Republican apparatchik, lobbyist, and America’s Worst Columnist™ Ed Rogers has used his inexplicably extant perch in the Washington Post to publish a morbidly hilarious series of defenses of Donald Trump’s connections to Russia. In the face of a massive and continuously growing body of evidence, Rogers has painted for his readers a story of an innocent man framed by a desperate news media. (June 9: “Trump committed no crime. Democrats need to get over it. ”; July 11: “The media’s mass hysteria over ‘collusion’ is out of control”; July 12: “Sorry, Democrats. The holy grail of a Trump crime is still missing.”; July 27: “The quest to prove collusion is crumbling.”)
Today’s effort — headline: “The Trump-Russia story survives, even as evidence of collusion fades” — renews the Rogers tradition. The hallmark of an Ed Rogers column is not merely the bad use of argument, but a transparent lack of awareness of what an argument is or how to make one. Rogers’s columns are both short and heavily padded, especially with repetitions of his thesis statement. The actual marshaling of evidence is sparse and deeply confused. I have plucked out the passages that most closely resemble attempts at persuasion.
(1) News about Trump and Russia does not contain any evidence of the Trump campaign engaging in collusion:
In case you haven’t noticed, there has been no shortage of stories concerning President Trump’s Russia connections. They are still on the front page, and they have the air of some urgency. But they seem to contain nothing about the Trump campaign colluding with Russia. Ever.
How about the story that contains emails in which Russian operatives offer to help the Trump campaign, and Donald Trump Jr. replies, “I love it,” and then they have a meeting? That would seem to qualify as something about collusion.
(2) Paul Manafort’s history is irrelevant:
The media have too much invested in the Russia collusion conspiracy to just pack up and leave. So, they are eager to report on Paul Manafort’s work for Ukraine between 2012 and 2014 and the raid of his house earlier this year — as if either has something to do with Trump.
Robert Mueller’s inquiry concerns the Russian campaign to influence the outcome of the American presidential election. The fact that Manafort ran a Russian campaign to influence a presidential election in another country very recently before becoming Donald Trump’s campaign manager seems relevant. Rogers is basically saying the chopped-up bodies of those hitchhikers the police found in his client’s basement freezer are totally irrelevant to the current search for missing hitchhikers.
(3) Michael Cohen would never lie:
And now, they are flogging a story about a Trump Organization executive trying to get some relief on a stalled project in Russia. But, as reports show, the executive didn’t even get the courtesy of a reply. The fact that the Kremlin completely stiff-armed this friendly overture suggests Trump and Russia were anything but colluding co-conspirators.
Rogers is referring here to an email Cohen sent to the Russian government requesting help on a Trump project during the campaign. Rogers says “the report shows” Cohen received no reply. The report does not say this. It does not even say that Cohen claims to have received no reply. It says, “Cohen told congressional investigators in a statement Monday that he did not recall receiving a response from Peskov or having further contact with Russian government officials about the project.” Given the high number of instances of Trump officials failing to recall contacts with Russian officials that in fact occurred, a professed lack of recall has very little evidentiary value.
(4) Americans don’t care about the scandal:
Writing in the Washington Examiner last week, Byron York made the profound observation that at House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s (R-Wis.) nationally televised town hall in Wisconsin, “there was not one question, nor one word said, about the issue that has consumed the Washington media in recent months: the Trump-Russia affair.” Oh and by the way, it was CNN that broadcast the town hall. Ironic. If only the network’s reporters understood that — for good reason — practically no one in flyover country believes there is anything to the collusion story.
First of all, the public not caring about the Russia scandal would not prove Trump is innocent. The public was relatively indifferent about Watergate until very late into it. Second, the selected questions of constituents in one Republican district are not a scientific measure of national opinion. Third, while it is true the Russia scandal is not the public’s highest concern, polls have not remotely borne out Rogers’s claim that “practically no one in flyover country believes there is anything to the collusion story.” This poll finds 55 percent of the public believe the Trump Tower Russia meeting indicates collusion. This poll finds 25 percent think Trump acted illegally, another 37 percent think he acted unethically, and only 35 percent think he did nothing wrong.
Presumably not everything Robert Mueller is doing has made its way into the news media. But the reports that have surfaced indicate a wide array of actions: grand juries, predawn raids, subpoenas. If the Post feels the need to present a pro-Trump perspective on these events, maybe it should just quote Trump’s lawyer, or random people wearing MAGA hats.