I know WWE Hall of Famer President Donald Trump has repeatedly called ties to Russia “fake news.” And I know Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN that there is no “definitive” proof of collusion yet. But my ears are still ringing from people screaming about emails all last year.
Honestly, I jest because there is an overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence stacked against Trump. Emails and Russia are in totally different leagues at this point. I understand the evidence remains circumstantial, but I’m going to go ahead and list some of the most important revelations about the Trump team’s ties with Russia.
We’ve seen the firing of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for illegally speaking with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office — something he later lied to Vice President Mike Pence about. Then we saw Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s resignation because of contact with Russians during the campaign.
We’ve also seen Attorney General Jeff Sessions and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes recuse themselves from the congressional Russia investigation.
Sessions had met twice with Russian officials — which he did not disclose in his senate confirmation hearings — while Nunes made a trip to the White House to discuss information he found about incidental surveillance of Trump’s team by U.S. intelligence. And finally, let us not forget about the litany of financial ties that Trump’s super-wealthy, drain-the-swamp cabinet have to Russia. Though these points only account for some of the revelations, I’ll stop here because my fingers are getting tired from typing it all out.
So Schiff later told MSNBC he has seen more than circumstantial evidence about Trump-Russia ties. Though he declined to elaborate, his comments helped set the stage for the most recent shoe drop, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
Apparently, the founder of the notorious security firm Blackwater, Erik Prince — who also happens to be the brother of Betsy DeVos, the grisly education secretary — met with a “Russian close to President Vladimir Putin.” The United Arab Emirates (UAE) acted as intermediaries for the meeting in the Seychelles Islands, which took place nine days before Trump’s inauguration. The point of this meeting, to set up a “back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Trump,” according to The Washington Post’s report.
The White House has adamantly denied that Prince had any role in the Trump transition, but The Washington Post’s report states, at the time, “the UAE believed that Prince had the blessing of the new administration to act as its unofficial representative.”
Prince was also seen at Trump Tower in December. Obviously, Prince has too much baggage to be a member of team Trump in any fashion, but this raises the question, what on earth would cause the UAE to see Prince as an unofficial representative?
Luckily for Trump, a gift fell in his lap in the form of a report from Bloomburg View’s Eli Lake. Lake broke a story about repeated unmasking requests of Trump officials from the Obama Administration’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Lake said Rice’s unmasking attempts were likely within the law, while Observer columnist John Schindler, a former National Security Agency (NSA) analyst and counterintelligence officer, said requests like Rice’s are commonplace. If Rice’s requests were based on partisanship, then she could be in real trouble. But Schindler mentions “it will be nearly impossible to prove that Rice did anything wrong by asking the NSA to unmask Americans [Signals Intelligence] reports.”
The response by Trump and his team was expected. They are using the possibility of a Rice scandal to deflect from the mounting evidence against him regarding Russia. In a recent interview with The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, Trump chided the reporters for not covering the story. When they told him they had already written about it twice and would welcome any additional information he had, Trump skirted the subject.
The one piece of information thatTrump cited regarded Rice’s “horrible” performance on television in an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. He then continued to talk in circles, calling the Russia story a hoax, and the Rice revelations “one of the biggest stories.” A story in which he foresees members of the Obama administration getting caught up, though he declined to comment on how far up the chain he thinks the alleged maleficence went.
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but this is some of the most jaw-dropping stuff I have seen in my lifetime in regard to politics. We have an actual, substantiated report that shows that somehow or another, a guy like Erik Prince — whom I suggest you all do some research about — was able to speak to one of Putin’s cronies on behalf of Trump with the intention of setting up a secret line of communication. When you pile this fact on top of reports about Steven Bannon’s secretive role in the White House and Devin Nunes’s secret trip to the White House to play informant for Trump, it becomes increasingly more hilarious that it is Trump and his supporters that are worried about a shadow government.
Still, we are sitting here parsing potential scenarios in which the Obama Administration’s national security adviser may have stepped slightly out of bounds in doing her job.
It’s worth noting that the Rice situation does not even come close to vindicating Trump’s baseless wiretapping claims. What he suggested, and what Rice did, are miles apart.
What it seems is going on here is a desperate man trying to gain some reprieve from nonstop pressure coming at him from all angles regarding Russia. I said it once, and I’ll say it again — The pressure will either create diamonds, or pop a nagging zit. I for one am looking forward to the possibility of ridding this blemish from the face of our nation.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and are not representative of The Slate or its staff as a whole.