Our view: Counting Trump’s shady Russian dealings
Flames are still not visible. But the smoky allegations that Russians colluded with the Trump campaign is darker than ever.
That wasn’t the case at the start. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during a confirmation hearing in January, flatly denied knowing of any Trump campaign surrogates talking with Russians. President Trump echoed the same before reporters in February: “nobody that I know of . ... Russia is a ruse.”
What a difference 10 months make. Tuesday, for the fourth time this year, Sessions will trek to the Hill to clean up previously misleading statements about Russian developments.
The reality, so far, is that there have been nine Trump associates in contact with Russians during the campaign or transition:
❚ Then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, recently indicted for money laundering, participated in a June 2016, meeting at Trump Tower with a Moscow intermediary offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
❚ Recent disclosures about Sessions — who, as it turns out, twice met with then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during the campaign — reveal that he was briefed by two campaign aides who met with Russians.
❚ Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lied about discussing sanctions against Russia with Kislyak and was later fired over this.
❚ Donald Trump Jr. set up the meeting with the Russian attorney that was attended by Manafort and ...
❚ Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who also met with a Russian banker and, separately, Kislyak where he talked about opening back-channel communications between the Kremlin and the Trump transition team.
❚ Campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about speaking with a Russian contact who promised to leak thousands of Clinton emails to the Trump campaign.
❚ Campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page told Trump officials he would meet with Russian officials in July 2016; and Page also discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak during the Republican convention.
❚ Another campaign foreign policy adviser, J. D. Gordon, met with Kisylak during the convention.
❚ Trump organization lawyer Michael Cohen was in contact with the Kremlin during the campaign about building a Trump Tower in Moscow.
None of these links prove Trump or his campaign coordinated with an adversarial government to defeat Clinton. But they certainly underscore how the Trump presidency now hinges on a special counsel’s investigation.
And Trump’s recent effort to slowwalk implementation of new sanctions against Russia passed by a veto-proof congressional vote in July raises more questions. As does Trump’s curious conduct toward Putin.
He has never said a negative word about Putin, who U.S. intelligence agencies say ordered the most comprehensive attack on the American election system in history. Friday, en route to Hanoi, Trump lamented that Putin was “insulted, if you want to know the truth” about those findings.
What is it between these two men? The nation needs to know.
Manafort leaves a federal courthouse.