The Justice Department’s appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel takes the ongoing investigation of Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government to an entirely new level. If the investigation is to be truly objective and informative, some crucial issues need to be addressed.
Above all, it is imperative to determine the full context of the Trump-Russia relationship. The old parable about a group of blind men feeling limited portions of an elephant and reaching erroneous conclusions applies here. Without context, someone feeling the elephant’s trunk may express unwarranted confidence that it is a thick rope.
One of the issues that must be examined is the extent and nature of the contacts between members of Trump’s election campaign team and Russian officials. To determine that in a dispassionate manner will not be easy. An anti-Russia hysteria has reached alarming proportions in the past few months, eerily resembling the McCarthy era in the 1950s. As I note in a recent article in the American Conservative, there appears to be a concerted effort to make Russia a pariah. Indeed, at least two House Democrats have voiced objections to any contact whatsoever between the Trump administration and Russian officials.
That attitude is both unrealistic and potentially very dangerous. Even during the worst days of the Cold War, U.S. leaders never severed communications with Moscow. In fact, constructive dialogues produced some worthwhile agreements with America’s totalitarian adversary, including the treaty banning atmospheric nuclear tests in 1963. To adopt an unprecedented, hardline attitude now toward post-Soviet Russia, which is a conventional rather than a totalitarian power, would be irresponsible.