The only issue with their narrative is that Trump never went to Moscow as part of the proceedings, and was never able to secure the permits needed to build his hotel.
Brian Becker, host of Sputnik Radio's Loud & Clear, was joined by former CIA whistleblower and senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kiriakou.
Becker began by touching on the context of the Washington Post story and how the political atmosphere in Washington may have engendered the piece. "We live in a particular political climate here in Washington and the country, where having any contact, whether it be diplomatic, business ties, political contact with people in Moscow, whether they're in government or not, makes one suspect. To me, it feels like we're in the middle of a witch hunt. It's not the same as the anti-communist Red Scare witch hunt because Russia is no longer communist, but it has that same sort of guilt-by-association."
Becker pointed out some of the holes in the collusion narrative, observing that Trump trying to do business in Russia might present an ethical conflict of interest but wouldn't prove anything more than that. "According to this article," he noted, "the Russians wouldn't even give him permits. I mean, if he was a spy for Putin wouldn't they at least let him build his hotel?"
"And in the article, it also said that there was a quid pro quo: if Trump pursued this hotel, [then Russian President Vladimir] Putin would say nice things about him," added Kiriakou. "Well, Trump apparently did pursue the hotel, at least for a while [but] he couldn't even get the permits — and Putin didn't say anything nice about him."
The Post article points to a comment from Putin in late 2015 where he called Trump a "colorful and talented" person, but the article admits that there's no evidence that the comment was prompted by collusion. Instead, Putin said it in the context of Trump's election trail comments about repairing the US relationship with Moscow.
"I'm really not sure what the scandal is," said Kiriakou. "I understand that The Washington Post has dedicated itself to attacking this president, I get it, but at least give us something that's newsworthy. Essentially what this article was is an article about a businessman who's seeking business in Russia. Big deal."
Becker calls the headline for the Post story "breathless … 'Trump's business sought a deal on on a Trump Tower in Moscow while he ran for president.' That sounds like a material basis for this connection to Russia, perhaps the alleged connection that has not yet been proved."
But a "breathless" headline precludes a non-substantive article once again, according to Becker. "Once you get to the fifth paragraph of the story, you find this piece of crucial information. I want to read it: 'Trump never went to Moscow, as Sater proposed. And although investors and Trump's company signed a letter of intent, they lacked the land and permits to proceed and the project was abandoned at the end of January 2016, just before the presidential primaries began, several people familiar with the proposal said.'"
"If the Russians were colluding with Trump, if they were really trying to help Trump, or if Trump was sort of the agent… of Vladimir Putin, why would he [be denied] the land permits and abandon the project?' Becker asked.
Kiriakou then observed that veracity, or lack thereof, of the collusion allegations between Trump and Russian actors simply isn't a valuable tactic for domestic opponents of the president to take. "There are so many different things that we can complain about related to this president. We can talk about Charlottesville, we can talk about their response to [Hurricane Harvey] in Texas, we can talk about the environment, or education, or Syria, or the new Afghanistan policy … This just seems to be a nonstarter. I think it gets us off-topic and off-issue and it's pointing fingers at the president where fingers don't necessarily need to be pointed."