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Washington is smoldering in the wake of bombshell revelations about contacts between President Trump's eldest son and figures with connections to the Kremlin. Three consecutive stories by the New York Times this week exposed a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer claiming to have dirt on Hillary Clinton.

It emerged that Trump Jr. was informed via email by Rob Goldstone, a trusted intermediary, that a Russian contact had documents that “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

To this, Trump Jr. responded with serious interest: “If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

Trump Jr. and officials linked to the White House insist nothing came of this meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who appeared on behalf of a wealthy client — Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, whose father, Aras Agalarov, is a Kremlin-connected Moscow real estate developer who helped sponsor Trump's Miss Universe pageant in 2013.

Trump Jr. insisted Tuesday that he was conducting “political opposition research” and that Veselnitskaya was not a Russian government official. He tweeted a full transcript of the controversial email exchange in the interest of “transparency.” But the email itself indicated the meeting was about Russian government attempts to aid his father's electoral victory. And veterans of U.S. political campaigns from both parties pointed out that it was never standard practice to meet with figures from a foreign adversary to get politically useful information on a domestic rival.

Meanwhile, Adam Goldman, one of the New York Times reporters who detailed the June 2016 meeting, scoffed at Trump Jr.'s claims of transparency. “Nonsense,” said Goldman to Washington Post media columnist Erik Wemple. “Everybody knows why these emails are public. If we hadn’t pursued this story … then they wouldn’t have released these emails.”

Now, as special counsel Robert Mueller III continues his probe of the Trump campaign's links to Moscow, the specter of alleged “collusion” with the Kremlin is coming into clearer focus.

Trump Jr.'s decision to meet the Russian contact, my colleagues wrote, "as well as the attendance of [Trump's son-in-law Jared] Kushner and then-Trump campaign aide Paul Manafort, amount to fresh evidence that the Trump campaign was willing to consider accepting help from a Russian source tarnishing Clinton."

To others, the new revelations offer conclusive proof. “These emails show there is no longer a question of whether this campaign sought to collude with a hostile foreign power to subvert America's democracy,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The question is how far the coordination goes. It is now up to elected officials of both parties to stand up and do their duty: protect and defend the Constitution."

As journalist Casey Michel noted this year, this is hardly the first time Kremlin proxies have made overtures to American political campaigns. In 1960, the KGB's Washington agent was instructed to “propose diplomatic or propaganda initiatives” to help “facilitate” John F. Kennedy's victory — but his efforts were rebuffed by the Kennedy campaign. In 1968, the Soviet ambassador in Washington had marching orders to send funds to Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey's campaign, but he found no takers.

Fast-forward to the present, and it seems that Trump's son had fewer scruples. Some are making the argument that this was a “rookie, amateur mistake.” But the Trump campaign and White House's consistent pattern of denial, obfuscation and dissembling about the matter paints a murkier picture.

Of course, although this all looks rather embarrassing for the Trump camp — and may form the basis of a more aggressive legal inquiry — it doesn't establish the existence of a conspiracy of any real substance. Not surprisingly, mainstream Republicans still show no sign of fleeing from under the Trump banner.

But there's a different kind of collusion between the Kremlin and elements in the United States that should not be forgotten — and that is arguably more important. As I've written before, there is a clear ideological affinity between a segment of Trump’s supporters — as well as his inner circle — and the government of President Vladimir Putin, which has for a number of years sought to strengthen ties with far-right parties in the West.

Much as Soviet Moscow once sought alliances with leftist parties and organizations, today's Russian officials and proxies have courted ultranationalists, gun rights advocates and hard-line Christian groups. As The Post's Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger detailed in a lengthy expose in April, a range of American right-wingers have come to see a kindred spirit in Putin, admiring his uncompromising patriotism, embrace of the Orthodox Church and impatience with liberal mores. The emerging contacts led some to dub Moscow's project as the creation of a “Traditionalist International.”

“The value system of Southern Christians and the value system of Russians are very much in line,” one prominent American intermediary with Moscow said to my colleagues. “The so-called conflict between our two nations is a tragedy because we’re very similar people, in a lot of our values, our interests and that sort of thing.”

Indeed, Trump's “America First” rhetoric isn't all that different from the nationalism preached by Putin. Both are anchored in a defense of sovereignty, nostalgia for a mythic past and the loyalty of religious conservatives. It's this agenda that has so dramatically startled American allies in Europe, who see the White House not as a guarantor of stability for the international order, but as a probable liability.

No matter what we learn about the Trump campaign's dealings with vague proxies of proxies, that connection will remain in place — and may ultimately define Trump and America's place in the world.

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