed the tale was based on gossip fed to Mr. Steele.

“How about inadvertently capturing a compromise, meaning they have vast surveillance and you stumble into that surveillance and are caught in compromise?” Mr. Swalwell asked.

Mr. Comey: “And then they take that information, try and use it to coerce you? Yes, that’s part of the playbook.”

Mr. Swalwell also asked, “From your perspective, director, have you ever seen in the history of American politics or at least since you’ve been alive, any political candidate have this many connections, personal, political and financial, to a foreign adversary?”

The Mueller report contained very few contacts between Mr. Trump and Russians, and none with Kremlin officials.

Mr. Mueller said his team of 30 FBI agents did not establish that a Trump-Russia conspiracy existed to hack party computers or to wage a social media war against Mrs. Clinton.

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