President Donald Trump has adamantly and consistently denied his team was ever in contact with Russia — and despite the fact that the evidence proves the two were in touch, Trump keeps at it. The Washington Post has tallied a total of 14 current and former Trump associates known to have maintained connections to Russia in some capacity, some of which have just come to light very recently as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation proceeds.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul commented:
‘It is extremely unusual. Both the number of contacts and the nature of the contacts are extraordinary…I think the Russians would nurture those contacts and see them as a way to establish relationships that could be useful for Putin and his government.’
General counsel for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential run Trevor Potter added that the situation is “different in kind than anything I have ever heard of before.”
The more recently revealed relationship building involves former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who prosecutors say in late 2015 was in contact with a prominent Russian they leave unnamed who promised political synergy between the Russian government and the then-brand new Trump presidential campaign. This individual — who might be Russian athlete Dmitry Klokov, considering other media reporting about Cohen’s ties to Russia — went so far as to push for a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
That particular proposal fell through, but the concept of a Trump-Putin meeting did not. Cohen has told authorities that he consulted with Donald Trump himself in late 2015 about the possibility before suggesting the two leaders might meet during remarks delivered on Sean Hannity’s radio show. Cohen also ended up “reaching out to gauge Russia’s interest in such a meeting,” apparently — and the efforts extended beyond just the lawyer.
Former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos also personally consulted with Russians including the well connected Professor Joseph Mifsud and think tank director Ivan Timofeev about the possibility of Trump meeting with Putin, a subject he brought up while meeting with the eventual president himself and other associates of the candidate like the eventual Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Claims have emerged that both men were keen on the idea.
The train of Russia connections hardly stops there. Former Ambassador from Russia Sergey Kislyak communicated with Sessions and others like Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about campaign related matters, and Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort met with Kremlin lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya seeking dirt from the Kremlin on Hillary Clinton.
Manafort, meanwhile, cultivated his own connections on his own time that Mueller’s team just recently asserted he’s still lying about. The currently jailed operative worked with Konstantin Kilimnik to reportedly offer status updates on the campaign to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
The list could extend well beyond what’s mentioned. Yet, Trump has insisted:
‘I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.’
That’s a particularly straightforward example quote from February 2017, but plenty more paranoid Twitter and otherwise public pronouncements could be tacked on as similar.
Still, the reality remains that the Trump camp has a lot to do with Russia, plenty of which Trump was personally involved in.
Mueller’s final report about what all of this means is only getting closer.
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