The New York Times and CNN are both reporting, independently, that the Trump campaign and others close to Trump had “constant” contact with Russian intelligence and government officials throughout the campaign. The reports both cited multiple US intelligence officials, who said the calls were intercepted as part of routine monitoring of calls with foreign representatives. This information comes one day after the Washington Post reported that Michael Flynn lied about a phone call he had with the Russian ambassador to the US on the day President Obama hit Russia with sanctions related to its interference in the US election.
Flynn resigned yesterday. Trump will follow, and more quickly than I think we’d let ourselves imagine. That’s a serious allegation, but the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming that Trump colluded with Russia in the campaign. The hard evidence, as we’ve been seeing the past few weeks, is slowly but surely corroborating it. Donald Trump, I believe, has committed treason against the country he’s now running.
That’s an insane thing to say, and I want to be clear that as of today there’s little evidence yet of actual wrongdoing. Flynn is the exception, but I imagine many more will follow. But what we do have evidence of now is several lies covering up the connections between Trump and Russia that have now been exposed. Those lies, and lies about the lies, are becoming increasingly difficult for the administration to explain. I’d like to use them as the framework as I try to wrangle this elusive story.
Let’s work backwards, starting with what’s familiar. As you read, ask yourself: If there’s really nothing here, why all the lies?
At the White House press briefing yesterday, Sean Spicer was asked if, in the light of General Michael Flynn’s resignation, Spicer could still say nobody in the Trump campaign, including Flynn, “had any contact with the Russians before the election.” Spicey replied: “I don’t have any—there’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.” (That’s not a typo in there. That’s just Old Spicey.)
A few hours later, though, the New York Times and CNN published the stories that directly contradicted Spicer: The Trump campaign had “constant” contact with Russian officials. This included Flynn himself, as well as a few other people we’ll get to later.
For weeks Flynn had been accused of discussing sanctions with Russian Ambassador to the US before Trump’s inauguration. Nine sources confirmed that Flynn had been straight lying about that to everybody for over a month—including to Vice President Mike Pence, who stuck up for him.
Importantly, though, Flynn didn’t resign when the lie came out. That was last week. He also didn’t resign because the conversation could have been illegal, possibly treasonous. No: Flynn resigned when the Washington Post broke the story that the Trump administration had known about it all for weeks. A few hours after the story, Flynn was out. Out like Flynn.
In other words, Flynn only resigned when the story got too close to Trump. The administration and Flynn’s own resignation letter said Flynn was resigning because of the fact he lied to Pence. This is clearly misleading.
Weirder, Trump lied when he was asked about the Flynn story just last week. Trump said no, he hadn’t heard the reports about Flynn but would “look into it.” Spicer said this same thing yesterday. Obviously we all know now this isn’t true.
So why did Trump lie? And if Trump knew, why didn’t he take action earlier?
Let’s back up again.
In December, Obama accused Russia of interfering in the US election. He hit them with sanctions on the very day Flynn spoke with the ambassador. Then in early January the US intelligence community published a declassified report saying Russia did it on behalf of Trump. Trump spent that week slamming the intelligence community, likening them to Nazis, and bizarrely siding with Putin.
We’ve known this story. But we just learned today that the FBI and CIA also informed both Trump and Obama the intelligence community had evidence that the Trump campaign was in extensive contact with Russian officials before the election.
Yes: Trump knew more than a month ago that the intelligence community had the evidence his campaign had contacts with Russia. Why hide this? Especially if the contacts were innocent.
What’s also worrisome is the administration has had all that time in the dark to work on it. Yet they’re so incompetent they’re still lying, mixing up their stories, and rushing to cover it up.
The CIA also gave Trump and Obama a classified two-page summary of a dossier (the “Golden Memo”) that alleged Trump colluded with Putin in the election and that Russia had blackmail on Trump, including the infamous “pee pee tape.” CNN broke the story, and Buzzfeed released the dossier in full. (PLEASE READ IT. Thank you.)
The dossier was at the time unsubstantiated, and Buzzfeed warned as much. However, just last week—the same day we learned Flynn lied—CNN reported that parts of the dossier have now been corroborated. In fact, officials have made contact with some of the sources for the information in the dossier. That report is still being investigated, along with everything else.
Flynn had spoken with Kislyak the day Obama sanctioned Russia for interfering in the US election on behalf of Trump. Initially the White House, trying to throw off the scent, said the call happened the day before. This lie was debunked last month.
Did they really talk sanctions? Flynn told the Daily Caller just hours before he resigned that the call “wasn’t about sanctions. It was about the 35 guys who were thrown out. It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as, ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.”
I’d like to point out here that the “35 guys” Flynn’s talking about were the Russians that Obama tossed from the US as part of the sanctions on Russia.
After the election Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks said straight up there were no contacts between Russia and anyone on the campaign, period. But two days after the election Russia’s deputy foreign minister said “there were contacts” during the campaign. Trump, as we all know, has said repeatedly he’s had no contact with Russia. Spicer even said it yesterday, specifically denying that Flynn had been in contact.
