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There was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder

It’s official: The Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

In an explosive development, the Biden administration confirmed that a Russian government agent with close connections to Donald Trump’s top 2016 campaign official “provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and [Trump] campaign strategy.”

This revelation demolishes, once and for all, Trump’s ceaseless claims that he was the victim of the “greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.” (Recall that a Trump appointee directed Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE.”)

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But just how valuable was the polling and campaign strategy data that Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortThere was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder Treasury: Manafort associate passed 'sensitive' campaign data to Russian intelligence Hunter Biden blasts Trump in new book: 'A vile man with a vile mission' MORE, Trump’s campaign chairman, gave to a Russian agent?

According to Brad ParscaleBrad ParscaleAides tried to get Trump to stop attacking McCain in hopes of clinching Arizona: report MORE, Trump’s election data guru, the information that Manafort handed directly to Russian intelligence was of critical importance, determining “98 percent” of the campaign’s resource allocations (such as spending on TV, radio and social media ads, rallies, field operations, and so on).

Indeed, the data was so important that Parscale kept a visualization of the information on his iPad at all times, allowing him to tell then-candidate Trump where to conduct his next rally at a moment’s notice.

According to the then-Republican-led Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the ultrasensitive campaign information that Manafort passed to a Russian spy “identified voter bases in blue-collar, democratic-leaning states which Trump could swing,” including in “Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.”

Moreover, the Russian intelligence officer who received the information “was capable of comprehending the complex polling data.”

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That leaves a lot of unanswered questions as to what Russia’s spies did with the information.

Perhaps worse, Trump ultimately pardoned Manafort. Trump’s potential political rivals would be wise to remember that he handed the ultimate political favor to the man who colluded with Russia amid Moscow’s campaign to undermine American democracy.

But Manafort’s malfeasance fits a broader pattern.

As former Trump adviser Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Likely Cheney successor appears on Bannon show to tout GOP unity Afghanistan withdrawal: Trump fumbles, Biden scores MORE — indicted on fraud charges — aptly noted, top Trump officials engaged in a “treasonous” meeting with a former Russian counterintelligence officer and a woman with “extensive and concerning” links to Russian intelligence services.

At the same time, the then-GOP-led Senate committee made clear that Trump knew of and discussed the release of tens of thousands of Russian-hacked documents and emails pilfered from the Democratic National Committee.

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Indeed, Trump may have instructed a close confidant, Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneCohen on Giuliani: 'Chickens coming home to roost' There was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder On The Money: Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats | Justice Dept. sues Trump ally Roger Stone for unpaid taxes MORE, to orchestrate the leak of Russian-stolen documents as a political distraction at a make-or-break moment during the 2016 campaign.

But it gets worse. According to former Deputy Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesABC lands first one-on-one TV interview with Garland since confirmation Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult There was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder MORE, in surreptitious conversations with a top Russian official, Trump’s soon-to-be national security adviser Michael Flynn was “neutering” American sanctions designed to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf.

At the time, Flynn’s previous links to Russia made him the target of a counterintelligence probe, thoroughly justifying the FBI’s investigation into his collusive calls with a senior Russian government official.

Perhaps worst of all, Trump’s political allies released sensitive document after sensitive document in a desperate — and ill-fated — bid to score cheap political points for their boss.

Among other damaging revelations, these selective, politically driven leaks of once highly classified information gave America’s adversaries an intimate look into how America’s secretive spy catchers conduct their work. The long-term damage to national security and to America’s counterintelligence efforts will be debated for years to come.

Ultimately, it took five years to finally learn that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

While the Republicans and conservative media outlets that peddled falsehood after falsehood are dealt a decisive blow, one must wonder what other revelations will come to light in the months and years to come.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.