The Agreed-Upon Facts of the Trump-Russia Investigation
There's so much distraction in the Trump-Russia investigation that it's good to remind ourselves what we know so far—the agreed-upon facts of the case. Thank Washington Post‘s Paul Waldman for the list below.
He wrote the piece in response to a series of tweets from Trump last Sunday, including this one:
Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt? They journeyed down to Washington, D.C., with stars in their eyes and wanting to help our nation...They went back home in tatters!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2018
What do you say to that? How do you respond to the pathetic hand-wringing of a tyrant? Trump also blamed Obama, of course:
Why didn’t President Obama do something about the so-called Russian Meddling when he was told about it by the FBI before the Election? Because he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win, and he didn’t want to upset the apple cart! He was in charge, not me, and did nothing.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2018
This is like someone on trial for bank robbery saying, “That bank wasn’t even robbed! Somebody else robbed it! And what we should really be asking is why the cops didn't stop the bank from being robbed!”
Then he goes over the agreed-upon facts of the case, the collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, to remind everyone what's already out there:
- In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. was approached by an acquaintance with an offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton from a group of Russians, which the acquaintance characterized as follows: “This is obviously very high-level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump.” Don Jr. replied “I love it” and gathered Manafort and Jared Kushner to meet with the Russians.
- After that story broke last year, President Trump reportedly dictated a false story to be given to the press, claiming that the meeting took place to discuss adoption of Russian children.
- In July 2016, Trump publicly encouraged Russia to hack into Clinton's email.
- Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is under indictment for crimes connected to his relationships with a Kremlin-allied Ukrainian leader and a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. His deputy, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, and is cooperating with the Mueller investigation.
- In 2015, Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, was paid $45,000 plus travel expenses to deliver a speech in Moscow at an event honoring RT, a television network that acts as a mouthpiece for the Kremlin. He sat with Putin. He pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and is cooperating with Mueller's investigation.
- George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, got the FBI counterintelligence investigation rolling when he told an Australian diplomat that the campaign had been offered dirt on Clinton from Russia in the form of hacked emails. (The diplomat passed the information along to the U.S. government.) Papadopoulos also pleaded guilty to lying to investigators and is cooperating with Mueller.
- Carter Page, another Trump foreign policy adviser, had been on the FBI radar for years because they suspected that Russian intelligence agents were attempting to recruit him. In 2016 the FBI became concerned enough about his contacts with people connected to the Russian government that it obtained a FISA warrant to monitor him.
- Both in his confirmation hearing and on a security clearance questionnaire in preparation for becoming attorney general, Jeff Sessions claimed that he had no contact with Russian officials during the campaign. He later admitted that this was false and that he did have multiple meetings with the Russian ambassador.
- During the presidential transition, the Russian ambassador was picked up on surveillance telling his superiors that Trump's son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, had suggested they set up a secret communications channel, perhaps within the Russian Embassy or consulate, so that Trump aides could speak to the Russians without U.S. intelligence agencies monitoring the communications. Even the Russians found this suggestion completely bonkers.