In his Thursday press conference, President Trump was extravagant in his denial that he had anything to do with Russia or Russians: "I have no business in Russia. I don't owe money to Russians. I don't talk to anyone in Russia, because I don't know anyone to talk to." He insisted that all the fake news about him and Russia, is "a ruse."
Methinks he doth protest too much. It's well known that he has done business in Russia. He used to brag about it and his Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, claiming that he knew how to negotiate with the Russians. We know that Paul Manafort, his second campaign manager, has a long history and financial connections with Russian-leaning Ukrainians. We know that his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, as chairman of Exxon-Mobile, had a huge oil contract in Russia that raised concerns about that influencing his work for the government in such a sensitive position.
We know that Gen. Mike Flynn, who just had to resign for lying about his contacts with the Russians, had sat next to Vladimir Putin at a dinner meeting in Russia, and then during the transition had talked with the Russian ambassador on the very day Obama imposed sanctions. We know that other, less central advisers to Trump (like Roger Stone) are deeply involved with Russians.
And now we know that there is some evidence that members of the Trump campaign had multiple contacts with Russian security officials during the campaign. Here I quote Mark Sumner:
* * * * *"According to the consensus assessment of US intelligence agencies, Russian intelligence, under the orders of Vladimir Putin, mounted an extensive operation to influence the 2016 campaign to benefit Donald Trump. This was a widespread covert campaign that included hacking Democratic targets and publishing swiped emails via WikiLeaks. And it achieved its objectives.
"That this story is constantly forgotten behind a barrage of daily nonsense is both maddening and astounding. At the very least, we know that ...
• "Trump’s campaign manager [Manafort] worked directly for Russia to subvert the government of the Ukraine, and was paid millions of dollars to generate “spontaneous demonstrations” in which US Marines were attacked in order to give Putin an excuse to seize Crimea.
• "The Russian assistant ambassador is on record saying that, despite numerous denials, Russia was in contact with the Trump campaign on a regular basis.
•"The only item where the Trump campaign forced a change in the Republican platform—the only item—was in modifying a plank to weaken the party’s stance on opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And Trump representatives said that concern came from Trump personally.
"And yes, out there is a supposed folio of kompromat containing items that Russia feels it can use to put pressure on Trump and his team. . . .
"We know that Russians didn’t just 'make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets' as Donald Trump Jr. stated proudly, but that Russian oligarchs bailed out a failing Trump and secured both real estate and connections for their investment. Several Trump projects were Russian projects with a Trump brand.
"The money to build these projects flowed almost entirely from Russian sources. In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.
"And that doesn’t even touch on Trump’s involvement with the emails stolen from the DNC and private individuals to assist Trump. In fact, that’s not even close to everything.
"Donald Trump has frequently expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin, viewing him as a 'strong' leader who Trump 'admires.' Trump has also given wildly differing statements on his personal relationship with Putin.
"Trump has, on multiple occasions, suggested a weakening of the NATO alliance.
"Despite this, Trump previously expressed support for Ukraine.
"After Trump hired Paul Manafort, a man who had worked for—and may still be working for—pro-Russian forces seeking to destroy the democratic government of Ukraine, Trump’s position on Ukraine changed to one that is far more friendly to Russia.
"Trump campaign staff, including former Rumsfeld assistant J. D. Gordon, halted the implementation of pro-Ukraine language in the GOP platform, and insisted on language that was much more supportive of Russia after saying they had to speak directly to Trump about the policy.
"One week after the change was written into the GOP platform, emails hacked from the DNC were released through Wikileaks. Both government and independent investigators have identified the hackers as being associated with the Russian government.
"Donald Trump suggested that Russia might also hack Hillary Clinton’s email server and recover 30,000 emails (which are not 'missing,' but were personal emails deleted by a team of lawyers who reviewed the server).
"Trump later claimed he was being sarcastic, but within a week of his request, further hacks took place at the DCCC and the Hillary Clinton campaign. These hacks have also been identified as coming from Russian sources.
"Both Manafort and Trump issued denials that they had anything to do with the changes to the Republican platform, despite the many witnesses and despite having made no objection to the news as it was reported at the time.
"Trump, in an interview, seemed not only confused about the two-year-old invasion of the Ukraine, but gave apparently contradictory indications that, were he elected, he would cede the occupied Crimea to Russia, and that the Russians would withdraw from the Ukraine.
"None of that is speculation. Not one word of it is theory."
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So that was the situation on Thursday when Trump denied any connections to Russia and when the Senate Intelligence Committee held that Friday afternoon meeting with FBI Director Jim Comey. And when Donald Trump is seeming to be increasingly unhinged.
So, to use his own words: "What - is - going - on? What is going on, folks?"