Since the birth of the Trump presidency, allegations around both his team’s and his own ties to Russia have encircled the new administration. After the head of national security, Michael Flynn, resigned new questions and concerns are swelling up from the swamp.
Unproven allegations remain of the Trump team’s co-operation with Russia during the 2016 campaign, the potential exposure to Russian blackmail and that he may be on the take from the Russian government.
The evidence for these charges is very thin, however, the plethora of small questions that they throw up could be a cause for concern when all taken together.
The three main issues:
- Did anyone from Trump’s campaign staff actively collaborate with the Russian government over the course of the 2016 election cycle?
- Does the Russian government have anything compromising on Trump, either related to financing or to the more salacious ‘Steele dossier’ that could affect Trump’s policies?
- Is Trump or his organisation benefiting from recent financial flows from the Russian government or those closely linked to it?
The answers to these questions might tell us why the president is continuously distancing himself from his associates, and why he won’t properly disclose his financial documents or tax returns, and why he is taking a very strange foreign policy angle with regards to Russia and Putin.
Carter Page. Manafort. Flynn. Three Trump advisers all cut loose b/c of Russia ties. Some point, and that point is now, you look at the boss
— Eric Schmeltzer (@JustSchmeltzer) February 14, 2017
A well respected Army officer who was chosen by Trump to run National Security. He was then fired after the Washington Post broke the news that inside sources confirmed he had been speaking with the Russian ambassador about sanctions when he and the Vice President had previously declared this not to be true.
Trump said he fired Flynn because he lost trust after he misled the Vice President – although Trump himself kept the Vice President in the dark, unless they all knew – but he said the conduct of making the call was ok.
- What did Flynn do to really lose the trust of the President?
- Why did Flynn lie to the public and the Vice President?
- Did anyone direct Flynn to talk with the Russian ambassador about sanctions?
- Did Flynn promise anything to Russia in exchange for Russia forgoing retaliation to sanctions?
- Why did the White House continue to lie about Flynn discussing sanctions after they were told that he had?
Flynn is just the tip of the iceberg. Follow him,Carter Page,Manafort,Roger Stone. They all lead to Putin who leads to DT. #Impeachment
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) February 14, 2017
An American businessman with a long history of deals in Russia. Nobody had seemed to have heard of him when Trump named him as a member of his national security team.
His ties to Trump dissolved rapidly after the ‘Steele dossier’ exposed Trump’s alleged ties to Russia through Page to the point where Trump consistently downplayed the level of contact they had with each other.
- Why did Trump name Page as one of only five national security advisors in a March 2016 interview with the Washington Post?
- Who did Page meet in Russia during the 2016 campaign when he portrayed himself as an important channel to Trump?
- Why did he step down from team Trump after the stories began to emerge?
A veteran Republican Party political operative dating back to the Nixon administration – a long time friend of Trump’s, his role in the Trump campaign was unclear however he seemed to be strikingly in the know about WikiLeaks, and anonymously sourced articles have suggested ties to Russian government officials.
- Why was Stone fired from the campaign in 2015?
- Why did he have knowledge of the WikiLeaks release of John Podesta’s stolen emails?
- How did Stone fall back into Trump’s good graces and get a meeting in Trump Tower after the election victory?
- Does US intelligence have evidence of Stone’s contact with Russian intelligence operatives during the campaign?
Trump says he has no deals in Russia. Sater, who’s pushing for lifted sanctions, does business in Russia. Here’s his actual business card. pic.twitter.com/qPuo93divb
— Rob Flaherty (@Rob_Flaherty) February 20, 2017
An old-line Republican Party operative who offered consulting and lobbying services aboard including Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions, Moscow’s main vehicle for influence in Ukraine.
- Why was he fired as campaign manager?
- Did he receive the alleged $12 million in cash payments from the pro-Russian Ukranian political party that he worked for before joining the Trump team?
- Why did he make several trips to Kiev after the end of his consulting work there?
- Did he have any contact with Russian government associates during the campaign?
The Trump Organisation
Trump’s financial disclosure forms do little to actually disclose any information about his finances, only showing that he is the owner or partial owner of several LLCs that together constitute the Trump Organisation.
These are privately held “pass-through” entities, whose profits and losses show up on the individual income taxes of their owners – Trump and his partners, which have not been disclosed – meaning we have no idea how his business operate or where the money comes from.
- How much revenue and investment has the Trump Organisation received from Russian nationals and entities?
- Does he really have “zero investments in Russia” like he claims, and if so, why won’t he release the financial documents to prove it?
- What exactly did Donald Trump Jr. mean when he said several years ago, “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia”?
- Why did Trump claim to have made high level contacts with the Russian business and political elite, claiming, “almost all of the oligarchs were in the room” to meet with him?
- Was Russian money behind Trump’s business partners in Toronto, Talon International?
- Is any of Trump’s hundreds of millions of dollars of debt held by entities close to the Russian government?
Trump’s policy on Russia
Before Trump, the overwhelming majority of Republicans felt that Obama was too soft on Russia. Trump has seemingly reversed this trend, mostly because Republicans lack the spine to stand up to the new president. But this trend is alarming.
Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
- Why was the GOP platform in 2016 changed to prevent it from calling for military assistance to Ukraine?
- Why is Trump not willing to criticise Putin’s obviously poor record on human rights and repression of political opposition?
- Why was Trump so reluctant to accept his own intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia was behind the hacks of the DNC and John Podesta?
- Why does Trump not speak out about the aggressive Russian activity since his inauguration until directly asked about it at a press conference?
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” doesn’t often apply to politics. Politicians lie to avoid embarrassment, rather than to cover up anything illegal or genuinely nefarious.
Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
It’s entirely possible that all these questions have simple and innocent answers, but it’s also entirely possible that they do not. However, Trump’s unwillingness to answer any of them satisfactorily does not make it any better for him.