President Trump has repeatedly insisted that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russian actors believed to have been working to boost his 2016 candidacy at the expense of Hillary Clinton’s. The solidification of a link between Gates, Manafort and the GRU appears to be, as our Aaron Blake explains, a direct connection between Russian intelligence and the campaign.
But it’s far from the only such connection.
So far, there are at least a half-dozen connections between the Russian government and the Trump campaign either directly or through various intermediaries. We’ve diagramed those connections below; explanations of the links follow.
From left to right:
Lavrov-Mifsud-Papadopoulos. George Papadopoulos was an adviser to the Trump campaign who met a professor named Joseph Mifsud shortly after being given that position. Mifsud eventually told Papadopoulos that the Russian government had dirt on Clinton in the form of emails, information that Papadopoulos later conveyed to an Australian diplomat. When WikiLeaks began releasing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee in July 2016, the Australians tipped off the FBI about Papadopoulos’s comments, initiating the investigation into Trump that evolved into Mueller’s probe.
How did Mifsud know about the emails? As BuzzFeed reported last month, Mifsud at one point allegedly bragged to his girlfriend about being friends with Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister. (Lavrov was part of the Oval Office meeting the day after Trump fired former FBI director James B. Comey during which Trump revealed highly classified information.)
Torshin-Trump Jr. Aleksandr Torshin is a former member of the Russian parliament who has actively sought to build a stronger connection between Russia and the National Rifle Association, of which he’s a member. During the 2016 campaign, he repeatedly sought to be connected directly to senior Trump campaign officials, leveraging relationships to try to set up a meeting during the NRA convention in Kentucky that year. At an event associated with that convention, he met Donald Trump Jr., though apparently only in passing.
GRU-WikiLeaks-Trump Jr. U.S. intelligence officials and outside analysts believe that the GRU was able to access the DNC’s computer network in April 2016, stealing information that was eventually released by WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks denies any connection to the Russian government. But it was in contact with Trump Jr. over Twitter’s private messaging system. WikiLeaks passed links and ideas to Trump Jr. during the latter part of the campaign, and he asked them for additional information about upcoming leaks, apparently without success.
Veselnitskaya-Trump campaign team. The connection between Natalia Veselnitskaya, a lawyer linked to the Kremlin, and three senior Trump campaign officials is well-established. In June 2016, a music promoter working for a Russian pop star and developer approached Trump Jr. about meeting with Veselnitskaya to receive dirt on Clinton that was part of the Russian government’s efforts to get Trump elected. Trump Jr. readily agreed and met with Veselnitskaya later that month along with Manafort and Jared Kushner.
Kilimnik-Manafort. The explanation above doesn’t encompass the scope of this set of connections between Russia and Trump. Manafort’s work in Ukraine overlapped with his work for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, with whom Manafort had a rocky relationship ultimately involving a lawsuit between the two. During the campaign, Manafort contacted Kilimnik to apparently explore how to make amends with Deripaska, including asking Kilimnik whether Deripaska had seen that he was working with Trump and how that might be used to “get whole.”
Dvorkovich–Page. Carter Page was a foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign when he traveled to Russia in early July 2016 to give a speech. Pressed by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, he admitted last year that, while in Moscow, he had had a cursory meeting with Arkady Dvorkovich, a Russian deputy prime minister. Page claimed that the meeting was only cursory, but in emails reporting back to the campaign, his claims were more robust.
“In a private conversation,” Page wrote, “Dvorkovich expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems.” The dossier of reports compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele included an allegation that Page learned during this trip that the Russians had more incriminating information on Clinton.
Update: It’s been noted that we excluded a connection between the GRU and long-time Trump ally Roger Stone. Stone was in contact with someone calling himself “Guccifer 2.0,” who was leaking information stolen from the DNC in mid-2016. The Daily Beast reported earlier this month that Guccifer 2.0 had accidentally revealed his connection to the GRU by failing to mask his internet activity one one occasion. That said, Stone was not actually a part of the Trump campaign directly, and his connection to Guccifer appears to have been fairly limited.
These six connections are those known to have occurred before the election and exclude contacts like Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. After the election, we know of a number of other contacts: former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak about sanctions, for example; and Kushner’s conversations with a representative of a sanctioned Russian bank in December 2016.
Mueller’s primary charge is to investigate where Trump’s campaign and Russia’s efforts might have overlapped. The diagram above shows a number of known and possible conduits — but Mueller certainly knows more details than are represented here.