As Donald Trump and his supporters continue to claim that there “was no collusion” between his campaign and Russia, the facts, at least as we know them today, seem to indicate otherwise.
Aside from the long list of people around Trump who’ve been caught secretly communicating with Russians, we already know of several instances where people connected to the “president” were communicating with Russians, or at least people with ties to the Kremlin, during last year’s election — including Trump’s eldest son.
Which brings up the question I’d love Trump and his supporters to answer: In your minds, what constitutes collusion?
So far, this is what we know.
A foreign policy advisor to Trump’s campaign, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russians claiming to have “dirt” and “emails” on Hillary Clinton — an offer that was after John Podesta’s emails had been hacked. For months he tried to arrange meetings between Trump, or at least senior-level campaign staffers, and Russian officials. Following one email where he said he was working on setting up a meeting between Trump and Russian leadership, including Putin, a high-level campaign staffer replied they would “work it through the campaign” and told him “great work.” As part of his plea deal he outlined an extensive list of emails and contacts with senior-level Trump campaign staffers in regards to trying to set up some sort of meeting between the campaign and Russian officials. These emails make it abundantly clear that there was interest from both the Russians and Trump’s campaign to at least entertain the idea of trying to make a meeting happen.
Again, most of this occurred after Papadopoulos was told Russia had “dirt” and “emails” on Clinton. Information that was almost certainly known throughout the campaign considering Papadopoulos seemed eager to please higher ups in Trump’s campaign.
Then during this time, Donald Trump Jr. also has his own correspondence with Russians who wanted to set up a meeting promising him “dirt on Clinton” as part of Russia’s effort to help his father’s campaign. One email contained the following line:
This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.
Within minutes, Trump Jr. replied, “If it’s what you say I love it, especially later in the summer.”
When the meeting took place, Trump Jr., Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law), and Trump’s campaign manager, the recently indicted Paul Manafort, were in attendance.
That brings us to two people tied to Trump, one of whom is his son, who agreed to meetings with Russians promising them dirt on Clinton after Russia had already gained access to Podesta’s emails. Though if you included the attendance of Kushner and Manafort in the infamous June 9th meeting, that would be five named members tied to Trump’s campaign who were very aware that Russia was seeking some sort of coordination between them and the Kremlin which was promising them dirt on Clinton.
Oh, and we can’t forget revelations we learned on Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose memory about Russia seems to have been at least partially restored following news that Papadopoulos has been cooperating with the FBI, says he now remembers rejecting a request for a trip to Russia by Trump’s former foreign policy adviser.
So I guess we’re now technically up to six people, including the current attorney general and the “president’s” son, who were aware during last year’s election that Russia was in contact with Trump’s campaign.
We can’t forget about longtime Trump friend and ally, Roger Stone. Not only did Stone send out a rather cryptic email about Podesta’s emails weeks before anyone knew Russia had them, as well as sending back and forth messages with a hacker U.S. intelligence believes was part of the cyber attack against the DNC and Clinton’s campaign, but he also admitted that he had back-channel connections to communicate with Wikileaks.
So that now makes at least seven people tied to Trump, most of whom were very close to him, who communicated with Russians concerning “dirt on Clinton” or her emails.
Then, of course, there was the infamous Access Hollywood video made public on October 7, 2016. That tape and date are significant as it relates to possible collusion with Russia because, within hours of that story breaking, that’s when Wikileaks began dumping John Podesta’s emails. At the same time, thousands of trolls were working overtime on social media trying to convince people that the Access Hollywood video was made public after the email dump to distract from those emails — when the exact opposite was true.
And I’m not even getting into all the sharing on social media by Trump associates, and his sons, of Russian-bought ads and propaganda the Kremlin was circulating on Facebook and Twitter. Without any direct proof that they were privy to what Russia was buying, that could be all just a coincidence. So we’ll leave it at that, even though it doesn’t look good that a campaign being accused of colluding with Russia also had people working for and/or associated with it sharing propaganda posted and paid for by the Russian government.
I think it’s also important to mention how many times Trump referenced the emails being released by Wikileaks throughout last year’s election. Clearly he had no issues citing material that had been hacked by Russians and was being dumped by a political arm of the Kremlin.
Looking at all of this, I’m brought back to my question: If this doesn’t outline collusion, then what do Trump and his supporters consider collusion to be?
What I’m seeing here is repeated efforts by Russia to provide Trump’s campaign with “dirt on Clinton,” seemingly related to the emails they stole, and a clear willingness by people working for the campaign — including his son, campaign manager, son-in-law, senior-level staffers, and a foreign policy advisor — to communicate and meet with these same Russians offering “dirt” on a political opponent.
And this is just what we know so far. I can guarantee that this isn’t the end of it — not even close.
So, once again, to Donald Trump and his supporters, if this doesn’t outline clear collusion then what do you all consider collusion to be?