The Trump-Russia quid pro quo becomes clearer.
The evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians was already pretty overwhelming, but the latest revelations over the last few days virtually seal the deal. In multiple cases, we now see that individual Trump campaign officials offered something of value to the Russians in return for help during the election.
Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer that Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner all met with in the now infamous June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, has told Bloomberg that Trump Jr. specifically offered her a quid pro quo for providing dirt on Hillary in writing. According to the report, Trump Jr. “ indicated that a law targeting Russia could be re-examined if his father won the election and asked her for written evidence that illegal proceeds went to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” Veselnitskaya also quoted Trump Jr. as saying, “Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it”, referring to the rolling back of sanctions created under the Magnitsky Act. Put that together with Trump Jr’s. initial response to the idea that the Russians had dirt on Hillary where he wrote, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer” and you have a pretty good case for a quid pro quo for Russian help in the election.
Veselnitskaya had come to the meeting with information that a donor to the Hillary Clinton campaign had evaded US taxes via its investments in Russia through offshore entities. When she could not tie that ill-gotten money directly to the Clinton campaign, however, the meeting basically fell apart. But it was clear that the Trump team was certainly willing to work with the Russians if they did get dirt on Hillary. More interesting, however, is why Veselnitskaya would think that information about a Democratic donor evading US taxes would be so interesting to the Trump campaign. One could easily surmise that it was because Veselnitskaya, who is obviously a mere front for the Russian government, understood that Donald Trump had basically been running his business for the last decade by laundering Russian oligarchs’ money. This information about similar behavior by a Democratic donor would offer some political protection if Trump’s own finances were detailed. To reiterate, Veselnitskaya is merely a front for Putin and whatever she says today must be taken with a healthy skepticism. But her comments could also be taken as a warning shot from Putin that he has not gotten what he was promised by Trump after the election. And it is probably no coincidence that these comments come just days before Trump and Putin are supposed to meet in a face-to-face in Asia.
The Veselnitskaya story does not provide any evidence that the Trump campaign actually did anything to help the Russians during the election, only that they were certainly willing to consider policies that would benefit the Russians after the election. The Carter Page testimony that was released last night, however, does show that a specific action was taken by the Trump campaign that benefited and pleased the Russians. Page, who even during the campaign was suspected of being a Russian recruit, emailed members of the Trump campaign team to say “excellent work” in softening the language in the GOP platform regarding Ukraine. For a campaign that had on multiple occasions been willing to seek help from the Russians during the election, this would seem to be a nice “gift” that provided something to Putin and served as a “good faith” gesture.
Page’s testimony also expands the number of people who knew about Trump campaign officials in contact with the Russians to now include one-time campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Trump adviser Hope Hicks, and Trump campaign policy aide J.D. Gordon. In addition, Page confirmed that he had also notified Jeff Sessions that he was traveling to Russia, creating even more conflicts with Sessions’ prior statements.
In addition, Page’s testimony also confirmed a number of points in the Steele dossier. Page reported back to the aforementioned J.D. Gordon that he had received “incredible insights and outreach from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the presidential administration here” that he would detail when he returned to the US. That provides evidence for the Steele dossier’s claim that “a senior colleague in the Internal Political Department of the PA, Divyekin also had met secretly with Page on his recent visit.” Page also seemed to confirm that he may have met with Igor Sechin or at least his senior representatives and discussed selling a large stake in the oil giant in order get US sanctions lifted, s also alleged in the Steele dossier.
All this adds to the already substantial information about the Russian contacts of virtually all senior members of the Trump campaign. Campaign manager Paul Manafort was actively asking the Russian oligarch to whom he owed millions “how we could get whole.” Manafort, Kushner, and Trump Jr. all attended the meeting where Veselnitskaya was essentially offering dirt on Hillary in return for the lifting of sanctions. Corey Lewandowski and Jeff Sessions were aware of advisers’ contacts with Russia and Sessions had multiple contacts with the Russian Ambassador. Michael Flynn discussed lifting Russian sanctions with the Russian Ambassador during the transition and was actively working as an agent for Turkey during the campaign. Jared Kushner was not only at the Trump Tower meeting but also endeavored to set up a secret back-channel with the Russians that would be outside the purview of the normal governmental and diplomatic channels during the transition. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, was attempting to strike a deal with the Russians in order to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the campaign. And everyone of these people has spent months lying about their knowledge or actions regarding these contacts. Pretty much the only key Trump advisers who, so far, haven’t been found to have had contacts with Russia are Steve Bannon and Kellyann Conway.
One final note, there is now at least some evidence that four of the last five Republican Presidents have been on tickets where collusion with a foreign power helped them get elected. It is well documented that Nixon colluded with the South Vietnamese in order to foil chances for peace talks before the 1968 election. There is certainly circumstantial and some direct evidence that the Reagan-Bush ticket colluded with the Iranians in order to prevent the US hostages from being released before the 1980 election. And now there is substantial evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians in order to win in 2016. The only one of the previous five GOP presidents who is not implicated is G.W. Bush. On the other hand, he didn’t really win the 2000 election but relied on a partisan decision from the Supreme Court to install him as President. That is a pretty amazing record of treason.
Originally published at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com on November 7, 2017.