Disturbing Connections Between Trump Associates and the Russian Government

Ethics and Democracy | May 19, 2017

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Donald Trump has made millions from ongoing business dealings in Russia. As his own son said in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Yet, Trump has failed to completely divest from his business, raising serious concerns about potential corruption.

Candidate Trump openly invited Russia to interfere with the US election—and we have every reason to think they did. It’s been heavily reported that the Russian government interfered in last year’s presidential elections. What’s worse, Trump openly invited and encouraged Russia to interfere.

Donald Trump surrounded himself with Russia-connected advisers throughout his campaign and transition. The list is long and includes noteworthy names from the Trump camp, such as: former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn; current Attorney General Jeff Sessions; former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort; and former campaign adviser Carter Page.

Trump still refuses to release his tax returns. Without seeing his taxes, we don’t know if he’s using the office of the presidency for personal gain, or if he’s beholden to foreign (e.g., Russian) interests. Trump’s own lawyers now admit that approximately $100 million in sales and income tied to Russia do figure in his tax returns within the last 10 years—but we cannot confirm this information or know the true extent of Trump’s dealings in Russia until he fulfills his promise of tax transparency to the American people (or Congress forces him).

Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, has something to hide about Russia. After the election, Michael Flynn inappropriately discussed sanctions with the Russian government. Once in the White House, Flynn failed to disclose earlier payments from the Russian-linked entities. Flynn also lied to senior White House officials about his interactions with Russia, which ultimately resulted in his resignation.

Donald Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, lied to Congress about Russia. At his confirmation hearings, Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee about conversations he had with Russian officials during the 2016 election. After an outcry and calls for Sessions to resign, Sessions recused himself from DOJ’s Russia investigations. To make matters worse, it looks like Sessions may have broken that recusal by participating in the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Congressional committees investigating Russia have shown clear bias. Both Senate and House Intelligence Committee Chairmen have close ties to Trump—Chairman Burr (R-NC) advised Trump on national security during the campaign and Chairman Nunes (R-CA22) was on Trump’s transition team. Nunes, after obtaining new information, chose to brief the White House—rather than his own committee members—and then held a press conference. Now the House Committee on Ethics is conducting its own investigation—into the questionable actions of Rep. Nunes.

Firing FBI Director James Comey is likely an obstruction of justice. In an interview with NBC, Trump admitted that the Russia investigation was on his mind when Comey was fired. Comey had also just requested more resources to widen his probe into the Trump-Russia ties. By firing Comey, Trump removed the person leading the investigation into Russian interference in the US elections.


Update (5/15, 8:00 PM ET): The Washington Post has reported that Donald Trump revealed classified information during a meeting with Russian officials the day after firing Director James Comey. By doing so, Trump has put American national security, and the American people, at risk. 


Update (5/16, 7:00 PM ET): The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and others have reported that former FBI Director James Comey wrote a memo in February detailing a private conversation with Donald Trump where Comey was asked to end the Michael Flynn investigation. This is the clearest indication yet that Donald Trump directly interfered with an ongoing criminal investigation. This is the definition of obstruction of justice. This also raises more questions regarding the motive behind Comey’s firing on May 9, 2017.