Russian President Vladimir Putin’s clandestine efforts to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election, get crippling sanctions lifted, and allow Moscow’s geopolitical ambitions to go unchecked had to be modified. Trump’s lack of discretion or impulse control ensured all the world would know about the plot. Putin adjusted to that reality because even a flamboyant compromised asset like Trump could create chaos inside America which would benefit Russia’s long term objectives.
Former FBI Director James Comey and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign has relied on intelligence intercepts shared by foreign countries. Mueller has also likely targeted foreign leaders who were within earshot of the approximately hour-long conversation between Putin and Trump at the banquet dinner during the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017. Media reports portray the discussion as animated and note that while Putin had an interpreter with him, Trump was by himself and in fact walked over to his Russian counterpart who had been earlier chatting with First Lady Melania Trump. This was a clear breach of national security protocol and must have made people like National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster wince, especially since the two leaders had the formal meeting earlier that day.
Trump contends their chat was purely social in nature, but considering his proclivity to lie, his account is untrustworthy. Maybe Putin and Trump spoke in hushed tones that made eavesdropping on their back-and-forth challenging for nearby bystanders, but somehow that is doubtful. Trump is arrogant enough to think he can get away with anything, so whispering in Putin’s ear is unlikely to be the approach he took. Just imagine if Britain Prime Minister Teresa May, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel or Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull caught wind of the discussion.
But it doesn’t matter who the leader is, all Mueller needed was a seating chart or maybe some video footage to see who might be able to help. If any of these leaders visited the White House, since Mueller is working in Washington, D.C., an interview request could be made. Or when the leaders gathered for the United Nations’ General Assembly in September 2017, the investigative team could have traveled up to New York. Thoroughness is a hallmark of how Mueller operates. He doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned in such a high-stakes investigation. It is hard to imagine this angle wasn’t pursued and that more damning evidence of collusion and quid pro quos weren’t uncovered.
J.H. Norton is a communications professional, life-long Democrat, and married father of two boys living in Washington, D.C.