Drip, drip, drip. Perhaps it is still a little too premature, but I am starting to have a sense of déjà vu to the bad old Watergate days. As was the case then, the question increasingly is "what did the president know and when did he know it." With former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn's resignation not even 24 hours old, now the New York Times has broken the story that Trump campaign aides and associates had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence during the period that Russian hackers were breaking U.S. law and hacking DNC computers in order to throw the presidential campaign to Trump. If these stories continue to unfold as they seem to be headed, my gut feeling that Trump is a possible traitor will be increasingly substantiated. An independent investigation is urgently needed. Here are highlights from the Times piece:
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time that they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
[T]he intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.
The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the Russian government outside of the intelligence services, the officials said. All of the current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the continuing investigation is classified.
The officials said that one of the advisers picked up on the calls was Paul Manafort, who was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman for several months last year and had worked as a political consultant in Russia and Ukraine. The officials declined to identify the other Trump associates on the calls.The call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove of information that the F.B.I. is sifting through as it investigates the links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government, as well as the D.N.C. hack, according to federal law enforcement officials. As part of its inquiry, the F.B.I. has obtained banking and travel records and conducted interviews, the officials said.Two days after the election in November, Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy Russian foreign minister, said that “there were contacts” during the campaign between Russian officials and Mr. Trump’s team.
“Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Mr. Ryabkov said in an interview with the Russian Interfax news agency.
The Trump transition team denied Mr. Ryabkov’s statement. “This is not accurate,” Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Mr. Trump, said at the time.
The F.B.I. has closely examined at least three other people close to Mr. Trump, although it is unclear if their calls were intercepted. They are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign; Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative; and Mr. Flynn.As part of the inquiry, the F.B.I. is also trying to assess the credibility of information contained in a dossier that was given to the bureau last year by a former British intelligence operative. The dossier contained a raft of salacious allegations about connections between Mr. Trump, his associates and the Russian government. It also included unsubstantiated claims that the Russians had embarrassing videos that could be used to blackmail Mr. Trump.The F.B.I. investigation is proceeding at the same time that separate investigations into Russian interference in the election are gaining momentum on Capitol Hill. Those investigations, by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, are examining not only the Russian hacking but also any contacts that Mr. Trump’s team had with Russian officials during the campaign.
On Tuesday, top Republican lawmakers said that Mr. Flynn should be one focus of the investigation, and that he should be called to testify before Congress. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said that the news surrounding Mr. Flynn in recent days underscored “how many questions still remain unanswered to the American people more than three months after Election Day, including who was aware of what, and when.”
Mr. Warner said that Mr. Flynn’s resignation would not stop the committee “from continuing to investigate General Flynn, or any other campaign official who may have had inappropriate and improper contacts with Russian officials prior to the election.”