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Photo by Susan Walsh of The Associated Press / President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on Friday, June 28, 2019.

WASHINGTON — For five years, ever since Donald Trump announced he was running for president, we have heard allegations that he is inappropriately obsessed with Russia. Millions of Americans have dismissed such a suggestion as ridiculous.

Those people should look — seriously and objectively — at the evidence. It is enormously compelling.

For years, including the entire year and a half Trump was running for president, he tried to get Russian backing to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

He visited Russia but later denied it. When he owned the Miss Universe pageant, he held an annual competition in Communist Russia, America's great nuclear competitor and a country determined to destroy democracy.

More than 20 top officials of the Trump campaign had close and/or improper relations with Russian officials. The Mueller report detailed dozens of examples but stopped short of finding direct conspiracy between the campaign and Russia.

All U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that Russia worked hard to elect Trump president in 2016, from releasing stolen material from the Clinton campaign to using social media to whip up support for Trump and vilify Hillary Clinton with phony accusations. Almost two dozen Russians intelligence officials have been indicted by the U.S. government on charges of interfering in the 2016 election.

When Trump met Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, he said at a joint news conference that he believed Putin's denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, not U.S. intelligence that confirmed it did.

Trump met twice with Putin with no U.S. officials present. To this day, nobody but the Russians knows exactly what Trump said or promised Putin. Trump let Russian officials and photographers into the Oval Office with no other Americans present.

Trump has never — not once — had anything negative to say about Putin, who amassed billions of dollars from the Russian people, intends to stay in power until 2036 and whose opponents mysteriously disappear.

Russia killed a former Russian who was living in England, firmly rupturing ties with the British.

Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had gone years ago to Russia to meet with Putin before the election and accepted thousands of dollars in Russian money, later promised Russia that Trump would get rid of sanctions and pleaded guilty twice to the FBI about improper contacts with Russia before Trump took office. Trump's Justice Department dismissed the charges against Flynn. Justice lawyers said the dismissal was ordered by Trump.

Trump is demanding that the armed services cut their troops in Germany by half, which GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah insists would be a "gift to Russia," which has long wanted a militarily weak Europe.

Now we know that Russia promised the Taliban, America's mortal enemy, bounties for killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. This has been known to the White House for over a year. Since then Trump and Putin have talked six times. Russia was not punished.

The information was provided to Trump through his one-page presidential daily brief and again in a much larger briefing book. Trump says he never got that message or that one agency was worried about Russia and another wasn't sure.

The White House said it may be too late to find out the truth, but at any rate there's nothing to see here. Move on.

Putin is a despicable dictator whom the president of the United States incomprehensibly admires and considers to be a friend. A man who has weakened this country in the eyes of the rest of the world, with Trump's eager help.

The question for America is this: Will the damage be irrevocable? If Trump is re-elected, the answer is yes.

Tribune Content Agency

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