It’s hard not to conclude that the tweet below is less about Don Jr than Don Sr. After all, if it was okay for Junior to meet with some Russians about Hillary dirt, presumably it was also okay if Junior briefed Senior about his meeting at the time.
Is that the next shoe to drop here — that the president knew about the meeting with the Russian lawyer all along, and this tweet is his attempt to spin the forthcoming revelation preemptively?
Bill Kristol tracks the evolution in Team Trump talking points:
Two weeks ago: Was no collusion.
Last week: Collusion not illegal.
Now: Collusion perfectly reasonable.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) July 17, 2017
That’s been the general drift but I’d tweak Kristol’s formulation in a couple of ways. It’s true that MAGAworld has moved towards a “collusion perfectly reasonable” spin since Don Jr’s emails were revealed. The Atlantic, for instance, noticed it last week. I think this weekend brought a subtle but important shift in the narrative, though, from “collusion is reasonable” to you have an affirmative duty to collude if that’s what’s needed to win. Jeanine Pirro, one of Fox News’s most ardent Trump superfans, ranted last night that she’d have sought Clinton dirt from the Devil himself in order to win. Just this morning Byron York has a piece out entitled, “What campaign wouldn’t seek motherlode of Clinton emails?” Likewise:
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) July 17, 2017
Why, it would have been political malpractice to turn down an offer of help from someone in the name of sparing America from a Clinton presidency, even if that offer came from a possible Kremlin cut-out. And it would have been a betrayal of Trump’s “just win, baby” approach to politics that the right values so much. From the Atlantic:
Nunberg even framed the campaign’s apparent willingness to cooperate with Russia as proof of the hard-charging, no-holds-barred style that made Trump victorious. “In general, one of the reasons Donald Trump was able to win was that he said, ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes to win,’ and he went in with that mentality.”
Refusing to take a meeting with Russians to get a leg up on your opponent is something that Mitt Romney, a landslide loser, would have done. Do you want to win or don’t you? That’s always been key to Trump’s appeal — he’ll fight dirty and, importantly, he’ll make you feel good about it by reminding you that your opponents are scumbags who’ll do anything to get ahead. It’s the same logic he used in the primaries to spin the fact that he’d donated to Democrats before becoming a Republican: The system is rigged to let the rich buy favors from the government, so why shouldn’t he avail himself of it? He was merely beating crooked liberals at their own game. Same here. Any swampy D.C. politician would have met with the Kremlin for oppo if it was offered, so why shouldn’t he in the name of defeating a Democrat? Trump’s greatest persuasive trick is getting his supporters to channel their contempt for their opponents into a license for him to behave as badly as he wants.
I’m not sure Kristol’s timetable is right either. The basic arc is correct but “collusion is reasonable” started creeping into the chatter on pro-Trump media weeks before the Don Jr stuff came out. For instance, here’s a Newsweek piece dated June 26 noting the ascendancy of that talking point on Fox News; the NYT didn’t publish its first story about Junior’s meeting with the Russian lawyer until July 8. I remember being surprised at the end of last month that the narrative was moving from “there was no collusion” to “there’s nothing illegal about collusion” since there was no ostensible reason for that shift. But maybe there was and the public just didn’t know it yet.
A Fox News panelist made the case Sunday that the Trump campaign did not commit a crime if it colluded with Russia in the country’s alleged interference in the U.S. election that went in favor of President Donald Trump.
During a panel on Fox News Sunday, former Washington, D.C., managing editor Brit Hume echoed several Fox hosts and contributors who have spoken over the past month…
Last Friday, Fox personality Sean Hannity, who hosts the network’s Sean Hannity Show, asked during his own radio broadcast whether it would be a crime if someone in the Trump campaign asked somebody in Russia to release a tranche of emails hacked from the Democratic Party and then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
“They might say. as a Trump campaign representative, ‘Wow, you have that? Tell the American people the truth. Let them see it themselves, release it.’ Is that a crime, to say ‘release it’? To show the truth? To show damaging information?” Hannity asked during a broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show.
Again, that’s from June 26, two weeks before the Times story came out. The president likely already knew about Don Jr’s emails at that point: Jared Kushner’s legal team discovered them sometime in mid-June, then provided an amended version of Kushner’s SF-86 to the FBI on June 21 that disclosed his attendance at the meeting with the Russian lawyer. Within five days, news of the meeting had leaked to CNN. At some point amid all of that, Kushner informed Trump of the meeting. It’s not hard to imagine the president learning of it, sensing the sh*tstorm to come, and dialing up friends at Fox and other friendly outlets to let them know that it’s time to trade the “no collusion” spin for a preemptive “what’s wrong with collusion?” messaging effort. Or, if you’re inclined to suspect maximum skullduggery on Trump’s part, it could be that he knew about the meeting since the day it happened last year and Kushner merely informed him recently that the public would soon known about it too. Either way, the Don Jr emails made the “no collusion” message problematic. And whether by coincidence or not, Fox was shifting away from it weeks before the NYT finally published the emails in mid-July.
Here’s Pirro offering to take a trolley to hell or something to get dirt on Clinton.