“Follow the money” has proven to be such a definitive guidepost for getting to the bottom of any political scandal, it’s become the best remembered quote of the Watergate era — despite merely having been a fictional quote created for the resulting movie. Proving election collusion between Donald Trump and Russian has always come down to following the money. Thanks to a belated and embarrassing admission by Facebook, that process just became a whole lot easier.
After having spent months denying it, Facebook finally admitted today that fake accounts in Russia bought political ads on its website during the 2016 election. The company posted a statement today acknowledging that the ads were in fact purchased and run during the election cycle (link). This changes everything. Demonstrating Trump-Russia election collusion no longer hinges on proving that Donald Trump Jr had collusive intentions when he sat down with Russian government. It no longer hinges on proving that Donald Trump had collusive intent when he approached the Kremlin about a real estate deal during the election. Now, instead, there’s actual money to follow.
Someone bought these ads. Someone paid for them, with credit cards, or debit cards, or bitcoin, or some other form of currency. That money likely changed hands a few times, but it’s still traceable. MSNBC just reported that Facebook is now fully cooperating with the Special Counsel on this, making it easier to trace these transactions. If the Trump campaign and Russia were conspiring to run these ads, following the money will prove it. If Trump’s team knew this money was being spent, that’s game over. There’s zero deniability about intent when money is involved. Moreover, this is only the beginning of the story.
It’s absurd to think that Russia would decide to take the risk of trying to rig the election for Donald Trump, but would then decide to only back up that effort with a bare bones amount of money. There has to have been more advertising purchased elsewhere, whether it be on Facebook or on some other major website or platform. There’s more coming on this front. There will be more ad buys to investigate, more payments to trace, more avenues for proving collusion. For now, this one ad buy alone just blew the Trump-Russia scandal wide open.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report