President Donald Trump may very well have not been involved in any collusion with Russia. To date, there’s no hard evidence that he was. Yet, at nearly every turn, he’s chosen the option that looks the most suspicious.

President Trump’s unshakeable affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin, his reluctance to accept Russia’s culpability in meddling during the 2016 election, and the repeated failures to disclose contacts between Trump associates and Russians give the whiff of something more troubling. Perhaps Trump’s odd behavior is some mixture of stubbornness, indignation at the suggestion that his victory wasn’t legitimate, and a genuine belief that he is being unfairly persecuted. Still, if he’s done nothing wrong, Trump has managed to make an unholy mess for himself that was completely unnecessary.

To understand why reasonable people have come to suspect something shady might be going on between Trump and Russia, put yourself in Trump’s shoes and choose your own adventure.

It’s 2015, and you’re asked if you’ve met Putin, whom you’ve (probably) never actually met. Do you:

  1. Lie about it and brag. “Yes…and we got along great by the way!”
  2. Tell the truth.

You choose 1.

It’s 2016 and Donald Trump Jr. is offered dirt on Hillary Clinton courtesy of the Russian government, do you:

  1. Notify the FBI of a foreign power’s intention to intervene in the election.
  2. Respond “I love it” and set up a meeting with the senior campaign team.

You choose 2.

Russia hacks the emails of the opposing party. Do you:

  1. Strongly condemn a foreign adversary’s attack on an American political institution.
  2. Refuse to condemn it and joke that maybe Russia should find Hillary’s deleted emails.

You chose 2. Nobody laughs.

A month before the election, US intelligence services publicly point the finger at Russia for the DNC hack. Do you:

  1. Call for an investigation and immediate steps to secure the electoral process against foreign interference.
  2. Dismiss it and become angry that Russia is being blamed.

You choose 2.

Accurate news reports of contacts between the Trump team and Russian officials surface. Do you:

  1. Have your spokeswoman claim it “never happened” and deny “any communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
  2. Acknowledge it and explain that the contacts were perfectly appropriate.

You choose 1.

When asked about your extensive business interests connected to Russia, do you:

  1. Explain that, as a savvy businessman you saw opportunity in an emerging market and Russian hunger for US real estate investments.
  2. Insist you have nothing to do with Russia.

You choose 2.

You are now President-elect. Amid unconfirmed reports that your campaign may have promised to lift sanctions in exchange for Kremlin help in the election, your predecessor places tough new sanctions on Russia. Do you,

  1. Support the President.
  2. Your incoming National Security Advisor contacts Russia’s ambassador to counsel patience (possibly without your knowledge.) and then lies about it.

You choose 2.

US intelligence services brief you on Russia’s efforts to influence the election. Do you,

  1. Call for a full-scale investigation and steps to harden computer networks and election systems against future hacking.
  2. Acknowledge that it “probably was Russia,” but downplay the significance.

You choose 2.

When confronted in an interview with evidence that Russian President Putin has been behind atrocities, do you:

  1. Exclaim “you think our country is so innocent!”
  2. Express concern and vow to press Putin on the issue.

You choose 1.

You finally meet with President Putin. He denies Russian involvement in 2016 election meddling. Do you,

  1. Reverse your position and take Putin’s word for it over your own intelligence agencies.
  2. Send a tough message that makes clear The US will not tolerate interference in our electoral process.

You choose 1.

After the White House is informed that your National Security Advisor lied about earlier contacts with the Russian Ambassador about sanctions exposing him to blackmail, do you:

  1. Immediately revoke his security clearances and fire him.
  2. Ignore it for weeks until the pressure becomes untenable and then fire him.

You choose 2.

When your FBI Director resists your demand for loyalty and your requests to curtail the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference, do you:

  1. Fire him with a phony explanation about mishandling the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email and purported low morale at the Bureau.
  2. Acknowledge his independence and pledge cooperation.

You choose 1.

When asked in an interview why you fired your FBI Director, do you:

  1. Stick with the talking points.
  2. Contradict what your own White House has been saying for days and admit it was because you were frustrated with the Russia investigation.

You choose 2.

Your firing of the FBI Director triggers a Special Counsel to continue the Russia investigation independently. Do you,

  1. Recognize that your erratic behavior is making things worse.
  2. Repeatedly call the Special Counsel’s investigation a “witch hunt,” attack the media as “fake news,” and try to deflect attention to Hillary Clinton’s alleged misdeeds.

You choose 2.

The Special Counsel issues indictments and your former National Security Advisor pleads guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his cooperation:

  1. Turn the attacks on the investigation and the media up to 11 and attempt to discredit your former National Security Advisor.
  2. Recognize that you are sabotaging your own Presidency and focus on your work.

You choose 1.

If you chose the same as Trump every time, congratulations, you’ve completely undermined your own Presidency for no apparent reason. You’ve provided more than enough material to drive an investigation that will paralyze your Presidency and, with your ham-handed attempts to derail the Russia investigation, you’ve exposed yourself to obstruction of justice charges. My hunch is you chose more wisely.

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Taylor Griffin is editor of Roughly Explained. He served as a spokesman at the White House and the Treasury Department in George W. Bush's administration and worked on three Republican presidential campaigns. You can follow him on Twitter at @tgriffinNC

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