“Many secrets; no mysteries.”
That phrase (coined by Luigi Barzini if you’re keeping score) has been the key to understanding the connection between President Trump and Russia from the start. It unlocks the matter even more crisply after today. Between former FBI Director James Comey’s advance-released testimony—and the agonizing non-testimony of the director of the National Security Agency and the director of national intelligence—the essentials of the story have come even more clearly into view than before.
It is asserted on one side, and not denied on the other, that Trump repeatedly asked his intelligence chiefs to shut down the FBI inquiry into the Russian connections of Michael Flynn, Trump’s most important national security adviser through the 2016 campaign and the presidential transition. Exactly why Trump so assiduously protected Flynn remains uncertain. Exactly which (if any) of Flynn’s actions so desperately needed protecting likewise can only be guessed. But it’s hard to make innocent explanations look credible.
What happens next?
For some conservatives, the immediate priority will be the work of rationalization.
While the conversations were arguably inappropriate, James Comey did confirm that Trump was not personally the target of an FBI investigation. Really, this is practically an exoneration.