For the better part of the year, we have been getting slow-trickled with news about Donald Trump and his campaign’s associations with Russia. Each time some piece of news breaks, Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Sean Spicer or Trump’s Twitter account will make attempts to spin it, and with his base anyway, Trump has been somewhat effective. In isolation, I suppose, they can excuse away a meeting here or a phone call there.
For instance, yesterday news broke that in the June 19th meeting with the Kremlin-backed attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, Trump Jr. specifically asked her for evidence of illegal Clinton Foundation donations. That was a big deal. For a minute it trended on Twitter. But really, it was just more confirmation of what we already knew: Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner took a meeting with a Russian lawyer with the intention of collecting dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Of course, after they lied about the intent of the meeting several times, Trump Jr. and Co., eventually said, “Oh, well. You know, we were just doing oppo research.”
OK, cool. I mean, they were using our biggest geopolitical enemy to collect information on an opponent, which is unscrupulous as hell and borderline traitorous, but they seem to have an excuse for everything.
But here’s the deal: If you step back and look at the big picture, as Robert Meuller has, you see 31 known contacts with the Russians and 19 known meetings. You see attempts to establish back-channel negotiations. You see Donald Trump meeting behind closed doors with Vladmir Putin. You see Donald Trump revealing classified information to a Russian ambassador. You see Donald Trump refusing to speak ill of Putin, you see him opposing Russian sanctions, dragging his feet on Congressionally passed sanctions, and standing up for Michael Flynn, even as he pleads guilty to lying to the FBI.
There’s a lot going on here, and taken as a whole, you simply cannot wave it away by suggesting it’s the normal course of business. “There’s nothing wrong with talking to another country’s foreign leaders,” they argue. 31 contacts and 19 meetings argue otherwise.
The Times broke another story today that will raise a lot of red flags before it’s tossed into the pile of mounting evidence, but this piece of news shows motive. Specifically, a whistleblower — who is choosing to remain anonymous — alerted House Democrats that Michael Flynn told him that he’d rip up Russian sanctions as soon as Trump was sworn in. Recall that that’s what everyone thought that Michael Flynn told the Russian ambassador in that December 29th phone call after Obama implemented new sanctions.
The New York Times says that it illustrates an economic motive for Flynn’s actions: “The account is the strongest evidence to date that the Trump administration wanted to end the sanctions immediately, and suggests that Mr. Flynn had a possible economic incentive for the United States to forge a closer relationship with Russia.”
That “incentive” was a business venture Flynn had going with Russia in the Middle East.
The Times sees Flynn’s economic incentive. I see damning evidence against Trump.
Look at it this way: President Obama implemented sanctions to punish Russia for meddling in our elections. Days later, Michael Flynn told the Russians, “Don’t worry about it. We’re going to lift those sanctions as soon as Trump is sworn in, because we know you guys meddled in the election, and we’re not going to punish you, because you gave our man an illegitimate victory!”
This is exactly why Trump has argued so vociferously about the legitimacy of the election. It’s exactly why Trump refuses to concede that the Russians meddled. Because if they meddled, and he knew they meddled, and he wanted to lift those sanctions anyway, that’s quid pro quo. You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. You win me an election, and I won’t impose sanctions.
How did Michael Flynn get the idea in his head that sanctions would be lifted, anyway? I mean, the National Security Advisor couldn’t have lifted those sanctions on his own. Someone higher up must have told him that sanctions would be lifted. Trump clearly must have told him, right? If Flynn — who is cooperating with Mueller now — testifies to that effect, Trump is toast.