The author of a book alleging “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia admits it’s really unknown whether the Russians exerted inappropriate influence over the candidate.
The revelation comes from Luke Harding, a foreign correspondent with the Guardian newspaper of London, who wrote “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.”
He was being interviewed by Aaron Maté for The Real News about the book.
However, while he talked about the tradition of Russia trying to compromise foreign leaders, he was unable to provide Maté with evidence of that happening with Trump.
The interview was posted on YouTube:
The interviewer immediately asked the key question: “Luke, welcome. Let’s start with the book’s title. Do you think there actually was collusion?”
Harding said “we’re already across the line in terms of collusion” and cited Trump’s “first trip to Soviet Moscow in 1987 paid for by the Soviet Union where he was discussing hotel deals.”
“I think we can say – and I’m sure this is something that Robert Mueller is looking at – that there’s kind of long-term relationship,” Harding said. “That doesn’t mean that Donald Trump is an agent or a KGB colonel, merely that there’s been a kind of transactional deal going back a very long way indeed.”
The interviewer asked Harding for “evidence.”
“Well, I think you just kind of have to look at what happened,” Harding replied. “We had Donald Trump’s trip back in the kind of late Cold War period, and I talked to a number of sources for this book, some in Moscow, some in London, some in Washington, some defectors.”
He said Trump was being cultivated.
“But where then is the proof of a transactional relationship?” he asked.
“Well I mean there are secret meetings as the book says that we now know about, some of which we have discovered about in the last few months. We have Donald Trump Jr. meeting with a Russian lawyer now famous, Natalia Veselnitskaya, having been promised information from the Russian government as part of its campaign to support Mr. Trump and to hurt Hillary Clinton. We have four indictments by Robert Mueller,” Harding said.
“Luke, Luke, let me stop you there. Luke, let me stop you there. If we already have a transactional relationship between Trump and Russia going back to the late ’80s as you say, then why would they have needed a music publicist to set up this meeting? I mean presumably that level of relationship would have entailed some high-level contacts that wouldn’t have needed an intermediary like this kooky music publicist, Rob Goldstone,” Maté said.
The interviewer pointed out there are other explanations for the various meetings.
And he reminded Harding that what people say isn’t necessarily true. For instance, when Harding claimed there is evidence that the level of espionage from Russia now rivals the Cold War and that U.S. intel agencies have said there was collusion, Maté pointed out the sources of those claims were “handpicked” by Obama.
“They say something, but speaking of empirical evidence, they presented no empirical evidence and they still haven’t. I don’t understand why we’re supposed to take that on faith,” Maté said.
Maté pointed out that so far “there’s zero evidence … there’s a lot of supposition and innuendo.”
In reply, Harding described himself as a “storyteller” and claimed there have been similar espionage operations by Russia in France and Germany.
“Actually, Luke, that’s not true,” Maté corrected.
“I’m not arguing that the Russian government is not a repressive right-wing state. It is, but that doesn’t mean that it’s managed to elect a (U.S.) president,” Maté said.
He said Russian spy agencies are like spy agencies all over.
“I don’t see how you get from that to they pulled off a massive conspiracy to elect a president based on the fact that back when Donald Trump was hosting ‘The Apprentice’ they had the foresight to see a future U.S. president who they were going to get elected.”
Maté continued: “What matters is the evidence, and whether there’s evidence of, for example, Steele’s claim that Donald Trump hired prostitutes and that Putin has a tape of that. I mean you I’m sure admit that these are pretty wild claims, and instead of just believing them based on the fact that some people say he’s credible, we should have evidence.”
But Harding insisted it all fits a pattern.
“I think if you’d read my book, which unfortunately you didn’t before you decided to do the interview, you would have seen that there’s a whole history of the FSB (Russian security agency) and its kind of KGB predecessor doing these kind of entrapment operations going back to the Cold War, enticing American diplomats, British diplomats and so on with kind of honeypots,” the author said.
“The KGB even had a kind of term for the kind of attractive young women they would send to kind of seduce and try and compromise officials. They called them ‘swallows,’ which is a rather kind of pleasant and poetic title. Really anyone who knows Russia or has bothered to read books on the Cold War sort of realizes this is precisely what they do,” said Harding.
“Now did they do it with Donald Trump? We don’t know. Steele thinks they did,” he admitted.
On Wednesday, the Washington Times ran its own story about the probe, titled: “Democrats’ case for Trump-Russia grand conspiracy crumbles with lack of evidence.”