Tuesday's press conference led off with this question and answer between Jon Karl and Sean Spicer.
Karl pointed to a January statement where the Trump transition stated that nobody had been in touch with the Russians, and asked, "Now, today, can you still say definitively that nobody on the Trump campaign, not even General Flynn, had any contact with the Russians before the election?"
Spicer very carefully limited his answer to the transition period, steering clear of anything to do with the actual campaign, and when pressed, he elided right over the answer.
Tonight, the New York Times dropped their own bombshell report, which indicates that Trump campaign officials apparently had multiple contacts with Russian intelligence operatives during the campaign.
But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.
The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the Russian government outside of the intelligence services, the officials said. All of the current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the continuing investigation is classified.
The Times was also careful to note that there was no indication at this time that there was any campaign coordination, despite the fact that they named Paul Manafort as one of the people in contact.
For his part, Manafort denied the story, but did it in a way that preserves the possibility he was an unwitting contact.
Mr. Manafort, who has not been charged with any crimes, dismissed the accounts of the American officials in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “This is absurd,” he said. “I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.”
Mr. Manafort added, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”
Now let's think back to David Corn's October 31st article where he reported about Russian communications with a server in Trump tower and the dossier put together which was subsequently verified to exist. Now we also know that some parts of that dossier have been verified by U.S. intelligence services too.
How long will it be before we discover there were extensive contacts, and they emanated from Trump himself? After all, it's unlikely that Flynn's FIVE phone calls on the same day Obama imposed sanctions on the Russians for campaign interference were done without knowledge of others. Like Trump himself, for example.
The need for an independent investigation is growing with every one of these stories. If Congress can't handle their duties, let's get a bipartisan commission that will.
UPDATE 1: CNN reports that Trump was briefed on contact between campaign officials and Russian intelligence officials, which makes Spicer's denial that much more an obvious lie.
UPDATE 2: David Corn picked up on Spicer's answer earlier today, and wrote:
That contorted reply would seem to mean that the White House is sticking to its previous denial. But this assertion runs contrary to what is now the public record: that the Trump campaign was in contact with Putin's man in Washington while Putin was subverting an American election to help Trump. What was going on? What was said? What messages did Flynn send to the Putin regime? These are the obvious questions that warrant answers. They are also dangerous questions for Trump. And that's why Spicer cannot acknowledge the hard truth that the Flynn scandal started before the election. These contacts deserve as much, if not more, attention than the conversations that triggered this controversy, for they are relevant to the fundamental subject at hand: Trump's relationship with the autocratic leader who mounted an operation to subvert American democracy to assist Trump.