Washington Examiner columnist Byron York asked a really great question Sunday evening: If the key players who were fired by the Trump administration and are being looked at for unethical — and in some cases, criminal — activity aren’t actually being charged with “collusion” in the Mueller investigation, who do those people insistent collusion occurred believe are guilty of it?

[I]n the Mueller investigation, it is precisely the people who would most be expected to be part of a collusion scheme who have not been charged with taking part in any such activity.

It’s a great question because that’s all anyone who really, REALLY wants to see the Trump administration proven to be the traitors they must be keeps talking about: collusion with Russia.

But as York points out, that term — collusion — is nearly devoid of meaning and isn’t what the shiftier characters who have been singled out by Mueller have actually been charged with.

…Mueller has charged three people who were in the Trump campaign inner circle — former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and former deputy campaign chairman Richard Gates, all with ties to Russia and all of whom might be expected to be part of a collusion scheme, had one existed. Mueller has also charged one peripheral hanger-on, George Papadopoulos, who might conceivably have been part of a collusion scenario.

But all have faced charges and none of those charges, at least so far, has involved allegations that Flynn, Manafort, Gates, or Papadapoulos played a role in a scheme of collusion, or coordination, or conspiracy, or whatever it is called. And that could tell the public something about the state of the collusion allegation inside the Mueller investigation.

To put it briefly: What kind of collusion scheme between Russia and the Trump campaign could have existed without Michael Flynn being part of it? What kind of collusion scheme could have existed without Manafort? And Gates? And yet none of them — nor Papadapoulos, either — has been charged with taking part in a collusion scheme.

York points out he’s not alone in wondering. He cites Sol Wisenberg, former prosecutor with the office of independent counsel Kenneth Starr; Preet Bharara, New York U.S. attorney fired by Trump; and attorney and National Review columnist Andrew McCarthy as also asking the question of just who among the Trump crew, if not these characters with known ties to Russia, might have colluded? Notably, the lawyers mentioned above make the case that if you’re trying to prove something in an investigation, you tend to attempt to make the bad actor look guilty for the thing you’re actually investigating.

That’s simply not happening with Mueller’s investigation and the almost hypnotically repeated suggestion of “collusion” with Russia.

Ultimately York offers some solace to those hoping for satisfaction that a dastardly relationship with the Trump campaign and Russian operatives exists. “…[T]here are still some possibilities. Mueller might lodge, or might have already lodged, additional charges against Flynn, Manafort, or Gates,” York notes. “And there is still Carter Page.”

Keep the faith, collusion hunters.