No matter how hard he tries, Donald Trump cannot escape the Russia scandal that has plagued his administration from day one.
In his latest, desperate attempt to deflect media scrutiny from his Russia connections and the potential criminality behind his campaign contacts with the kremlin, Trump accused former president Barack Obama of ordering his phone to be wiretapped. His claim only made him look guilty.
You see, despite his denials, Trump’s ties with Russia and his admiration for Vladimir Putin are well-documented.
Back in 2007 Trump told CNN’s Larry King that Putin was “doing a great job.”
Then, in his 2011 book Time to Get Tough, Trump again praised Putin writing,
“Putin has big plans for Russia. He wants to edge out its neighbors so that Russia can dominate oil supplies to all of Europe,” Trump said. ”
Trump also praised “the Russian leader’s grand vision: the creation of a ‘Eurasian Union’ made up of former Soviet nations that can dominate the region. I respect Putin and the Russians…Hats off to the Russians.”
In 2013 he tweeted this:
In 2014 he tweeted this:
That same year Trump said he met Putin in Moscow during the Miss Universe pageant and that he (Putin) “could not have been nicer.”
In 2015, Trump responded to praise from Putin by saying “it is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond. I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”
In 2016 he tweeted this:
During a debate, Trump denied meeting the Russian president although he said separately he thought he’d “get along very well with” him.
The red hue subtly emitting from Trump’s campaign grew significantly when he hired Paul Manafort. Remember him, the guy who worked with the Ukraine and Russia for over a decade? You know, the guy who worked for Viktor Yanukovych.
As noted by The Overgrown, “Viktor Yanukovych is the disgraced former president of the Ukraine—and a big Putin ally. He initially ran for president of the Ukraine in 2004 and had a rather rocky go of it. He was accused of fraud and voter intimidation, and many believe he had a hand in the possible poisoning of his opponent. Manafort was brought in to repair Yanukovych’s campaign but wasn’t able to secure the victory after a run-off election. However, Manafort worked for Yanukovych again on a 2006 on a parliamentary campaign and on his successful 2010 presidential run. Yanukovych was forced out of office by violent protests four years later, and escaped to Russia with the help of Putin, opening the door for Russia’s unlawful annexation of Crimea.”
Two weeks after Donald Trump on live TV called for the Russians to find Hillary’s emails, a ledger released by the New York Times showed that Manafort was paid 12.7 million by Yanukovych for his work. Manafort initially denied the claim but resigned five days later over mounting evidence.
Then, in an operation conducted by the Russians aimed at damaging the Clinton campaign and increasing Trump’s chances of victory, the DNC was hacked and a flurry of embarrassing emails released, as Trump requested.
Alarmed by the unprecedented events, the U.S. intelligence released a 15-page report asserting that Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.”
And more reports continue to build upon the narrative.
Enter Rex Tillerson:
Tillerson has been known to have a long history of doing business with the Russian government. During the hearing, he was asked about his, and Exxon Mobil’s, history of lobbying against sanctions which were put in place against Russia by President Barack Obama’s administration in response to the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014. He answered with “I have never lobbied against sanctions. To my knowledge, Exxon never directly lobbied against sanctions.”
But that was a lie… under oath. According to Politico, “ExxonMobil successfully lobbied against a bill that would have made it harder for the next president to lift sanctions against Russia, clearing the way for the oil giant to restart a program worth billions of dollars if Donald Trump eases those restrictions as president.”
And there’s more, a lot more…
Wilbur Ross, the new commerce secretary has his own ties to the Kremlin, and most notably, the man at the helm. As James S. Henry reported, Ross was a significant investor in the Bank of Cyprus as well as its Vice Chairman. The Bank of Cyprus is well known for being an offshore safe-zone for Russian cash, and Ross’s co-chair was allegedly appointed by Vladimir Putin. Ross also worked with Russia on an investment fund in the 90s for the Clinton administration.
Before his inauguration, Trump stated he could be open to lifting the sanctions placed on Russia by the Obama administration.
Then, in February, a report was released concerning wiretapped phone conversations between Trump’s national security advisor Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In the conversations, Flynn urged patience in regards to the recent sanctions and spoke about a new relationship with the incoming administration. When questioned by the FBI about the topics covered in these conversations, Flynn said that sanctions were not discussed. He told Vice President Mike Pence the same thing. When it was revealed that sanctions were in fact discussed, his already questionable reputation soured completely. He resigned on February, 13th.
Days later, Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions came under fire for lying about meeting with the very same Russian ambassador. Political Dig reported that newly-minted attorney general Jeff Sessions met with Sergey Kislyak twice during the presidential election.
But during his confirmation hearing, Sessions was questioned about the Trump cabinets’ Russian connections and responded saying “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.” So he lied about meeting with Kislyak. As a member of the Armed Services Committee and a senator, he was well within his rights to conduct such a meeting. So why the secrecy? Perhaps he thought if he opened that door, he’d have to deal with a cacophonous bombardment of follow-up questions that he simply didn’t want to answer.
These connections implies collusion. And while there is nothing overtly treasonous in any of the findings thus far, there is clearly a pattern and a growing narrative that cannot be ignored.
We are either at the tip of the iceberg, and a smattering of bombshell reports will hit the wire in the next few weeks and months that will probably dismantle the Trump administration.