During the last seven months of the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s advisers reportedly contacted Russian officials and Vladimir Putin’s close associates at least 18 times to discuss foreign policy and economic relations. Although the Trump administration initially denied any contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, current and former U.S. officials have revealed at least 18 undisclosed phone calls, emails, and text messages between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
According to Reuters, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and other campaign advisers repeatedly communicated with Russian officials throughout the 2016 presidential race. While receiving money from Turkey and Russia, Flynn reportedly spoke on the phone six times with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to discuss opening a back channel for Trump and Putin to privately communicate without the necessity for bureaucratic red tape.
Besides privately communicating with Kislyak, Trump’s campaign advisers also reportedly interacted with a Ukrainian oligarch and politician named Viktor Medvedchuk. With Putin as the godfather to his daughter, Medvedchuk has denied any conversations with Trump’s close associates.
According to U.S. officials, the identities of the other Russians and Trump campaign advisers currently remain classified while intelligence reports have “masked” their names. On Wednesday, the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the investigation after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and allegedly committed obstruction of justice by attempting to convince Comey to drop the federal investigation into Flynn.
While commenting on Mueller’s appointment as special counsel on Thursday, Trump stated, “I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we’re a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country. And we have very important things to be doing right now, whether it’s trade deals, whether it’s military, whether it’s stopping nuclear – all of the things that we discussed today. And I think this shows a very divided country.
“It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats having lost an election that they should have easily won because of the Electoral College being slanted so much in their way. That’s all this is. I think it shows division, and it shows that we’re not together as a country. And I think it’s a very, very negative thing. And hopefully, this can go quickly, because we have to show unity if we’re going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world.”
Instead of openly disclosing his campaign’s communications with the Russians, Trump incessantly denies any association with Putin or the Kremlin despite mounting evidence to the contrary. While Trump still refuses to reveal his income tax returns, his lawyers recently disclosed that Trump has conducted financial interactions with Russians.
Apparently obsessed with his own self-image, Trump failed to take into account President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, Bill Clinton’s sex scandal, and the assassinations of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy.