But the contradictions cannot be ignored.
A couple weeks ago, Trump gave a lengthy, combative press conference where he was asked, “Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?”
He said no, aside from Mike Flynn, who ostensibly resigned from the Trump administration for misleading Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Then Trump went much farther.
Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years. Don't speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn't. I just have nobody to speak to. I spoke to Putin twice. He called me on the election. I told you this. And he called me a few days ago. We had a very good talk, especially the second one ... I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge no person that I deal with does. Now, Manafort has totally denied it. He denied it. Now people knew that he was a consultant over in that part of the world for a while, but not for Russia. I think he represented Ukraine or people having to do with Ukraine.
Even two weeks ago, Trump’s claims were highly dubious.
Now consider what we have learned in the last 24 hours.
“Three weeks before Election Day, Donald Trump Jr. left the campaign trail and the country to speak at a private dinner in Paris organized by an obscure pro-Russia group that promotes Kremlin foreign policy initiatives and has since nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize,” ABC reported.
Then CNN reported that J.D. Gordon, a former national security adviser to Trump, attended an event with the Russian ambassador at the GOP convention. Trump national-security advisers Carter Page and Walid Phares were there, too. And Jared Kushner and Mike Flynn met with Russia’s ambassador at Trump Tower in December.
One can imagine non-nefarious explanations for all of these meetings. USA Today’s writeup of the Cleveland RNC event makes it sound especially innocuous.
But they inevitably create suspicion when they directly contradict bygone untruths told by the president and his team; follow Manafort and Flynn resigning over matters related to Russia; concern a president who will not release his tax returns; and dovetail with a dossier that alleges alarming ties between Trump and the Kremlin.
Look again at Trump’s words from his press conference: “I have nothing to do with Russia,” the president said. “To the best of my knowledge no person that I deal with does.”
That is bullshit. Among many other things, Russia’s ambassador clearly made a concerted effort to interact with many on the Trump team and succeeded spectacularly.
Nor do the contradictions end there.
On CNN, Jim Acosta reported more about his phone conversation with J.D. Gordon.