The allegations have been flying fast and furious over the last twelve hours: that Donald Trump hired hookers to urinate on a bed because Barack Obama once slept there, that Russian intelligence caught it all on tape, and that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has been blackmailing Donald Trump.
Are these claims about the relationship between Donald Trump and authoritarian Russia documented fact or unsupported innuendo? A review of the context surrounding these claims leads a reasonable person to believe the latter. Consider:
- The accusations are based on a single document.
- This document was prepared as part of paid opposition research.
- The document claims that Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was in Prague meeting with Russian officials at a time when he was clearly shown to have been in California.
- The document misspells a number of proper names and incorrectly describes a number of places, indicating sloppiness.
These are not the hallmarks of a credible document.
On the other hand, there are well-documented truths about the relationship between Donald Trump and Russia:
- Donald Trump himself bragged about traveling to Russia to meet with authoritarian power brokers: “Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,” Trump declared.
- Donald Trump sold $40 million of real estate to a Russian oligarch for $100 million, the equivalent of a payout.
- Donald Trump publicly invited Russian hackers to steal election-related data from the United States.
- Donald Trump’s campaign chair during a portion of his campaign, Paul Manafort, was paid to advance Russian interests in Ukraine and beyond.
- Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., declared in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
- Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of State received an award from Russia for supporting their interests.
- Donald Trump’s pick for National Security Adviser was paid by the Russian propaganda outlet RT for RT-arranged speeches and has been photographed sitting next to and being introduced to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
- Carter Page, a Trump adviser, has been repeatedly traveling to Moscow both during the Trump campaign for President and during the Obama-Trump transition period.
- Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has affirmed that the Trump campaign and the authoritarian Russian government have had frequent contacts during the campaign.
In sum, it is not necessary to prove the existence of prostitutes in a golden shower over Donald Trump’s bed in order to demonstrate the existence of massive connections between Donald Trump and the authoritarian government of Russia. Those looking for documented evidence of such ties need not highlight an error-ridden opposition research document. They can look to the official record instead.