Wang: Don’t jump to conclusions with Trump and Russia

Larry Wang, Staff Writer

Few things are as tragic as one walking free for a crime they actually committed, except for someone being wrongly convicted and imprisoned for a crime they did not commit.  This is important to keep in mind when it comes to the ongoing investigation of potential ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.  As of now, no unethical or illegal relationships between Trump and Russia can be proven, though the media certainly likes to paint a picture of a growing mountain of evidence suggesting this might be the case.

This sensationalism from the media makes the case against Trump seem stronger than it really is.  When FBI director James Comey announced on March 20 that the FBI was currently conducting a counterintelligence investigation of both Russia’s alleged interference of the 2016 election as well as the nature of ties between the Trump team and the Russian government, Democrats saw it as a major blow to the Trump presidency. If the media continues to push a narrative of a crumbling presidency, it runs the risk of having the public believe such a thing to be true before anything can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, the greatest consequence would manifest when a conclusion by the intelligence agencies is ultimately reached.  If illegal ties are found connecting Trump and the Russian government, those who believed he was guilty from the beginning would feel vindicated.  But if no evidence is found, it would cause waves of skepticism from those who bought into the narrative.  It wouldn’t be hard to imagine people claiming the investigation was compromised, that somehow Trump bought his way to freedom, or that Republicans involved in such intelligence agencies, like House Intelligence Committee Chairman David Nunes, obstructed justice from taking its due course.

As things stand, no one can say how likely it is that Trump’s campaign was involved with Russia’s alleged attempts to influence the election.  It should be no more surprising if Trump’s campaign is cleared of all suspicion than if they are found to be in violation of the law.  Yet as things are now, I cannot help but see parallels between this investigation and the 2016 election.  If mainstream media continues to portray the Russian probe as something to end Trump’s presidency, in the same way they misled the public into thinking Trump’s chances of winning the Presidency were negligible, I can only see this ending with an unnecessary amount of civil unrest and dissatisfaction.

The presumption of innocence is a hallmark of the American justice system, and I would like to hope that her people take it upon themselves to live by the principle that one is innocent until proven guilty.  It’s easy to get swept up by the loaded rhetoric of the media and assume the world is crumbling around Trump and his presidency, whether that be a signal to celebrate or to mourn.  But when it comes to the law, partisan politics need to be set aside.  When one enters the situation assuming, or worse, wanting someone to be charged for a crime for ideological reasons, the logical end to such a slanted mindset would be the return of McCarthyism.  

That being said, some members on the right have been too quick in disregarding the development of this investigation.  It is no surprise why, as the Trump team has been treated unfairly in the media before. Those in support of Trump’s anti-establishment stance also liken the currently unverifiable claims as reminiscent of intelligence agencies’ and the media’s role in leading the U.S. into the Iraq War on false pretenses.  

While a healthy amount of skepticism is important in the upkeep of a democracy, it would be remiss to simply dismiss any and all accusations based on previous instances like these alone.  It is entirely possible the Trump team had a hand in alleged Russian interference of the 2016 election, and until the investigation concludes, it would be equally as damaging to completely ignore any new developments that may occur as it would be to amplify the situation unnecessarily.

I do not know if there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the election, and neither does the FBI, the multitude of intelligence committees or the media. Instead of obsessing over whether this path leads to an innocent or a guilty verdict, members of both sides of the political spectrum should be hoping for a fair, thorough, and complete investigation. Siding with your “team” of red or blue should come second to ensuring every man and woman receives equal treatment under the law.  It will cease to matter which side you are on once Lady Justice allows herself to be swayed by sensationalism, whatever its source, as a game played on an unbalanced playing field is no game at all.