Russia controversy clings to White House like glue

The Russia controversy is swirling round the White House with no end in sight. It could be years before it concludes.

President Trump has consistently denied any collusion with the Kremlin, but special prosecutor Robert Mueller is expanding his probe.

It’s now emerged that the FBI carried out a pre-dawn raid on Paul Manafort’s home, former Chairman of the Trump campaign.

Paul Manafort is one of several people linked to the Trump campaign under scrutiny
Paul Manafort is one of several people linked to the Trump campaign under scrutiny

The fact he’d already handed over documents to congressional committees, raises the question of whether Mr Mueller simply didn’t trust him to supply everything that he needed.

Some of the documents are reportedly related to a meeting he attended at Trump Tower on July 9 2016. It provided an explosive element to an already bubbling inquiry.

Some saw it as the closest thing to a smoking gun, even though it has produced no conclusive evidence that the Kremlin was behind it.

The Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskya, who allegedly offered to dish dirt on Hillary Clinton, denies she did so. She also denies she is connected to the Russian government.

Russia and Trump: America’s ‘collusion delusion’?

Michael Caputo, who was working for the Trump campaign at the time of the meeting and is a friend of Mr Manafort’s, is convinced there is a “collusion delusion” taking hold.

He believes it’s unfairly preventing the President from progressing.

“The fact the Democrats and the anti-Trump people in Congress are tying his hands, I think that’s a shame for every single American because now we don’t stand a chance to improve the relationship, the same chance George W had, Hillary Clinton had, Donald Trump doesn’t have.”

He concedes that Don Junior was perhaps politically naive to take a meeting with a woman described in emails as a “Russian government attorney” with sensitive information.

But he casts a portrait of a frantic campaign, filled with inexperienced family members who were trying to help and unaware of the implications. Experienced opposition researchers he said would have consulted others first.

Donald Trump appeared at a rally in West Virginia after the news broke
Donald Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with the Kremlin

Daniel Hoffman, former chief of station for the CIA, is also sceptical the meeting shows any hallmarks of collusion.

Instead, he believes what took place was a classic: “Russian influence operation designed to create turmoil in US, to interfere with our election, our governing process and elevate Russia in minds of many as a player on the world stage.”

The Russian government denies any hand in the meeting. I ask why if they did in fact have a role, they would be so obvious about it, leaving a trace of emails.

“Putin served in Germany,” he replies. “He was channelling the Brothers Grimm. He left Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs all the way to the Kremlin.”

The Russia investigation may well prove there are no links between the Trump campaign and Russia. But Michel Caputo is adamant: “The special counsel has been tasked to take some scalps… he’s going to come back with some scalps”.

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