On "Meet the Press" yesterday, NBC News' Chuck Todd did a nice job summarizing the latest revelations about Donald Trump and Russia, posing a pointed question to Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who'll soon become the #3 Republican in the U.S. Senate.
"I want to ask you, quickly, on the revelation from the Kremlin over the weekend confirming Michael Cohen's account, essentially, that yes, there were some interactions between Donald Trump's organization and the Kremlin. We don't find out about it until now.... Basically, we now know they might have had leverage over this president. They knew information that we, in the public, did not know. They confirmed it over the weekend. Is that not cause for concern?"
Barrasso, sadly but predictably, largely sidestepped the question, instead saying of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, "We need to come to completion on that. And it should be done quickly."
The GOP senator didn't elaborate as to why the Mueller probe should wrap up -- a common position among Republican lawmakers -- but in this case, the question was probably more interesting that the answer.
The Russia scandal has always been a multi-faceted controversy, but one of the core questions has always been whether, and to what degree, Donald Trump was compromised by his Russian benefactors. The Kremlin's efforts to help put the Republican in power are well documented and no longer in dispute, but coming to terms with Moscow's possible hold over Trump has long been a separate piece of the puzzle.
Which is one of the reason's last week's revelations from Michael Cohen are so important. Indeed, Chuck Todd's question dovetailed nicely with Rachel's segment on this from Friday night: Trump lied during his campaign about business dealings with Putin's government, Putin's government knew at the time that Trump was lying, so the resulting dynamic gave the Kremlin leverage over the then-candidate.
In case this isn't obvious, it created circumstances in which officials in Moscow were in a position to tell Trump, "Follow our instructions or we'll tell everyone what you've been lying about."
It's an element of the scandal some members of Congress are starting to take quite seriously, as we saw yesterday.