Trump aides colluded with foreign governments.
This is a simple, straightforward statement, and by this point, it ought to be an uncontroversial one. There’s ample evidence on many fronts, from legal documents to reliable reporting. This doesn’t mean that a crime was committed, because, as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others have pointed out, collusion is not a crime per se. But it does mean that attempts to dismiss the Russia investigation as a witch hunt that lacks any evidence are not merely disingenuous—they’re simply wrong.
What do we mean by collusion? As the Columbia Journalism Review explored last year, there are a range of meanings, but a clean synthesis would be a secret compact or conspiracy with an illegal or deceitful aim. The examples of such cooperation, between Trump aides and agents of foreign governments, abound. So far, three people have pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about it. The unresolved question, at this stage of the investigation, is not whether such cooperation was attempted; it’s how successful it proved, how large an impact it actually had, who was involved, and whether they broke any laws.
There is, most prominently, the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, where Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer they believed had damaging information to offer about Hillary Clinton. In another meeting in August 2016, also at Trump Tower, former Blackwater chief Erik Prince (the brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos) brought together an Israeli social-media specialist and an emissary who said the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi wanted to aid the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos carried on conversations with at least two people he believed had substantial connections to the Russian government. Roger Stone, an on-again, off-again Trump adviser, exchanged messages with the hacker Guccifer 2.0, a Russian intelligence agent who released emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee.