Via the Hill.

U.S. spies reportedly heard a Russian military intelligence officer bragging about his organization planning to target Hillary Clinton in May 2016.

The officer told a colleague that GRU would cause havoc in America’s presidential election, Time reported Thursday.

The officer reportedly described the intelligence agency’s effort as retribution for what Russian President Vladimir Putin considered Clinton’s influence campaign against him while serving as secretary of State.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials told Time that American spies transcribed the conversation and sent it to headquarters for analysis.

Time reported that an official document based on the raw intelligence was then circulated.

“We didn’t really understand the context of it until much later,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said.

This here is the decision point, this is where Russia was discovered — before the first release of DNC emails via DCLeaks in June 2016 — to have already been working on undermining Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations.

The real question is whether anyone in the Trump campaign was aware of this help they were about to receive, and how much they were willing to help the Russians in exchange.

In law enforcement there is a concept known as “consciousness of guilt.”  It’s where someone over protests their innocence, overreacts to what should be a harmless question, or tried to repeatedly hide something that shouldn’t, on it’s own, be a suspicious act.  And then you have the Trump campaign who repeatedly lied about having 18 phone, face to face and electronic contacts with Russian officials.

On Thursday morning, Reuters reported that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and other Trump campaign advisers “were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race.”

That news stands in contrast to what Trump transition team chair-turned-Vice President Mike Pence said in January, when he repeatedly denied during TV interviews that there was any communication between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Reuters, citing current and former U.S. officials familiar with the communications, reports that the “previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.”

Six of the contacts were between Flynn and Kislyak.

And then there is the nature of exactly why these contacts seemed to have been happening over and over again.

According to Reuters, during the transition period, Flynn and Kislyak discussed “establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and [Putin] that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations.”

If one were to put together a prime facie case of quid pro quo between Trump and Russia this, in addition to lying about blocking changes to the RNC platform to keep it more favorable to Russia, and Michael Flynn illegally discussing sanctions against Russia with Kislyak and lying about that too, again, continue to show there was a consciousness of guilt as they continually avoided telling the truth.

From the time of the campaign through early March, Trump officials issued at least 20 separate denials of communications with Russia. On January 16, Trump told reporters, “I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.” A month later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said despite Flynn’s transition-period contacts with Kislyak, he wasn’t aware of any Trump associates being in contact with Russian officials during the campaign. On February 20, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump-Russia “is a non-story because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened.” 

But contacts did take place, a lot of contacts.  If there was no ill intent to any of these contacts, if they were just “business as usual”, if all of this wasn’t a great big bag of “thank you” to Russian for what they did to Hillary Clinton’s campaign — why all the specific lies about it all?