Judging from conversations online and in person, the emerging Trump-friendly defense of Donald Trump Jr.’s decision to respond enthusiastically to an invitation to meet a “Russian government attorney” to receive “official documents and information” as part of the Russian government’s “support for Mr. Trump” is two-fold. First, of course you meet with someone who’s proposing to help you win your political race. And second, the meeting itself was allegedly unimportant. The Russian attorney didn’t deliver the goods. What’s the big deal?
Let’s leave aside the obvious fact that no living Republican would be making those arguments if equivalent news emerged about a Democratic president’s team and address the core of the argument. Yes, it is a “big deal” when senior representatives of an American presidential campaign meet with a purported representative of a hostile foreign power for the purpose of cooperating in that foreign power’s effort to influence an American presidential campaign. It’s an even bigger deal when news of that meeting emerges after an avalanche of denials and evasions.
As an initial matter, it’s amazing that anyone on the right or left is taking any talking points from the Trump administration at face value. After months of deception and misdirection, why should anyone believe the Trump administration’s account of the meeting? Why should anyone believe that this is the last shoe to drop or the only shoe to drop demonstrating an effort to collude with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election? And yet conservatives are rallying across the Internet, ignoring all previous false statements, and essentially saying, “Now we know the truth, and the truth is that nothing happened.” This isn’t analysis; it’s wishful thinking.