Now that it is getting increasingly difficult for the Trump Crime Family to cover up and deny its Russian connections, they’re trying a new tack: it’s all okay.

Ever since investigations started, Trump and his enablers have insisted there is “no evidence of collusion.” So far, there has been evidence that former security adviser Michael Flynn, who had an illegal telephone conversation in December with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak and received more than $65,000 in payments from Russian companies.

There have also been revelations of Russian attempts to recruit a U.S. businessman who worked on Trump’s campaign, and a possible blackmail scheme that gave the Russians “the ability to influence the administration through the derogatory information.” Most recently, there was Trump’s inexcusable leak of Israeli intelligence during a casual conversation with Russian officials in the Oval Office.

Throughout all of this, the Trump Administration has continued to insist there has been no collusion. However, recent revelations about a conversation in early December between Kislyak, Flynn, and Jared Kushner  – Trump’s “senior adviser,” who just happens to be married to his daughter – are making it virtually impossible for Trump and his cronies to deny it any longer.

According to the story that appeared in the Washington Post, Kushner and Kislyak discussed having a “secret and secure communications channel” between the Kremlin and the Trump Administration transition team.

Why? According to officials involved in the investigation, it was an attempt to prevent outside parties from monitoring conversations during the transition. Wa Po also reported that Kushner had meeting with Sergey Gorkov, who heads a Russian development bank that was sanctioned by the Obama Administration in the wake of the annexation of Crimea. The supervisory board of that bank – which is involved with Russian spy agencies – includes Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.

Coincidence? The FBI doesn’t think so, and has taken great interest in what was discussed at that meeting.

As if that all were not enough, it turns out Kushner failed to mention that he had had those meetings when he applied for top secret security clearance. When the FBI called him on it, Kushner dismissed it as an “oversight” and said he would “amend” his application.

It gets even better. In 2014, Kushner was involved in starting up a real estate investment company known as Cadre. One of its major investors was George Soros. The operation also had backing from Goldman Sachs. These are facts Kushner failed to mention in a government financial disclosure filing. However, there is another prominent investor in Kushner’s company: Russian tech billionaire Yuri Milner.

That’s not all of it, but it’s enough to make it obvious that something is rotten in the District of Columbia – and the Trump Crime Family can no longer deny there is nothing going on. So instead, they’re attempting to excuse it as “business as usual.”

This week, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway went on Fox and Friends and claimed that “back channels like this are the regular course of business.” Sorry, Kellyanne. That may be true for a sitting President, but not during a transition.

Trump’s enablers are also attempting to excuse this skulduggery by claiming that “any line of communication to a country, particularly a country like Russia, is a good thing“, that there is no cause for concern,” and that Jared is “a great guy, decent guy…his Number One interest is the nation.”

John Kelly has also gone on the airwaves to assure us all that if the American people need to know something, the White House will tell us. Kelly also claimed that such covert “backdoor diplomacy” is perfectly acceptable because Trump hadn’t actually taken office (and of course, now that he “officially” infests the Oval Office, such activities are OK) – and that the real threat is from Americans nosing in on affairs that are none of their business.

In addition to those meetings and phone conversations taking place after the election, there have been eighteen undisclosed contacts with prominent Russians, all of which took place between April and November of 2016 – and those may be just be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. But rest assured, the more dirt that comes out, the more the Trumpistas will be claiming it’s all in the name of “open communication” rather than what it is – collusion.

The burning questions now are – what is the agenda, and who benefits?

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.