By: Ryan Kirby, Columnist
Russia: the dark and ominous cloud that continues to hang over the Trump administration. Many conservatives have tried to brush off the allegations and investigations as Democrats trying to make an excuse for their losses during the 2016 elections. Conservatives have also tried to claim that Russia did not interfere because there is no evidence that any physical votes were changed at the ballot box. In reality, there is currently an independent investigation by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, and investigations in both chambers of Congress to investigate both the depth of Russian interference and to what extent were Americans involved.
There is absolutely no denying that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. In January 2017, the U.S. intelligence community issued a report that stated, “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Donald Trump.” During his confirmation hearing, John Huntsmen, the current U.S. Ambassador to Russia appointed by President Trump, stated that there is, “no question Russia interfered in the US election last summer.”
So, what have these investigations led to? On Oct. 30, 2017, Special Counsel Mueller handed down indictments for former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and Deputy Campaign Manager Rick Gates. The crimes ranged from money laundering to conspiracy against the United States. It was also revealed that George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and has been cooperating with investigators. On Dec. 1, 2017, Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and stated that he will be working with investigators.
Flynn’s guilty plea is the closest link into Trump’s inner circle as president. Flynn served as Trump’s chief foreign policy advisor during the campaign and his national security advisor. Flynn’s guilty plea indicates that the Trump transition team was actively undermining the then-Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 election. Flynn had supposedly lied to then Vice President-elect Mike Pence when he stated that there had been no communications between Flynn and Russian senior diplomat Sergey Kislyak, but Flynn’s guilty plea casts doubt that Pence was unaware.
Flynn stated that he had been ordered by senior Trump transition team officials to contact the Russian government about the sanctions. Because Flynn was a senior Trump official, there were not many people above him and meaning that the transition team was fully aware of what was going on. Vice president-elect Pence was also the head of the transition team. Recent reporting also indicates that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was the senior transition official who ordered Flynn to make contact with the Russians which could further implicate Trump’s own family members. It is also important to note that Donald Trump Jr. had his own contacts with Russians during the campaign when he agreed to meet a representative of the Russian government in exchange for dirty on Secretary Clinton and his contacts with Wikileaks.
The special counsel’s investigation is clearly not a witch hunt like the president would like us to believe. The number of people related to Trump who had contacts with Russians seems to grow with each day that passes and it seems to leave me with only a few ways to interpret their actions. The Trump administration either intentionally cooperated with a foreign adversary to get elected, or the President is so grossly incompetent that he had no idea that so many of his subordinates were committing criminal acts. Either way, the future of the Trump presidency is in serious jeopardy.