Evidence Of Trump Campaign Collusion Is Massive And Growing
The incidents of direct collusion between the Russians and not only the Trump campaign but down-ballot Republicans in the 2016 continue to grow. Today’s revelation is that intercepts of Russian hackers indicate they were attempting to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and then pass that information on to Trump adviser Mike Flynn.
According to the story, “Those investigators have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary.” The speculation in the story is that the intermediary might have been a Republican operative named Peter Smith. Smith had shown interest in getting hackers to uncover Clinton’s emails that he, for some unexplained reason, believed had already been hacked by the Russians.
According to the Journal, “‘He said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this—if you find anything, can you let me know?” said Eric York, a computer-security expert from Atlanta who searched hacker forums on Mr. Smith’s behalf for people who might have access to the emails.” Smith had apparently worked with Flynn in the past and believe that Flynn was interested in getting his hands on the information.
(Update: A further Wall Street Journal story out tonight indicates that Smith pitched potential hackers and allies in his efforts with the story that he was coordinating not only with Flynn but with Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and Trump adviser Sam Clovis “to the extent permitted as an independent expenditure.”)
We have already documented the case of the Republican operative in Florida who coordinated with Guccifer 2.0, widely understood to be the pseudonym of Russian hackers, in order to detail the strategies and vulnerabilities of Democratic candidates in contested elections in multiple states based on emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
In addition, there was the curious incident of the change to the Republican party platform at the party’s convention that removed the provision that offered “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine in its war with Russia. After months of denial, the Trump team finally admitted the they had demanded that change. It was the only change in the platform the Trump’s campaign requested.
That change nicely dovetailed with Paul Manafort’s long-time work for pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. For that work, Manafort admitted receiving over $17 million between 2012 and 2014. Manafort is also accused of receiving around $13 million from Ukrainian parties off the books, paid from a secret Ukrainian slush fund, between 2007 and 2012. In addition, Manafort has also been linked to some curious real estate deals during that same period that may have been used to facilitate Russian money-laundering while at the same time also compensating Manafort. Manafort recently made a retroactive filing to become a registered foreign agent for the work he did in Ukraine, making him the second top Trump campaign official after Mike Flynn to be forced to retroactively register as a representative of a foreign government. Whether these retroactive filings by both Flynn and Manafort reflect the fact that they are now cooperating with authorities remains to be seen but is obviously a real possibility.
In Flynn’s case, his work was being done for Turkey although it is unclear whether the payments he was receiving actually came from Turkey or Russian-backed interests. Flynn was clearly colluding with Turkey during the campaign, the transition, and his brief tenure as NSA. On election day itself, he wrote an opinion piece recommending support for Turkish President Erdogan, who was in the midst of a brutal crackdown after a coup attempt, and condemned Fethullah Gulen, a former ally but now foe of Erdogan who Erdogan accuses of plotting the coup, who is living here in the US. Flynn. subsequently recommended extraditing Gulen to Turkey as Erdogan has demanded and apparently even conspired to kidnap Gulen and transport him back to Turkey. Flynn also vetoed an Obama administration plan to arm the Kurds, a move that was opposed by Turkey.
But Flynn was apparently also colluding with the Russians. We already know that he was paid and feted by the Russian propaganda outfit RT and that he did not disclose that moneys he received. He also apparently discussed Russian sanctions in his meetings and calls with the Russian ambassador and then may have lied about that to the FBI. In addition, Flynn had a number of other contacts with the Russian Ambassador during the campaign.
Jared Kushner attended one of those meetings with the Russian ambassador where Flynn apparently discussed sanctions. Kushner reportedly proposed creating a back-channel to Russia outside the purview of the US government by using Russian communication capabilities, possible from inside the Russian embassy. Kushner remained silent as Flynn continually lied about the content of those meetings, not only to the public but also reportedly to Pence and other administration officials. Kushner followed up that meeting with his own undisclosed meeting with VEB bank, which is not really a bank but a vehicle for Russian government investments in projects and people. At the time and continuing to this day, the Kushner Cos. are facing a massive problem in financing the debt they took on to buy their flagship property at 666 5th Avenue in New York City. Kushner himself is reportedly under investigation for additional collusion during the campaign where officials are looking into “whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump”. After the inauguration, Kushner apparently bizarrely intervened to reduce the cost of a missile defense system that the US was selling to Saudi Arabia, a move that actually reduced the amount of money that US taxpayers would see from the deal. Again, his rationale is not clear but it can easily be looked on as another attempt to curry favor with a wealthy country capable in financing the Kushner Cos. problems. The Kushner Cos. without Jared at the helm have been trying to sell access to the President to investors in China to help fund the disastrous 5th Avenue property. It should also be mentioned that Kushner was reportedly responsible for the data analytics of the Trump campaign and one of the questions outstanding is how the Russians were able to so accurately target swing voters with a massive propaganda campaign.
Lastly, of course, there is Trump himself who begged the Russians to hack Hillary’s email and virtually spouted Russian propaganda throughout the campaign.
In addition, there were other figures in Trump’s orbit like Roger Stone who seemed remarkably prescient about what the Russians and WikiLeaks were going to release and when. There were also undisclosed contacts between the Russians and other Trump campaign official but any details about those meetings have not been revealed. On top of all this, there is the continued inability of the President himself to admit the Russian interference and the bizarre habit of virtually everyone on Trump’s orbit to blatantly lie about the contacts that they had with the Russians.
I have written earlier that the Russians hacked the election not only to help Trump but also to help down-ballot Republicans get elected. And GOP leaders were well aware of that and did nothing. In a similar vein, Trump and his various cronies apparently were and are willing to collude with virtually anyone who will give them money, whether it’s Russia, Turkey, China, or Saudi Arabia.
The number of documented collusion cases so far is small, primarily the two GOP operatives mentioned above. But the circumstantial evidence surrounding other possible cases is large and compelling. And as more and more direct evidence of collusion starts to dribble out, we can expect the right wing media echo chamber to repeat the cry of “where’s the crime?”. If the Republican party continues to stand by and do nothing while evidence mounts that the President got elected because he was able to coordinate with a foreign power and the right wing media insists that, even though it happened, it is not a crime, then I fear our democracy may be truly lost. Right now, there’s no evidence to think that won’t actually happen.