The White House has stated repeatedly that there is absolutely no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. Earlier this week Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the whole Trump-Russia story a “hoax,” even going so far as to encourage people to watch an unverified, highly-edited Project Veritas video that claims to show CNN supervising producers calling the story “mostly bullshit.”
Following the firing of former FBI Director James Comey in May, President Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt in an interview that “there’s no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians,” and that the story is an “excuse by the Democrats for losing an election they should have won.”
Ultimately, it is the decision of Bob Muller, former FBI Director and now special prosecutor overseeing the Russia investigation, to decide on the criminality of any interaction between Trump associates and Russian operative. The evidence of collusion that is currently public, however, is expanding.
The Flynn connection
The most recent and potentially most damning link between the Trump campaign and Russia comes from a Thursday report by The Wall Street Journal. The Journal reports a Republican group trying to obtain 33,000 Hillary Clinton emails they believed were stolen by Russian hackers appeared to be in communication with Michael Flynn, who was serving as a senior adviser to the Trump campaign at the time.
The Journal’s source, a Republican opposition researcher named Peter W. Smith, mounted an independent investigation into the missing Clinton emails and in the process, interacted with 5 groups of hackers who claimed to have the emails, two of which were Russian. Emails by Smith to close associates reveal Flynn and his consulting group to be “allies in their quest.”
The Journal also reported that “investigators have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the intelligence.”
In sum, there is evidence that individuals connected to the Trump campaign were seeking stolen emails from Russian hackers and evidence that Russian hackers were trying to provide them to a top Trump adviser.
Michael Flynn was dismissed shortly after Trump took office for lying about his contacts with Russian officials. Despite his dismissal, Trump has continued to defend him and famously asked former FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation.
The Roger Stone connection
In March, The Smoking Gun reported that Roger Stone, close confidant and adviser of then-candidate Donald Trump, exchanged direct messages on Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, a front for Russian government-directed hackers that stole emails from the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign. Though only one source was cited in the report, when reached for comment Stone didn’t deny any of the allegations.
After these communications with Russian hackers, Stone sent tweets implying he knew when John Podesta’s emails would be posted to WikiLeaks.
Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) August 21, 2016
And tweeted his intel again days before the Podesta emails leaked.
Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) October 2, 2016
In March, Stone released to The Washington Times some of his direct messages with Guccifer 2.0, which he has described as “ perfunctory, brief and banal,” even though one of the messages from Guccifer 2.0 seems to blatantly offer help to Stone: “i’m pleased to say that u r great man, Stone. please tell me if i can help u anyhow. it would be a great pleasure to me.”
The Jared Kushner connection
In September of 2016, a freelance writer named Michael Sainato wrote an article for the New York Observer (whose publisher was Jared Kushner from 2006 until 2017) which detailed that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had coordinated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2015, citing an internal DNCCC memo leaked to the Observer by Guccifer 2.0.
Russian hackers now leaking directly to Jared Kushner's paper. Trump campaign not even being subtle anymorehttps://t.co/cJMdr63xKd
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) September 6, 2016
When reached by Mother Jones, Guccifer 2.0 stated he provided Sainato with exclusive documents but denied knowing Sainato was working on an article for the paper owned by Jared Kushner.
In addition to the emergence of secret lines of communications between Russian hackers and top White House aides, Trump was publicly collaborating with Wikileaks during the campaign.
Trump mentioned WikiLeaks at least 164 times during the last month of the election. This clearly helped draw attention to the Russian effort to assist his campaign. After he was elected, however, Trump later said that information leaked by WikiLeaks had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”