If there were a starting point for the political turmoil around members of Donald Trump’s inner circle and their ties to Russia, it likely would be last June 15. On that day, news broke of a computer penetration. It seemed like a minor event, not unlike the famous political break-in 44 years earlier at the Watergate complex that became synonymous with political scandal.
His diplomatic career has encompassed the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the inexorable-seeming rise of one Vladimir Putin. Now Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, finds himself in a harsh and unwanted spotlight over contacts with Donald Trump’s campaign team.
I heard your voice like a firebell in the middle of the night — from that beautiful phone — but you know, I can’t be at your beck and call. Here I am on an island in the blue, taking time out from writing timeless prose from the chamber of my mind. The world is waiting for another memoir. Michelle’s here, but she does not send her regards. My wife has serious issues with you, and says Melania does, too.
Trump doesn’t seem to fear failure — after all, he’s filed for bankruptcy four times — so much as he fears not being seen as successful. Appearances are paramount in the Trump universe, and frankly, things are not looking so good these days.
President Trump dismissed a growing controversy about ties between his aides and Russia on Thursday as a “ruse” and “scam” perpetrated by a hostile news media, and denied that any of his associates had contacts with Moscow before last year’s election.
Republican Trump critics including Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham voiced fresh consternation, but comments by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who has been a Trump supporter, increased the pressure on the White House.
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election. The intercepts alarmed U.S. intelligence because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Trump was speaking glowingly about Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Although Trump has said the nation needed to “move on to bigger and better things” following the U.S. disclosure of alleged Russian hacking, it appears that Republican and Democratic lawmakers are unlikely to drop the issue anytime soon.
In a joint appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said evidence was conclusive that Putin sought to influence the election – a point that Trump has refuted repeatedly by arguing it might be impossible to tell who was responsible.
Russia’s objectives were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate former secretary of state Clinton, make it harder for her to win and harm her presidency if she did, an unclassified report released by the top U.S. intelligence agency said.
The CIA has identified Russian officials who fed material hacked from the Democratic National Committee and party leaders to WikiLeaks at the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin through third parties, according to a new U.S. intelligence report.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he had a very high level of confidence that Russia hacked Democratic Party institutions and operatives, as well as disseminating propaganda and fake news aimed at the Nov. 8 election.
Trump is heading for a conflict over the issue with Democrats and some fellow Republicans in Congress, many of whom are wary of Moscow and distrust the New York businessman’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and efforts to heal the rift between the United States and Russia.
Should Trump seek to heal the rift with Russia, he might encounter opposition in Congress, including from fellow Republicans. Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Friday that Russia must face a penalty for the cyber attacks.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier proposed expelling 35 U.S. diplomats after President Barack Obama ordered the expulsions and sanctions, but Vladimir Putin said he would wait for the actions of President-elect Donald Trump before deciding on any further steps in relations with the United States.
Even after 16 months on the campaign trail, political journalists never figured out how to accurately depict the unprecedented nature of Trump’s candidacy. Now they must find a way to reckon with and report on a president who has no regard for the freedom of the press or the norms of his office.
The move against the diplomats from the Russian embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco is part of a series of actions announced on Thursday to punish Russia for a campaign of intimidation of American diplomats in Moscow and interference in the U.S. election.
Asked by reporters if the U.S. should sanction Russia, Trump replied: “I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on.”
Officials declined to specify what actions President Barack Obama has approved, but said targeted economic sanctions, indictments, leaking information to embarrass Russian officials or oligarchs, and restrictions on Russian diplomats in the United States are among steps that have been discussed.
With the election over and Republicans occupying all branches of government, as well as controlling most state legislatures, it’s easy to forget that just a few short months ago the Republican Party seemed to be collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions.
Most major Russian disinformation campaigns in the United States and Europe have started at Russian-government funded media outlets, such as RT television or Sputnik News, before being amplified on Twitter by others.