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Russia's President Vladimir Putin listens while President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at Finland's Presidential Palace on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images file

Report details Team Trump's connections to Russia's 2016 scheme

A bipartisan Senate report has shredded Trump's assertions about the Russia scandal being a "hoax."


The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee spent more than three years examining Russia's attack on the United States' 2016 elections, and the panel found so much information, it had to release its findings in multiple volumes.

Volume I, which was released over a year ago, documented Moscow targeting U.S. election infrastructure. Volume II highlighted Russia's use of social media to help advance Donald Trump's candidacy. Volume III examined the initial U.S. response to the Russian attack. Volume IV reviewed the intelligence community's assessment from 2016, and determined that it was accurate, Trump's insistence to the contrary notwithstanding.

But the release of Volume V yesterday suggested that the Senate Intelligence Committee saved the best for last.

In a thousand-page bipartisan report released Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee painted a stark portrait of a Trump campaign eager to accept help from a foreign power in 2016, as well as a candidate closely involved in the effort.... The committee endorsed the view of Mueller and the Stone prosecution team that the Trump campaign eagerly embraced Russian help in 2016 and considered the hacked emails its "October surprise," even though campaign officials knew the material had been stolen by Russian intelligence.

NBC News' report added that the Senate report, approved by the Intelligence Committee's Republican and Democratic members, represents "the most detailed account to date of the Trump campaign's embrace of Russian election interference," and included "never-before-seen evidence about Trump and Russia."

Some of the known elements of the story have now been confirmed with uncontested clarity. Vladimir Putin's government targeted U.S. elections for the express purpose of helping elevate Donald Trump to power. The Republican's political operation sought Russian assistance, embraced Russian assistance, capitalized on Russian assistance, lied about Russian assistance, and took steps to obstruct the investigation into Russian assistance.

But those are just the basics. As Rachel noted on the air last night, the bipartisan Senate report also documented the fact that Trump's campaign chairman in 2016, Paul Manafort, was in direct, frequent, and secret communication with a Russian intelligence officer throughout his time on the Trump campaign. In fact, the report identifies that officer, Konstantin Kilimnik, and concludes that he was tasked by the Kremlin with helping run Moscow's influence operations abroad.

Trump's operation shared internal information with the Russian intelligence officer, and the report raised the possibility of the Republican campaign chair possibly being directly involved in the Russian operation against Hillary Clinton.

The same Senate report documented the Trump campaign's willingness to assist the Russian attack on our election, amplifying the leaks of Democratic materials stolen by Kremlin-linked operatives, and highlighted "coordination" between Team Trump and Wikileaks, which was responsible for releasing the documents stolen by Russia.

What's more, the newly released information makes clear that Donald Trump almost certainly spoke directly with Roger Stone about Wikileaks in 2016, and the president's claims about this were almost certainly untrue.

The idea that the Russia scandal was some kind of "hoax" was always ridiculous, but the release of the 996-page Senate report should, if reality has any meaning at all, bury the idea permanently. This is, after all, a bipartisan document, bolstered by three years of investigation, that points to high-level connections and coordination between Trump's political operation and those responsible for the attack on our election.

The report at one point literally describes a "direct tie between senior Trump Campaign officials and the Russian intelligence services."

Naturally, the Republican president and his allies are once again arguing that there was no "collusion" between Team Trump and its benefactors in Moscow. A Washington Post analysis concluded yesterday, "'Collusion' was always an eye-of-the-beholder term, one used either to describe only provable coordination (by Trump defenders) or broad interactions between Russian actors and Trump's team (by his critics). What the Senate report suggests, though, is the possibility of a much more direct line from Russia's efforts to Trump's inner circle."