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    Tuesday, August 15, 2017

    New Report Shows Russians Repeatedly Trying To Open Channels To Trump Campaign

    A Washington Post report today details that the Russians contacted the Trump campaign on multiple occasions in the hope of getting the Trump team to meet with Putin at some point down the road. The Post report focuses on a young staffer named George Papadopoulos who repeatedly sent messages to senior campaign officials passing along his Russian contacts' desire to set up a meeting between Russian officials and the Trump team. Papadopoulos was one of Trump's original group of foreign policy advisers, along with Carter Page and others.

    Those meeting requests were rebuffed by the senior figures in the Trump campaign and that is now being used by the Trump team to support their accusation that the Russian story is a hoax. Paul Manafort's spokesman said the fact that these attempts were rebuffed shows "concrete evidence that the Russia collusion narrative is fake news."

    While it is true that the Post report shows no collusion, it still creates some rather large issues for the Trump team. Obviously, the fact that the Russians continued to probe the Trump campaign even after being rebuffed on multiple occasions shows that they believed that at some point the campaign might play ball with them. And that clearly happened with the meeting they were able to set up with Don Jr. in exchange for promised dirt on Hillary. Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns claim they were not similarly targeted by the Russians.

    In addition, the Post reports that Manafort, Sam Clovis, Charles Kubic, and Corey Lewandowski, all senior members of the Trump campaign at one point or another, were all aware of these meeting requests and were included in the decision to rebuff them. That, however, creates the rather interesting question about why the Trump team continues to lie about the contacts they had with Russian interests during the campaign even to this day. Clearly, all four of those people, some of whom have made blanket denials about the campaign's Russian contacts, know that those denials are clearly false.

    Lastly, despite Manafort's claim that the Post report shows no collusion, it is entirely plausible to speculate that the Trump team already had established contacts with the Russians and rebuffed this pressure specifically not to highlight the relationship that might already exist. Another plausible explanation is that these attempts to force a meeting were actually a way for the Russians to pressure Trump, knowing they had dirt on him. Or, more likely, it could simply be that these were initial attempts that were rebuffed but eventually the Trump team did agree to meet with these Russian interests later in the campaign. We certainly know that happened with Don Jr.'s meeting.

    The most important takeaway from this story, however, is that there is yet more evidence that the Trump campaign was repeatedly being contacted by the Russians. Whether or not those contacts were rebuffed, the Trump team continues to lie about those contacts and downplay them as the details emerge, creating an indelible impression that they really have something to hide.

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