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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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Carolina Senate passes trio of election measures 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos MORE.”)

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But just how valuable was the polling and campaign strategy data that Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortLegal intrigue swirls over ex-Trump exec Weisselberg: Five key points There was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder Treasury: Manafort associate passed 'sensitive' campaign data to Russian intelligence 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 Bannon'So interesting': Trump pitched on idea to run for House, become Speaker Democrats claim vindication, GOP cries witch hunt as McGahn finally testifies Hillicon Valley: Parler's return to Apple store poses new challenges | Biden revokes Trump-era order targeting shield for website operators 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 StoneBannon asked Trump DOJ to reimburse his legal fees from Russia probe: report Feds charge members of Three Percenters militia group over Jan. 6 attack Biden's anti-corruption memo is good news — and essential to US national security 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 YatesSally Yates: I never thought that I'd be saying, 'Yeah, go Liz Cheney' ABC lands first one-on-one TV interview with Garland since confirmation Appointing a credible, non-partisan Jan. 6 commission should not be difficult 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.