Richard Painter, former ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, called any claims that there was “no collusion” between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians fugazi.
“Well, we know there was collusion,” Painter said. “The president has denied it, but we have the meeting in Trump Tower with Russian agents. We have Mr. [George] Papadopoulos who had his Russian handler, the professor they called him, over in London. Now we have [Rick] Gates and his Russian agent contact.”
Painter noted, the small list is only the beginning.
“The critical question for Robert Mueller at the end of the day is whether there was illegal collusion,” Painter continued. “Whether it was criminal. Whether it violated campaign finance laws or whether there was collusion before or after the fact with respect to computer hacking or other crimes. A lot of people are lying about their contacts with the Russians and that’s criminal. We’ll have people going to the slammer and the question is who and how high up it will reach. But the notion of ‘No collusion‘ is ridiculous. Well it is collusion and we know it by now.”
Republican Congressman Charlie Dent noted that the recent revelations that special counsel Mueller has been speaking with Gates over Russian communications establishes that there is already a connection between Russia and the Trump campaign.
“The question is: is this criminal?” he said, noting he’s not sure. “But I’ll tell you it seems that this moves beyond Paul Manafort’s business dealings that preceded his time with the campaign. It kind of really puts the campaign directly in the cross hairs.”
He went on to say that if he was “part of the campaign and part of the Trump campaign, it seems to me, they have a lot to worry about.” He explained that it doesn’t implicate the president directly but that it raises more questions.
Painter noted that Gates is much more powerful than most realize. As the deputy campaign manager under Manafort, Gates was included in many conversations and meetings. However, Gates also stayed on the Trump campaign after Manafort had resigned.
“He knows a lot of the people or very close to the president,” Painter said. “Some of the people who are currently in the White House who worked on that campaign. And if that campaign was illegally colluding with the Russians or anybody on that campaign has lied to Robert Mueller about their contacts with the Russians, they are going to be in big trouble. And this is well beyond the point of demonstrating collusion. We are now getting into the criminal activity question, was there a crime, and who committed it. And this investigation is heating up.”
He agreed that he would be “very, very worried” if he had anything to do with the Trump campaign in 2016.
“The idea of a presidential campaign colluding with the Russians, it’s something I thought I would never see growing up in this country and certainly a Republican campaign or a Democrat campaign — maybe a Communist Party campaign,” he mused. “This is shocking this happened whether or not it’s criminal.”
Watch the clip below:
We’ve been living in ‘Game of Thrones’: Ex-CIA official blasts Trump for trying to crush whistleblower
On Thursday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," former CIA Counterterrorism Center Deputy Director Philip Mudd laid into President Donald Trump over his administration's efforts to quash a whistleblower with sensitive information on a promise Trump allegedly made to a foreign leader.
"You watch Game of Thrones on TV ... In the past 24 hours I feel look we've lived it," said Mudd. "Let me give you a take — I'm not sure of any side except the White House is wrong here. The inspector general says, I have something so egregious that I need to act on it, even if it includes activities of the White House. You have the acting DNI saying, that might be egregious activity but if it's White House personnel they don't work for me. I'm supposed to report on people who work for me and activities that might be inappropriate among my employees. Why am I responsible to reporting to Congress on somebody at the White House who is not my employee? I'm not sure anybody is wrong here. Both may be right. The person in the middle, I think, is the president and I think it's going to come out."
White House limiting staff access to Trump’s phone calls to prevent future whistleblowers: CNN
On Thursday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta reported that President Donald Trump has grown furious about the state of White House leaks, and his officials are working to keep as many people in the administration as possible shut out from his phone calls with foreign leaders — precisely to avoid situations like the exploding DNI whistleblower scandal.
"As for the whistleblower complaint that's being kept from Congress, a senior administration official tells CNN as these leaks from these calls have angered Trump, top officials in the West Wing began to limit who could listen in on these conversations so as to tighten the circle of people in the know and what the president has been discussing in some of these phone calls with foreign leaders," said Acosta.
Even CNN’s Republican commentator agrees foreign leaders in his call list ‘is not great’ for Trump
President Donald Trump has found himself embroiled in yet another scandal as his Justice Department is muzzling a whistleblower who raised important concerns about a call between the president and a foreign leader. According to the complaint, the conversation between Trump and the leader was so concerning that it prompted a rare complaint to the inspector general by an intelligence officer.
During a CNN panel discussion, even the Republican commentator agreed that it doesn't look good for Trump. The list of leaders that Trump contacted during the time of this complaint were, Vladimir Putin (Russia), Kim Jong Un (North Korea), Imran Khan (Pakistan), Mark Rutte (Netherlands) and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (Qatar).