Late Tuesday, The New York Times published a bombshell article directly linking several of Donald Trump's senior campaign staffers to Russian intelligence officials. Until recently, the direct linkage didn't exist, but now the U.S. intelligence community has acquired evidence in the form of "intercepted calls" between Russian agencies and both Trump officials and "other associates of Mr. Trump."
This could be the biggest news to drop on the story since it was first reported back in June. For the first time, we have hard information connecting the president's men with Russian intelligence. The latest developments effectively tether Trump to the very Russian operatives that helped coordinate the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, among others.
It's likely the Trump officials involved in the plot include Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Carter Page and, naturally, Mike Flynn. This hasn't been confirmed yet via intercepted calls, but Manafort has close ties to Putin, as does Flynn. As for Roger Stone, he's already confessed to having back-channel communications with Wikileaks. Stone, back in August, teased the Podesta hacking at least a month before the emails were made public.
The question of the week remains: What did Trump know and when did he know it?
It's both shocking and not shocking at all to learn that Trump basically confessed to the accuracy of the leaks during a Wednesday morning bout of Twitter diarrhea. Among other things, the president tweeted:
In the first tweet above, Trump referred to the leaks as "classified information." Not fake news or lies or fiction. So, here's a very serious question: if the leaks are composed of "classified information," and if the leaks are so serious, doesn't that suggest the leaks are real? I mean, after all, wouldn't Trump regard anything reported in the alleged "fake news media" also to be fake? And if the leaks are fake, what's all the hubbub about, Mr. President?
Put another way, Trump is basically confessing to the accuracy of the intelligence by screaming so loudly about the seriousness of the leaks. If the leaks were untrue, Trump would brush off the information as merely being fake leaks or disinformation or agitprop. I don't know about you, but if someone publishes something factually inaccurate about me, I either ignore it or I call it out as inaccurate. I'd never react by suggesting the false information was a violation of, say, my privacy rights. Likewise, Trump never once said the leaks themselves -- the details of the information given to the Times -- were inaccurate.
Brainwashing is the only way to explain how Trump's sycophants in the conservative entertainment complex continue to believe what he says despite the fact that he inadvertently admitted to the veracity of the leaks. Conversely, they continue to accuse Hillary Clinton of breaking the law during Benghazi as well as her usage of a private email server even though numerous Republican investigations cleared her of wrongdoing. Meanwhile, Trump more or less confessed to this super-obvious act of treason, and his disciples are still in denial about it. (By the way, the same "fake news" Times reporter, Michael Schmidt, who broke the Hillary email server story in 2015 was also the lead reporter on this new Russia story. Another fact the Trumpers will conveniently ignore.)
Once again, these latest revelations speak directly to both Trump's criminal conspiracy to hijack the 2016 general election, and to Trump's dangerously erratic, incompetent and self-defeating behavior. Today he's accidentally verifying the accuracy of leaks that prove his collusion with Russian intelligence; who knows what else he'll accidentally blurt tomorrow, especially given his obsession with whining and tantrum-hurling on social media. And, amazingly, in the face of a growing stockpile of unimpeachable evidence, Trump's loyalists will continue to deny all of it.
It's frankly astonishing they're denying it when the whole thing is ridiculously obvious.
- Putin's been collecting kompromat on Trump for years, since Trump makes it so easy (see also Mar-a-lago security breaches last weekend).
- Via surrogates Manafort, Stone, Flynn and Page, Putin reaches out to Trump, suggesting a quid pro quo -- Russia will help Trump win if Trump agrees to go easy on Putin with regard to NATO, sanctions, military incursions and so forth.
- Trump can't say "no" because Putin has him effectively blackmailed. So, Trump, for the first time in his 70 years, suddenly begins to give a shit about Russia, heaping unsolicited praise on Putin whenever he can -- and not a single ugly anti-Putin word has escaped Trump's mouth.
- At the same time, Trump lashes out at both the American government and the U.S. military for being "killers" -- the newly installed commander-in-chief hurls both entities under a bus in the name of downplaying Putin's atrocious human rights record.
- He also compares the U.S. intelligence community to Nazi Germany and, Wednesday morning, attacks both the FBI and the CIA again while also stupidly verifying the accuracy of the leaks. And he has the nerve to wonder why the intelligence community, not to mention his own staffers, continue to leak damaging things about him and his closest advisers.
- While everything else is imploding, including the ouster of Mike Flynn, Russia deploys a spy ship to loiter along the east coast. Elsewhere, Putin violates treaties designed to curb intermediate range ground-based missiles by deploying a freshly minted Russian cruise missile. Trump fails to respond to either acts of obvious aggression.
And the rest of the super-colossal iceberg has yet to reveal itself.
Yet we're supposed to believe none of the above facts are linked in any way. Honestly, Trump must believe we're all just as stupid and misinformed as he is. But as the drip-drip explodes into a geyser of leaks and bombshells, it's going to become increasingly difficult for the congressional Republicans to backstop the administration. I'm still skeptical about the prospects for impeachment given the whip count, but there's now a very strong chance Trump and his team will face criminal charges, making it nearly impossible for him to remain in office. Trump's people, and Trump himself, would do well to lawyer up. And the content of a resignation address to the nation should probably be discussed inside the west wing. Soon.
Sometimes the answer to all the riddles is hiding in plain sight.