Dan Rather recently remarked about the current Russia scandal rocking Washington, “If a scriptwriter had approached Hollywood with what we are witnessing, he or she would probably have been told it was way too far-fetched for even a summer blockbuster.”
Indeed, if we look back at the timeline of Trump and Russia it really is stranger than fiction:
1987—Donald Trump meets with then-U.S.S.R. communist government officials in Moscow to discuss a joint partnership deal to build a hotel in the city. (This is the same year President Reagan says his famous Cold War line at the foot of the Berlin Wall, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”)
1996—Trump again visits Russia with hopes of building a condominium project.
1997—Trump seeks to erect a huge statue within viewing distance of the Statue of Liberty; it would have stood forty-five-feet taller than the beloved Mother of Exiles. The gift would be from Russia by an artist Trump assured everyone was “major and legit” and would literally overshadow Lady Liberty, with an enormous likeness of the polar opposite of everything that the Statue of Liberty represents: Christopher “Genocidal Maniac” Columbus.
2003-06—Donald Trump Jr. travels extensively to Russia.
2007—Trump visits Russia again.
2008—Donald Trump Jr. tells a real-estate conference, in reference to the Trump business empire: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” He added, “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
2013—Donald Trump brags about an after-party that was held when he brought the Miss Universe contest to Moscow, saying, “The Russian market is attracted to me. Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room.”
December 2015—Vladimir Putin compliments “talented” Trump and says he is “absolutely the leader in the presidential race.” Trump responds, “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”
July 2016—The Trump campaign quietly removes saber-rattling language from GOP platform aimed to dissuade Russia from continuing its aggressions toward Ukraine. Amid rising suspicion, Trump tweets, “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.”
August 2016—Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is forced to resign amid news reports drawing attention to his deep, pro-Russia ties and speculation that these relationships are having an unethical influence on the Trump campaign.
October 2016—Trump’s “closest political advisor,” Roger Stone, successfully predicts that WikiLeaks will publish “devastating” information on Clinton in the following days. Later, it is reported that Stone had prior knowledge that the WikiLeaks bomb was going to drop and that the Russian government masterminded cyber robberies of the Clinton campaign and its allies.
November 2016—Donald Trump is elected President.
December 2016—President Obama levies strong sanctions against Russia for “efforts to interfere in our election.”
January 2016—CNN reports on a memo from a former British intelligence officer, stating that the Russian government had “compromising personal and financial information” on Donald Trump and that there were “allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.”
February 2017—President Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, is forced to resign following reports that Flynn spoke with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak after President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia, and that Flynn’s communications with Kislyak had gone on well before the election. The Guardian reported that this was “raising more questions about whether the Trump campaign had any knowledge of the Russian effort to skew the elections.”
Trump’s response to these questions was (of course) delivered as a tweet. Not one conveying upset over what his National Security Advisor had done but expressing anger that Flynn’s communications were being leaked to the press:
The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2017
That’s a very peculiar response—especially from a guy who is a famous for being a micro-manager who can’t delegate even the tiniest task.
Besides Flynn, it is known that Trump campaign advisors Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Carter Page had direct communications with the Russians or their surrogates before the election.
At this point, there is no evidence that Trump had any knowledge of these communications with the Russians.
But the familiar question in Washington is: What did the President know and when did he know it?