But Flynn had been in touch with Russian officials for months. So had other senior campaign members: Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. Three of these guys (Page; Manafort; Flynn) have resigned. The CIA had been independently investigating Manafort’s financial ties to Russia for months, and when that story broke in August, Manafort stepped down. The Russian contacts include intelligence agents and other members of the government.
According to CNN, the anonymous officials made it clear that communication between campaign staff and foreign representatives is not unusual in and of itself. But “these communications stood out to investigators due to the frequency and the level of the Trump advisers involved.” The report went on to say that “post-election intelligence briefings on Russian meddling in the US elections included details of those communications, which included people involved in Trump’s businesses.”
Here I’d like to point out that people not in the campaign but close to Trump were also in contact with Russia before the election. I’ll just note as an unrelated aside that DJTJ, who was not in the campaign but is indeed close to Trump, said in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
To be clear, these calls weren’t wire taps. They were intercepted as part of the routine monitoring the US does on foreign officials. The sources didn’t provide details or transcripts or say what was discussed, though, citing an ongoing classified investigation. The intercepts are part of a huge cache of information the intelligence community has been sorting through related to the Trump-Russia connection, including travel and bank records.
Ah, but those bank records. The FBI has indeed had a wire up on two Russian banks suspected of being sources of funding for the Trump campaign. Each transfer, if proved, would be a felony. That wire was first requested way back in June but only granted in October.
The timing of this extensive run of intercepted calls coincides directly with the FBI’s initial discovery of Russian hacking in the election, and into Comey’s release of the Clinton accusation, pt. 2. The Obama administration said that Russia was definitely behind the hacks. And Trump said we weren’t sure who hacked the emails, suggesting a 400-lb man in his bed could have done it. At this time Trump also began full-on proselytizing for Putin.
And here it’s worth mentioning yet again that Trump, in a press conference July 27, called for Russia (not just hackers; the government) to hack Clinton.
Now, if you’ll indulge more baseless claims, I do want to turn briefly to the dossier.
The FBI has been working for months to substantiate this thing. We still haven’t seen a report. Does this mean they’ve found nothing? No; it means the opposite. Parts of the dossier have indeed been substantiated, likely by some of these intercepted calls. In fact, an American intelligence official said they’d been in contact with some of the sources in the document. CNN reported it was “gaining credibility” in law enforcement.
The more likely explanation for why there haven’t been any leaks is that this investigation is, shall I say, yuge. This is the President of the United States of America committing high treason.
No, I’m not talking about the pee pee tapes. The most explosive allegations in the dossier are that Trump colluded with Russia to sabotage the election. Sound crazy? Here’s one alleged part of what is apparently a very broad conspiracy: Trump was to deflect any and all questions about Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine and pivot to criticizing NATO.
Trump, you’ll remember, did this all the time. Such as here and here, and here.
And it seems so yuge that Moscow has been carrying out its own post-election purge. Three days before Flynn spoke with the Russian ambassador, an ex-KGB chief and source cited in the unsubstantiated dossier was found dead in the back seat of a black Lexus in Moscow. More recently several FSB agents were arrested and disappeared last week in connection to the election hacks. Moscow says they were charged with treason.
And notably, the Russians are pulling the ambassador that Flynn spoke with.
Many questions remain. Namely, what did Trump know and when did he know it? Are the allegations of collusion true? How far up do they go? Are they verifiable?
The biggest question, though, is whether Trump had contact himself and whether in the end this will be prosecutable. This is only a matter of time. The circumstantial evidence right now is simply overwhelming, but the hard evidence is catching up. Or should I say, the hard evidence we know about. As we’ve learned just this week, the Trump contacts have been known for at least a month, but the agencies sat on it.
Admittedly, there’s a glaring absence of evidence, but this investigation is a slow roll and perhaps the most important legal case of our time: This is an investigation into whether the President of the United States of America committed high treason. Plenty of room for doubt, and no room for error.
Oh, and one more thing: During the campaign, Trump went so far as to not acknowledge Putin’s invasion of Crimea as an attack on Ukraine. But just in the last two days he’s said multiple times that Russia has to give Crimea back, including on Twitter this morning. Also, yesterday Russia fired a ballistic missile in violation of its UN arms treaty, and a Russian spy ship appeared 70 miles off the East Coast, not far from DC. Last week Russian warplanes buzzed the US Black Sea fleet.
Why this sudden pivot against Russia, forsaking the very promise you gave? Anyone’s guess, really. PR. Military bluster to intimidate Putin into sitting on the blackmail. We are about to be blitzed with information. It will drive you crazy. But if you feel overwhelmed and dizzied by the mirrors, step back from it. You only have to wait, because it’s happening: Trump is going down.
On the bright side for DJ Trump, he’s only got to make it five more days to beat out William Henry Harrison.