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Team Trump's Russian communications come into sharper focus

Instead of asking which members of Donald Trump's team had communications with Russian officials, we should ask which members didn't.
The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)
The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not the only member of President Trump's campaign who spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a diplomacy conference connected to the Republican National Convention in July. At least two more members of the Trump campaign's national security officials also spoke with Kislyak at the event, and several more Trump national security advisers were in attendance.It's unknown what the Trump campaign officials who spoke with the ambassador – J.D. Gordon and Carter Page – discussed with him. Those who took part in the events in Cleveland said it is not unusual for presidential campaign teams to interact with diplomats.However, the newly-revealed communications further contradict months of repeated denials by Trump officials that his campaign had contact with officials representing the Russian government.

As we've documented for months, leading members of Team Trump, including the president and vice president, have insisted that there were no pre-election contacts between the Republican campaign and Russian officials. There's a growing body of evidence that suggests these claims were demonstrably untrue, raising additional questions as to why Trump's aides felt the need to obscure what actually happened.Complicating matters further, Carter Page, one of Trump's unconventional choices for a foreign-policy advisor, told PBS two weeks ago that he "had no meetings" last year with any Russian officials. Last night, however, following the release of the USA Today report, Page told MSNBC's Chris Hayes that he does not deny meeting Sergey Kislyak in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention.
Did any other members of Team Trump meet with the Russian ambassador? As a matter of fact, yes.

Michael T. Flynn, then Donald J. Trump's incoming national security adviser, had a previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador in December to "establish a line of communication" between the new administration and the Russian government, the White House said on Thursday.Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump's son-in-law and now a senior adviser, also participated in the meeting at Trump Tower with Mr. Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.

The New York Times' report added that the December meeting "came at a crucial time, just as the Obama White House was preparing to sanction Russia and publicly make its case that Moscow had interfered with the 2016 election."A Politico reporter also noted that the Russian ambassador wasn't seen entering Trump Tower for this meeting, which suggests Kislyak was "deliberately brought in the back way" for reasons that are still unclear.Before Trump's allies start denouncing these revelations as "fake news," it's worth noting that the Times' report is based on information voluntarily disclosed yesterday by the White House. It represents a shift in media strategy from Team Trump: proactively releasing information rather than waiting for journalists to uncover it.Regardless, the number of people close to Trump who had private meetings with Russian officials continues to grow, and several of these people -- including Jeff Sessions, Michael Flynn, and Carter Page -- appear to have lied about it.The fact that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer argued earlier this week that the Russia scandal had run its course, and there was nothing more to talk about, is increasingly hilarious.