Beginning in the months before Donald Trump took office, and extending well into his presidency, the media and political world took a set of vague but serious accusations of wrongdoing involving the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia and created a 24/7 frenzy of talk about secret evidence, potential criminal charges and allegedly grave damage to national security. Fed by leaks originating in federal law enforcement, the intelligence community and interested lawyers, ostensibly responsible observers engaged in wild speculation—COLLUSION!!!—that was terribly damaging to then-President Trump. And here was the punch line: Nobody knew what the evidence was. It was secret, classified, grand jury, ongoing investigation, whatever. All the talk was based on little bits of information, and no one, at the time, had the big picture. The secrecy cloaking the details of the case allowed anti-Trump speculation to flourish.

By the time a multiyear criminal investigation, with all the powers of law enforcement, was unable to establish that conspiracy or coordination—collusion—had even occurred at all, the damage had been done. Trump-Russia had irreparably harmed the Trump presidency, and the lost years could not be recovered.