President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus have for months claimed that no one from the Trump campaign had communications with Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia. It is now clear that these claims were false.
As Russia — according to multiple U.S. intelligence agencies — worked to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to aid Trump and undermine Hillary Clinton, Trump and his team claimed total ignorance. But at least four Trump campaign figures apparently met with the Russian ambassador and/or other Putin representatives.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Then a U.S. Senator, Sessions repeatedly met with the Russian Ambassador in 2016 — meetings he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, he had not had. Sessions was more than just a Trump supporter and surrogate; he was chairman of the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee. Under bipartisan pressure, Sessions announced Thursday that he would recuse himself from any Department of Justice investigations into the Trump campaign and its relationship with Russia.
Former National Security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn, a retired general and principal national security adviser for the Trump campaign, resigned just days after joining Trump’s administration. The reason given for his departure was that he had mislead the vice president and other administration officials about his back-channel discussions with Putin’s government about U.S. sanctions. Though those conversations took place during the transition period, the New York Times reported Flynn and the Russian ambassador were also in contact during the campaign.
Former foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Page confirmed on Thursday that he had met with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 Republican National Convention. At that time, Page was an unpaid foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Page refused to reveal the substance of the conversation, citing a confidentiality agreement.
Former national security policy aide J.D. Gordon. Gordon, who was the Trump campaign’s national-security policy representative for the Republican National Convention, reportedly says he pushed to alter the party’s platform position on the Russia/Ukraine conflict to align with Trump’s pro-Russia views. He had previously downplayed his involvement in the platform process. During the convention, he also met with the Russian envoy — a meeting he characterized the meeting “an informal conversation just like my interactions with dozens of other ambassadors and senior diplomats in Cleveland.”
Plus, CNN reported last month that Flynn and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort were among multiple Trump officials where were “in constant communication during the campaign with Russians known to US intelligence.” Manafort called reports of his own involvement “100% not true.”
In his campaign, Trump vowed to be a bulwark against dishonesty, repeatedly promising he would always tell the truth to the American people. He has broken that promise nearly every day of his presidency.
UPDATE: Another key Trump campaign member — Donald Trump himself — also met with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal from May 2016.