Trump should welcome investigation

There’s a disconnect between President Trump on one hand and his opponents (and a number of journalists) on the other concerning Russian interference in American elections. It could easily be erased, but at this point it looks sadly as if it’s in the interests of both sides to keep it alive.

The president calls the Russian issue a “hoax.”

At the same time, his administration’s top security leaders say there’s no doubt that Russia inserted false stories in American social media and tried by other means to skew the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.

Trump’s opponents, and several journalists, state that the president and his top administrators are therefore not on the same page, and that the American people are being told two different things by the Trump administration.

That’s not necessarily true.

Trump can claim that what he means by a “hoax” is the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller and several congressional committees into possible collaboration between the Russian government and the Trump campaign in 2016.

Trump has consistently denied the existence of such cooperation. We’ll know more about that as Mueller’s investigation unfolds.

But collusion is not what American security and counterintelligence specialists are talking about when they blast Russia for campaign interference.

They’re saying simply that Russia meddled in our 2016 election, not that the Trump campaign was involved in those efforts.

The two positions can coexist with ease. Trump says his campaign didn’t collude with Russia, and the intelligence leaders say Russia interfered with the 2016 campaign. They’re not mutually exclusive statements.

Opponents of Trump apparently believe there’s political hay to be made by conflating the two statements, though, and they’re trying to persuade the nation that Trump is calling his security officials liars.

Sadly, a number of journalists, both in print and broadcast, are assisting in that effort.

What needs to happen is for Trump to agree emphatically that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election, and for his opponents and media commentators to make the distinction between his denial of collusion and his lieutenants’ statements about Russian interference.

That probably won’t happen.

For his part, Trump for some reason resists making personal accusations against Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. He has quietly, when pressed, admitted that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, but those statements have been few and far between, and generally have been dragged out of him by questioners.

We don’t know the reason for that reluctance.

Is it a desire by Trump to promote diplomatic camaraderie between the U.S. and Russia? Is it a desire to keep financial loan and investment opportunities with Russia open for the Trump business organization?

Does Putin have knowledge about Trump that could prove embarrassing?

All three possibilities have been suggested.

But whatever the reason, President Trump refrains from publicly accusing Putin and Russia of election interference, while at the same time calling Mueller’s investigation a hoax.

For the part of Trump opponents, they prefer conveniently to misinterpret Trump’s statements about a hoax to mean that he denies Russian election interference.

Journalists who contribute to that fallacy do the nation a disservice.

Special counsel Mueller has kept above the fray. His investigation has resulted in dozens of indictments and a few guilty pleas, and the trials have begun. But Mueller makes no TV appearances, rarely issues press releases, digs relentlessly into relevant documents and interviews a wide-ranging array of potential witnesses.

If the accusation of Trump/Russian campaign collaboration in 2016 is a hoax, the president should welcome the Mueller investigation in order to prove his innocence.

Withholding judgment until Mueller completes his work is the only reasonable approach to the whole affair for the American people.

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