|© NANCY OHANIAN / USED WITH PERMISSION|
Believe it or not, there still are people in addition to the president of the United States who claim to not believe Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. And there are a larger number of people who claim to still not believe that the Trump campaign -- and possibly Donald Trump himself -- colluded with Vladimir Putin in his successful scheme to cybersabotage the Hillary Clinton campaign.
This brings us to the Russia scandal timeline I have been piecing together over the last 18 months -- an event-by-event account with sidelights added to help put those events into a larger historical context -- of the most explosive scandal since Soviet spies stole atomic bomb secrets over 70 years ago.
Although this timeline now bursts with more than 1,200 entries, an extraordinary number that continues to grow, a Trump apologist might see it as very big pile of circumstantial evidence. To an extent, that is true. But for those seeking the truth (and justice), there is overwhelming evidence of interference and collusion that is far from being circumstantial even with some key pieces (although probably not too many) of this massive jigsaw puzzle still missing.
This evidence includes some 20 instances in 2016 alone where there were face-to-face meetings between members of the Trump campaign team and Russians intent on insinuating the Kremlin into the campaign apparatus. (How many times did campaign team members meet with the Brits, French, Germans, Japanese and reps from other allied nations? Zip. Zero. Nada.)
These interactions followed years of efforts by Russian oligarchs, mobsters, spies and Putin himself to soften up Trump. Not because it was understood well before Trump announced his improbable run for president that he might do so, but because the ailing business empire of the desperately needy entrepreneur and celebrity television star was a convenient conduit for money laundering and propagandizing the Russian government brand, things of which Trump was well aware and, in some instances, for which he may be criminally culpable.
And when Trump did decide to run for president, he became a witting partner in Putin's quest to return Russia to the glory of the Cold War Soviet Union and knock the U.S. from its perch as the only superpower in return for help that was invaluable not so much in directly bolstering the Trump campaign, but undermining Clinton's because Trump as president was a sure bet to cozy up to Moscow as president, although the extent to which he has been in conflict with the U.S. intelligence community, his own Justice Department and West Wing advisors, not to mention reality, is jarring even by Trumpian standards.
Nowhere is this disconnect more profound than in Trump's disinterest in acknowledging, let alone preparing for, the probability Russia will meddle in the midterm elections.
Putin, of course, has cashed in handsomely on his bet and will be rewarded further still when he sits down with Trump in Helsinki on Monday for the kind of one-on-one meeting that never occurred in the course of the eight years of the Barack Obama presidency. Long story short, Putin knew he couldn't get over on Obama while Trump, of course, will be putty in his hands.
A big takeaway from the indictment on Friday last of 12 Russian intelligence officers by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is that there is substantially more going on than meets the eye, and much of it is hiding in plain view in the timeline.
In this sense, the timeline is not merely a highly detailed examination of where we've been, but a blueprint of where Mueller is going.