There are a lot of different stories coming out these days about the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russians. Each story, alone, can often be excused away. However, once you begin to put the pieces together and line all the stories up, it’s much, much harder to dismiss.
Here’s a timeline of what I think are the most pertinent details (without the White House dismissals), so far, and it paints a pretty damning picture.
All of these details have been reported and/or included in Bob Mueller’s indictments.
On March 31st, 2016 — in a small national security meeting that Donald Trump himself attended — George Papadopoulos said he had connections with Russia and could arrange a meeting between Trump and Vladmir Putin. Trump listened attentively, but didn’t say yes and he didn’t say no. (At the time, Jeff Sessions did reject the meeting).
On April 26th, George Papadopoulos met with and learned from a a London-based professor — who we now know is Joseph Mifsud, an academic who had bragged about high-level contacts with Russians, including a meeting with Putin — that the Russians had compiled a lot of dirt on Hillary Clinton, including thousands of emails.
At this point, Papadopoulos knew — before anyone else in the Trump campaign — that the Russians had hacked Clinton’s emails in March 2016.
On May 4th, 2016, Papadopoulos told Trump’s then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Trump’s national co-chairman Sam Clovis that the Russians were open to a meeting with Trump. Clovis — who is also now cooperating with Bob Mueller — urged Papadopoulos to take that meeting, “if feasible.”
On May 21st, after Paul Manafort was named as Trump’s campaign chairman, Papadopoulos emailed him and said that Russia was eager to meet with the Trump campaign. Manafort forwarded that email to someone else on the campaign, writing: “Let’s discuss. We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.”
Meanwhile, in early June, Rob Goldstone emailed Donald Trump, Jr., about meeting with a Russian lawyer who had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. replied, “I love it.” He, Kushner, and Manafort met with the Russian lawyer and a former Soviet counterintelligence officer on June 9th.
Five days later, on June 14th, the media reported that the Russians hacked the DNC.
Later in June, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica — the data firm that Trump would later hire — contacted Julian Assange to ask him if he wanted “help” with WikiLeaks’s stash of stolen emails. (How did the CEO even know that Assange had those emails?)
On July 7th, Paul Manafort offered to give a Russian oligarch with ties to Putin briefings on the Trump campaign in exchange for releasing a Manafort debt.
On July 14, 2016, George Papadopoulos actually sent an email saying that top Trump campaign officials agreed to a pre-election meeting with representatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In early July, Carter Page — a low-level foreign policy adviser who had also exchanged emails with Papadopoulos — travelled to Moscow. Corey Lewandowski approved the trip.
On July 18th, or thereabouts, the Republicans changed the party platform to show support for pro-Russian forces in the Ukraine. This can be tied back to Manafort’s debts to the Ukraine.
On July 27th, Trump asked Russia, in a press conference, to release Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.
What does all of this prove? It proves fairly convincingly that the Trump campaign, at the very least, attempted to coordinate with the Russians on at least two occasions, and that officials at the highest level of the Trump campaign — campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and his national co-chair Sam Clovis — not only knew but helped facilitate meetings (in addition to Kushner and Don Jr., who met with the Russian lawyer).
It does not prove, however, that Donald Trump knew about it. But his data firm did. And Trump knew enough to ask the Russians to release Clinton’s missing emails.