The meeting was arranged by a British publicist named Rob Goldstone, who told Donald Trump Jr. via email that his client, the Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, wanted to share incriminating evidence on the Clinton campaign that had been obtained from the Russian government. Sophisticated Russian intelligence tradecraft that was meant to be kept secret would not have permitted such an insecure opening gambit for establishing continuing communication with the Trump campaign. They would not have used something as insecure as email, or relied on liaison cutouts who could so easily be traced to the Kremlin. Instead, the Russians who attended the meeting had obvious Kremlin ties, including Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Moscow lawyer who has done work on behalf of the F.S.B.; Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist who served in the Soviet military; and Mr. Agalarov, whose father is a real estate titan close to Mr. Putin.

I can’t say how news of the meeting broke, but once it did, Mr. Putin achieved one of his goals: throwing the American government into greater turmoil amid the frenzied media coverage, escalating F.B.I. and congressional investigations and intensified political conflict. And with the revelation that Russia was behind the meddling, Mr. Putin achieved another objective: to allow Russia, despite its economic and military inferiority, to claim that it could rival the United States on the global playing field. He could do all this while denying, with a wink and a nod, any involvement.