It’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused with this ongoing story between Trump and Russia. Don’t let this confusion stop you from staying in the loop though, we’re here to break it down. In order to understand this Russia scandal in full, we need to take a couple steps back.
Some would say this story begins during the presidential campaign. Back when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were still at each others throats fighting hard to become President -seems like a lifetime ago doesn’t it? In June 2016, Wikileaks started releasing private emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Russia was the main suspect at the time, but nothing was confirmed (yet). These leaks continued all throughout the summer almost always against Clinton.
In case you forgot, here’s Trump back in July casually asking Russia to find Hillary’s missing emails.
Turns out it was Russia who hacked into the DNC. The CIA, FBA and NSA officially confirmed in January 2017 that Putin had ordered the attacks to the DNC to specifically cause damage to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. No,this is not an episode of The Americans or House of Cards, this is real.life.shit.
Then, on February 14th, a New York Times article spilled the beans that Trump campaign members had repeated contact with Russia:
“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.”
All of these elements have led many to question if Trump knew about the Russian hacks targeting Clinton and if he was aware that members of his presidential campaign were in contact with Russian officials.
*Side note: In December, Obama imposed sanctions (which basically means a penalty or punishment) on Russia in response to their hacks and attempts to interfere in the U.S. elections. Sanctions can include things like banning diplomats and foreign officials, banning trades and deals with foreign corporations, etc.*
The second piece to this giant puzzle is Michael Flynn.
Michael Flynn was Trump’s National Security Adviser before he was forced to step down when it was brought to light that he lied to Vice President and others about his multiple conversations with an Ambassador from, you guessed it, Russia.
Flynn has been criticized for his long standing ties with Russia even before Trump became President. He made TV appearances on Russia’s state-run network RT in 2014, and received payment from that network to attend a gala in Moscow in 2015, where he sat next to Putin.
When the story on Flynn’s conversations with the Russian Ambassador first broke in January 2017, Flynn, Vice President Pence and Press Secretary Sean Spicer all told the media and the public that sanctions were not a topic of discussion… But of course, the plot thickened.
U.S. officials and agencies often intercept and closely monitor conversations, especially when it has to do with Russia. So, as it turns out Flynn did indeed talk to the Ambassador about sanctions, revealed in a report by The Washington Post in February:
“National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said”.
As if Flynn wasn’t already looking super sketchy, it was revealed that Flynn had actually spoken more than once with the Ambassador on the same day Obama imposed the new sanctions on Russia.
Flynn resigned from his position as National Security Adviser on February 13th.
The Flynn fiasco led many to question once again, what is Trump’s knowledge on all of this? Did he know about Flynn’s conversations with Russia? Did he know they were discussing sanctions?
Finally and most recently, there’s the Jeff Sessions drama.
Bare with me guys,we’re almost done. You’ll soon be able to show off how much you know, you smarty pants!
On Wednesday night, March 1st, The Washington Post reported that Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions spoke twice with the Russian Ambassador (he’s so popular!). This is an issue because Sessions lied under oath at his confirmation hearing to become AG. When asked at his hearing if he knew anything about possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Sessions responded that he “did not have communications with the Russians.”
*Side note #2: Confirmation hearings are kind of like big interviews held by members of Congress to decide whether the person applying for the position can be accepted.*
Here’s the video where Sessions was asked about Russia.
It was revealed however that Sessions did in fact have communications with the Ambassador:
“One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.” – The Washington Post
Not long after the article was released, many members of Congress began demanding Sessions resign as AG and at least recuse (fancy language to mean remove oneself from a case because of a conflict of interest) himself from any Trump-Russia-election investigations.
In his role as Attorney General, Sessions is pretty much the top cop in the U.S., overseeing many departments including the FBI (the FBI has been looking into the connection between Trump and Russia since its earliest signs). Now that the FBI knows Sessions has also had contacts with Russia in some way, it’s very possible that the FBI will investigate their own boss – awkward.
A day later, March 2nd, Sessions recused himself from all investigations surrounding Russia and the election. Still, many are calling for Sessions to resign from his position completely since he lied under oath which can be considered perjury (the criminal offense of lying under oath). What will happen next?
Keep in mind that all of these stories continue to unfold and investigations are still taking place. We will for sure see more articles and news stories in the coming weeks. I’m almost afraid to log onto Twitter. Stay tuned with us as we try our best to keep you in the loop.
What confusing news topics would you like us to cover next? Keep the conversation going in the comment section below.