We are six months into the Trump Administration. Late last night, the Affordable Care Act dodged a bullet by two votes (thanks to Murkowski, Collins, McCain and the Senate Democrats). Now hopefully they can find a way to actually govern instead of posturing.
We are deep into the investigation of the Trump Campaign’s connection to the Russian State – so deep that the Trump Administration is willing to do almost anything to change the subject – from calling for a Special Counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton and James Comey to talking dirty to the Boy Scouts and the New Yorker.
It’s time to recap. What do we know, what do we think, and what do we hope?
We know that the Trump Campaign received significant and potentially outcome changing help from the Russian government in the form of social media manipulation and control, and the theft and release of Trump’s opponents’ electronic communications. We know that the manipulation and hacks were not only widespread, but also targeted and sophisticated. We know that 17 US Intelligence agencies have “high confidence” that there were Russian Intelligence operations. We know that President Trump still publically and consistently questions this intelligence finding.
We also know that the Russian Intelligence agencies probed the actual electoral databases of at least twenty-one states (and possibly more) in the 2016 election cycle, and breeched at least three, in Florida, North Carolina and Illinois.
We know that in the writing of the party platform at the Republican convention, the section calling for arming Ukraine with “lethal defense weapons” against Russia was watered down at the behest of the Trump campaign, to read “providing appropriate assistance.”
We know that members of the Trump Campaign were in contact with representatives of the Russian government throughout the summer and fall of 2016. This includes the famous meeting in Trump Tower on June 9th, with Donald Trump Jr., Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and several Russians with links to the Russian government; and also multiple meetings by Advisor Michael Flynn, Senator (now Attorney General) Jeff Sessions, and advisor Carter Page.
We know that members of the Trump Campaign was openly looking for “negative information” about Hillary Clinton, and demonstrated willingness to accept information from Russian government sources (as seen in emails by Donald Trump Jr.)
We know that campaign advisor Roger Stone bragged about contact with Julian Assange of Wikileaks and “Guccifer 2.0” during the campaign, even to go so far as predicting when the emails of Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta would be “dropped.” Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0 were the websites where the hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign were released.
We know that there was a computer email server, registered to the Trump organization and in Trump Tower, which was in consistent and near exclusive communication with a server owned by Alfa Bank, a Russian bank that has close ties to the Putin regime. Analysis of those servers show activity increases corresponding to important events during the campaign. Both Alfa Bank and the Trump organization deny that there was a linkage and that they had any business connections, though metadata logs demonstrate a consistent pattern.
We know that Jared Kushner apparently was looking for ways to avoid US Intelligence surveillance after the election, asking the Russian Embassy if there was a way to establish secure communications through their facilities.
We know that President Trump has shown a consistent pattern of “being nice” to Vladimir Putin, and being unwilling to press against Russian aggressions.
We know that the Trump team, from Michael Flynn to Jeff Sessions to Jared Kushner; have a remarkably unclear memory of meetings they had with Russians and members of the Russian government. We know that Kushner in particular has had to revise his SF 86 Security Clearance multiple times, and all seems to only admit to meetings when the evidence is put in front of them.
We also know that the Trump Administration has shown an apparent and ongoing desire to obstruct and stop the “Russia Investigation.” This was first demonstrated by the firing of FBI Director Comey, and continues with pressure from the President (via Tweets) on Attorney General Sessions to either quit of “un-recuse” himself so that he can protect Trump. The Trump team also is raising questions about Special Counsel Mueller and his team, questioning whether they have “conflicts of interest,” and recently have begun attacks on Acting FBI Director McCabe, the default overseer of the investigation should Mueller’s team be fired.
What we don’t have – direct evidence that the Trump campaign cooperated with Russian intelligence during the campaign. We know that they were willing to do so (at least Donald Trump Jr. was) but we don’t have evidence that they did – yet. We don’t have direct linkage of President Trump with Russian connections, though his micro-management style of his organization suggests he would know about what his subordinates did.
We don’t know yet, what the financial information about the Trump organization may bring. We know that Trump was known for playing “fast and loose” in the New York real estate market. One of the administration’s strongest protests is that the Mueller investigation should NOT be looking outside of the 2016 Presidential campaign. As Mueller was rumored to be asking for tax returns, all of a sudden Trump raised the heat on the Special Counsel.
We don’t have direct information about the “kompromat,” the potentially damaging information Russian Intelligence might have on the President. This might range from the amount of Russian money that has been invested into the Trump Organization (one potential reason for Trump’s unwillingness to reveal his taxes) to actual money laundering by Russian organized crime through Trump properties, to more salacious and immoral suggestions including sex trafficking.
What we can hope? That sooner rather than later, the Mueller investigation will begin to reveal what it has found. This is not just because it could be the beginning of the end of the Trump Administration, but, just as Watergate did over forty years ago, the scandal has gripped the nation, and paralyzed any other actions that the government might take. We can’t move on, with or without Trump, until we know.
Will it happen soon? Don’t hold your breath.
 WAPO – House Judiciary Committee Votes to probe Comey and Clinton
 New Yorker – Scaramucci Rant
 Time – Inside Russia’s Socia Medial War on America
 Bloomberg – Russian Breach of 39 States
 Business Insider – Republican Platform Changes on Ukraine
 CNN – Stone and Wikileaks
 Slate – Trump Server Communicating with Russia
 Vanity Fair – Sessions
 NYT – Session and McCabe