Having trouble following the fast-moving developments about the Trump team’s ties to Russia? Here’s a primer to get you up to speed:
President Donald Trump got to know Russian President Vladimir Putin “very well,” but he doesn’t “know Putin.”
Putin sent Trump “a present” and they spoke, but Trump has “no relationship with him.”
Trump has “nothing to do with Russia,” but his son has said “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets” and “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Russia definitely hacked the Democratic National Committee, unless it was a 400-pound man in his bedroom or a guy in a van down by the river.
U.S. intelligence agencies allege that Putin meddled in the election to try to get Trump elected, but this was all a “ruse” and a “fake news fabricated deal to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats.”
There was “no communication” between Trump’s team and Russia during the campaign and transition, except for communication with Russia by Trump’s future national security adviser, his future attorney general, his son-in-law and two others.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions “did not have communications with the Russians,” except for the two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak he neglected to mention under oath.
Sessions said he never discussed the campaign with Russians, which is not what was alleged.
Sessions had “no idea what this allegation is about” regarding his Russian contacts but had an enough of an idea what it’s about to declare “it is false.”
Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, but this decision is unrelated to the discovery that he spoke twice with the Russian ambassador despite his claims that he had no such meetings.
Sessions cannot confirm the investigation he recused himself from exists or will exist in the future.
Sessions believes that perjury is one of the constitutional “high crimes and misdemeanors” and “goes to the heart of the judicial system,” except his false testimony under oath to Congress was not a false statement but a case of speaking too quickly.
Sessions met with the Russian ambassador during the time Sessions was serving as a surrogate for the Trump campaign, but not in his capacity as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.
Sessions remembers nothing of his meetings with the Russian ambassador, except that he remembers clearly talking about terrorism and religion and Ukraine and he’s sure they didn’t talk about the campaign.
It was a total coincidence that around the same time Sessions was meeting with the Russian ambassador, Trump gave an interview that ended up on Russian state-owned TV saying he didn’t believe reports of Russian influence in the U.S. election.
Trump, Trump’s press secretary and a broad swath of Republican members of Congress said there is no reason for Sessions to recuse himself from the investigation from which Sessions recused himself.
The incendiary and salacious “dossier” by a former British intelligence official on Trump’s involvement with Russia was completely unverified, but U.S. authorities were prepared to pay the man who wrote it.
Carter Page, who has extensive ties to Moscow, had “no role” in the Trump campaign, except that Trump, meeting with The Washington Post’s editorial board, listed Page as an adviser.
Reports of the Trump team’s ties to Russia are “fake news,” yet those who leaked the information for those articles need to be found and punished.
Trump ousted Michael Flynn, his national security adviser, who Trump says did nothing wrong.
Flynn, who spoke several times with Kislyak on the day President Obama announced sanctions against Russia, told Vice President Pence and the FBI that the discussion that intelligence officials heard them having about sanctions was not a discussion about sanctions.
The sanctions that Flynn reportedly discussed with Kislyak, in the conversation he can’t entirely remember, were not really sanctions.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had “absolutely nothing to do and never has with Russia,” except for his extensive work for Russian oligarchs and pro-Russia forces in Ukraine.
Manafort declared in the fall that “there’s no investigation going on by the FBI that I’m aware of” into his contacts with Russia, months after that investigation began.
Sessions previously asserted that “no one is above the law” and that failure to punish people for being untruthful under oath “will weaken the legal system,” and he proclaimed that “I’m very careful about how I conduct myself in these matters.” Except when he isn’t.
So, now you know everything there is to know about Trump and Russia. This has been a public service announcement.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.