When it comes to “what could Donald Trump do for Russia” there are multiple answers: cutting support for Ukraine, getting out of Russia’s way in Syria, dropping demands for human rights — and Trump has come through in all these areas. But the biggest thing that Russia wants is for Trump to drop US sanctions, particularly the sanctions imposed through the Magnitsky Act, which interfere with oligarchs efficiently exporting their billions to the US.
Trump would love to see those sanctions gone. His business depends on a constant flow of money from billionaires in former Soviet territories who are willing to pay wildly over-market prices in exchange for real estate developers who will simply look the other way concerning the source of funds.
But when it comes to what Russia could do for Trump in the 2016 election, it came down to a couple of things:
Fake news — There were, of course, Russia’s direct news sources. like RT, which was highly supportive of Trump and one of the first to start warning about the dangerous “deep state” that’s now the go-to excuse for everything wrong. The bigger effect from the fake news side came through social media, with tens or hundreds of thousands of fake accounts spreading information across Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Russia hired a small army of professional liars to generate stories attacking Clinton and supporting Trump, creating tales that Clinton had done everything up to and including murder, while Trump was the surprise choice of the Pope. These stories were seen by tens of millions in the weeks leading up to the election.
Stolen documents — the other part of what Russia brought to the fight was documents stolen from the DNC, from consultant John Podesta, and from other Democratic officials. Not only did these documents provide opportunities for picking out snide messages and backbiting, they were a prime source of material for the fake news division. Small snippets from these stolen documents could be easily inflated through reinforcement and distortion by social media. They were used to lend credibility to stories like “Hillary had all the answers to the debate!” and “the Democratic primaries were completely rigged!” which served either to reinforce negative opinions about Clinton or divide Democratic voters. Republicans were also able to keep the pot stirring through investigations of Clinton’s email server, which were easily confused with the concern over stolen documents.
What we’ve learned since the election, only reinforces just how central stolen documents were to the Trump campaign. They allowed Trump to run a campaign that, from the moment the general election began, was defined by a steady stream of attacks on Hillary Clinton. Attacks that would not have been possible, without cooperation between Trump and Russia.
The Trump Campaign and Documents Stolen by Russia
Donald Trump announces his candidacy at Trump Tower.
Russian military intelligence first gains access to systems at DNC.
A second group of agents working for the Russian military breach the DNC and gain more complete access through an attack that harvests credentials used to view systems and files.
The second group of Russian agents also gain access to emails of Hillary Clinton campaign chair, John Podesta
George Papadopoulos learns that Russia has “thousands of emails” containing “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. He contacts the campaign the next day. At the time, no one else is aware Russia has these documents. Not even the DNC.
Publicist Rob Goldstone reaches out to Donald Trump Jr offering “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” from Russian officials. Trump Jr replies
“If it’s what you say I love it.”
Trump Jr agrees to a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others.
Four hours later, Donald Trump makes an announcement. “I am going to give a major speech, on probably Monday of next week, and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you’re going to find it very informative, and very, very interesting.”
Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr, Manafort, Kushner and Russian representatives. Trump Jr asks for information to use against Clinton.
Donald Trump makes another tweet about Clinton’s emails within 20 minutes of the meeting.
Security firm Crowdstrike publicly announces that there has been an intrusion at the DNC and blames Russian forces.
Goldstone sends an email noting the Crowdstrike announcement and saying how it was “weird” that they just met about that.
The collective “Guccifer 2.0” takes credit, claiming to not be related to Russia, and releases a handful of documents to prove they have them.
Trump campaign hires Cambridge Analytica, which almost immediately reaches out to Julian Assange and Wikileaks to request Clinton emails. Steve Bannon is vice-president of CA at the time.
Wikileaks reveals that it has the information stolen from the DNC and plans to publish the information.
Wikileaks begins publishing information stolen DNC emails on the first day of the Democratic National Convention.
Donald Trump Jr denies Russian involvement in the emails published by Wikileaks.
“It just shows you their exact moral compass. I mean, they’ll say anything to be able to win this. I mean, this is time and time again and lie after lie.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, states on ABC’s “This Week” that the DNC emails were leaked “by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump”
Donald Trump Jr says of Mook’s statement: “I can’t think of bigger lies.”
Donald Trump tweets that Russia didn’t hack the DNC.
“The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me.”
New York Times publishes first confirmation that US intelligence services believe that the DNC intrusions were the results of Russian military action.
Donald Trump calls on Russia to steal emails from Hillary Clinton.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Roger Stone confirms that he is in communication with Wikileaks.
”I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of these documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation.”
Roger Stone admits that he has communicated directly with Guccifer 2.0 but denies that Guccifer has any connection to Russia.
