December 18, 2018
The president admits that he sees “the elephant in the room”—that is, his campaign associates’ frequent contacts with Russian oligarchs, lawyers, and government officials. However, Donald Trump told Reuters last week during an interview, it was all just “peanut stuff,” despite his earlier blanket denials of any such interactions.
Indeed, during a February 2017 news conference covered by Breitbart, President Trump said, “Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia …. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.”
Now—more than two years after the 2016 election and about 18 months into the Mueller investigation—court filings, public statements, and news reports indicate that at least 16 Trump associates had contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign or transition.
It has been thoroughly demonstrated that the president and his associates reached out to Russia in many ways: via face-to-face meetings; direct phone calls, text messages, emails, and video chats; and through a host of intermediaries.
However, as CNN reports, all of those who made the contacts—from former White House officials, to his personal lawyer, to his own son and daughter—uniformly deny participating in any “collusion” with the Russians.
The Reuters interview came a day ahead of the sentencing hearing in New York’s Southern District Court for Trump’s personal lawyer and “fixer,” Michael Cohen—who was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in hush-money cover-ups during the campaign, as well as for other felonies. What’s more, Cohen’s testimony to Robert Mueller about the president’s involvement with Russia represents a ticking time bomb that could explode within weeks, doing damage to everyone in Trump’s inner circle.
Trump, during the Reuters interview, criticized Cohen for cooperating with prosecutors and called for his former personal lawyer to receive a long sentence.
Research contact: @maeganvaz