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 Mueller to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”)
But just how valuable was the polling and campaign strategy data that Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, gave to a Russian agent?
According to Brad Parscale, 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.”
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 Bannon — 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.
But it gets worse. According to former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, 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.