There is little doubt by this point that there are significant ties between Russia and Donald Trump. Given Russia’s human rights record, its authoritarian government, and Putin’s history of killing political enemies and journalists, this is a deal breaker for many Americans.
A growing number of Republicans, however, have expressed indifference toward Trump’s relationship with Russia. Those with that position are not likely to be persuaded about the dangers of Trump’s relationship with the country. However, for other Republicans, Independents and even Democrats who are skeptical because much of the information we have received is colored by fake news and unverified allegations arising out of a dossier prepared for a former British Intelligence agent, it is very easy to connect the dots.
Here are facts that are not in dispute, which provide a damning circumstantial case against Donald Trump. The relationship between Trump and Russia may not change certain voters’ opinion of Trump, but the links cannot be dismissed.
Again, these facts are not in dispute (we will update as more become available).
— Russia is the chief geopolitical enemy of the United States. The large majority of Americans in both parties have low regard for both Putin and Russia.
— In 2013, Donald Trump visited Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.
— Since 2013, Donald Trump has written a number of pro-Russian tweets, expressing admiration for Putin, suggesting that he is a better leader than President Obama, and referring to him as a “very smart man.” This position offers no political upside for Trump.
— Carter Page — who spent several years in Russia — was a foreign policy advisor for Donald Trump. Page allegedly met with a number of sanctioned Russian officials earlier this year on a trip to Moscow. Page did not deny meeting with these officials, but claimed that he did so on his own behalf, and not on behalf of Trump. According to Page himself, he subsequently took a leave of absence from the Trump campaign over the controversy. Last week, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said that Donald Trump had never met Carter Page. However, in March, Donald Trump specifically told the Washington Post that “Carter Page, Ph.D” was being considered for a role on Trump’s foreign policy team. This was confirmed by Trump spokesman Hope Hicks in March.
— In July, Trump took a position at odds with American policy on Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “But, you know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were,” he said. This is untrue for most Ukranians; in fact, the United States enacted sanctions against Russia specifically for forcefully annexing Crimea. Trump’s statement on Crimea came around the same time that the Russians were hacking into the DNC.
— Also, in July, Donald Trump asked the Russians to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails during a press conference.
— Donald Trump employed Paul Manafort as his campaign manager over the summer. Manafort was investigated for receiving $12.7 million in off-the-books funds from the Party of Regions, a pro-Russian Ukrainian entity. Manafort also used to work for deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally. Paul Manafort resigned from Trump’s campaign in August after these facts came to light.
— Ahead of the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump expressed little interest in developing the Republican party platform. However, there was one — and only one — change that Donald Trump’s campaign insisted upon. Though at the time Republicans were asking President Obama to provide more aid to the Ukraine in its fight against Russia, Trump’s campaign specifically requested that the platform be weakened in that regard. Trump does not dispute this change; he claims, however, that he was not involved in the decision (GOP party members, however, state that they only made the change at the request of the Trump campaign).
— Donald Trump consistently denied during the campaign that Russia was behind the hacks of the DNC, despite overwhelming intelligence suggesting as much.
— Last month, as Obama was leveling new sanctions against Russia for the DNC hack, Trump’s national security advisor General Flynn was exchanging phone calls with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador in Washington. Some suggest that Flynn was advising Russia on how to respond to sanctions. This is unconfirmed. However, there is no dispute that the communication was made, nor is there any dispute about the fact that Flynn used the phone call to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin after the inauguration. Flynn has consistently expressed a desire to have a closer relationship with Putin. In 2015, he went to a gala in Russia and sat next to Putin.
— Donald Trump nominated Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State. Tillerson has worked frequently with Russia. In 2013, Tillerson was awarded the Order of Friendship award by Putin.
— In the waning months of the campaign, the FBI sought FISA warrants against Trump campaign workers and Donald Trump himself to investigate potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. They were initially denied because the scope of the investigation was too broad but a warrant was eventually granted. James Comey, the head of the FBI, will not offer public comment on the investigation.
— Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who complied the salacious dossier, was originally hired by Jeb Bush to provide opposition research on Trump. He was later hired by Hillary Clinton. After the campaign ended, however, Steele continued to collect intelligence against Donald Trump for free, because he was alarmed by what he was finding.
— Donald Trump denies all of the intelligence provided in Christopher Steele’s dossier. However, he does not deny that it was compiled, nor does he deny that he was briefed on it. Steele has proven to be a reliable intelligence gatherer in the past. He provided the intelligence used to take down FIFA head Sepp Blatter. Steele made his dossier available to both the FBI and British intelligence officers, not on behalf of any campaign, but because of his concerns for what he was finding.
None of this information is in dispute. None of these individual facts, in isolation, has been denied by the Trump team. The Trump team, however, denies that the sum total of these facts prove that there are significant ties between Donald Trump and Russia, or that Donald Trump’s actions suggest the Russian’s have blackmail leverage over him. However, by simply connecting the dots, the circumstantial case against Donald Trump, based only on these undisputed facts, is damning.