US President Donald Trump has constantly been associated with Russia and it’s president Vladimir Putin at every step of his presidency and even before that. Trump’s way of handling political situations is once again being questioned because of the facts that veteran Washington reporter Carl Bernstein put forward on CNN. How has the controversy regarding Trump and Russia unraveled before the public?
He reported that Russian intelligence agency GRU had placed a bounty on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Although this news came as a shock to the U.S. citizens, they faced a bigger shock when it was reported that Donald Trump did not have any idea about this. The report also confirmed several other allegations of Trump’s ignorance of world events, being manipulated by other leaders, and his near-sadistic behavior with female world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
This report has given rise to many burning questions. Had the President been briefed about the threat to Afghan Troops? If he had, then what steps did his office take to counter it? And was this news present in his daily information briefs, which he is popularly known to ignore?
On Sunday night Trump tweeted “Intel just reported to me they did not find this info credible, and therefore didn’t report it to me.” This tweet just showed how Trump is always ready to throw the intelligence agency and their findings under the bus when they find any negative information about Trump.
However, the statement that Kayleigh McEnany provided did not necessarily support Trumps’ certainty. Instead, it contributed to further confusion. “There is no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations and in effect, there are dissenting opinions from some in the intelligence community with regards to the veracity of what’s being reported, and the veracity of the underlying allegations continues to be evaluated,” she said.
David Priess, a former officer of the CIA told CNN that the “Daily Brief was created to make sure that the President had the most up-to-date analysis and assessment of what is almost always uncertain intelligence.” David Priess added that most of the information incorporated into Daily Briefs are not always “corroborated and verified.” David Priess is the author of The President’s Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America’s Presidents.
Many senior intelligence officials also rejected the reasoning put forward by McEnany. They could not believe that significant information like this could be left out of the daily briefs. This only leaves us to conclude that Trump did not go through the brief that he had been provided. It can moreover be that he is more concerned about his re-election than America’s security.
We all know that Trump and Russia have been a controversial topic for a long time. He has had past business relationships with Russia and was also accused of “collusion” with Russia during the presidential elections.
Therefore let’s take a deeper look into this association.
Trump and Russia – a timeline
Trump and his team have been accused of taking the help of the Russian agents to influence the US Presidential elections. His opponent was Hilary Clinton from the National Democratic Party. US intelligence sources reported in 2016 that Russia launched a fake news campaign against Hilary.
Who were the contacts?
Seventeen of Trumps’ aides have been accused of maintaining contact with Russian agents or WikiLeaks. They also carried out large-scale cyber-attacks that were authorized by the state.
Some of the popular people accused include Jared Kushner (his son-in-law), his son Donald Trump Jr, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, and Attorney general Jeff Sessions.
An investigation into the matter and Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller is a former prosecutor who was the second-longest-serving FBI director in history. The first was J. Edgar Hoover. His term was also extended from the original 10 to 12 years after being passed as 100-0 in his favor.
Robert Mueller was appointed as a special counsel to investigate the alleged collusion of Donald Trump and Russia. He worked with a team of private lawyers and lawyers from the Department of Justice. Throughout the entire investigation, he did not make a single statement to the press or anyone regarding the proceedings of the case.
He completed his investigation and submitted a report on 22nd of March to Attorney General William Barr.
One should also remember that William Barr was appointed as the Attorney General only after Jeff Sessions was pressured to resign.
Details of Mueller’s Report
The report was a 448 pages document. The special counsel uncovered several criminal activities and provided groundbreaking evidence that the president obstructed justice on several occasions.
Russia interfered extensively in the elections by targeting many state databases that maintain the personal information of millions of registered voters.
The counsel investigated “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign” and successfully proved that the Trump Campaign “expressed interest in WikiLeaks’s releases of documents and welcomed their potential to damage candidate Clinton.”
In 2015 and 2016, Michael Cohen operated a hotel/residence project in Moscow on behalf of Trump while he was campaigning for President.
On June 9, 2016, Ex-Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Donald Trump, Jr., and Jared Kushner attended a meeting with Russian nationals at Trump Tower. This was after an intermediary had informed them that the Russians had derogatory information on Clinton that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” The intermediary is said to be a long time Trump advisor Roger Stone.
