Donald Trump keeps using those words ...
“I have nothing to do with Russia,” he told reporters on Thursday. “To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.”
But it’s clear that they do not mean what most people think they mean.
The denial stands at odds with statements by Russian officials, who have at least twice acknowledged contacts with aides to Mr. Trump before the election.
Trump’s statements on his relation to Russia, and to Vladimir Putin, have been nothing if not inconsistent. But now he’s in the almost hilarious position of arguing not just against intelligence reports, not just against his own previous statements, but being contradicted over talks with Russian officials, by Russian officials.
More recently, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey I. Kislyak, told The Washington Post that he had communicated frequently during the campaign with Michael T. Flynn, a close campaign adviser to Mr. Trump who became the president’s national security adviser before resigning from the position last week.
Note that Kislyak isn’t talking about the conversations he had with Flynn during the transition, which famously including discussions of the sanctions that supposedly led to Flynn’s dismissal. These are talks the two had frequently during the campaign. And it wasn’t just Flynn.
As Russian officials were happy to say on the day after the election ...
Separately, The New York Times and other news outlets reported last week that Trump campaign advisers and other associates of Mr. Trump’s had repeated contacts last year with Russian intelligence officials. Those reports, citing anonymous current and former American government officials, were vigorously denied by the White House.
Meanwhile, Trump isn’t the only one furiously backpedaling.
John Dickerson: The president says nobody he knew of had any contact with the Russians during the campaign. And there had been—there was a report in the Washington Post that Mr. Flynn did in fact talk to the Russians during the campaign. And I just wondered if anyone had asked him, so as to no send the president out with incorrect information.
Reince Priebus: No, I’ve never heard that. And I’ve never heard that he’s had any other contacts before the election. I don’t think the president has either.
So … Reince didn’t ask Flynn, so he couldn’t tell Trump? What would be a good name for that policy?
What was it Russian officials said immediately after the election?
Russian government officials had contacts with members of Donald Trump’s campaign team, a senior Russian diplomat said Thursday, in a report that could reopen scrutiny over the Kremlin’s role in the president-elect’s bitter race against Hillary Clinton. ...
"Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Rybakov said. “… I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives.”
“Quite a few” seems like a number greater than just Michael Flynn. And as the New York Times reported, the people Trump’s campaign was talking to weren’t their Russian relatives, or Russian media, or even Russian diplomats. They were ...
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
Senior Russian intelligence officials. Repeated contacts. This story is a long, long way from over.
Donald Trump may be denying any conversation by his campaign at the moment, but then Donald Trump even denies Donald Trump.
"I have nothing to do with Putin. I've never spoken to him. I don't know anything about him other than he will respect me." — Donald Trump, 2016
“I was in Russia, I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer, and we had a tremendous success.” — Donald Trump, 2014
"I do a have relationship [with Putin]. And I can tell you that he's very interested in what we're doing here today. He's probably very interested in what you and I am saying today, and I'm sure he's going to be seeing it in some form. But I do have a relationship with him." — Donald Trump, 2013