Was the proprietary Trump-campaign polling data shared by Manafort with a man the Senate Intelligence Committee identified as a “Russian intelligence officer,” with a request that it be passed on to a Russian oligarch, ever put to use?
How did Manafort get hired by Trump in the first place?
Why has Trump remained so curiously deferential to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and so reluctant to ever criticize him?
If public-spirited citizens rightly feel fierce anger against the abuse of office that Trump’s pardons represent, the story need not end here.
The prospect of Trump’s pardons hindered the prosecution of his associates—and their arrival has now overturned some of the convictions. But the country has much less need to punish the Trump associates than to know exactly what happened.
The pardon power was not the only limit on the Trump-Russia investigation. A more serious limit was the early decision to define the investigation as a hunt for crimes. Not all bad things are crimes—and not all crimes can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. What the country needed was the truth, and that truth is still waiting to be told.
After Trump leaves office, the country will need more than ever an independent investigation that can document the corruption of the Trump era. The truth is needed especially because Trump’s manufacturing of lies will not end with his presidency.
Paul Rosenzweig: Trump’s pardon of Manafort is the realization of the Founder’s fears
WikiLeaks began posting hacked Democratic Party communications in the summer of 2016. Computer experts quickly traced the hack to Russian spy agencies. The Trump campaign and its allies denied the expert assessment. They insisted that there had been no hack. The emails had been stolen and leaked by a Democratic insider, they suggested—a young campaign aide named Seth Rich, who was tragically murdered in a Washington, D.C., mugging. Assange lent credence to the lie. He gave an interview to Dutch TV in August 2016 in which he falsely insinuated that this conspiracy theory was real: “We have to understand how high the stakes are in the United States and that our sources are, you know, our sources face serious risks. That is why they come to us, so we can protect their anonymity.” Former Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California told Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff that he had taken it upon himself in 2017 to broker a deal with Assange, offering Assange a Trump pardon in exchange for his formal confirmation of the Rich falsehood.
The defamatory fantasy about Rich was promoted by Trump’s media allies to the point that Rich’s family decided to sue. Fox News issued a rare retraction of the story in May 2017 and reached a financial settlement with the Rich family this November.
The Mueller investigation definitively debunked that libel of a dead man who could not speak for himself. Assange’s sources for his U.S. election material were Russian state intelligence officers. Yet the effort to exonerate Russia for helping Trump in 2016 will continue, and possibly accelerate with Trump out of office. With Trump and the pro-Trump media, it’s never enough to prove the truth once. The truth needs to be as persistent as the lie. Even now, Trump defenders continue to describe the proven fact of Russian assistance as a “hoax,” and the guilty pleas of Trump associates as them being “framed.” The imperative to defend reality against Trumpism will not cease with the Trump presidency.