Trump-Russia Ties: How Did Vladimir Putin Rig U.S. 2016 Election Results? [Opinion]

With both House and Senate committees looking into Trump-Russia ties and potential Russia influence on the 2016 election results in the US, the issue isn’t whether the Russians did this. As reported by the Associated Press, U.S. intelligence agencies – including the FBI, the CIA, and a host of others – have confirmed efforts by Russia to tilt the election in favor of Donald Trump. The real question is just how Vladimir Putin did it.

Russia Ties to Trump

Russia and members of the Donald Trump administration have turned out to have a surprising number of ties. In fact, it sometimes seems like it’s difficult to find a high-ranking member of the Trump inner circle who isn’t connected in some way to Russia or Vladimir Putin.

A big Trump Russia link is through Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is a prime example of these Trump-Russia ties. As the CEO of Exxon, Tillerson not only had close business ties with Russia and Putin, but he also actually received a medal from Putin called The Order of Friendship. This association is hardly surprising, since Russia is one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers.

Then there is Michael Flynn. As reported by the Associated Press, Flynn was Donald Trump’s national security advisor until he was forced to resign following revelations about close ties to Russia and allegations he offered a quid pro quo arrangement with the Russians regarding U.S. Russia sanctions. This was just after the 2016 election – but prior to Trump’s inauguration – making Flynn’s actions illegal.

Parade float satirizes Trump Russia ties with Putin and Trump figures.

Another Trump-Russia tie can be seen in Paul Manafort, who for much of last year was Donald Trump’s campaign manager. Manafort was forced to leave this position when it was revealed he had apparently worked on behalf of the Russians to support Ukrainian dictator Viktor Yanukovych – at least until Yanukovych was forced from power in 2014.

WikiLeaks and Donald Trump

Russia allegedly also used Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks organization as a tool for interfering with the contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. During the lead up to the 2016 election, WikiLeaks on several occasions leaked emails and other documents damaging to the Clinton campaign. In fact, Assange constantly promised a devastating “October surprise,” But when it happened, it was fairly anti-climactic.

While Assange has denied getting any of his information from Russia, U.S. intelligence agencies believe a good portion of it was provided by Russian intelligence. As for the Trump-Russia connection, Donald Trump went so far as to publicly encourage Russia and Vladimir Putin to release more stolen emails and documents about the Clinton campaign.

Trump Russia ties suggested by mural.

Interestingly, although the FBI believes the Republican Party campaign was also hacked by the Russians, none of the Republican Party or Trump information was ever released by Russia or by WikiLeaks. This in itself is rather suspicious.

The News and Trump

Russia – through its state-controlled RT English-language news channel and other Russian news outlets – generated an avalanche of pro-Trump news stories during the 2016 election. From Russia’s perspective, a Donald Trump presidency would bring about a new rapprochement between the two powers – with clear advantages for Russia. The various Trump-Russia ties mentioned above reveal the levers Russia and Vladimir Putin could use to influence the relationship between Russia and the U.S. with Trump in the White House.

But another news related to Trump-Russia tie is not so positive for Donald Trump. When former British spy Christopher Steele revealed through his sources that Russia might have videotapes of Donald Trump engaging in rather fetishy sexual activity in a Russian hotel with two prostitutes, the possibility reared its head that Russia could easily blackmail Trump if it wanted to.

So when it comes to the Trump-Russia ties Congress is investigating and the news media has been delving into 24/7, it’s fairly clear Vladimir Putin’s Russia – through its intelligence agencies – carefully orchestrated the outcome of the 2016 election. Even worse, the hold Putin now has on Donald Trump could easily affect any Trump Russia policies.

[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]