Following the Russian collusion story is like going to a dentist appointment. Yes, it needs to be done, but nobody enjoys it. I only say that because the woven tapestry of competing narratives and statements makes it near impossible to actually find the solid bottom of this story. The latest chapter in the Russia saga involves Donald Trump, Jr., and a meeting he held with a Russian attorney back in June of last year. The attorney allegedly was to provide some dirt on Hillary Clinton involving her ties to Russian business dealings. The meeting was setup by a concert promoter, whom the Trump’s had worked with on the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow back in 2013. Ultimately, the meeting proved worthless and the information was non-existent, but the email chain of setting up the meeting has now come under scrutiny after it was leaked to the New York Times, and ultimately released in full by Donald Trump, Jr.
Here’s the rest of the background on this from USAToday:
Under fire for his meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the presidential campaign, Donald Trump Jr. released his emails on Tuesday with entertainment publicist Rob Goldstone in an effort “to be totally transparent.”
In the exchange, Goldstone, who set up the meeting, told Trump Jr. that Russian government officials could provide incriminating information about his father’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton through Russian pop musician Emin Agalarov. The emails, which Trump Jr. released on Twitter, appear to show Trump Jr. welcomed the information and accepted a meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone wrote, to which Trump Jr. replied: “If it’s what you say I love it.”
The USAToday story also contains the full text of the entire email chain, but here is the most pertinent part getting all the attention:
June 3, 2016 10:36 a.m.
Rob Goldstone to Donald Trump Jr.
Subject: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential
Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.
The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.
This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin. [Emphasis added]
What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?
I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.
The portion which I emphasized above is drawing the attention since the email’s author, Rob Goldstone, states that the information is coming from somewhere within the Russian government, due to “its support for Mr. Trump.” That line right there has given fuel to the narrative, and it’s being pounced on by Democrats, and some Republicans alike.
Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Hillary Clinton’s former running mate in 2016, said the emails appear to be treasonous:
“We are now beyond obstruction of justice,” the Virginia Democrat told CNN Tuesday. “This is moving into perjury, false statements and even potentially treason.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, also had a simple statement on the emails:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said any time you’re in a campaign and you get an offer from a foreign government the answer is “no.”
The New York Post, which has been rather friendly to President Trump, says that Don Jr’s actions make him an idiot, but not a criminal:
We see one truly solid takeaway from the story of the day: Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot.
In the heat of your father’s presidential campaign, a bozo British publicist e-mails you to set up a sitdown with a “Russian government attorney” promising “documents and information” to “incriminate Hillary” courtesy of the “Crown prosecutor of Russia” as “part of” the Russian government’s “support” for dad — and you eagerly take the meeting.
“If it’s what you say I love it,” wrote Junior. As if the government of former KGB spymaster Vladimir Putin would do anything so clumsy. (Our former colleague Kyle Smith put it nicely: “Don Jr. is why Nigerian e-mail scammers keep trying their luck.”)
Worse, he dragged brother-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chief Paul Manafort into the meeting, which proved to be a bid by a Moscow fixer to undo a US law causing trouble for her clients. (Reportedly, Kushner walked out within 10 minutes while Manafort did work on his phone.)
Oh, and someone was so careless with the e-mail trail that it all wound up being fed to The New York Times, for days of headlines that (at best) undermine President Trump’s agenda as both health and tax reform hang in the balance in Congress.
Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. As were Junior’s shifting, incomplete accounts of the meeting under days of Times questioning.
Well, everyone can agree on the “idiot” part, but there still could be some criminality depending on how this changes the Russia investigation. At some point, someone is going to walk into a perjury charge if public statements keep getting disputed by the factual record. Don Jr. said many times he had no meetings, no contact with anyone, etc… then this email bombshell drops, so clearly there is a disconnect between what he’s been saying, and what actually happened, according to the Washington Post:
But the information isn’t just troubling because it suggests the Trump campaign sought out the help of Russians to win the presidency. It also contradicts a number of claims made by the White House, the campaign and Trump Jr. himself — claims made as recently as this weekend. For an administration and campaign that have repeatedly denied contact with Russians and had their denials blow up in their faces, it’s yet another dubious chapter.
Some defenders of Trump are pointing to a story published by Politico in January, which details efforts by associates of Hillary Clinton to work directly with Ukrainian officials in attempts undermine Trump publicly and bolster the Clinton campaign back during 2016. The story details how the whole thing fell apart, but many high level contacts existed between Ukrainian government officials and top people in the Clinton campaign, leaving some to point out that this documented collusion has never been fully investigated.
While the Clinton/Ukraine story needs to be investigated with the same rigor, it doesn’t let Don Jr. off the hook for his seeming acceptance of help directly from the “Russian government,” as illustrated by the emails that her personally released.
This Don Jr. email story is still developing and we’ll continue covering it as the facts unfold.