Have you noticed that Donald Trump was more focused on the Intelligence Committee hearings yesterday than about anything else in his presidency and maintained that focus for longer than anytime since he became a candidate. He managed to tweet about virtually every revelation coming out of the hearings. And it makes you wonder why this issue is capturing so much of Trump’s attention.
Adam Schiff laid out the circumstantial evidence that supports the belief that the Trump campaign was coordinating or colluding with the Russians. Schiff pulled all his evidence from public sources and put together a compelling story:
- Trump advisor Carter Page’s trip to Moscow in July where he gave a speech criticizing Western nations for hypocritically focusing on democratization and fighting corruption.
- Citing the “Russian dossier”, Page is offered the brokerage fee on the sale of Rosneft.
- Again citing the dossier, the Russians offered the Trump campaign damaging information on Hillary Clinton in return for going easy on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and highlighting NATO countries who were not fulfilling their full obligations.
- Russian ambassador attends the GOP convention and meets with Flynn, Sessions, and Page, whom the dossier claims was hand-picked by campaign manager Manafort to be the go-between with the Russians.
- The Republican platform is changed to remove the provision that offered “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine in its war with Russia. After months of denial, members of the Trump campaign admit that they pressed for that change.
- After the convention, WikiLeaks starts releasing emails harming the Clinton campaign that cybersecurity firms unanimously agree were stolen by the Russians.
- Trump himself appeals to the Russians to hack Hillary and praises the WikiLeaks disclosures.
- Trump advisor and confidante Roger Stone accurately predicts the timing of WikiLeaks dumps and the release of John Podesta’s emails. Stone also admits he has been in contact with both WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 who is the “front” name for Russian intelligence.
- Flynn was paid by Kremlin entities like RT and discussed Obama’s sanctions with the Russian ambassador. Flynn lied about those discussions and the Trump White House was informed of those lies and did nothing until reports appeared in the press.
- Trump has criticized virtually all of our allies in the course of the campaign and the election but has spoken nary a bad word about Putin and even offered praise.
Schiff summed it all up, saying, “Now, is it possible that the removal of the Ukraine provision from the GOP platform was a coincidence? Is it a coincidence that Jeff Sessions failed to tell the Senate about his meetings with the Russian Ambassador, not only at the convention, but a more private meeting in his office and at a time when the U.S. election was under attack by the Russians? Is it a coincidence that Michael Flynn would lie about a conversation he had with the same Russian Ambassador Kislyak about the most pressing issue facing both countries at the time they spoke – the U.S. imposition of sanctions over Russian hacking of our election designed to help Donald Trump? Is it a coincidence that the Russian gas company Rosneft sold a 19 percent share after former British Intelligence Officer Steele was told by Russian sources that Carter Page was offered fees on a deal of just that size? Is it a coincidence that Steele’s Russian sources also affirmed that Russia had stolen documents hurtful to Secretary Clinton that it would utilize in exchange for pro-Russian policies that would later come to pass? Is it a coincidence that Roger Stone predicted that John Podesta would be the victim of a Russian hack and have his private emails published, and did so even before Mr. Podesta himself was fully aware that his private emails would be exposed? Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated, and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they have employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know, not yet, and we owe it to the country to find out.”
Comey’s opening statement confirmed what everyone already suspected, that an investigation into possible Trump campaign cooperation or collusion is ongoing. It later emerged that the investigation into Russian hacking and possible Trump campaign collusion has been going on since July of last year, which makes you wonder where all those reports that denied there was any investigation of the Trump campaign came from just before and after the election. Comey prefaced his announcement by saying the the Justice Department had agreed with him acknowledging the ongoing investigation into collusion but reports indicate that it was an agreement between Comey and NSA Admiral Mike Rogers that led to that decision., indicating that Comey does not even trust the DOJ anymore. Comey and Rogers both thoroughly debunked Trump’s claim that Obama had him wiretapped.
Needless to say, this brought a hurricane of tweets from our fearless leader. He started off the day with this, “James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!” This is interesting in that he already seems to be throwing his aides overboard as he only mentions POTUS. “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost”…The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Later, he added, “What about all of the contact with the Clinton campaign and the Russians? Also, is it true that the DNC would not let the FBI in to look?”
And he apparently took to his POTUS twitter account to comment on the hearings: “FBI Director Comey refuses to deny he briefed President Obama on calls made by Michael Flynn to Russia.” Of course, Comey also refused to confirm that, as he refused to comment on so many aspects of the ongoing investigation. “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.” This is misleading as those comments were directed at actually hacking votes. It is universally acknowledged, except within the White House, that the Russians attempted to influence the election. “NSA Director Rogers tells Congress unmasking individuals endangers national security” and “FBI Director Comey says classified leaks to the media have been ‘unusually active’ recently”. Usually, an increasing number of leaks usually indicates an increasing number of questionable activities. “FBI Director Comey: fmr. DNI Clapper ‘right’ to say no evidence of collusion between Russia and Trump Campaign.” Of course, Comey already had announced that an investigation of collusion was ongoing which, by definition, means that there is evidence of that.
Sean Spicer had a surreal press conference
where he described disgraced former National Security Advisor Flynn as a “volunteer” on the Trump campaign and claimed Paul Manafort played a minor role in the campaign. Manafort was the campaign manager until just after the GOP convention when his questionable transactions with pro-Russian elements in Ukraine forced him to resign. He resumed an important role during the transition. Spicer again continued to push the lie about the Obama wiretap and repeatedly denied links to the Russians.
For their part, the Republicans on the committee solely focused on pursuing the leakers and really had no interest in pursuing the collusion investigation. This alone indicates that this investigation needs to move outside of Congress and into an independent inquiry of some kind, possibly an independent commission. Trump will oppose that every step of the way, but it may come to that for Republicans.
The biggest takeaway from the day was simply just how guilty the White House is acting as this investigation moves along. They continually lie about Russian contacts between Trump associates and the Russians and continually get caught in those lies. They refuse to admit Russia hacked the election when that has been evident for months. They continue to deny Russian contacts even when individuals like Page, Flynn, and Sessions admit to meeting with the Russian ambassador and Stone admits to communicating with Wikileaks. Trump himself continues with the Obama accusation in the face of denials from every government agency. And Trump’s focus on the hearings today only add to the impression of his guilt.
My theory is that Trump has dealt with the Russians for years and has probably relied on the funding of its oligarchs for over a decade. At some point, Trump or his associates made a deal to do everything in their power to denigrate the US electoral system and our NATO allies and weaken Hillary Clinton in return for continued or, more probably, increased investment. That accounts for Trump’s claims that NATO is obsolete and that the election was “rigged.” The Russians probably didn’t expect him to win and probably neither did Trump. And now Trump knows that he will be exposed and is lashing out in the only way he knows how, with lies, threats, and obfuscation. He continues with the accusation that he was surveilled by Obama which indicates to me that there is definitely intelligence, either tapes or transcripts, that show collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Turning this evidence into a partisan issue by calling it an illegal surveillance by Obama is Trump’s only defense. This will not end well.