Trump campaign officials interacted with Russians at least 31 times throughout the campaign, including at least 19 known meetings.
It's no secret that Trump associates had a lot of contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign — but according to a new report, those contacts reached the highest levels of the campaign, showing a sustained and sophisticated effort by the Kremlin to cultivate relationships with those closest to Donald Trump.
On Friday, NBC News reported that Jared Kushner had failed to disclose an email chain proposing a meeting between Trump and Alexander Torshin, a leading figure in Russian President Vladimir Putin's party who has been linked both to Russian intelligence services and organized crime.
The subject line of the email, which has been turned over to congressional investigators, read "Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite."
The email expressed Torshin's desire for Trump to attend an event on the sidelines of a National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2016.
According to NBC News, "The email also suggests Torshin was seeking to meet with a high-level Trump campaign official during the convention, and that he may have had a message for Trump from Putin."
But Torshin wasn't acting alone.
The New York Times reported Friday that Torshin claimed to be acting on behalf of Putin when he tried to arrange the meeting between Trump and the Russian president. The revelation shows "the direct involvement of a high-ranking Russian official in the Kremlin’s outreach to the campaign," the Times reported.
As the Times explained, the timing of the email chain also shows that the Kremlin ramped up its efforts to forge relationships with Trump campaign officials as it became clear that Trump was going to be the Republican nominee for president:
Though the meeting never happened, Mr. Torshin’s request is the latest example of how the Russian government intensified its effort to contact and influence the Trump campaign last year as Mr. Trump was closing in on the Republican presidential nomination. It came just weeks after a self-described intermediary for the Russian government told a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, that the Russians had “dirt” on Mr. Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, in the form of “thousands of emails.”
Soon after Mr. Torshin’s outreach fizzled, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, arranged a meeting at Trump Tower after being told that a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin would bring damaging information about Mrs. Clinton to the meeting.
Despite repeated denials, it is now clear that the Trump campaign had extensive and prolonged contact with Russians, and that senior officials — including Corey Lewandowski and recently indicted Paul Manafort, two of the campaign’s three managers, as well as Trump's son and son-in-law — were aware of it.
According to a count by the Washington Post, Trump campaign officials interacted with Russians at least 31 times throughout the campaign, including at least 19 known meetings. These contacts involve at least nine members of the Trump campaign — at least, that's how many have been made public.
All of this occurred as Russia was also manipulating social media, paying U.S.-based activists, and weaponizing hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in an effort to influence the 2016 election.
"The Russians were all over the Trump campaign," wrote Adam Goldman, one of the authors of the latest New York Times piece.
Indeed. Now the question is, why do they keep lying about it?