Yeah, I … that’s … certainly a novel take on the first hard evidence that someone named Trump was willing to collude with the Russian government to defeat Hillary. David French:
Going further, at long last we can now put to bed the notion that the Russia investigation is little more than frivolous partisan harassment, and it casts in an entirely different light the president’s fury and frustration at its continued progress. As recently as last week, it appeared that the “collusion narrative” had lost steam, and that the so-called “Russia scandal” had morphed into an attack on Donald Trump’s handling of the investigation, rather than the investigation itself. If you had told me last week that there existed an e-mail chain where a Trump contact explicitly tried to set up a meeting between a purported Russian official and the Trump senior team to facilitate official Russian efforts to beat Clinton, I’d have thought you’d been spending too much time in the deranged corners of Twitter.
As of now, we should have zero confidence that we know all or even most material facts. We should have zero confidence that Trump’s frustration is entirely due to his feeling like an innocent man caught in the crosshairs of crazed conspiracy theorists. It now appears that his son, son-in-law, and campaign chair met with a lawyer who they were told was part of an official Russian government effort to impact the presidential election. The Russian investigation isn’t a witch hunt anymore, if it ever was. It’s a national necessity.
If the Trump campaign was colluding with Russian intelligence, Rush reasons, what need would there have been for Don Jr to take a meeting with a random Russian lawyer at which, supposedly, no dirt on Hillary was even produced? It’s small ball, amateur hour, not the stuff of a grand conspiracy. Remember the timeline here, though: The email to Junior from Rob Goldstone proposing the meeting came on June 3, just a month after Trump clinched the nomination by winning the Indiana primary. In fact, the Republican primaries technically weren’t over at that point; five states, including California, went to the polls on June 7. The general election campaign hadn’t officially begun. When did the alleged collusion begin? It’s still unclear, assuming collusion happened at all, but it’s possible it didn’t start until after Don Jr’s meeting.
That is, the meeting with the lawyer may have been an early amateurish attempt by the campaign at a scheme that turned more serious, involving more competent personnel, in the weeks following. (Trump Jr, replying to Goldstone at the time, specifically mentioned that he’ll be more interested in Hillary dirt “later in the summer.” And Kushner and Manafort were cc’d on the emails, notifying them that the “Russian government” was supposedly interested in teaming up.) Given how little useful information the lawyer had, maybe the whole purpose of that meeting was to feel out the campaign to see if they’d be receptive to collusion in principle. Goldstone sends an email to Don Jr claiming that he has “very high level” stuff from a “Russian government” official; Don Jr responds enthusiastically; eventually he, Kushner, and Paul Manafort all show up to hear the supposed Clinton oppo. The lawyer might have relayed that to her friends in the Putin regime to let them know that the campaign would be open to a more serious approach.
Even if you accept Rush’s theory, though, that Don Jr was out of his depth and trying to be a “player” by procuring some damaging dirt on Hillary, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that other parts of the campaign were also working with Russians on anti-Hillary projects. In fact, the “player” rationale fits nicely with that. If Don Jr hypothetically knew that, say, Mike Flynn had something big cooking in terms of Russian-supplied oppo, he may have felt more pressure to produce some bombshell oppo himself. Trump famously likes his inner circle to compete for influence; Don Jr, perennially overshadowed by Ivanka and Jared Kushner, may have been willing to go all out to prove his worth. If you like, you can turn Rush’s logic around and speculate that Junior may have felt comfortable taking a meeting like this with someone whom he thought was connected to Putin’s government only because he knew that other members of the campaign, possibly Manafort or Kushner, had had meetings like that themselves. Watching “the pros” work could have put the amateur at ease on collusion.
All just speculation, of course — except for Don Jr’s willingness to collude, which is now hard fact. Here’s Rush followed by Trump himself in July of last year, weeks after the meeting with the lawyer, scoffing at the idea that collusion could ever happen. Exit quotation from a White House official speaking to the Daily Beast, apparently not buying the Rush spin that this is all somehow good news for the president: “This is sum of all fears stuff. It’s what we’ve all been dreading.”
REMINDER: Don Jr. July 24, 2016. On the Clinton campaign's claims that the Russians were helping Trump: "It's disgusting. It's so phony." pic.twitter.com/GClcK7GDPp
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 11, 2017