The bear in the room

How can Trump-Russia skeptics ignore the conspicuous?

Even by his standards, Donald Trump reached astonishing levels of presidential brazenness over the past week. He fired the director of the FBI, who was investigating his campaign over possible ties to Russia—and, the next day, welcomed Russian diplomats into the Oval Office for a meet-and-greet open to their, not U.S., media.

Oh, during that gathering, he let slip intelligence secrets. The president can declassify any information he wishes, so technically that’s legal. However, it’s just one more disturbing report, another listing for the catalog of jaw-dropping actions that keeps growing. (See “Eye on 45,” page 10.)

Trump packs a lot of dramatic reveals into his reality-show presidency, from Neil Gorsuch to North Korea and tweets in between. However, Russia remains the through-line. Republicans may look away, bashers of the Democratic Party may cry red-herring conspiracy, but there’s just too much there to pretend otherwise.

Indeed, the number of suspicious incidents has become overwhelming. It’s easy to forget how many times POTUS connects back to Russia, via his acts or associations. The mind seeks balance, harmony, normalcy; we tend to remember the good over the bad. Plus, we’ve gotten bombarded with so much that it’s hard to keep track of it all.

It may seem unfathomable that Trump fired James Comey, whom he’d given a vote of confidence, but he also pushed out Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney looking into a Russian money-laundering case that was abruptly settled last Friday (May 12). Bharara, too, had gotten assurances from Trump about continued tenure.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s fired national security adviser, remains all over the news. He spoke with Russians during the campaign—a revelation from a federal investigation. Don’t forget about Paul Manafort, Trump’s fired campaign chairman, who also is under federal investigation, reportedly having received over $20 million for unreported political work on behalf of Russian interests ahead of his hiring.

Then there’s this: In the continued absence of his returns, Trump’s tax attorneys declared last Friday that he has no financial dealings in Russia … except two. That account came from a practice that has a Moscow presence so extensive that it earned a 2016 “Russia Law Firm of the Year” award.

Circumstantial evidence is not direct evidence, true, and so far, much of what connects the president to Russia is circumstances. So far. The sheer amount is significant in itself and cannot be ignored.