It’s long been established at this point that the Trump campaign’s continued insistence that they were just innocent bystanders to Russia’s efforts to swing the 2016 presidential election towards the belligerent businessman is false. The Trump campaign knew what was going on, in some instances seeming to be interested in actively participating in it. It’s up to Special Counsel Robert Mueller to sort out the huge mess of information about the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia’s efforts to help it.
Now, there’s yet another revelation, this one via The New York Times, about Russian efforts to engage the Trump team in their election meddling. None of this, of course, vibes with the repeated assertions from President Trump that there’s nothing to the Russian election meddling scandal.
In May 2016, around the time of that year’s national convention of the National Rifle Association, a member of the NRA — Paul Erickson — emailed then-Trump adviser Rick Dearborn about the potential for a “first contact” between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Not only that, but he also extended an invitation allegedly from Russian President Vladimir Putin himself for then-candidate Trump to travel to Moscow to meet with Putin ahead of the election.
‘Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump. He wants to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump to visit him in the Kremlin before the election. Let’s talk through what has transpired and Senator Sessions’s advice on how to proceed.’
Erickson added a reference to Russian efforts to meddle in the U.S. election, writing:
‘The Kremlin believes that the only possibility of a true reset in this relationship would be with a new Republican White House. Ever since Hillary compared Putin to Hitler, all senior Russian leaders consider her beyond redemption.’
Erickson’s email to Dearborn is in addition to the previously reported upon email about a “Russian backdoor overture” from Rick Clay to the Trump campaign, in which he passed on a request for a meeting between Russian central banker Alexander Torshin and a Trump campaign official. Clay was holding a dinner in conjunction with that same 2016 NRA convention, which he invited a member of the Trump campaign to attend. The Trump campaign turned down that request, but Trump Jr. did meet briefly with Torshin at another dinner held that same night.
Torshin is also seemingly the Russian official who Erickson wanted a member of the Trump team to meet with during the 2016 NRA convention as a precursor to a possible meeting between Trump and Putin themselves. The Times reports that Torshin had been “instructed to make contact with the campaign,” and Erickson apparently wanted Torshin to meet with a Trump campaign official at the same dinner Clay referenced to Dearborn.
According to “three people with knowledge of the exchange,” Jared Kushner insisted to Congressional investigators that he “did not recall” the outreach from Clay, which he told Dearborn to turn down.
Attempts to connect Torshin and eventually Putin with the Trump campaign in conjunction with the 2016 NRA convention were not unique. As The Times notes, former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had been in contact with a professor about Kremlin-sourced dirt on Hillary Clinton just weeks before the NRA convention.
Soon after the convention, Donald Trump Jr. had his infamous meeting with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, which he has repeatedly lied about.
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