UPDATE: Late word from The New York Times. Intercepted phone calls indicate that senior Trump campaign officials had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence.
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
One of the names in the article? Paul Manafort. And the leaks keep getting worse for Trump.
Back to it...
Donald Trump thought he had an excellent understanding of the presidency. When asked whether he knows what he's doing, Trump has routinely snapped, "I'm like a smart guy." The truth is, he's smart enough to deceive half of the voting public, but that's where his smartness abruptly stops -- actually being president is way, way, way outside of his limited skill set. And he's clearly unwilling to learn.
He thought he could collude with Vladimir Putin to hijack the election by sabotaging Hillary Clinton and maybe his primary opponents as well. He thought he could keep his inner circle quiet about both the collusion with Russia and his myriad personal dysfunctions. He thought the conservative entertainment complex would protect him. He thought his battalion of skinheads, anonymous social media cowards and alt-right neo-Nazis would shield him from so-called "liberal snowflakes" -- not realizing that the left is far from the weak, demure, Barney Fife-esque wimps the Trumpers say we are. Trump thought he'd just walk into the White House and by executive decree America would suddenly be great again.
Trump knows nothing.
This is why he waited at least three weeks before asking his national security adviser, Mike Flynn, to resign. The Washington Post, which you might recall was unceremoniously blacklisted by the Trump campaign, has not only exposed Flynn as a liar and a traitor, but it's also exposed Trump's attempted cover-up of this ever-expanding scandal, exposing Trump as a liar and traitor.
President Trump was aware for “weeks” that his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had misled White House officials and Vice President Pence about his talks with the Russian ambassador before Flynn was forced to resign Monday night.
White House counsel Don McGahn told Trump in a briefing late last month that Flynn, despite his claims to the contrary, had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday. The briefing came “immediately” after the Justice Department informed McGahn about the discrepancy, Spicer said.
This report confirms the news that former acting Attorney General Sally Yates briefed the White House on Flynn's conversations with Kislyak about the Obama administration's sanctions (and perhaps other details) three weeks ago, including the fact that Flynn was susceptible to Russian blackmail. More of the iceberg is revealed. The question of "What did Trump know and when did he know it?" is much less of a mystery now.
Earlier Tuesday, Kellyanne Conway appeared on multiple networks suggesting that Flynn merely lied to Vice President Pence about the content of Flynn's calls with the Russian ambassador. This seemed to suggest that Flynn didn't lie to the most important man in the White House (Trump, not Bannon). And if Flynn didn't lie to Trump, it's reasonable to conclude that he didn't need to lie to Trump because he was obviously keeping Trump in the loop the whole time. Simply put: Trump knew. In fact, I'd wager Flynn was acting on orders from Trump.
Trump was absolutely aware of what Flynn was up to, including the part about being vulnerable to Russian blackmail three weeks ago and, it turns out, Trump covered it up. By the way, don't be deceived by the "three weeks" thing. It's obvious that Trump's been working the Russia angle from the beginning.
Since the Yates briefing, he played dumb, defended Flynn, and fired Yates. Regarding the latter, we have no choice at this point but to ask whether Yates was really fired because of her opposition to the Muslim ban, or whether Yates was fired because she spooked Team Trump with news of wiretaps and the hasty unraveling of their Russia/election plot.
He thought he could ride out the turmoil. He though the whole thing would disappear down the memory hole not unlike his completely unpresidential Twitter blurts. WRONG. Trump's basic lack of insight into how the DC machine plays hardball -- a massive blind spot he'll likely never shed -- led him to antagonizing both the intelligence community as well as his own west wing staffers who can't stop blabbing to the press about his mental instability and incompetence. Consequently, the leaks, as predicted, have been exponentially growing in numbers since he first put the word "intelligence" in scare-quotes on Twitter.
Make no mistake: Trump's own hubris and ignorance is destroying his presidency. This is a slow motion political suicide and, at least from the outside, he doesn't seem to know it.