When you compare a timeline of Donald Trump’s statements about Vladimir Putin to the events behind the headlines, a clear pattern of conduct emerges.
As Callum Borchers observes at the Washington Post, Trump “praised and defended Putin during the period of development negotiations” for a failed Trump Tower Moscow deal brokered by his friend and adviser Felix Sater.
According to the Washington Post‘s reporting over the last two days, Trump Organization executive vice president Michael Cohen emailed Vladimir Putin’s press aide in hopes of kick-starting negotiations in January 2016.
Trump had been a presidential candidate for six months. At almost the same time as Cohen’s email, Trump was casting doubt on Kremlin culpability for the assassination of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko.
“Well, I don’t know if anything has been determined,” Trump told Fox Business on January 26. “The fact is that, you know, he hasn’t been convicted of anything. You know, some people say he absolutely didn’t do it. First of all, he says he didn’t do it.”
Borchers offers a timeline showing how Trump lavished Putin with praise during the time that he was both campaigning and pursuing his Moscow tower. It is just one example of disparate data points that, when viewed together, in context, form an alarming picture.
Several journalists have done this kind of work. Josh Marshall put together a timeline of Trump’s candidacy at TPM a few weeks ago, while Nick Wing gathered a much longer view for Huffington Post. Steven Harper’s excellent interactive timeline at BillMoyers.com got mentions on every non-Fox news channel when it was published two weeks ago.
They all make valuable reading.
“The sheer volume of information in this one thread of the Trump campaign conspiracy with Russia is so overwhelming,” Keith Olbermann says of Donald Trump, Jr’s June 2016 meeting with Russians in a recent video, “that only when viewed chronologically does it make any sense or does it become clear that it is, in short, a timeline of treason.”
We should use that word lightly: whereas the constitutional definition of criminal treason has a very specific legal threshold, “treason” in popular usage simply means betrayal of the United States to a hostile power.
Even if the president is only ever charged with obstruction and other crimes, or no crime at all, the timelines look like treason when viewed together.
To be sure, some of this is an intentional effect of Putin’s approach to the Trumps. Don Jr’s meeting at Trump Tower has all the hallmarks of a Russian influence operation — a classic example of exploitation directed from Moscow. Just by putting Trumps in the same room with spies and money launderers and anti-Magnitsky lawyers, Putin compromised a future American president’s family and fostered American political turmoil.
But the Trumps have no excuses. Don Jr’s choice to meet Russians with a proffer of Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton seems ominous when compared to a timeline of Trump’s statements about “missing Clinton emails,” for example.
Hmm…Trump’s very 1ST tweet about HRC’s “missing 33,000 emails” appears to be from 6/9/16, after Manafort, Kushner, Don Jr met the Russian pic.twitter.com/sJcSRaSXZv
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) July 10, 2017
Even the timeline of the story about the tower meeting looks bad for Trump. Jared Kushner’s attorneys reportedly found the email chain in which Don Jr arranged the encounter three weeks before the story broke. The Trump campaign retained Don Jr’s lawyer two weeks prior to the first headline about the meeting.
During that same period of time, the White House was making plans for the G20 conference. While his staff was trying to prepare him, Trump was in a mad rush to meet Putin with no minders or agenda. Trump reportedly ignored the internal White House debate over the upcoming G-20 conference, deciding unilaterally (as always) that there would never be a better time for a glad-handing photo-op with his favorite oligarch, to talk with him in private for two hours, to make weirdly suggestive gestures over the dinner table.
With remarkable timing, the Washington Post broke the story about Don Jr’s meeting one day after Trump left Hamburg. In fact, Trump allegedly composed the press statement responding to the story as he flew home on Air Force One.
The key thing to recognize here is that Trump’s denials are themselves data points. At Washington Monthly, Martin Longman wants us “to remember why Trump denied having business deals in Russia” even as he pursued the Moscow tower project.
He denied it because he demonstrated an abnormal tendency to praise Vladimir Putin that was hard to understand absent some financial incentive for doing so. That he either had Russian deals that were vulnerable or wished to pursue Russian deals and didn’t want to jeopardize them was such an obvious inference that it didn’t need to be explained to anyone. He was asked if these were the explanations for his behavior and he said the whole idea was made up and ludicrous.
The timeline shows that Donald Trump wanted Putin’s help with a real estate deal during the campaign. The timeline also shows that Putin later offered to help his campaign, and that the Trumps were interested in their help.
“Follow the money,” the common wisdom goes, and the timeline shows that Russians showered Trump with cash when banks wouldn’t. “It’s not the crime that gets you, it’s the cover-up,” journalists say, and the timeline shows that Trump has consistently tried to cover his tracks — for example, by firing James Comey.
The timeline strongly suggests that Trump felt indebted to Vladimir Putin when he flew to Hamburg because he already had what he wanted from the relationship. And so on.
If that all looks like treason to you, just imagine how Robert Mueller sees it.
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