For the past three months at least, a media deluge regarding the Trump campaign (and later White House) and its connection (and possible indebtedness) to Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been constant. For screaming heads on either side of the Left-Right spectrum, the reports have either been evidence of America’s rapidly crumbling constitutional republic, or they’ve all been a malicious attempt by the looming edifice of “The Media” to—well, nobody really gets into what the endgame is. But beneath all the yelling, there are some simple facts; you remember those, right? Before the U.S. elected the presidential version of the kid who only ever read CliffsNotes in English class, facts were the things that dictated policy and ended arguments. Anyway, here are a few facts spanning Donald Trump’s relationship with Putin’s state. These can all be checked and each appear in multiple hard news sources, which is not something I should ever have to say—but that’s Trump’s America.
June 18, 2013
After announcing his annual pageant would be held in Russia, Trump, then a private businessman, tweets, “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow - if so, will he become my new best friend?”
The FBI informs the Democratic National Committee that a Russian-linked cyber-spy group had likely compromised its computer network.
July 22, 2016
Emails among DNC members favoring Secretary Hillary Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders are leaked via Wikileaks. Five days later, Trump explicitly calls for Russia to hack Clinton for further information: “I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
August 14, 2016
The New York Times reports that $12.7 million in clandestine cash payments have been earmarked for Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort by a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party. The next week it is reported by CNN that Manafort’s former firm is being investigated for ties to corruption in the Russian government, and Manafort resigns.
October 7, 2016
For the first time, the U.S. intelligence community calls out Russia on its ongoing attempts to interfere with the U.S. presidential election. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the report states.
December 1, 2016
CNN reports that Paul Manafort is once again in Trump’s close personal orbit and helping with the transition team.
December 19-28, 2016
General Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor, talks several times with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, reportedly about non-state issues.
December 29, 2016
President Obama announces that he is imposing new sanctions against Russia and expelling more than 30 of the country’s diplomats from Washington. The same day, Flynn and Kislyak speak several times about the sanctions. Since Trump is not yet president, these talks can be construed to constitute a treasonous act.
January 6, 2017
A U.S. Intelligence report states that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a cyber campaign to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.
January 26, 2017
The Justice Department warns the Trump administration about Flynn being compromised by Russia, and that the likelihood of Flynn being blackmailed by Russian agents presents a security threat. Trump does not acknowledge the warning until February 14, when he forces Flynn to resign.
The question that remains after this Russian drama’s first act is what exactly is Trump gaining from all of this Russophilic posturing? Some have posited that it’s business ties, and Donald Trump Jr. has admitted in the past that the Trump business relies disproportionately on Russian clients. Of course, this aspect of the Russia situation could be easily solved—if Donald Trump would release his tax returns and reveal to the nation, like every executive before him, that his personal interests do not undermine the public interests of the U.S. I’m not holding my breath...