August 29, 2017
Trump Collusion? Rumors Indicate Major Story Could Break On Interactions With Russia During 2016 Campaign [Update]

Editor's note: Recently, a story based on a source associated with Claude Taylor was debunked as a hoax by the Guardian and disavowed by Taylor. In light of this, we advise any information derived from sources provided by Claude Taylor to be viewed in the light cast by this revelation.

There is not yet any evidence that Donald Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, but one viral rumor on Twitter suggests that could be changing very soon.

As the investigation into the alleged ties between Trump's campaign and Russia continues to grow, there have been a flurry of stories connecting individuals involved in the campaign -- including some very close to Trump -- engaging in secretive discussions with Russia that could hint at collusion. But so far, the president himself has not been implicated in any of it beyond rumors and conspiracy theories.

On Thursday, independent journalist Claude Taylor reported that the Washington Post was preparing a story that would detail collusion between Trump and Russia.

Taylor has regularly relayed information from sources within the intelligence community related to the Russia investigation, including a number of stories broken before the mainstream media. In doing so, he has gained a large and dedicated Twitter following but also drawn criticism for the many unverified reports along with some other bits of information that were later retracted in part or corrected.

And in Thursday's tweet, it was not immediately clear if the story would detail collusion between Russia and Donald Trump directly or with the Trump campaign.

This rumor seemed to be corroborated, but by another anonymous account called "Angry WH Staffer," which claims to be an anonymous member of the White House staff. Though Taylor re-tweeted the comment, it is not clear if the person behind the account has any actual connection to the White House and the account itself was listed in an article by Slate as part of a group of anonymous, likely fake government "insiders" acting as an online resistance to Donald Trump's administration.
The rumor of a possible story on Donald Trump's collusion with Russia comes as other reports have made more clear connections between individuals connected to Trump's campaign and Russian hackers. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal published a report that a Republican insider and donor named Peter W. Smith had reached out to hackers in the hopes of obtaining emails he believed that Russian operatives had hacked from Hillary Clinton's personal server.

In the emails, Smith said he had ties to former national security adviser Michael Flynn though Smith told the Wall Street Journal that Flynn had no direct involvement with his efforts. Smith, who died at the age of 81 less than two weeks after being interviewed for the story, did say in one email that Michael Flynn's son, Michael G. Flynn, was helping with the effort.

This story was seen as one of the most direct pieces of evidence of collusion -- or at least attempted collusion -- between Russia and those either working with Trump's campaign or for the benefit of Trump's campaign.

There are other hints that the story about Donald Trump's direct collusion with Russia could be legitimate. Within hours of Taylor's tweet, Jonathan Chait of New York magazine wrote a story titled, "Stop Assuming Trump Is Innocent Of Russian Collusion."

In the story, Chait noted that some prominent publications and writers including David Brooks say there is little to no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Chait claimed that this "line of defense is likely to disappear now" with the Wall Street Journal's report.

In the story, Chait seemed to hint that Donald Trump's reported attempts to lessen Russian sanctions approved in a recent 97-2 vote of the U.S. Senate could be due to Trump's fear that Russia could release evidence of his collusion.

"Trump normally relies on aggressive negotiation and unrequited demands, and holds special disdain for giving anything of value without winning something in return," Chait wrote. "If The Guardian report is true, it is odd that he would break from this practice with Russia. Unless he believed Russia had some other leverage."

But until anything concrete comes from the rumor about a story proving Donald Trump's collusion with Russia, it will likely remain just that -- a rumor.

[Featured Image by Olivier Doulieryl/ Pool/ Getty Images]