Seen 'The Nutcracker'? You may have colluded with the Russians
By Trump's new standard, "collusion" now covers not just Russia's election interference but anything that has to do with Russia done by anybody at any time for any reason.
Robert Mueller's conviction of a former Trump campaign adviser and his indictment of two more finally prove it: Hillary is guilty!
Technically, President Trump's standard line of defense in the Russia probe — we did not collude — suffered a bit of a blow Monday. In a plea deal with the special counsel unsealed Monday (about the time Trump was tweeting the phrase "there is NO COLLUSION!"), Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos admitted to having had contacts with Russians offering the Trump campaign Hillary Clinton's emails and other "dirt," and to trying to arrange meetings with Russian officials. That's pretty much the dictionary definition of "collusion."
But Trump's deficit of honesty is offset by a surplus of dexterity. Though not abandoning the there-is-no-collusion defense, the White House is already elevating a secondary position — the OK-maybe-we-colluded-but-Clinton-colluded-more defense.
"There's clear evidence of the Clinton campaign colluding with Russian intelligence," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders proclaimed at Monday afternoon's briefing, after the indictment by Mueller of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and a colleague.
Trump, who often accuses others of the exact thing he stands accused of, reacted to the indictments with abundant punctuation: "But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????" he tweeted.
Trump has been complaining about "the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier," and "GUILT by Democrats/Clinton." He tweeted a Hill article with an exculpatory quote from Fox News' Chris Wallace (Headline: "More evidence of Dem collusion with Russia than GOP") and a New York Post column arguing that perhaps Clinton "came closer to colluding with the Russians" than Trump.
The evidence of Clinton's alleged "collusion" with Russia? She and the Democrats hired an opposition-research firm that wrote a dossier on, um, Trump's collusion with Russia. She also colluded with Russia by being secretary of state at a time when another arm of the U.S. government approved a uranium deal with a Russian-owned company that had given money to her husband and his foundation.
Both of these are about as compelling as saying the guilty plea entered by Papadopoulos is further evidence of Clinton's collusion with Russia because "George Papadopoulos" sounds like "George Stephanopoulos," who once worked for Bill Clinton, who is married to Hillary Clinton.
By Trump's new standard, "collusion" now covers not just Russia's election interference but anything that has to do with Russia done by anybody at any time for any reason. If that's the rule, there is indeed plenty of evidence that Clinton colluded with Russia. She has visited Russia often, spoken with Russians, and even tried to reset relations with Russia. I'd bet she has also watched Russian ballet and read Russian novels.
But by that standard there's also evidence most everybody else colludes with Russia, too. Therefore, the Mueller investigation will need to expand significantly. The following people should present themselves at the earliest opportunity to the special counsel's office for interviews:
All who now consume or in the past have consumed vodka. These drinks include but are not limited to Black Russians, White Russians, and Moscow Mules.
All who now consume or in the past have consumed beluga or osetra caviar.
All who now play, or previously have played, with nesting dolls.
All who watch or have watched the FX drama The Americans.
All who have viewed The Nutcracker (including children's performances) or Swan Lake, or hummed the 1812 Overture.
All who have dined at the Russian Tea Room in New York.
All who have read, or have caused to be read, Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, or any play by Anton Chekhov.
All who have heard, or have caused to be heard, the works of Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, or Mussorgsky.
All who have played against, or watched a match, involving Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova, or Garry Kasparov.
All who have experienced the work of Wassily Kandinsky, Groucho Marx, or John Lennon.
All who have played Russian roulette or flown in a Sikorsky helicopter.
All who own Siberian huskies, or any dogs exhibiting Pavlovian responses.
All people of Russian ancestry, including but not limited to those with the following endings: -ov, -sky, -ski, -ic, -vic, -in, –enko, and -uk.
And all whose ancestors may have once occupied Russian territory, including but not limited to all those of French, German, Swedish, or Mongol ancestry.
Hmm. Mueller: Is that a German name?
Collusion! Looks as if we're going to need a special counsel to probe the special counsel.
Dana Milbank is a Washington Post columnist. @Milbank