Our view: Count­ing Trump’s shady Rus­sian deal­ings

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS OPINION -

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.

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