George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, and Michael Cohen all admitted that they submitted false statements to federal investigators or Congress about their contacts. On the other hand, Trump tried his level best to impede the investigations and influence the testimonies of the witnesses in his favor.
In addition, Roger Stone faces trial this fall for obstruction of justice. He is charged on five counts of making false statements to investigators and one count of witness tampering.
The Report repeatedly stressed on the questions that why did Trump and his aides constantly talk about having no connections with the Kremlin.
“Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the report says.
Around 10% of the report had been redacted before revealing it to the public.
In spite of the incredibly thorough Mueller investigations, there had been various other investigations that had been going on parallelly. The connections between Trump and Russia is slowly being unraveled.
The Senate and House Intelligence Committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee are investigating alleged Kremlin meddling and any collusion with Trump.
Trump associates and Russian officials are being looked into by the Oversight Committee.
The Judiciary Committee is scrutinizing beyond the Russian connection and has issued nearly 80 document requests.
Simultaneously, federal prosecutors at the Southern District of New York and in Washington are also investigating Russian links and other avenues.
Did Obama know?
The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration had prior knowledge of Mr. Putin directing a state-sponsored effort to interfere with the US elections. They had received the information from the CIA.
They were reluctant to share the information with everyone fearing a backlash that Obama was trying to interfere with the elections. So they resorted to keeping their mouth shut while other U.S Intelligence agencies were trying to figure out the same.
Warnings were issued to the Russian officials and it wasn’t until late September that a statement was made to the public. Obama requested not to mention his name in the statement.
What does Barr’s memo reveal?
Barr, who benefited from the privilege to see the entire document, took 2 days to examine the report. He then put forward his interpretation of the matter to Congress.
The Barr letter was divided into two segments: Russia’s interference into the election and allegations of obstruction of justice.
Barr mentioned the above two methods that Russia practiced to sway the elections. He referred to the report as saying that the investigation did not provide ample evidence of Trump and Russia conspiracies. He also acquitted Trump of the accusations of obstructing justice. He, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, came up with this conclusion, which technically exonerates Trump from severe charges.
Mueller, however, was dissatisfied with the Barr letter and said that “it did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of his report.
On May 29th he resigned from his post and the Office of the Special counsel was closed.
Mr. Mueller even alluded to the impeachment of Trump by saying that the Constitution demands a different process apart from the criminal justice system in order to formally bring allegations against a sitting president.
He further added that he and his team wouldn’t be available for further statements regarding the case from now on. However, it does not end here for Mueller.
The former FBI Director is scheduled to appear in front of Congress about his Report on the Trump and Russia collusion.
Mr. Barr informed that his primary aim was to make as much information public, in line with the confidentiality requirements and processes. However, Democrats are demanding the release of the unredacted document so that they and the public can see for themselves.
Despite giving rise to suspicion on so many counts, there is a faint possibility that Trump will be impeached from office. The other two presidents who have been impeached are Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson.
For impeachment to occur, there should be a majority in the House of Representatives. If the vote is successful, the Senate conducts a trial which is presided by the Chief Justice. A two-thirds majority should follow it. However, impeachment will not come anytime soon since there is a Republican majority in the Senate.
What comes next for Trump and Russia?
In spite of the threat of growing Russian activity in Afghanistan, Trump looks least concerned. He is gearing up for the November 2020 elections where he will be running against former Vice President Joe Biden. He is best known as Barack Obama’s Vice President.
He has suggested postponing the November 3rd election saying that mail-in voting could lead to fraud and inaccurate ballot results. There is, however, very little evidence to support this claim. However, Donald Trump cannot delay November’s presidential election without Congress’s approval.
Mr. Trump appears to be doing everything in his power to undermine the credibility of November’s vote, in which the maximum number of Americans are predicted to rely on mail-in voting.
The polls suggest that Biden has been leading the polls in Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This is a big concern for Trump as he won these states during the last presidential letters.
However, there is a long way to go and the results can change with time. And hopefully, all the buried secrets of Trump and Russia come to the forefront before the final decision is made in November.