The scandal surrounding Russia's intervention in the U.S. presidential election has, broadly speaking, come in three phases.
The first broke during the campaign itself. Around the time Donald Trump publicly urged Russia to commit illegal acts of cyber-espionage to help his candidacy, multiple reports came to light suggesting Russian officials were, in fact, trying to boost the Republican. Trump, when he wasn't praising Putin, dismissed the allegations, and much of the political world focused instead on Hillary Clinton's email server protocols.
The second phase unfolded soon after Election Day, when 17 U.S. intelligence agencies reached a consensus: Russia did launch an espionage operation; officials working at Putin's behest did subvert our democracy; and Russia was motivated in part by a desire to help put Trump in the White House.
As recently as a month ago, the president elect rejected the findings as "ridiculous
." Now, however, practically everyone in Trump World accepts the U.S. intelligence consensus.
If we stopped here and went no further, we'd still have one of the most important campaign stories in American history. It's an almost unimaginable crime: a foreign adversary provided clandestine assistance to a presidential candidate, creating a dynamic in which the next leader of the free world managed to reach the office thanks in part to foreign espionage.
This is exactly what U.S. intelligence agencies, members of Congress from both parties, and even Trump's own team, now believes. TPM's Josh Marshall put it this way
last week: "[J]ust two weeks before a new president is sworn into office, the country's intelligence agencies are publicly releasing a report claiming that the United States' great 20th century rival, Russia, conspired to assist in that new president's election. Step back and just absorb that. That is simply mind-boggling."
All of which brings us to the third phase, which broke this week. read more