It seems the Russians really wanted to get in touch with the Trump campaign, and they didn’t realize that all they needed to do was reach out to Donald Trump Jr. regarding “high level and sensitive information [that’s] part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that one of the Trump campaign’s foreign-policy advisers, George Papadopoulos, repeatedly offered to set up a meeting between the campaign and the Russian leadership, including President Vladimir Putin. Several Trump officials rejected the requests.
On Wednesday, CNN reported that congressional investigators have found an email from top campaign aide Rick Dearborn that references another effort to arrange a meeting. Per CNN:
The aide, Rick Dearborn, who is now President Donald Trump’s deputy chief of staff, sent a brief email to campaign officials last year relaying information about an individual who was seeking to connect top Trump officials with Putin, the sources said.
The person was only identified in the email as being from “WV,” which one source said was a reference to West Virginia. It’s unclear who the individual is, what he or she was seeking, or whether Dearborn even acted on the request. One source said that the individual was believed to have had political connections in West Virginia, but details about the request and who initiated it remain vague.
The email was sent in June 2016, around the same time as the Trump Jr. meeting with Russians connected to Putin. Dearborn appeared to be skeptical of the meeting, according to sources, but he was involved in another event that’s drawn scrutiny from investigators. Dearborn served as then-senator Jeff Sessions’s chief of staff for many years, and he helped set up an April 2016 event at the Mayflower Hotel where Trump delivered an address on foreign policy. The event was attended by then–Russia ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, and questions have been raised about Dearborn’s role in setting up meetings between Kislyak and Sessions. The attorney general denied meeting any Russian officials during his confirmation hearing, which led to him recusing himself from the Russia probe.
There hasn’t been much news about the Russia investigation in recent weeks, but it seems it’s still on Trump’s mind. Politico reports that earlier this month Trump had two heated calls with Republican senators on the topic.
In the first, Trump complained to Senate Foreign Relations chairman Bob Corker that the bipartisan Russia sanctions bill was unconstitutional and would hurt his presidency. Trump eventually signed the bill, reluctantly.
Then during a call with Senator Thom Tillis on August 7, Trump signaled his displeasure with a bill Tillis is working on with Democratic senator Chris Coons, which is intended to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller should Trump attempt to fire him.
A Corker spokeswoman said the senator had a “productive conversation about the congressional review portion of the Russia sanctions bill,” and a Tillis spokesman described his chat with the president as “cordial.”