Senate has 'plenty of circumstantial evidence that would suggest collusion'

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Democrats are refuting assertions from Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee that their Russia investigation didn't prove collusion.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee has taken it upon himself to publicly state that the committee has found no "direct evidence" that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign — but Democrats say that's not true.

"If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don't have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia," Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told CBS News in an interview last week.

But a Democratic aide close to the investigation told Shareblue that Burr's assessment is wrong, and pointed to numerous pieces of evidence the Senate Intelligence Committee now has that suggest collusion.

That evidence includes:

  • The Trump Tower meeting, in which top Trump campaign officials, along with Trump's son and son-in-law, met with Russians "for the express purpose of obtaining 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton," the Democratic aide said.
  • The 100+ contacts that members of the Trump campaign and transition team had with Russia-linked officials.
  • George Papadopoulos' meeting with a professor in London in which he drunkenly said he knew that Russians had a trove of emails relating to Clinton that had yet to be released. Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about this meeting, and served jail time for his crime of lying to federal agents.
  • The fact that indicted Trump confidant Roger Stone was in regular contact with WikiLeaks at the same time that he was communicating with Trump campaign staff.
  • And Trump's lies about his attempts to forge a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 campaign, a campaign that Russia interfered with to boost Trump's chances of being elected.

"Looking at this pattern of contacts and lies, there clearly is plenty of circumstantial evidence that would suggest collusion," the aide told Shareblue.

Of course, despite this pile of potentially damning evidence, Trump is latching onto Burr's comments and claiming they somehow exonerate him in the Russia investigation.

Trump has tweeted a handful of times praising Burr's comments. And he also touted them at his lie-filled rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday night.

"Sen. Richard Burr from the great state of North Carolina, he's chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and they've been investigating this Russia hoax for two years, they've interviewed over 200 people, they've studied hundreds of thousands of documents and pages, and Richard just announced that they found no collusion between Donald Trump and Russia," Trump said as his supporters cheered.

While Burr suggested the Senate's investigation is winding down, Trump shouldn't be celebrating yet.

First off, Burr never said that the Senate report would fully exonerate Trump on the collusion front.

And even if the Senate report from the GOP-led committee does give Trump a pass, the House Intelligence Committee — now led by Democrats — announced last week that it is reopening its Russia investigation, and is looking into a number of areas including collusion and whether anyone in Trump's orbit attempted to obstruct any investigations.

What's more, special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is still ongoing and has continued to hand down indictments, including Stone's in January. And there are signs that Mueller is still probing aspects of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia that pose a serious threat to Trump.

Trump may be clinging to Burr's irresponsible comments for now — but he's not off the hook yet.

Published with permission of The American Independent.