• 02:26
  • 16.12.2017
President Trump's ties to Russia: His links with Moscow explained
политика
15.12.2017

President Trump's ties to Russia: His links with Moscow explained

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The denials have been flowing thick and fast. Yet Donald Trump’s team cannot shake allegations of Russian collusion. So here’s a look at the tangled web that binds the US president’s fate with Moscow.
It began on the 2016 presidential campaign trail.
Donald Trump was riding high.
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He had stormed his way through the Republican presidential nomination process. All opponents were simply brushed aside by the tide of populism by the controversial showman’s indomitable style.
But in the final race for the presidential goalpost, the self-styled amateur of governing knew he’d need all the help he could get.
It’s where he got that help — and whether or not it violates the US Constitution — that has left a dark stain on the early days of the 45th presidency.
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Collusion with external powers is simply outlawed.
It’s a concept that may have come as something of a shock for the real-estate mogul, who is well versed in the dark arts of making a deal.
Since the scandal exploded in the final months before Trump’s election as President of the United States, he and his team have consistently denied any ties whatsoever with Russia or its representatives.
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But the revelations just keep coming.
And they paint a worrying picture of a campaign willing to do any deal to get their man into the top job.
So here are all of the Russian ties that lead back to President Trump. That we know about.
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THE CAMPAIGN TEAM
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was bluntly asked on the US ABC on July 24, 2016, if there were any links between his efforts, Russia and its president — Vladimir Putin. “No, there are not. And you know, there’s no basis to it.”
It was just the first of some 20 outright denials by Trump’s trusted campaign officials in the face of persistent claims of regular contacts with Moscow.
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But the exposure of Carter Page, Trump’s foreign policy adviser, was among the first warning signs of potentially suspect business and political ties. The ex-navy businessman had drawn the attention of the FBI in 2013 when he was targeted for recruitment by a Russian intelligence agency. Then, in 2016, he gave a startlingly Russia-friendly speech shortly after joining the Trump team and appears to have met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
He stepped down from his role in September when he became the subject of an FBI surveillance warrant.
It didn’t end there. In November it was revealed the by now former Trump campaign manager Manafort was also being investigated by the FBI. He flatly denied allegations of links to Moscow: “None of it is true …. (it’s) political propaganda, meant to deflect”. He remains under a cloud amid revelations he had lobbied on behalf of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine and had a $US10 million contract working for Russian aluminium magnate and Putin confidant, Oleg Deripaska.
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THE EMAIL LEAK
“Informal” adviser to Trump Roger Stone Jr boasted he knew in advance that a mass of emails from Hillary Clinton’s Democratic National Committee were about to be released. He said he’d been in direct contact with Julian Assange, though he then back-pedaled and said all communications had been through an ‘intermediary’.
US media and intelligence agencies drew links between the hack and Russian operatives. But a blogger called Guccifer 2.0, who conversed with Stone Jr via Twitter after news of Russian involvement broke, later claimed it was he who conducted the hack — not Moscow — and gave the documents to Assange. However, Guccifer 2.0 was himself later found to have ties to Russia.
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A joint briefing by the CIA, National Security Agency and FBI failed to convince Trump that Moscow was behind the attack. In fact, the FBI’s persistent assertion it was Russia may have generated the tensions between its director, James Comey, and President Trump which resulted in his firing earlier this year.
THE MOSCOW CONNECTION
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Then there was Moscow-born Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn. He raised eyebrows when he loudly asserted Russia had not actually seized Crimea, the cause of extensive economic sanctions targeted at key Moscow businessmen.
The particulars of his argument were noted to closely mirror the official Kremlin line.
It was a sense of collusion reinforced in November when Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency that Moscow officials had contacted members of Trump’s campaign team during the election. “Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Ryabkov said.
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Trump’s communication director Hope Hicks quickly moved to damp-down the damage: “It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
But, in December, when President-elect Trump should have been riding high on his election victory, he was compelled to tweet.
But a bombshell was waiting in the wings.
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MISS UNIVERSE
A two-page British intelligence dossier on Trump made headlines in January. It allegedly exposed a classic case of Russian ‘Kompromat’ — where key dignitaries and businesspeople are sexually and financially compromised in order to make them vulnerable to extortion. Here, Trump had allegedly indulged in dalliances during the 2013 Miss Universe contest, then held in Moscow.
The truth or otherwise of the dossier is yet to be determined.
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But the Miss Universe contest itself exposes a degree of Russian collusion in Trump’s business affairs. Billionaire Aras Agalarov reportedly paid Donald Trump up to $US20 million to stage the pageant in Moscow.
The Agalarov and Trump families also appear to have close personal ties. Aras’s son, Emin, is a pop star. Donald Trump made a guest appearance in one of his music videos, and sent a video greeting card for the billionaire’s son’s birthday in 2014.
After the Trump election win, Emin boasted on Russian state television: “I met many times with the sons, Eric and Donald. We message each other constantly.”
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It was reportedly he who suggested Trump Jr meet with a Moscow lawyer to hear details that may be damaging to Hillary Clinton.
THE PERSONAL LAWYER
Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-term personal lawyer, was challenged about allegations contained within the intelligence dossier relating to business ties with Russia and a trip to Prague to broker a Moscow-backed peace deal for Ukraine. He flatly denied ever making the trip.
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He’s since been subpoenaed by the US Congress’ House Intelligence Committee — and the White House has been keen to distance itself from Cohen’s campaign role.
THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Then Trump nominee for the role of Attorney-General of the United States Jeff Sessions was challenged under oath at his Senate confirmation hearing about personal contacts with Russian representatives during the 2016 election campaign. “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians,” he asserted.
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But it was soon revealed he had actually spoken with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during that sensitive time.


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