The President Trump/Russia story was suddenly revived in a big way the past few days via the reporting of the New York Times. But the biggest revelation in the story came today from Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
On his Twitter account, Trump Jr. released a copy of an email chain between him and an associate who was seeking to set up a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who purported to have “some official documents and information that could incriminate Hillary (Clinton) and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Here are the tweets and the attachments, preceded by a statement from Trump Jr.:
To clarify: the second tweet includes the earliest messages in the thread.
I am not sure how the Trump administration spins this. The fact that the lawyer ultimately didn’t have the goods? That’s not much of a defense to the charge that Trump Jr. was willing to take a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who claimed to have damaging information about Clinton being passed along as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” If someone other than Trump Jr. had released the emails, one would have expected the Trump team’s defense to be that the emails were fabricated. They’re that bad.
The fact that opposition research is central to every campaign? Not terribly persuasive when we’re talking about the involvement of a foreign government. The fact that the information was said to be “incriminating” — presumably from a legal standpoint, given that it allegedly was coming from “the Crown prosecutor of Russia”? That would be an argument for turning the information over to the FBI, not pursuing it for political reasons. That the email is somehow “out of context”? Aside from not knowing just what context might make Trump Jr. look better here, we can’t overlook the fact that he released the emails himself; if there was some context that made it better, why didn’t he also release that? (As of 47 minutes after he sent the second tweet, he had not sent any others.)
This is by far the worst moment of the Trump presidency regarding the Russia investigation.
“But Hillary” doesn’t work, either. Speaking of her: Before anyone reflexively defends Trump, you should ask yourself how you would have reacted if similar emails had been found among the cache of Clinton emails either turned over to the FBI or released by Wikileaks … or if President Obama had sent something similar after his infamous hot-mic moment with Dmitri Medvedev promising “more flexibility” toward Russia after his election. I’ll hazard a guess you wouldn’t have been very understanding. Nor should you have been.