Russia, Trump and Collusion

Donald Trump has spent his presidency arguing that Russian collusion was a hoax. On August 18, 2020, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its final 966-page report on Russian active measures in the 2016 election. It did not exonerate Donald Trump. Instead, the bipartisan report added more details to Russia’s interference of the 2016 elections.

Two things to keep in mind as you read the takeaways from the report. First is that the Senate is controlled by the Republican Party. The second is that the intelligence committee is bipartisan. As such, the report does not represent the views of the Democrats nor was the report authored by Democrats. Eight members of the committee are Republicans.

The report represents the views of both the Democrats and the Republicans.

In addition to confirming the information we already know from the Mueller Investigation and the House probes into Russian collusion, the Senate report adds additional information.

The Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was peddling dirt on Hillary Clinton during the June 2016 meeting with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort was more connected to the Russian government then previously known. According to the report, Veselnitskaya’s links to Russian government officials “were far more extensive and concerning than what had been publicly known”.

The report also said that Konstantin V. Kilimnik was a “Russian intelligence officer.” Kilimnik was Paul Manafort’s business partner. Manafort was also a campaign chairman for Trump.

More importantly, the report notes that “Russia and other countries took advantage of the [Trump] Transition Team’s inexperience, transparent opposition to Obama Administration policies, and Trump’s desire to deepen ties with Russia, to pursue unofficial channels through which Russia could conduct diplomacy”. In essence, Russia was manipulating Trump’s team.

The Senate report adds that Paul Manafort was a “grave counterintelligence threat”.

The report also alludes to one of Russia’s intelligence agencies, the GRU, as leading the hacks into the Democratic Party computer systems leading into the 2016 elections.

Trump told the Senate investigators that he did not recall any conversations with Roger Stone about the Wikileaks data dump hurting Hillary Clinton’s campaign. However, the Senate report notes that Trump, “did, in fact, speak with Stone about Wikileaks and with members of his Campaign about Stone’s access to Wikileaks on multiple occasions”.

In July, Donald Trump commuted Roger Stone’s prison sentence shortly before he was ordered to report to prison. Stone was convicted of several felonies including obstructing a congressional investigation.

Although the report, like the previous investigations into Russian collusion by Donald Trump, did not find that Trump colluded directly with the Russians, the report, nonetheless, demonstrates that Trump’s ineptitude allowed the Russians to manipulate the 2016 elections.

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