David Axelrod’s excuse last week may have been weak but it’s wonderful that he offered one. The subject was why, in a CNN-sponsored podcast in February, he didn’t ask Rep. Adam Schiff about the implosion of his Russia collusion theory.
I won’t rehearse the details, which can be found at the bottom of my June 11 column and in the same day’s letters column. But don’t overlook Mr. Axelrod’s implicit recognition of how unnatural it must have looked for an honest inquisitor not to ask Mr. Schiff about the collapse of the theory that was the sole reason for his rise to national fame.
If a onetime top adviser to President Obama can take note of this reality, what else might be possible? Maybe we can make headway on the other big intrigue from 2016, James Comey’s decision simultaneously to chastise Hillary Clinton for her email behavior and excuse her from legal liability, both of which were improper exercises of his authority as FBI chief.
Only after the election did we learn that dubious Russian intelligence, which FBI colleagues believed to be false and possibly a Russian plant, underlay his actions. News organizations may run away from the implications but Democratic bigwig Terry McAuliffe spelled them out three years ago: This Russian intelligence may have indirectly determined the outcome of the election, since Mr. Comey’s first intervention led to his second, reopening the Hillary case shortly before Election Day. (Even Mr. Schiff admitted as much in an interview with the New Yorker.)
Mr. McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, further alluded to an obvious fact: If somebody concocted the information, they did so for a reason and with some knowledge of U.S. political actors. The Russian intercept reportedly named several little-known Democratic activists as being implicated in an email exchange about an alleged attempt to fix the Hillary investigation.
A subsequent tidbit, that the Russian document came to U.S. officials by way of Dutch intelligence, tells us little. How did the Dutch obtain it? Was the document lifted from a secure Kremlin server in such a way as to suggest the Putin regime considered the information valuable and authentic?
You can see why this matters. If the information was false and fabricated, anybody could have fabricated it—even U.S. intelligence agents—and laundered it through the Dutch. If the Russians fabricated it, why? (If the information wasn’t fabricated, that opens a whole different kettle of worms: Mr. Comey failed to act on evidence of corruption by Democrats in the U.S. Justice Department.)
Mr. Comey’s public justifications, I’ve pointed out, have been a non sequitur, but a question shouts for an answer: Did he fear the same information was in the hands of Trump operatives, to be released to discredit the anticipated Hillary victory? Attorney General William Barr said this week that the FBI appears to have been “spring-loaded at the end of July  to drive in there and investigate [the Trump] campaign”—i.e., immediately upon wrapping up the Clinton investigation. If Mr. Comey’s hair was on fire enough to commit his chaotic intervention in the Clinton case, why wouldn’t the same fear have colored his suspicion of Team Trump?
Let’s step back. I can find no record of President Obama or President Bill Clinton lending direct credence to the Russia collusion narrative and I doubt that’s because Messrs. Clinton and Obama are admirers of Donald Trump. But ex-presidents value their reputations. They may enjoy seeing Mr. Trump tripped up over false allegations but they leave it to their lickspittles to do the tripping.
We have a few still-reputable elites and functioning agencies of government as well: Robert Mueller and his team, whatever their disdain for Mr. Trump, did not fabricate evidence of collusion. Michael Horowitz, the Obama-appointed inspector general, has been unsparing in exposing the misdeeds of the Obama FBI. Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to find the truths of 2016, and voters of both parties have cause to be angry: Mr. Trump’s because the FBI sought to destroy his presidency; Mrs. Clinton’s because FBI actions may have cost her the election.
But we still don’t have information about the Russian intelligence that may underlie it all, still locked up in the one inspector general’s report to be designated highly classified and hidden from the public, and about which our decadent press remains weirdly incurious.
The lickspittles of both parties (and the media) could find some common ground by acknowledging the truths that have already been laid out and demanding to know the whole story. Millions of voters might be shocked out of their frozen mind-sets. Social media might fall silent for a day as the trolling hordes succumb to neurotic panic over their broken worldviews. What promises to be an ugly and unedifying 2020 election might be a smidge less so.
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