For GOP, another day in Trump whirlwind: Confusion, defiance, and a nagging fear about Russia

So there’s much skepticism about the Democratic campaign against the president. But even though he believes the Democrats are “trying to make mountains out of molehills,” there’s still, in the back of his mind, a little worry about a long list of Trump statements about Putin and Russia.

“We were bothered by the way [Trump] has treated Putin for a year and a half,” he said. “I don’t know what that means. If [Trump] had just been strong and had a more Romneyesque policy, we would be saying this is a total joke. But now I wonder. There’s a little bit of a gnawing feeling.”…

In a later email exchange, I asked about the Times story. What’s the bad reading of it for Trump, and what is the good?

“The bad stuff for Trump is that it shows the contacts with the Russians were more extensive, and involved more people in his orbit, than previously known,” he wrote. “If they actually have recordings of these conversations, this could become a drip-drip-drip story as things are gradually leaked, and then the question is whether it gets traced back to him.”

“On the good side, you’d think if there were something explosive in there it would already have been leaked. Note that the Times reports that they are looking at banking and travel records. That tells me it would be a circumstantial case in which they might be able to identify meetings, and maybe even payments, but given that several of Trump’s associates conducted business with Russia, it may not amount to a smoking gun. Of course, a real wildcard in all of this is what information the Russians themselves might have — either exculpatory or inculpatory — and what might prompt them to use it.”