Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election is simply a “witch hunt” or “hoax”, according to President Donald Trump.
And there was “no collusion”, he has repeated endlessly since taking up residence in the White House.
But is this true?
There is plenty of evidence pointing to cooperation between members of the Trump campaign and Russian operatives — there simply isn’t outright proof. Yet.
Each bit of information to hit the public sphere regarding Trump team members’ contacts with Russia makes little impact on its own, but taken together, the picture changes.
The Trump campaign had contact with Russians 82 times, according the Center for American Progress’s Moscow Project — which records every known contact as it is presented to the public — and the Trump campaign attempted to cover up or deny each and every one.
Boot notes the most prominent rendezvous between a Trump campaign official and Russian operatives:
The most infamous of these discussions was the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower between the Trump campaign high command and Kremlin emissaries promising dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Kremlin’s “support for Mr. Trump.” “If it’s what you say, I love it,” Donald Trump Jr. gushed. When this was revealed last summer, President Trump personally orchestrated an attempted coverup by claiming the meeting was about adoptions. This was shortly after Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey to stop the investigation of “this Russia thing,” as he put it in an interview with “NBC Nightly News” — showing just how much he fears this inquiry.
Perhaps Trump should be afraid: Mueller’s case against the Russians is picking up steam, and numerous Trump campaign officials are caught up in the mix.
On March 28, Mueller revealed in a court filing that Trump’s deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, was in touch in 2016 with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate with “ties to Russian intelligence.” Campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has a long history of representing Russian interests and was running the campaign for no pay, also reportedly met with Kilimnik in 2016. Manafort was also in contact with the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska(whom he owed at least $10 million) , offering him “private briefings” that would no doubt have been instantly conveyed to Putin.
Mueller’s recent indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officerswho ransacked Democratic Party servers notes that the Russians first tried to hack into Clinton’s email on July 27, 2016, hours after Trump asked them to do just that (“Russia, if you’re listening”). The indictment also notes that a “person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign” — widely identified as Trump confidant Roger J. Stone Jr. — was in communication with the Russian military hackers who used the online pseudonym Guccifer 2.0. (Stone denies any knowledge that Guccifer 2.0 was a front for Russian intelligence.)
Curiously, the Trump campaign also behaved as though it had access to what would have remained private Clinton campaign data had it not been stolen by Russian hackers.
[A]s Anne Applebaum noted , the indictment also reveals that the Russians stole not just emails but also the data analytics Democrats used to run their campaign. This happened in September 2016. A few weeks later, the Trump campaign shifted its “datadriven” strategy to focus on the states that would provide the margin of victory, raising the question of whether it benefited from stolen Democratic data.
And then there is the FBI’s 412-page application to wiretap Carter Page, Trump’s former foreign policy adviser:
The application, approved by four Republican judges, notes that “the FBI believes that the Russian Government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with Candidate #1’s [Trump’s] campaign.” It also says that Putin aide Igor Diveykin “had met secretly with Page and that their agenda for the meeting included Diveykin raising a dossier or ‘kompromat’ that the Kremlin possessed on Candidate #2 [Clinton] and the possibility of it being released to Candidate #1’s campaign.”
Joining such evidence from the 2016 campaign is the present-day behavior of the United States president, who has shown deference to Vladimir Putin, insisted on meeting with the Russian leader alone, and continuously disparaged his own intelligence community.
Trump certainly gives the impression that he knows how much he owes Russia and how important it is to repay that debt lest Putin release the evidence that might bring him down. And the Putin Republicans give the impression that they couldn’t care less if the president plotted to win power with help from a hostile foreign state.