What do we know about the allegation at the heart of this matter: Did Trump, his campaign aides, or his associates collude with Russians to influence the 2016 campaign?
The answer is, we know nothing. After all the investigating, after all the talk, after all the yelling — the public knows nothing. There may be people at the highest levels of U.S. government secrecy who know the answer, but even that is not clear at the moment.
The most definitive statement of the current situation came Sunday on NBCs “Meet the Press.” James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, admitted that he does not know of any evidence that proves collusion, or even points toward collusion.
Remember that Clapper was head of national intelligence until Jan. 20. There have been reports the Trump Russia hacking investigation was going on last summer, that it accelerated in the fall, and that it has been moving along ever since. So Clapper was there for most of the investigation. And he says he knows of no evidence of collusion.
Other government officials who know less than Clapper — but who should still know something — are in the dark. Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said, “We still have not seen any evidence of anyone that’s from the Trump campaign or any other campaign, for that matter, that’s communicated with the Russian government.”
Pressed about alleged contacts, Nunes said, “That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but I don’t have that. And what I’ve been told, by many — by many folks, is that there’s nothing there.”
A few days later, Rep. Adam Schiff, Nunes’ colleague and the top Democrat on the Intel Committee, expressed frustration with the FBI for not sharing information on the investigation. “I would say at this point we know less than a fraction of what the FBI knows.”
Nunes appears to believe that is because there isn’t any such evidence. Schiff appears to believe that is because the FBI has been hiding the evidence.
The situation seems no better in the Senate, where the biggest recent controversy has been over Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr acting at the behest of the White House to tell reporters there’s nothing there on the collusion angle.
What all that suggests is that there is an information vacuum at the core of the Russia election controversy. Everybody is talking about things they don’t even know happened.
The vacuum has not stopped President Trump’s accusers, who are suggesting there is incriminating evidence of collusion the public has not seen.
The problem is that his belief might not be based in fact.
There are mounting demands for a special prosecutor, or a “9/11-style commission” to investigate an alleged event — TrumpWorld-Russia collusion — that even the nation’s top investigators, after months of investigation, don’t know actually happened.
To be clear, it’s possible that incontrovertible evidence of collusion exists somewhere in the government’s classified investigation machine. It might be that the FBI director, or some other official, will soon release information to settle the question once and for all. But right now, even as there are calls to escalate the investigation, some very knowledgeable people are beginning to admit they know of nothing there.