Donald Trump has raised eyebrows throughout the campaign for his repeated praise of Russia and its autocratic leader, Vladimir Putin.
At an NBC News forum in September, Trump touted Putin’s 82 percent approval rating and said he was “a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”
“If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him,” Trump said.
Trump, in that interview and elsewhere, has cast doubt on Russia’s culpability for hacking email at the DNC and the Clinton campaign, despite the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies. He has also equivocated on the U.S. commitment to NATO, saying he might not defend a NATO ally attacked by Russia.
Trump, nevertheless, insists that he has “nothing to do” with Russia. But three separate reports that were released on Monday suggest Trump’s connections to Russia are deep and troubling.
Trump set up a special server to communicate with a powerful Russian entity, some computer scientists believe.
A deeply reported piece by Franklin Foer in Slate found that the Trump Organization set up a very unusual server that appeared to communicate nearly exclusively with a Russian financial institution, Alfa Bank.
“The parties were communicating in a secretive fashion. The operative word is secretive. This is more akin to what criminal syndicates do if they are putting together a project,” Paul Vixie, a top expert who reviewed the logs, concluded.
After the New York Times (which is also investigating) contacted Alfa Bank about the story, the Trump server was abruptly shut down. The Trump Organization then quietly set up a new server name. The first entity to look up the new name? Alpha Bank.
The Trump campaign denied any connection to Alpha Bank but did not offer an explanation of why the original server name was shut down and the new one was created. The FBI, which the New York Times reports has also investigated the communications between the Trump Organization and Alpha Bank, thinks there could be an innocuous explanation, a view shared by some online observers.
A former spy says he found evidence of an ‘established exchange of information’ between Trump and the Kremlin.
An explosive story in Mother Jones by David Corn reports that a “former Western intelligence officer” was hired by a Republican to investigate Trump’s connections to Russia. The officer allegedly found evidence that “ there was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.”
“Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. [The] [a]im, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance,” according to a memo prepared by the former officer and reviewed by Mother Jones.
The source also claims the FBI became interested in his findings and requested more information in August.
The FBI is investigating connections between Trump campaign staff and Russian oligarchs.
NBC News reports that the FBI has launched a preliminary investigation into the “Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort” and his connection to Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.
Manafort stepped down from his post in the Trump campaign in August after questions were raised about large payments he allegedly received from pro-Russian entities.
According to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the FBI has “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government.”
Taken together, the three stories paint a troubling picture of a candidate and a campaign with potentially significant ties to a country that has emerged as one of the United State’s chief antagonists.
A story published later on Monday in the New York Times, takes an opposing view, highlighting that the FBI has not yet found proof of a direction connection between Russia and the Trump campaign. Anonymous FBI officials also told the New York Times they concluded that Russia is merely interested in disrupting the election, not helping Trump. It is an odd conclusion since all of Russia’s activities have been directed at the Clinton campaign or the Democratic Party.
Reid and other Democrats are calling on the FBI to release more information prior to the election.