Russia is Russia is Russia, Right? Wrong

The masters of deflection, diversion and distraction—President Trump and his mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders—are doing an amazing job of muddying the water when it comes to Russian infiltration into our democracy. There is a huge difference between a Republican-initiated opposition research effort targeting then-candidate Trump and efforts by the Russian government—perhaps aided and/or coordinated by the Trump campaign—to influence our election.

The latest shiny bauble Trump and his spokeswoman are pointing to is this so-called Trump/Russian dossier. It was opposition research on Trump initiated by the Washington Free Beacon. The super conservative media outlet hired the firm Fusion GPS to produce the report. Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele did the work. It has been reported that an unnamed Trump rival in the Republican primary process was behind the effort.

Eventually, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee picked up the funding of the project. Both Hillary Clinton and then-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz claimed they didn’t know about it—those claim is wholly unbelievable. It’s another reason to think twice before believing anything Mrs. Clinton or Schultz say.

The dossier itself contained some salacious material about Trump and Russia including a claim that Trump’s activity in Moscow made him susceptible to blackmail. It also claimed there was a steady stream of information passed back and forth between the Trump campaign and Russian actors.

It is still unclear what information in the dossier, if any, is true. While is hasn’t been confirmed, it also hasn’t been debunked either.

All of this has somehow morphed into Clinton campaign colluding with Russia. While opposition research is ugly, unsavory and common, it also is not, in this case, the same as what is being investigated, re: The Trump campaign and Russia.

(In another category from the same news briefing, Sanders answered, yes, the White House still says all 16 women who accuse Donald Trump of sexual abuse or harassment are lying. All 16.)

Robert Mueller is investigating Russia influence or meddling into an American election on behalf of Donald Trump and whether the Trump campaign coordinated or colluded with those efforts. As we heard Friday, a grand jury has handed up an indictment as a result of the Mueller investigation and we hear that someone could be in custody as early as Monday.

Lest the “yeah, what-abouts…” hit me with comments, it’s the “Uranium One” deal that deserves investigation. Yet this controversy is also filled with popular misunderstanding. The disturbing parts of the story is that while the transaction that resulted in Russia controlling a good chunk of one of our natural resources, the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton himself were being flooded with cash from the Russian company involved. That’s more than troubling.

Then again, if there was some sort of conspiracy to financially benefit from the Uranium One deal, it was incredibly widespread. Nine US government agencies approved the deal, Hillary Clinton’s State Department was one.