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  • Donald Trump's campaign for president was boosted by Russia, the CIA has concluded. But what did the Trump campaign know and when did it know it?  (Photo: Getty)

    Donald Trump’s campaign for president was boosted by Russia, the CIA has concluded. What did the Trump campaign know, and when did it know it? (Photo: Getty)

    The CIA dropped a bombshell with its findings on Russia’s effort to aid Donald Trump’s election as president. Although still secret, lawmakers briefed on the report, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), said the evidence of Russian involvement is “clear.” But what about the Trump campaign’s involvement?

    The larger—and more important–questions are whether the Trump campaign knew about the hacking. If so, when did they know it, and did it actively collaborate with the effort?

    If they campaign did know, then it has obviously covered it up, which, in itself, may be a crime.

    One thing is certain, a senior Russian diplomat confirmed on Russian television that key members of Trump’s campaign were in touch with Russian officials during the election.

    “Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. “… I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives.”

    The contacts “were on a sufficient, responsible level,” Ryabkov said in an interview with the state-run Interfax news agency.

    The nature of those contacts should be part of the investigation.

    Of note, the CIA also reportedly found evidence that the Trump campaign and/or the Republican National Committee were also hacked. But no Trump emails were obviously released.

    In a rebuttal today (Dec. 11), RNC Chairman Reince Priebus insisted the RNC email servers were not breached. Where the truth lies, remains to be seen.

    Trump made no secret of his fondness for Putin during the campaign. Two top campaign aides, Michael Flynn and Carter Page have ties to Russia. Flynn has since been named Trump’s National Security Adviser.

    ExxonMobil Chief Executive Rex W. Tillerson, now the front-runner for Trump’s Secretary of State, has extensive ties to Russia and Putin. The Russian president owns the largest oil company in Russia and reportedly made a $500 billion deal with ExxonMobil to exploit oil resources in his homeland.

    Obama put sanctions in place that blocked the deal. Hillary Clinton supported continued, if not tougher, sanctions against Russia, which are crippling its economy.

    Putin also wants to drive a wedge between the U.S. and NATO allies and between the U.S. and China, which is our largest trading partner. No surprise that Trump has spoken negatively about both relationships.

    So, Putin had a strong motive to see Trump elected.

    The extent of Trump’s business dealings with Russia and Russian oligarchs close to Putin are still unknown. But one deal suggests it’s far more extensive than Trump has admitted.

    The Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto went bankrupt in early November, revealing Trump’s partner–a Russian billionaire business mogul with ties to Putin. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice approved the bankruptcy request (Nov. 4), just four days before the U.S. presidential election. Unfortunately, it got virtually no coverage in the national media.

    Trump, through his conglomerate, held a lucrative licensing and management contract for the $300 million, 65-story tower. His partner was Russian billionaire Alex Shnaider.

    Shnaider is co-founder with Ukrainian billionaire Eduard Shifrin of the Midland Group, an international trading and investment holding company. In October, Putin granted Russian citizenship by decree to Shifrin and his daughter, a move that not only indicated their closeness, but also extended legal protection to Shifrin.

    in 2012, Trump and children Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka led the ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the tower.

    Not surprisingly, Shnaider, through the hotel’s holding company, and Trump are now locked in litigation over the project.

    The Trump Organization has been accused of mismanagement for failing to sell condos as promised; nearly two-thirds of the units still remain vacant, according to Canadian press accounts.

    That’s just one deal, but it proves Trump lied about his Russian connections.

    It’s critical, as part of the Congressional investigation, that Trump finally turn over his tax returns and other financial information detailing his business ties to Russian oligarchs and other investors. Congress has the power to subpoena them.

    The CIA’s revelations have created a lot of smoke, at this point, but no smoking gun.

    It will be up to Congress and investigative journalists to connect the dots.

    If Congress exhibits even one-third of the zeal for investigating Trump that it did for its multiple investigations of Clinton, then maybe the truth will emerge.

    Let us know your thoughts.