WASHINGTON — For nearly a year, President Donald Trump and several of his top advisers have repeatedly denied that there was any contact between members of the Trump campaign and individuals tied to the Russian government. But the veracity of that story appears to be crumbling under contradictory revelations from the President’s son, son-in-law and the current attorney general.
Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have all previously denied that there were any contacts or ties between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials or Russians trying to meddle in the election.
Trump has routinely called the Russia story “fake news” and a “witch hunt.”
Asked in February if anyone on his campaign had contacts with Russia during the election, Trump first said, “General Flynn was obviously dealing. So that’s one person.” Asked if that contact happened during the election, Trump responded, “no, nobody that I know of.” He went on to say, “I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge no person that I deal with does.”
Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have all confirmed (on-record) that they had Russia meetings during the campaign, despite all these denials.
The President and his top aides stopped denying that members of the Trump campaign had contact with Russians after Jeff Sessions confirmed in March that he met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in July and September 2016.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner further contradicted previous denials from the President and his top advisers in a statement Monday to the Senate and House intelligence committees ahead of his closed-door interview with lawmakers.
Kushner confirmed that he had “perhaps” four encounters with Russians during the 2016 campaign and transition in the 11-page statement but insisted that he discussed nothing improper during those meetings, which include two encounters with the Russian ambassador, a meeting with the head of a Russian state-owned bank and the June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer and others that was set up by Kushner’s brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr.
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner said in the statement. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form, above and beyond what is required. Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest.”
Kushner reiterated his denial, stating he “did not collude with Russia” in front of cameras outside the West Wing on Monday.
Donald Trump Jr., Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Trump campaign adviser Carter Page have all also acknowledged their own interactions with Russians during the campaign, though they all deny anything nefarious took place.
But even if the encounters were benign in nature, revelations from members of Trump’s inner circle that there was contact during the campaign clash with the blanket denials previously offered by former campaign advisers, current senior White House officials and even the President himself.
Here is a look at some of those previous denials:
July 26, 2016: Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort tells ABC News that there are no ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
ABC News: Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you or your campaign and Putin and his regime?
Manafort: No, there are not. That’s absurd. And, you know, there’s no basis to it.
November 10, 2016: A Russian diplomat says that some Russians were in touch with Trump’s associates during the campaign. In response, Hope Hicks, then a spokeswoman for the Trump transition, issued a blanket denial: “We are not aware of any campaign representatives that were in touch with any foreign entities before yesterday, when Mr. Trump spoke with many world leaders,” she told the New York Times. She also told the AP: “It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
December 18, 2016: Kellyanne Conway denies any contact between the Trump campaign and Russia in an interview with CBS News’ John Dickerson.
Dickerson: All right. We are not going to get any insight into the president-elect’s thinking here, but let me try this. Did anyone involved in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?
Conway: Absolutely not. And I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it’s a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it’s dangerous.
January 11, 2017: Trump denies “he or anyone on his campaign” had any contact with Russia during the campaign while speaking to reporters. The question was a shouted question as Trump walked away from a press conference
Reporter: Did you or anyone in your campaign…
Reporter: …have any contact with Russia leading up to or during the campaign?
Trump: No, not at all.
January 15, 2017: Vice President Mike Pence denies there were contacts between Trump campaign and Russia in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News.
Wallace: If there were any contacts, sir, I’m just trying to get an answer.
Pence: Yes. I — of course not. Why would there be any contacts between the campaign? Chris, the — this is all a distraction, and it’s all part of a narrative to de-legitimize the election and to question the legitimacy of this presidency, the American people see right through it.
February 14, 2017: Press Secretary Sean Spicer denies knowledge of any contact between the Trump campaign and Russia when questioned by ABC’s Jonathan Karl during a White House briefing.
Karl: Back in January, the President said that nobody in his campaign had been in touch with the Russians. Now, today, can you still say definitively that nobody on the Trump campaign, not even General Flynn, had any contact with the Russians before the election?
Spicer: My understanding is that what General Flynn has now expressed is that during the transition period — well, we were very clear that during the transition period, he did speak with the ambassador —
Karl: I’m talking about during the campaign.
Spicer: I don’t have any — there’s nothing that would conclude me — that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.
February 16, 2017: Trump says he’s unaware of any contact between his aides and Russia during a White House press conference.
Question: I just was hoping that we could get a ‘yes or no’ answer on one of these questions involving Russia. Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?
Trump: Well I told you, Gen. Flynn obviously was dealing. So that’s one person. But he was dealing, as he should have been.
Question: During the election?
Trump: No. Nobody that I know of. Nobody…
Question: So you’re not aware of any contact during the course….
Trump: Look, look, look…
Question: … of the election?
Trump: How many times do I have to answer this question?
Question: Can you just say yes or no?
Trump: Russia is a ruse. I know you have to get up and ask a question. It’s so important. Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn’t. I just have nobody to speak to. I spoke to Putin twice. He called me on the election. I told you this. And he called me on the inauguration and a few days ago. We had a very good talk, especially the second one, lasted for a pretty long period of time. I’m sure you probably get it because it was classified. So I’m sure everybody in this room perhaps has it. But we had a very, very good talk. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge no person that I deal with does.
February 20, 2017: White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders denies any contacts occurred during the campaign.
Huckabee Sanders: “This is a non-story because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened.”