UK should learn from US probe into Trump-Russia affair – leader comment

The Mueller probe into alleged collusion between Trump campaign and Russia has lessons for UK.

Roger Stone, a former Trump campaign adviser, leaves a federal courthouse in Florida after he was charged with lying to Congress (Picture: Lynne Sladky/AP)
Roger Stone, a former Trump campaign adviser, leaves a federal courthouse in Florida after he was charged with lying to Congress (Picture: Lynne Sladky/AP)

In 1972, five men were arrested after breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the US. More than two years later, President Richard Nixon was forced to resign after it emerged his aides had organised the burglary to gain intelligence about the Democrats’ election campaign and that he was aware of the subsequent attempted cover-up. The name of the building, Watergate, has since become a byword for scandal.

In July last year, 12 Russian military intelligence officers were indicted by US officials on charges they hacked Democrats’ computers ahead of the 2016 US presidential election and then leaked the stolen intelligence as part of efforts to help Donald Trump win.

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The big question is whether Trump or any of his aides colluded with the Kremlin – and this is currently the subject of an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, a respected former FBI director. So far, Mueller has charged more than five people connected with Trump’s campaign and presidency with criminal offences. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn is currently awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI about his contacts with the then Russian ambassador to the US during the transition period between the election and Trump taking office.

And now Roger Stone, a political strategist and Trump ally, has been charged with lying to the US House Intelligence Committee about his contacts with Wikileaks, which published many of the stolen emails. In what may be no more than a curious coincidence, he is such a fan of Nixon that he has a tattoo of the disgraced president’s face on his back. He has also described himself as a “dirty trickster”.

After Stone was arrested by FBI agents in a dawn raid on his home, Trump tweeted: “Greatest Witch Hunt in the History of our Country! NO COLLUSION! Border Coyotes, Drug Dealers and Human Traffickers are treated better.?”

If Trump is wrong and there was collusion, even without his knowledge, then it feels like the US authorities are well on the way to finding out. But then, the US was born a democracy, with checks and balances built in from the start to prevent corruption in government.

The question we in the UK, in Scotland, should be asking ourselves is, can we be as sure that our systems are similarly robust? Would our prosecutors dare to be as bold if required?