U.S. intelligence agencies nailed “with a high degree of certainty” that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Spy agencies intercepted messages showing Russian officials discussing the hacking campaign, and even identified Russian officials who authorized third parties to pass stolen emails to WikiLeaks, according to the secret report.
Yet, the investigation appears to have stopped short of determining whether Trump, or key members of his campaign, were actively working with the Russians during the election to maximize the impact of the released emails.
The deafening silence on that question comes even after high-level Russian officials said they were in contact with high-level Trump campaign members during the election.
A senior Russian diplomat confirmed 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.
Who where the Trump campaign officials and what was the nature of their conversations?
One adviser in particular, Carter Page is drawing particular scrutiny for his Russian ties, which were being investigated by the FBI, according to published reports.
Page was spotted in Moscow after the election, according to The New York Times, but the Trump campaign has refused to say why he was there.
Page’s name raised eyebrows again when his name surfaced in a report by a state-run news outlet in Russia. It claimed Page had sent a “threatening” letter to Arizona Sen. John McCain, urging him to drop his plans to investigate the election hacking.
So far, McCain’s office has not confirmed receiving the letter.
Michael Flynn, the retired general who will serve as Trump’s National Security Adviser, has been courted and groomed by Margarita Simonyan, the Editor-in-Chief of RT (formally known as Russia Today), the Russian government propaganda network.
In 2015, RT served as one of the Kremlin’s primary tools to deny its invasion of eastern Ukraine and its role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Flynn took part in a paid speaking event in Russia at about the same time and became a semi-regular guest on RT.
He attended RT’s 10 anniversary gala and sat just a few seats from Putin, attesting to his importance as an intelligence asset to the Russian propaganda effort.
He has appeared on RT programs numerous times arguing for better relations between the U.S. and Russia. He’s been an advocate for Russia on news programs in the United States.
Flynn is also a vocal critic of China and has also argued in favor of keeping Russia’s client, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in power, which is directly contrary to U.S. policy.
Trump made no secret of his fondness for Putin during the campaign. Trump also aided Russian efforts to discredit the American election by claiming repeatedly that the results would be rigged.
Trump also played into Russia’s hands by talking down the NATO alliance and hinting that the U.S. would be reluctant to get involved should Russia take military action against NATO aligned countries.
U.S intelligence agencies appear to have made a conscious effort to avoid looking into the election. The Republican congress appears to have no appetite for an in-depth investigation as well.
But it’s a question that needs to be answered.