Until this week, on the question of collusion with Russia, even Trump’s political enemies had to admit: “There’s a lot of smoke, but no fire.” But no longer. Now the flames are licking at Donald Trump Jr.’s feet.
For his father, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Donald Trump thought he’d buried the Russia mess once and for all at the G-20 summit, where he raised the issue with Vladimir Putin, registered his denial and then announced it was time to move on.
No such luck. During his plane ride home, the New York Times broke news of a heretofore undisclosed meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a top Russian lawyer.
For months, of course, Trump and his advisers had denied any contact at all between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. And nobody did so stronger than Donald Jr. Asked on CNN about reports Russia was trying to help his father win the election, Junior shot back: “It’s disgusting. It’s so phony. … I can’t think of bigger lies.” This turned out to be the biggest lie of all.
Trump Jr. spoke to CNN on July 24, 2016. Thanks to the New York Times, we now know that barely six weeks earlier, on June 9, he’d met at Trump Tower with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney with close ties to the Kremlin. And they met for the express purpose of helping Russia help Trump. Any doubt about that vanished with release of the chain of emails setting up the meeting.
On June 3, 2016, British publicist Rob Goldstone emailed Donald Jr. that his father’s former business partner in Moscow has “information that would incriminate Hillary.” To emphasize who’s behind it and why, Goldstone adds: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Seventeen minutes later, Junior gleefully responds: “If it’s what you say, I love it.” He schedules a meeting with the Kremlin messenger for June 9.
That settles one question: Was there collusion? Absolutely! Read the emails again. There’s no other way to spin it. It’s right there in black and white: a foreign government admits it has a plan to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election, and the candidate’s son welcomes their meddling with open arms. Whether the information provided was valuable or not, that still adds up to collusion as defined by Merriam-Webster: “secret agreement of cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.”
Next question: Who else was involved? Campaign manager Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner, for sure. They were both copied on the emails. And they both knew the purpose of the meeting, which they both attended.
Now, the key question: What did Daddy know and when did he know it? Trump insists he knew nothing about the meeting until he heard about it from the media, which doesn’t even pass the smell test. The idea that Donald Jr. learns his father’s former business partner has dirt on Hillary that he wants to pass on “as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” – that he includes two other top campaign officials in the meeting – and doesn’t tell his father about it – is simply unbelievable, especially given Donald Trump’s own ominous pledge a couple days later.
On June 7, four days after Goldstone’s email to Donald Jr. and two days before the fateful meeting, candidate Donald Trump told a victory celebration in New York: “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.” Coincidence? Highly unlikely. What could he have been talking about other than information he hoped to get out of his son’s meeting with the Russian informant?
Of course, this is only one of three legal challenges facing Donald Trump. He’s been sued for violating the Emoluments Clause by raking in foreign money from his hotels and golf courses. He’s also under criminal investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice. But the charge of collusion may turn out to be the most serious, given these latest damaging revelations about Donald Trump Jr.
Which provides the greatest irony of all. Think about it: After all the time Donald Trump spent attacking Hillary Clinton’s emails, it could be his son’s emails that bring the entire Trump operation down. How delicious. Live by emails, die by emails. Yes, there is a God.