Evidence Supporting a Finding of “Substantial Assistance”
It follows that the evidence in support of the “substantial assistance” would be different in quantity and nature from what is needed for a “coordination” claim. The evidence on the public record shows the Trump campaign encouraging the Russian activities and making active use of the hacked results. If there is a doubt that this is enough, the answer is not to return to the coordination rules, devised mostly for other cases: This only confuses the issue. Rather than only look “externally” for direct communications between campaign and foreign government, the investigation would focus its efforts more “internally,” on the campaign’s intent to build this de facto political alliance with Russia.
Some of the questions would be:
–What do the records of the campaign–and the sworn testimony of campaign aides–establish about the strategic importance to the campaign of these Russian activities?
–Did the campaign decide that it would not denounce the Russians, either on its own initiative or in response to press queries, because it did not wish to discourage them from continuing on their course?
–Was the message intended for Russia discussed during preparations for the presidential debate, which would explain Mr. Trump’s special care in refusing to assign direct blame for the hacking to the government or to reject any assistance from the hackers?
–What were the specific plans for active messaging around the hacked emails–in the press, in the preparation of surrogates for media appearances, and in the remarks prepared for or by the candidate for rallies and his own press interviews?
If there is evidence of this kind, it would match up with the known campaign and Trump handling of the Russia issue and answer any question of intent. The president’s open praise for the hacking, his stated “love” of Wikileaks, his refusal to condemn any state interference in the elections, could not be passed off as “Trump being Trump,” as the candidate just playing with the issue and relishing the coverage that came with it. Instead these actions, together with other evidence of intent that may still come to light, would represent the execution of a very specific campaign strategy to provide substantial assistance to the Putin regime’s program of intervention in an American presidential election.