I don't want to ruin the party, and I'm not exactly pre-disposed to rush to Donald Trump's defense, but these "allegations" against him published by CNN and more irresponsibly by Buzzfeed are at this point garbage. Absent supporting evidence -- and we have none -- they should be given no credibility.
Put another way, some of it may be true; none of it may be true. And until you can distinguish reliably between those things, none of it is true.
I've already written that Trump's behavior and attitude toward Russia cannot be explained by what we know on the public record, and that something must be missing. And yes, allegations contained in the material made public Thursday night, especially the 35-page memo reportedly compiled by a former British intelligence operative, would be the perfect missing piece that makes the puzzle complete.
But that's part of the reason that it should be treated with such caution. The material, reportedly gathered on behalf of Republican and later Democratic political opponents of Trump, is too convenient, too neat. It reads like an investigative report written to tell the client what (s)he wanted most to hear, so that the money would keep flowing:
- Would you like to believe that Trump was caught by the Kremlin in acts of sexual perversion while visiting Moscow, which helps to explain his passivity toward Vladimir Putin? Check.
- Would you like to believe that the Kremlin knows all about Trump's criminal business behavior, and has threatened Trump with exposure unless he plays ball? Check.
- Would you like to believe that the Trump campaign and the Kremlin directly negotiated release of hacked material harmful to Hillary Clinton in return for foreign-policy concessions by Trump, which would be blatant treason? Check once again.
American intelligence officials are reportedly investigating the allegations aggressively, as they must. For defensive purposes alone, we need to know what the Russians think they know about our new president. But so far, there is no indication that they've been able to confirm any of its contents. One important allegation, that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen had traveled to Prague to meet with Russian agents, appears at this point to be false, which is a big warning sign.
It's also worth noting that Trump himself has played this game with total abandon, for example with the birther allegations and with claims that the father of Ted Cruz had helped to assassinate JFK. However, none of that changes the fact that it is deeply unfair to treat these new claims as anything more than groundless gossip or fake news. You either hold yourself to a higher standard than Trump, or you don't.
Based on what we know now, it's a major mistake for Trump's opponents to try to give these allegations more credibility than they deserve. They harm their own credibility by doing so, and they distract attention from very real and well-documented concerns about Trump and the presidency that he is about to begin.