Roger Stone tweets that it will soon be John Podesta’s “time in the barrel.” (Stone’s Twitter account has since been suspended.)
Donald Trump Jr tweets false story that Wikileaks has thousands of “classified cables” sent by HIllary. Trump Jr’s story combines fake news, Hillary’s email server, and Wikileaks all in one sticky mess.
Guccifer 2.0 provide over two gigabytes of emails and other documents stolen from the DNC to Florida-based GOP operative Aaron Nevins.
Nevins identifies some of the documents in the Guccifer archive as being the Democratic Party district by district get-out-the-vote plan. Nevins writes back to Guccifer. “Holy fuck man I don’t think you realize what you gave me.”
Nevins contacted Roger Stone and provided him with this information. At least one Republican consultant admits changing tactics based on this information.
Roger Stone admits exchanging additional direct messages with Guccifer 2.0, and releases some of these messages, but denies there was any “collusion.”
“Mike Erickson,” who was apparently an operative for Wikileaks, offers Trump, Trump Jr and other campaign officials private access to emails and other documents, providing a decryption key and site address. But at least most of the information at the site may have already been available.
Wikileaks begins sending Donald Trump Jr a series of private messages through Twitter. Trump Jr replies the following day.
Donald Trump Jr emails members of the Trump campaign team to let them know he is in contact with Wikileaks.
Roger Stone threatens additional upcoming releases from Wikileaks.
Wikileaks sends Trump Jr a message requesting that the Trump campaign push a story about Hillary Clinton making negative comments concerning Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange.
Trump Jr responded almost immediately: “Already did that earlier today.”
Roger Stone threatens again, promising that Democrats will be hurt by an upcoming “payload” from Assange.
Wikileaks begins publishing emails stolen from John Podesta’s account by Russian military. From this point on, Wikileaks dribbles out documents and partial documents from Podesta’s account, timed and designed to create negative media attention for Clinton.
US Homeland Security publishes combined intelligence report that Russia was behind DNC hacks.
The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.
Donald Trump proclaims “Wikileaks! I love Wikileaks!” after reading portions of emails at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.
Donald Trump again promotes Wikileaks.
“I hope people are looking at the disgraceful behavior of Hillary Clinton as exposed by WikiLeaks. She is unfit to run.”
Wikileaks sends private message to Donald Trump Jr recommending that the campaign distribute a link to their search site so Trump’s supporters can dig through the stolen material.
“There’s many great stories the press are missing and we’re sure some of your follows will find it. Btw we just released Podesta Emails Part 4.”
15 minutes later Donald Trump tweets:
“Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”
Donald Trump Jr tweets the link to the Wikileaks search site sent to him on Oct 12.
Mike Pence appears on Fox News and denies any coordination between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. All of us have had concerns about WikiLeaks over the years, and it’s just a reality of American life today and of life in the wider world.”
Wikileaks writes to Donald Trump Jr, suggesting ways in which they can cooperate to make the information seem less slanted against Clinton.
Wikileaks suggests to Donald Trump Jr that should Trump lose, he should refuse to concede.
Hope Hicks denies that anyone on the Trump campaign had any contact with foreign entities.
“There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
United States intelligence agencies publish public report detailing actions of Russian forces in DNC intrusion.
- Throughout the entire general election, Russia parceled out stolen information in a way meant to generate false impressions and negative headlines for Hillary Clinton. It started on the first day of the DNC and continued to election day and beyond.
- New information was made available at intervals designed to reinforce
- The Trump campaign worked with the Russians in every way imaginable. That included contacts through Papadopoulos and Flynn, as well as emails and direct messages through Donald Trump Jr.
- The Trump campaign knew that Russia had the stolen information months before it was known to the public, and coordinated with Russia six weeks before the first documents were released.
- Donald Trump was personally made aware of stolen information often before it was available to the public, as on Jun 7 when he promised a speech based on communications between Goldstone and Trump Jr.
- Donald Trump was frequently made aware of private communications with Wikileaks or other agents of Russia, as on October 12 when he echoed Wikileaks private request.
- Other Republican consultants, including Aaron Nevins and Roger Stone, acted as go-betweens for Russian information, including some that — like Democratic contact plans — was used by multiple Republican candidates to gain an unfair advantage in the election.
It’s hard to think of any definition of conspiracy or collusion that isn’t covered. Russia reached out to Trump. Trump reached out to Russia. They coordinate by email, by meeting, by direct message — and likely by other means that have not yet become public. They worked together to maximize the impact of material stolen from US citizens by Russian military forces, and they did so with the goal of helping Trump and helping Russia.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.