Caricature by DonkeyHotey flic.kr/p/Ct4G4K https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

For all but the most ardent Never Trump people, the whole story of Russia and collusion and kompromat has been some obvious bullsh** since Day One. When boiled down to its essence, you find this was simply oppo research, seeded by Russian intelligence via a credulous Christopher Steele, and marketed by third-party cut-outs to the FBI which treated it as gospel. But it is difficult to give up the ghost. Which brings us to the latest antics on the part of NBC.

Even though the final report from the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee will find no evidence of collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia, a new study by a Democratic-aligned advocacy group suggests the committee didn’t look very hard.

According to the Center for American Progress’s Moscow Project, the House committee charged with investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 election obtained either no or incomplete information about 81 percent of the known contacts between Trump officials and Russians, or groups and individuals with strong Russia ties like Wikileaks.

Those officials include former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has pled guilty to lying to the FBI, and former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has been indicted on an array of tax, financial, and bank fraud crimes and has worked on behalf on foreign entities aligned with Russia.

This is a case of journalistic malpractice on par with anything carried out by Fusion GPS.

Citing Center for American Progress is self-disqualifying. It is sort of like asking the Communist Party of the United States to comment on the presence of communists in the U. S. government.

Moreover, the count is simply wrong.

You can make your own judgment about the “McCarthyist guilt” part. But just on the numbers themselves: The Moscow Project listed 22 Trump-related figures it says should have been questioned. The committee interviewed 12 of them. The committee tried to interview four others but was frustrated by the requirements of the special counsel. That makes 16. And then there were six others, none key figures in the Trump-Russia affair, that the parties disagreed on.

Which means, to adopt the Moscow Project’s numerical approach, the committee either interviewed or tried to interview 73 percent of the people on the Moscow Project list, and the parties disagreed on whether to interview 27 percent of the people on the list.

That’s a long way from the Moscow Project’s claim. But viewed another way, the Project’s numbers look even worse.

The Project didn’t claim that House Intel ignored 81 percent of the people in the Trump-Russia case. It said the committee didn’t interview the Trump person involved in 81 percent of the contacts with Russians. Here is what the Project said specifically:

There were at least 70 known contacts between Trump’s team and Russia-linked operatives during the campaign, including 22 meetings. In 81 percent of these cases, the House Intel committee obtained either no or partial information from the relevant Trump representative.

So the key measurement, according to the Moscow Project, is contacts. But take a closer look and it appears the Moscow Project did everything it could to pump up the number of contacts between Trump figures and Russians.

For example, the Project report — amplified by NBC and others — noted that on April 10, 2016, Papadopoulos emailed a person known as the Female Russian National. On April 11, the Female Russian National emailed Papadopoulos back. Papadopoulos replied on the same day. And, still on April 11, the Female Russian National replied to Papadopoulos.

The Moscow Project counts that exchange as four contacts, which seems like an effort to inflate the numbers.

But even assume there were 70 legitimate contacts between Trump figures and Russians. As it turns out, 30 of the 70 contacts listed by the Project involved Trump people who were interviewed by the committee, while 39 others involved Trump people the committee tried to interview but could not, due to the Mueller investigation.

Put them all together, and that’s 69 of the 70 contacts — in other words, all but one of the contacts cited by the Moscow Project involved Trump people who were either interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee or people the committee made an effort to interview but could not because of the special counsel probe. (The last one — the only contact not in one of those two categories — was Scaramucci’s conversation with a Russian in Davos shortly before the Trump inauguration.)

This is simply a bald attempt by NBC to continue to fan the flames of the Russia hysteria that seems to be the force unifying Never Trump people of all political stripes.