We've been waiting for weeks for the avalanche that we knew was coming -- the one that would bury the Trump administration and make his eventual removal from office almost inevitable. It looks like that avalanche is here.
The most recent information to add its weight to the avalanche of questionable conduct committed by Trump and the people around him was reported by Reuters on Thursday morning. They say sources have revealed that there were at least 18 undisclosed contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russians. Those contacts, which occurred during the seven months leading up to last November's election, were made by former national security advisor Michael Flynn as well as other campaign officials and involved phone calls and "electronic messages."
Reuters says the communications involved improving U.S.-Russia relations, cooperation in the fight against ISIS, and containing Chinese expansionism. Six of the contacts were phone calls with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. The remaining 12 involved calls, texts, or emails to various Russians who are regarded as being close to President Vladimir Putin.
Following the election, Flynn and Kislyak discussed creating a back channel communication to skirt the American national security establishment. Both the Russians and Flynn regarded that establishment as being opposed to improved relations. Given the revelations of recent days that back channel could also have been useful for Trump to furnish more classified information to the Russians without the national security apparatus being aware.
As late as January Trump associates were denying any contacts between the campaign and Russian officials. Vice President Mike Pence told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that the charges were nothing more than a "distraction."
"Of course not. Why would there be any contact between the campaign?" Pence said. "This is all a distraction, and it's all part of a narrative to delegitimatize the election and to question the legitimacy of (Trump's) presidency."
Reuters notes that after Pence's comments, campaign and White House officials confirmed four meetings between Trump advisors and ambassador Kislyak. No one from either the Trump administration or the Russian government has been willing to comment on the report of the additional contacts.
Right-wing sources seized on one sentence in the Reuters report to attack those who have expressed concern over Trump's ties with Putin and Russia:
The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far.
Paul Joseph Watson, editor-at-large of one of Trump's favorite websites, InfoWars, used that sentence to dismiss the entire Trump-Russia investigation as the "witch hunt" Trump himself called it in a Thursday morning tweet.
"Despite no evidence whatsoever having been presented of Trump or anyone on his campaign colluding with Russia to influence the election, the deep state and the Democratic establishment is intensifying its effort to portray Trump as illegitimate," Watson wrote.
Watson is also dismissive of the report of the planned back channel to avoid U.S. national security agencies, saying with the naivete of a child,
In other words, Trump wanted peace with the world’s other nuclear superpower while forging ahead with a joint plan to destroy ISIS.
How terrible of him.
But here's the question Watson doesn't want to touch: If these contacts between Trump's campaign officials and Russians were the completely innocent things Trump's allies claim, then why lie about them? Because when Mike Pence repeatedly said in January that there had been no contacts, he was either lying or he was revealing that he was a useful idiot who was being kept out of the loop by others involved with the campaign and transition. And that raises another question: if Pence, as vice-president elect, was being kept out of the loop, why were others in the incoming administration lying to him?
Trump and his supporters continue to insist that there is nothing to see in the Russia story. But every new revelation only seems to raise more questions than it answers. Eventually we will have those answers and it is looking increasingly likely that when we do, it will be the end of Trump's reign of error.