For fark’s sake. If you’re going to shill for Don Jr, at least do so forthrightly by answering the question instead of lamely dodging like Ryan does here. Say that he’s “new to politics” or whatever and may not have understood that accepting help from the Kremlin is dirty pool. If Ryan thinks inexperience is a valid excuse for the president’s mistakes, surely he thinks it’s valid for Trump Jr.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 12, 2017
Coincidentally, Chris Wray, Trump’s choice to replace James Comey as FBI director, also had trouble choking out a straight answer to a simple question about the “campaign dirt from Russians” scenario at this morning’s confirmation hearing:
This is an exchange worth watching. Lindsey Graham pushes Wray several times on Don Jr.'s emails. Wray tries dodging. Graham won't let him. pic.twitter.com/n8H9jCrAUD
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 12, 2017
Is it illegal to accept oppo research from a foreign source? WaPo spoke to election lawyers and veteran oppo people in Washington and put the question to them. The takeaway: Whether it’s illegal or not, it’s unusual. And if the purported oppo is deemed a “thing of value” for election-law purposes, then Don Jr is arguably guilty of soliciting a contribution from a foreign source. You’re not going to get Ryan or even Wray to make a criminal case against Junior under the circumstances, but Ryan surely could have offered a half-hearted “illegal or not, it’s shady as hell.”
Two good questions floating around online today. One: What happened after the meeting? Did Don Jr call up Rob Goldstone, the man who had arranged it, to complain that that Russian lawyer had nothing juicy for them? Did he ask him if he knew any other Russians who might be able to deliver the goods? Did he ask the lawyer herself that? Apparently she’s pretty tapped in within the Russian plutocracy, replete with connections to the country’s spy services, the FSB and GRU. If she didn’t have useful information herself, she probably could have put Team Trump in touch with people who did.
BuzzFeed notes that there are references to further communications in the emails, but for now no one knows what was said:
But while the emails have been widely and intensely examined over the last twenty-four hours for what they do say, two curious phrases — a reference to a future “call” and a “thanks” — also raise a question about what the emails don’t reveal: Was there a telephone conversation between Trump and either Goldstone or his client between the time that two of the emails in question were sent?
Lawyers for all parties did not answer questions about whether the emails posted on Twitter Tuesday were the extent of Trump’s communication with Goldstone, Emin or Aras Agalarov (the musician and his father), or their representatives during the first week of June 2016.
Two: Was the whole point of the meeting from the Russian standpoint to set a blackmail trap for the campaign? Lefty Matt Yglesias wonders about that at Vox, not unreasonably:
Sally Yates, the acting attorney general at the time, saw the problem [with Mike Flynn’s private sanctions chat with the Russian ambassador]. She warned White House Counsel Don McGahn that “the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.”
The theory here is simple. If you lie to the public about meetings with the Russian government, the Russian government will know that you lied and could threaten to release embarrassing and personally damaging information unless you take positions they like.
McGahn did nothing about Yates’s concerns. Later, the information leaked to the press, Flynn became an embarrassment, and he was fired — ostensibly for the crime of having lied to Mike Pence.
The collusion theory holds that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, went to the meeting either to hand over something damaging on Clinton or to dangle the possibility of damaging info if the Trump campaign were willing to play ball, essentially feeling out Manafort, Kushner, and Trump Jr on whether they were game for collusion with the Kremlin. But maybe that wasn’t it at all. Maybe she went in there knowing that Rob Goldstone had sold the meeting to Don Jr as a chance to obtain “very high level” dirt on Hillary from the “Russian government” and the mere fact that Junior showed up to chat could and would be used against him and/or the president by the Kremlin later. Yglesias wonders if possibly Trump said something Putin didn’t like at their G20 meeting last week and this is the result, the Russians themselves leaking damaging info of attempted collusion by the president’s son to the New York Times. Two wrinkles in that theory, though. First, as noted yesterday, it sure sounds like the Times’s sources are “three advisors to the White House briefed on the meeting” — possibly Jared Kushner’s legal team — not foreigners who hacked Don Jr or Kushner or whoever. Second, if the meeting was just a ploy to entrap Don Jr in a collusion scheme that could be used to blackmail him later, presumably Goldstone, the man who sent the original email, was in on it. Is there any reason to believe that’s true, though? Someone needs to show that Goldstone’s hands were dirty before the blackmail theory comes into sharper focus.
I kind of hope that the Times did get the emails from Russian hackers. It’d be the height of irony, after days of Don Jr getting ripped for being willing to accept dirt on a political enemy from the killers at the Kremlin, if this story itself were being driven by the NYT’s willingness to accept dirt on a political enemy from the killers at the Kremlin.