The rest of this site exists to lay out the facts. This page exists to attempt to explain them. It will be up to the courts to determine if the explanations offered here are correct.
First, we review six of the most important facts that need to be explained...
1) Donald Trump Jr accepted a meeting he was told was "part of Russia and its government's support" for his father. Then kept it quiet for a year. Then lied about what was discussed and who else was there.
2) A Republican operative claimed he was working with Michael Flynn as he solicited stolen emails from hackers. And intelligence picked up Russian agents saying they were trying to get those emails to Flynn.
3) Roger Stone admits he was in contact with Guccifer2.0. He knew about upcoming "leaks" of stolen documents before they came out. He also received stolen DCCC data from Guccifer2.0 through a Republican operative named Andrew Nevins.
4) Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors that he was discussing substantive policy issues with Jeff Sessions in April, 2016.
6) Michael Flynn had to resign as National Security Adviser when it was revealed he was talking to Russia about removing sanctions, before taking office, and then he lied about it (including, apparently, to Mike Pence.)
And in light of those facts, a plausible worst case scenario...
Trump could have promised Putin he would:
1) Turn his back on NATO
2) Distance the US from European allies, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel
3) Take the United States out of the Paris accord (Russia is a major oil and gas exporter)
4) Withdraw from trade deals which disadvantage Russia
5) Weaken the US government by fostering political division within the US
6) End the economic sanctions on Russia
Putin could have promised in return to help him win the presidency and help him financially by:
1) Hacking into Democratic Party servers and leaking the results
2) Sending millions of fake news stories about Hillary Clinton to targeted voters
3) Tapping into voter registration databases
4) Helping clear the way to build a Trump Tower in Moscow as well as financing other projects
5) Helping Trump repay his debts to foreign banks
6) Not revealing any incriminating information he may have had on Trump
It would seem likely that Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and possibly Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner (as well as lower-level figures like Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, and Carter Page) were involved in implementing these plans.
We lay out this explanation so as to be clear about the frightening scenario which seems very possible based on available evidence. That possibility should be enough to motivate Americans to take this issue very seriously, and support investigations. We do not claim that there is definitive proof that this is what happened, at this point. But there is also no evidence to rule it out.
Below we link to some alternative explanations. The first are the explanations put forward by the Trump campaign and administration members who have been accused of collusion:
Trump lawyers say no income from Russia, with exceptions CBS (May 12th, 2017)
Trump Lawyer ‘Vehemently’ Denies Russian Collusion New York Times (August 30th, 2017)
Jared Kushner's statement on Russia to congressional committees CNN (July 24, 2017)
One year into the FBI's Russia investigation, Mueller is on the Trump money trail by Evan Perez, Pamela Brown and Shimon Prokupecz at CNN (Aug. 3, 2017) (Includes statements by representatives of Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Donald Trump)
Next some plausible explanations which, while they may involve some wrongdoing, are not as dramatic as the one outlined above.
Seven Theories of the Case: What Do We Really Know about L’Affaire Russe and What Could it All Mean? By Jane Chong, Quinta Jurecic, Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare (May 1, 2017)
The Innocent Explanation, Part #1 by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo (March 3, 2017)
Obama’s CIA chief just offered a Trump-Russia quote for the ages by Yochi Dreazen reporting on the testimony of John Brennan at Vox (May 23, 2017)
Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting sure sounds like a Russian intelligence operation by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen at the Washington Post (July 14, 2017)
An ex-CIA officer: the Trump Jr. meeting shows how the Russians exploit intelligence targets by Sean Illing interviewing Glenn Carle at Vox (Jul 14, 2017)
And finally, a couple of more in depth looks at that scariest scenario:
Oh, Wait. Maybe It Was Collusion. By John Sipher and Steve Hall at the New York Times (Aug. 2, 2017)
We’re Back to Manafort by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo (Aug. 4th, 2017)
The Art of the (Trump and Putin) Deal by Robert Reich (July 11, 2017)
Summary of key evidence which should be considered when evaluating these explanations:
- Trump's relationships with Russian oligarchs
- The refusal of candidate Trump to criticize Putin
- Trump's antipathy toward NATO
- Carter Page hired by the campaign despite evidence that he was an agent of the Russian government
- The Trump organization server communicating with the Russian Alfa Bank
- Trump campaign repeating Russian propaganda (eg Manafort on the Incirlik "attack" -- Trump on "Sidney Blumenthal's" Benghazi e-mail)
- Russians bragging about their close relationship to Flynn and Manafort
- The money Michael Flynn received from interests tied to Putin
- At least 18 calls and e-mails with Russians during the campaign
- Jared Kushner meeting with Vnesheconombank,
- Trump campaign members omitting meetings with Russians on clearance forms.
- Michael Flynn discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador.
- Flynn still had a job after lying in ways that left him open to blackmail by Russia
- The firings of Preet Bharara, Sally Yates, and James Comey all of whom were responsible for investigations of Russian espionage and/or criminal activities
- The settlement of the Prevezon money laundering case
- All of the efforts the White House has made to remove sanctions, return compounds, share top secret intelligence, accept Russia's terms on Syria, and set up a back channel that could not be monitored by US Intelligence agencies.