According to the consensus assessment of US intelligence agencies, Russian intelligence, under the orders of Vladimir Putin, mounted an extensive operation to influence the 2016 campaign to benefit Donald Trump. This was a widespread covert campaign that included hacking Democratic targets and publishing swiped emails via WikiLeaks. And it achieved its objectives.
That this story is constantly forgotten behind a barrage of daily nonsense is both maddening and astounding. At the very least, we know that …
• Trump’s campaign manager worked directly for Russia to subvert the government of the Ukraine, and was paid millions of dollars to generate “spontaneous demonstrations” in which US Marines were attacked in order to give Putin an excuse to seize Crimea.
• The Russian assistant ambassador is on record saying that, despite numerous denials, Russia was in contact with the Trump campaign on a regular basis.
• The only item where the Trump campaign forced a change in the Republican platform—the only item—was in modifying a plank to weaken the party’s stance on opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And Trump representatives said that concern came from Trump personally.
And yes, out there is a supposed folio of kompromat containing items that Russia feels it can use to put pressure on Trump and his team. But even if every disgusting item in that secret file is just a fantasy, how is it possible that this story has completely disappeared?
We honestly don’t know if there’s even any investigation into the Trump-Russia connection.
At Spicer’s first briefing, Anita Kumar of McClatchy did ask, “Has the president spoken to any of the intelligence agencies about the investigation into the Russian connections? And will he allow that to go on?” Spicer replied, “I don’t believe he has spoken to anyone specifically about that and I don’t know that. He has not made any indication that he would stop an investigation of any sort.” This was an important question that warranted a response that was less equivocal—and reporters could have pointed that out.
At the next day’s briefing, on January 24, Margaret Talev of Bloomberg asked Spicer about reports that Comey was remaining in his post and whether Comey and Trump had discussed “the Russia investigation and the parameters of that.” Spicer responded, “I don’t have anything on that.”
That’s what we have. Is Trump stopping the investigation? “I don’t know that.” Has he talked to Comey about it? “I don’t have anything on that.” That’s it.
In the two weeks before the election, it looked as if the Russian story was about to blow up. Reports on October 31 promised that there was an ongoing investigation, that a server inside Trump’s organization was in contact with a Russian bank, and that there was considerable information of Trump’s dealings with Russia which had not been made public. The next day, that story was utterly quashed in a New York Times story citing unnamed “law enforcement officials.”
Those same “officials” completely mischaracterized the Russian email hacking and the intent as it had been determined by the intelligence community.
And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.
Despite this, the New York Times has never revisited the story, or resurrected any discussion of the issues it killed—just three days after it had devoted the entire front page to the story of Comey’s letter on Clinton’s emails.
We’ve also learned that, no speculation required, Donald Trump’s new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed a $500 billion deal with Vladimir Putin that would vastly increase Putin’s ability to exert Russia’s military and economic influence in Europe and the Middle East. Kremlin commentators called Tillerson “a Christmas gift from the American people to the Russian people.” Notice that this gift exchange was strictly a one-way affair.
We know that Russians didn’t just “make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets” as Donald Trump Jr. stated proudly, but that Russian oligarchs bailed out a failing Trump and secured both real estate and connections for their investment. Several Trump projects were Russian projects with a Trump brand.
The money to build these projects flowed almost entirely from Russian sources. In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.
And that doesn’t even touch on Trump’s involvement with the emails stolen from the DNC and private individuals to assist Trump. In fact, that’s not even close to everything.
- Donald Trump has frequently expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin, viewing him as a “strong” leader who Trump “admires.” Trump has also given wildly differing statements on his personal relationship with Putin.
- Trump has, on multiple occasions, suggested a weakening of the NATO alliance.
- Despite this, Trump previously expressed support for Ukraine.
- After Trump hired Paul Manafort, a man who had worked for—and may still be working for—pro-Russian forces seeking to destroy the democratic government of Ukraine, Trump’s position on Ukraine changed to one that is far more friendly to Russia.
- Trump campaign staff, including former Rumsfeld assistant J. D. Gordon, halted the implementation of pro-Ukraine language in the GOP platform, and insisted on language that was much more supportive of Russia after saying they had to speak directly to Trump about the policy.
- One week after the change was written into the GOP platform, emails hacked from the DNC were released through Wikileaks. Both government and independent investigators have identified the hackers as being associated with the Russian government.
- Donald Trump suggested that Russia might also hack Hillary Clinton’s email server and recover 30,000 emails (which are not “missing,” but were personal emails deleted by a team of lawyers who reviewed the server).
- Trump later claimed he was being sarcastic, but within a week of his request, further hacks took place at the DCCC and the Hillary Clinton campaign. These hacks have also been identified as coming from Russian sources.
- Both Manafort and Trump issued denials that they had anything to do with the changes to the Republican platform, despite the many witnesses and despite having made no objection to the news as it was reported at the time.
- Trump, in an interview, seemed not only confused about the two-year-old invasion of the Ukraine, but gave apparently contradictory indications that, were he elected, he would cede the occupied Crimea to Russia, and that the Russians would withdraw from the Ukraine.
None of that is speculation. Not one word of it is theory.
There has been no loud demand from the DC media (or most of the GOP) for answers and explanations. This quietude is good news for Putin—and reason for him to think he could get away with such an operation again.