CNN on Tuesday touted its latest scoop on the ongoing investigation into the Russia investigation, quoting anonymous sources who said Russian government officials alluded to “derogatory” information about then-candidate Donald Trump’s business dealings.
The CNN report acknowledges that U.S. intelligence sources cautioned that the intercepted conversations could have been exaggerated or even made up as part of a disinformation effort. But if true, it would seem to diminish the collusion narrative. If the Russians had dirt on Trump, that would suggest blackmail, not a side-by-side, friendly working relationship.
“I came on your show with derogatory business information on Donald Trump during the primary. Why is it a surprise?”
Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu identified another flaw — that negative information about Trump’s business practices were not exactly a secret that required super spies from Russia to uncover. His multiple business bankruptcies and many lawsuits accusing him of unethical practices were grist for the attacks by Trump’s Republican primary opponents and their surrogates.
One of those surrogates was Sununu, who backed Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“I came on your show with derogatory business information on Donald Trump during the primary,” he said on CNN. “Why is it a surprise? Why is it a news story that the Russians in Washington would convey the same material to the Russians in Moscow?”
Sununu’s comment came during a testy interview with anchor Alisyn Camerota. She suggested it was “one more thread” in the probe.
“Everybody was talking bout Trump’s business problems,” Sununu shot back. “Why is that news now?”
Sununu, who also served as chief of staff for President George H.W. Bush, threw Camerota’s questions back at her.
“I don’t see any evidence of collusion. Do you?” he asked.
Camerota acknowledged that she had not, prompting Sununu to say that should be the end of the story. He predicted that special counsel Robert Mueller also would find no such evidence.
“If Mueller comes out and says that my version is correct and yours isn’t, how much crow are you going to eat?”
Camerota was indignant: “Governor, I don’t have a version of events.”
Sununu also pushed back on reports that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, asked during the transition for a back-channel line of communication with Russian officials. Pundits have seized on the report as possible evidence of collusion, but no on one has explained why Team Trump would not already have had a back channel if the campaign had been colluding with Russia before the election.
“When I was named chief of staff, a lot of ambassadors that were slight acquaintances tried to become good friends in that 10 weeks [during the transition between the election and inauguration]. It is not unusual,” he said. “You guys have made ‘back channel’ a derogatory term. ‘Back channel’ is a positive asset.”
Camerota asked about Sununu’s “comfort level” with Kushner communicating with Russians outside of official channels. He said Camerota was “asking hypotheticals on hypotheticals” and demanded that she present conclusions that he could respond to.
“The only discomfort I have is with folks in the media trying to create a veniality without having the courage to specifically tell me what the veniality that I should be concerned about is.”
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