We now know that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement intercepted phone calls of Trump aides and associates in discussions with Russian officials during the 2016 election campaign. Articles in the Huffington Post by Amanda Terkel, “Trump Administration Caught In Lie About Campaign Contacts With Russians” and in the New York Times, by Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence”, provide the details currently available.
On numerous occasions prior to the recent disclosures, Vice-President Pence, Trump aides, and Trump himself denied any such contacts or discussions. The discussions took place both during the election campaign, and after. More specifically, they took place just as Russian operatives were hacking emails of the Democratic National Committee and leaking those emails to the public to assist Mr. Trump in his election campaign. And in fact, as we know, Mr. Trump proceeded to win a razor thin victory – one, in fact, already tainted by his failure to obtain a majority of the votes. After the calls made by Trump confidant General Michael Flynn, the National Security Adviser, were revealed, Flynn resigned at the request of Mr. Trump, notwithstanding Trump’s later declaration that Mr. Flynn had been “shabbily treated” by the press.
Numerous politicians, media spokemen, and other talking heads have followed this event with doe-eyed wonderings. What can it mean?
So let me break this gently to everyone. When one does something on the QT, behind everyone’s back, that would reasonably raise suspicion of wrong-doing if discovered, the likelihood is that one is engaged in wrong-doing. If they were not engaged in wrong-doing, they would do it in the open precisely so that people would be reassured that they were on the up and up. In this case, the contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials were kept quiet and indeed denied. Moreover, they occurred exactly when we know the Russians were engaged in illegal hacking to benefit Mr. Trump, or, in the case of the latest Flynn contact, at just the time the Obama administration was enacting sanctions against Russia. And, finally, the Trump denial and later forcing of the Flynn resignation suggest that Trump knew the purpose of the various contacts and that discovery of the contacts would be prejudicial to him. Were Flynn’s actions innocent, Trump could well have defended him and asked for full disclosure. Instead, by firing Flynn, Trump demonstrated that he knew that Flynn was guilty. That is not surprising given that early in the presidential campaign Trump had himself publicly called on the Russians to leak hacked Clinton emails. For that matter, who beside Mr. Trump could have authorized such dangerously prejudicial actions?
You may want a smoking gun to be assured that Trump knew what his top aides and confidants were up to. My guess is that Flynn or one of the other operatives will come clean and that concrete evidence of Trump’s collusion with the Russians will come out. Truth is a sneaky little devil. The Bernsteins and Woodwards of today will be working twenty-four seven to get the story even if our Congress keeps its head in the sand. But, in the meantime, don’t kid yourself that we don’t know what went on. It’s really already out there.