There are two options: Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia worked together to help elect our current president of the United States, or we are witnessing the greatest coincidence since the Big Bang.
Call it collusion. Call it a collaboration. Or, even better, call it a “conspiracy against the United States” — since that’s probably what the indictments will keep calling it.
Just don’t call it a coincidence, especially if the FBI is interviewing you.
If you want to argue that Russia randomly to decided to endure unknown risks to do almost everything it could to put Trump in the White House, and that Trump was just too hapless to properly conspire, even after decades of schemes where he got richer while others got burned, here are just some of fantastic events that you have to believe are only “coincidences.”
In 2013, after decades of struggling to do business in Russia and in the midst of plotting what many assumed would be another vanity run for president, Trump announced he planned to hold his Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. The 67-year-old reality TV star tweeted in June, “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow — if so, will he become my new best friend?”
The next month, the Internet Research Agency registered in Russia to begin what a recent indictment filed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office called “information warfare against the United States of America.”
Though the Trump/Putin meeting in Moscow never happened, the courtship continued.
In 2014, Trump opportunistically attacked Russia’s policies when it was convenient to criticize Barack Obama, but he refused to say a negative word in public about Vladimir Putin — a policy he pretty much only extends to his businesses, his relatives and his anatomy.
On Fox News that year in February, he defended the slapstick spectacle of the Sochi Olympics and warned that “we should not be knocking that country” because “[The US is] going to win something important later on, and they won’t be opposed to what we’re doing.”
In April 2014, after the U.S. had levied sanctions on Russia for “violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the Internet Research Agency allegedly began its U.S.-focused “translator project” with a goal of spreading “distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”
Coincidentally, that became a major theme of Trump’s presidential campaign that he officially launched in June of 2015.
As Trump continued to praise Putin and question NATO, the backbone of Soviet and Russian containment for more than half a century, social media trolls backed by the Kremlin rained support on Trump.
In September 2015, the FBI contacted the Democratic National Committee to warn that at least one of its computers had been hacked by the Russians.
The next month, two weeks after Trump’s Twitter account tweeted an article entitled “Putin Loves Trump,” Trump signed a letter of intent to build a Trump Tower in Moscow (something he never disclosed during the campaign). Early the next month, Felix Sater, a longtime Trump associate reputed to have Russian mob connections, told Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen in an email, “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”
In March 2016, Paul Manafort, a Trump Tower resident with a long history of lobbying for Trump interests and foreign despots, joined the Trump campaign. For some reason, Manafort was willing to work for free despite apparently owing as much as $17 millionto pro-Russian interests.
That same month, the Gmail account of Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta was hacked.
In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. received an email that said the “Crown prosecutor” of Russia had “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” Trump Jr. responded “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” They met that month.
The next month at the Republican National Convention, after years of criticizing President Obama’s weakness toward Russia, the GOP softened platform language opposing Putin’s moves in Ukraine. The next week, Wikileaks began leaking hacked emails from the DNC.
After the Democratic National Convention, Trump famously said at a press conference: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 (Clinton) emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Trump could only be sure Russia would be “rewarded mightily” if he knew Russia was aiming to harm Clinton.
Coincidentally, at that point the Internet Research Agency’s agenda, according to the Mueller indictment, “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (‘Trump Campaign’) and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”
In October, just hours after the Access Hollywood tape came out, Wikileaks began to release Podesta’s emails. Though the Trump campaign is supposedly feckless, it summoned laser focus on these emails. “I love Wikileaks,” Trump said in one of his 141 references to the organization in the month before the election.
Of particular interest to the Trump campaign was an email that allegedly mocked “conservative Catholicism.” Somehow it almost immediately became the obsession of the right, amongst the over 20,000 pages eventually leaked.
Mike Pence joined the calls for Clinton to apologize to Catholics, a group she was leading with in August but lost on Election Day, according to exit polls.
In which states might the Catholic vote have been decisive for the Trump-Pence campaign? Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, for a start.
What a coincidence.
There are also the “coincidences” that have taken place since the election. They include naming a winner of the “Russian Order of Friendship” as secretary of State, rushing to ease sanctions on Putin, and refusing to implement new sanctions on Russia or secure our elections from likely attacks on the 2018 elections.
If you don’t see the conspiracy by now, you just don’t want to.
Trump has long benefited from the willingness of his opponents, his creditors and the media to underestimate his guile and ruthlessness. Apparently, that’s a mistake Russia didn’t make.