While much of the focus of Trump’s ties to Russia zero in on the 2016 presidential campaign, counterterrorism expert Malcolm Nance said on Monday that the president was central to a Russian intelligence operation years before he became a presidential candidate.
In an interview with Chris Matthews, Nance said the Russian operation that ultimately helped Trump become president started in 2012 when the now-president “made contact with Konstantin Rykov, the head of Russia’s TV 1.”
“This operation has a longer timeline,” Nance said, calling a possible quid pro quo with Russia over sanctions “just one component of a very broad-based intelligence operation.”
— PoliticusUSA (@politicususa) February 12, 2019
This operation has a longer timeline. We saw that in 2012 Donald Trump had already made contact with Konstantin Rykov, the head of Russia’s TV 1. 2013, they established the internet research agency two months before the Miss Universe pageant. 2014 they invade Crimea and Trump is effusive in his praise of Vladimir Putin. 2015, Russia starts hacking the DNC. This particular component with Konstantin Kilimnik is just a guarantor that they are going to get in and have those sanctions raised if this can be proven. So this is just one component of a very broad-based intelligence operation.
Despite what Trump says, collusion with Russia is in Mueller’s sights
While Trump has been bragging in recent days about GOP Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr’s statement last week that his committee has no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, new reporting indicates that it’s still very much in Mueller’s sights.
According to The New York Times, “Comments by one of Mr. Mueller’s lead prosecutors, disclosed in a transcript of a closed-door hearing, suggest that the special counsel continues to pursue at least one theory: that starting while Russia was taking steps to bolster Mr. Trump’s candidacy, people in his orbit were discussing deals to end a dispute over Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and possibly give Moscow relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.”
But ultimately, as Malcolm Nance said, the campaign portion of Trump’s relationship with Russia appears to be just the beginning of what was a long-term intelligence operation to put Trump in the White House, where he would do the Kremlin’s bidding.
The longer Trump remains in the White House, the more it looks like he has been living up to his end of the bargain – for years.