Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election is becoming more solidified as more evidence is drawn out via the Robert Mueller investigation. Many of the members associated with Trump and his administration are being pinned for their alleged interactions with Russian officials, with the president being mostly dismissive.
After policy advisor Carter Page was questioned whether he had ties to Russia, the president responded that he was a very “low-level member” of his committee and that he has never spoken to him. The same dismissiveness was also shown by his son, who had a meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.
In just the past week, his advisor George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty of lying to federal representatives about his hushed efforts to arrange meetings between Moscow and members of the Trump campaign. In that instance, Trump noted him as a “low-level volunteer.”
But the numbers keep rising, with the Mueller investigation piling on the bodies that have connected the Trump administration with foreign powers. Mueller is even going as far as to check if there are any connections between Trump’s business dealings and Russian colluding.
For many people who are following this investigation, they’re wondering if this will undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency and if it will eventually lead to impeachment. New court filings note that there is a whole treasure chest of information that has largely been undiscovered until now, containing information positioning many of the members in Trump’s administration as satellites influenced by Russian forces.
When all documents, information, and interviews are accounted for, there are at least nine Trump Associates who have had connections with the Russians during the campaign, or during the transition into Trump’s presidency. Some have been characters steadfast in the media, while others are peripheral figures similar to Papadopoulos.
Here Are The 9 People
Paul Manafort has had extensive interactions with Russian business groups, remaining in close touch with a Russian colleague to discuss campaign briefings. In many of these interactions, Manafort spoke with the Russian businessman who had close ties to Vladimir Putin. Manafort was charged last week for lying and failing to register as a foreign lobbyist. He has worked closely with Ukraine, and had completed multimillion-dollar business deals with the country.
One of the attorneys for the Trump Organization corresponded with Moscow property developers in an attempt to expand Trump Towers on Russian land. Michael Cohen was the person sent to complete these briefings with developers. He met through Trump’s older business friend, Felix Sater, a Russian American, who allegedly encouraged Cohen.
Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., also had meetings with a Russian attorney at the Trump Tower in New York City. The basis of this meeting is to get any “dirt” of Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. This was done in the hopes to weaponize information against Clinton.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was live at many of these meetings between Donald Trump Jr. He also had his own encounters with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in which Kushner wanted to have an anonymous connection between the burgeoning Trump transition team and the Kremlin. When he testified against the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kushner largely denied these claims.
Here comes Papadopoulos, who has repeatedly attempted to work with Russians to set up a meeting with Trump and Putin. Another advisor, JD Gordon, met with the Russian ambassador. The Russian ambassador also met with Jeff sessions – twice – while also having talks with the then-incoming national security advisor, Michael Flynn, with conversations about sanctions. This interaction got Flynn ousted.
Russia has continuously denied any of these allegations, and has rejected the idea that they had contact with Trump’s campaign or business interests that would have persuaded the 2016 presidential elections.
Even though all parties involved have rejected the idea of collusion, many experts that have studied past Russian tactics are painting a picture of a concerted, comprehensive infection of the election by Kremlin efforts.
Everyone Is Denying Allegations – but Experts Want to Take a Closer Look
Steve Hall, a retired CIA officer who was once the station chief at the Embassy of the United States in Moscow, has noted that he has noticed a pattern with Russians “appearing to try to find soft spots, to find the soft underbelly of the campaign” in the hopes of making contact.
Filed court documents by Papadopoulos also note that he shared Russian intel with at least one meeting with Trump and Sessions, with several meetings with lower-level staff. In one August 2016 email, campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis encouraged Papadopoulos to go to Russia “if it is feasible.”
Where There Is Smoke, There May (Or May Not) Be Fire
Facebook and several social media companies have come forward with the details about how their platforms were hijacked and manipulated in a sophisticated campaign to mimic political conversations that ultimately were used to rally Trump’s base, glorify Trump and his actions, and squash any rhetoric against him. In the past couple of days, one of the loudest Twitter supporters for Trump has been shown to be a bot coming from Russian “troll farms.”
When it comes to Facebook, the social media juggernaut acknowledged that more than 126 million users were stemming from Russian operatives. On top of that, 11 million people potentially had contact to Russian bought Facebook ads, with an additional 20 million posts originating from Instagram.
These revelations come at the heel of a Russian operation that was identified by the United States intelligence community, including attempts to hack the emails of the Democratic National Committee and associated officials.
Here Is What Might Have Been Russia’s First Contact with Trump
In an attempt to perhaps test the waters, a young Russian gun rights activists named Maria Butina, came forward in 2015 after Trump announced that he was running for president. At a town hall meeting, Butina asked the then Republican candidate what he would do when it comes to “relations with my country.” Trump responded that he promises to improve international relations with Russia, telling her that he knows Putin and that he gets along with him.
All at the expense of America’s democracy.
The Mueller investigation is ongoing.