A com­plete his­tory of Trump and Rus­sia

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUN­DAY OPIN­ION - DANA MIL­BANK Twit­ter: @Mil­bank

Hav­ing trou­ble fol­low­ing the fast-mov­ing de­vel­op­ments about the Trump team’s ties to Rus­sia? Here’s a primer to get you up to speed: Pres­i­dent Trump got to know Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin “very well,” but he doesn’t “know Putin.”

Putin sent Trump “a present” and they spoke, but Trump has “no re­la­tion­ship with him.”

Trump has “noth­ing to do with Rus­sia,” but his son has said “Rus­sians make up a pretty dis­pro­por­tion­ate cross-sec­tion of a lot of our as­sets” and “we see a lot of money pour­ing in from Rus­sia.”

Rus­sia def­i­nitely hacked the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, un­less it was a 400-pound man in his bed­room or a guy in a van down by the river.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies al­lege that Putin med­dled in the elec­tion to try to get Trump elected, but this was all a “ruse” and a “fake news fab­ri­cated deal to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats.”

There was “no com­mu­ni­ca­tion” be­tween Trump’s team and Rus­sia dur­ing the cam­paign and tran­si­tion, ex­cept for com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Rus­sia by Trump’s fu­ture na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, his fu­ture at­tor­ney gen­eral and his son-in-law and two oth­ers.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions “did not have com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the Rus­sians,” ex­cept for the two meet­ings with Rus­sian Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak he ne­glected to men­tion un­der oath.

Ses­sions then said he never dis­cussed the cam­paign with Rus­sians, which is not what was al­leged.

Ses­sions had “no idea what this al­le­ga­tion is about” re­gard­ing his Rus­sian con­tacts but had enough of an idea what it was about to de­clare “it is false.”

Ses­sions re­cused him­self from the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but this de­ci­sion is un­re­lated to the dis­cov­ery that he spoke twice with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador de­spite his claims that he had no such meet­ings.

Ses­sions can­not con­firm the in­ves­ti­ga­tion he re­cused him­self from ex­ists or will ex­ist in the fu­ture.

Ses­sions be­lieves that per­jury is one of the con­sti­tu­tional “high crimes and mis­de­meanors” and “goes to the heart of the ju­di­cial sys­tem,” ex­cept his false tes­ti­mony un­der oath to Congress was not a false state­ment but a case of speak­ing too quickly.

Ses­sions met with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador dur­ing the time Ses­sions was serv­ing as a sur­ro­gate for the Trump cam­paign, but not in his ca­pac­ity as a sur­ro­gate for the Trump cam­paign.

Ses­sions re­mem­bers noth­ing of his meet­ings with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador, ex­cept that he re­mem­bers clearly talk­ing about ter­ror­ism and re­li­gion and Ukraine and he’s sure they didn’t talk about the cam­paign.

It was a to­tal co­in­ci­dence that around the same time Ses­sions was meet­ing with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador, Trump gave an in­ter­view that ended up on Rus­sian state-owned TV say­ing he didn’t be­lieve re­ports of Rus­sian in­flu­ence in the U.S. elec­tion.

Trump, Trump’s press sec­re­tary and a broad swath of Repub­li­can mem­bers of Congress said there is no rea­son for Ses­sions to re­cuse him­self from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion from which Ses­sions re­cused him­self.

The in­cen­di­ary and sala­cious “dossier” by a for­mer Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial on Trump’s in­volve­ment with Rus­sia was com­pletely un­ver­i­fied, but U.S. author­i­ties were pre­pared to pay the man who wrote it.

Carter Page, who has ex­ten­sive ties to Moscow, had “no role” in the Trump cam­paign, ex­cept that Trump, meet­ing with The Post’s edi­to­rial board, listed Page as an ad­viser.

Re­ports of the Trump team’s ties to Rus­sia are “fake news,” yet those who leaked the in­for­ma­tion for those ar­ti­cles need to be found and pun­ished.

Trump ousted Michael Flynn, his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, who Trump says did noth­ing wrong.

Flynn, who spoke sev­eral times with Kislyak on the day Pres­i­dent Barack Obama an­nounced sanc­tions against Rus­sia, told Vice Pres­i­dent Pence and the FBI that the dis­cus­sion that in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials heard them hav­ing about sanc­tions was not a dis­cus­sion about sanc­tions.

The sanc­tions that Flynn re­port­edly dis­cussed with Kislyak, in the con­ver­sa­tion he can’t en­tirely re­mem­ber, were not re­ally sanc­tions.

For­mer Trump cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort had “ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do and never has with Rus­sia,” ex­cept for his ex­ten­sive work for Rus­sian oli­garchs and pro-Rus­sia forces in Ukraine.

Manafort de­clared in the fall that “there’s no in­ves­ti­ga­tion go­ing on by the FBI that I’m aware of ” into his con­tacts with Rus­sia, months af­ter that in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan.

Ses­sions pre­vi­ously as­serted that “no one is above the law” and that fail­ure to pun­ish peo­ple for be­ing un­truth­ful un­der oath “will weaken the le­gal sys­tem,” and he pro­claimed that “I’m very care­ful about how I con­duct my­self in these mat­ters.” Ex­cept when he isn’t.

So, now you know every­thing there is to know about Trump and Rus­sia. This has been a pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ment.

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