Opinion writer

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump shake hands during their meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit last month in Hamburg. (Michael Klimentyev/Sputnik via European Pressphoto Agency)

It’s odd, isn’t it, that President Trump’s campaign had so many advocates on behalf of friendly relations with Russia and so many people wanting to establish connections to Russia — and not, say, China, Germany, Brazil or some other world power? Hmm. Likewise, it’s weird, I think, that Trump, who cares not at all about health-care policy or taxes or anything else substantive (he just wants wins!) should make so many calls to lawmakers about — wouldn’t you know it? — Russia.

Politico reports:

Trump expressed frustration over a bipartisan bill sanctioning Russia and tried to convince Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that it wasn’t good policy, according to three people familiar with the call. Trump argued that the legislation was unconstitutional and said it would damage his presidency. Corker was unrelenting, these people said, and told Trump the bill was going to pass both houses with bipartisan support. …

Trump dialed up Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on Aug. 7, two days before a blunt call with the Senate majority leader that spilled over into a public feud. Tillis is working with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on a bill designed to protect Robert Mueller, the independent counsel investigating the president’s Russia connections, from any attempt by Trump to fire him.

And, of course, Trump’s feud with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which reportedly devolved into an obscenity-laden screaming match about — yup! — Russia sanctions and not protecting Trump from Russia investigators, spilled out into public. The non-denial denial from McConnell’s office amusingly did not take issue with that account. (“The President and I, and our teams, have been and continue to be in regular contact about our shared goals. … We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we are committed to advancing our shared agenda together and anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly not part of the conversation.”)

This comes at a time when evidence has surfaced that Trump’s now-deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, according to a CNN report, “sent a brief email to campaign officials last year relaying information about an individual who was seeking to connect top Trump officials with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.” The report continued:

Sources said the email occurred in June 2016 around the time of the recently revealed Trump Tower meeting where Russians with Kremlin ties met with the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner as well as then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. While many details around the Dearborn email are unclear, its existence suggests the Russians may have been looking for another entry point into the Trump campaign to see if there were any willing partners as part of their effort to discredit — and ultimately defeat — Hillary Clinton.<

Dearborn’s name has not been mentioned much as part of the Russia probe. But he served as then-Sen. Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, as well as a top policy aide on the campaign. And investigators have questions about whether he played a role in potentially arranging two meetings that occurred between the then-Russia ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, and Sessions, who has downplayed the significance of those encounters.

It’s not clear whether Dearborn or anyone acted on the individual’s request.

These new revelations do not demonstrate that the Trump campaign covertly cooperated with Russian meddling (although Trump openly invited the hacking of Clinton’s emails and touted the WikiLeaks revelations in the final days of the campaign), but they sure do show that Russian officials took an unusual interest in his campaign. There can hardly be any doubt that Putin wanted to help Trump — and did meddle in the election, as U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed unanimously. The most recent information about Trump’s fixation on Russia then re-raises the $64,000 question: If Trump has nothing to hide, why is he so obsessed about halting the Russia investigation and staying on Putin’s good side?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and President Trump's relationship is fraying amid Trump's repeated public attacks and controversial statements. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)