The First Legitimate Indication of a Connection between the Trump Campaign and Russia
Over the weekend, news broke that Donald Trump Jr., the President’s son, attended a meeting last June with a Russian lawyer who promised him salacious information about Hillary Clinton. The New York Times broke the story, citing emails that detailed the meeting. Donald Trump, Jr., via Twitter, has now released those emails.
Here’s my statement and the full email chain pic.twitter.com/x050r5n5LQ
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
Trump Jr.’s state:
To everyone, in order to be totally transparent, I am releasing the entire email chain of my emails with Rob Goldstone about the meeting on June 09, 2016. The first email on June 3, 2016 was from Rob, who was relating a request from Emin, a person I knew from the 2013 Ms. Universe Pageant near Moscow. Emin and his father have a very highly respected company in Moscow. The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research. I first wanted to just have a phone call but when that didn’t work out, they said the woman would be in New York and asked if I would meet. I decided to take the meeting. The woman, as she has said publicly, was not a government official. And, as we have said, she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy and the Magnitsky Act. To put this in context, this occurred before the current Russian fever was in vogue. As Rob Goldstone said just today in the press, the entire meeting was “the most insane nonsense I ever heard. I was actually agitated by it.”
Via Fox News:
Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday released what he said was the “entire email chain” of his conversations setting up a disputed meeting with a Russian attorney, showing what appeared to be an offer to provide information that would “incriminate” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
The email chain — purported to be between Trump Jr. and publicist Rob Goldstone — occurred in June 2016. Goldstone went on to set up the controversial June 9 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, whom he identified in the emails at one point as “The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.”
There is nothing contained in the emails to suggest Trump Jr. was informed of the larger alleged Russian effort to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.
Here’s the part of the emails people will focus on:
On June 3, 2016 at 10:36 AM, Rob Goldstone wrote:
Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.
The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.
This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin.
What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?
I’m somewhat confused by these emails. Who is the “Crown Prosecutor” of Russia? There is no Russian monarchy.
Trump Jr. said in a statement on Tuesday that he knew “Emin” because he helped organize the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Russia. That person appears to be Emin Agalarov, whose father, Aras Agalarov, is a billionaire with reported ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An aspect of this story which I don’t think most Americans fully grasp is that virtually everybody important in Russia — billionaires, high-powered attorneys, etc. — are affiliated with Putin in some capacity. Russia is an oligarchy, and oligarchies function that way. Russian oil barons and billionaires are all in cahoots with the Putin regime. That’s how Russia operates. If a Russian billionaire has “ties to Putin,” that doesn’t mean he’s in constant contact with Putin, and works as a formal representative or operative in the Kremlin. It means, more likely than not, that said billionaire owes most, if not all, of his fortune to the generosity of Putin, ie the billionaire is beholden to the Kremlin and thus does Putin’s bidding when asked.
But, at any rate, what’s most baffling about these emails here is that the opposition research being discussed was about Hillary Clinton’s ties to the Russian government.
If I understand this correctly, Donald Trump Jr. was seeking, from the Russians, information about Hillary Clinton’s “dealings with Russia.” But then the next sentence reads, cryptically, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information [referring to the alleged Hillary opposition research] but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
So the Russians, in an effort to help Trump’s campaign, were going to pass along info to Trump’s son that linked Hillary Clinton to…the Russians.
What? This makes no sense.
At any rate, that sentence about “Russian government support for Mr. Trump” reads as if Goldstone is referring to something Don Jr. was already aware of — as if the “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” thing was an ongoing relationship. As readers of this site know, I’ve been deeply skeptical of this entire “Russia collusion” narrative the media’s been pushing for the past nine months. I’ve debunked innuendo and garbage “journalism” time and again, and I’ve called out hysteria, paranoia and outright lunacy on the part of the media and the Democratic Party. But this is one sentence I cannot explain. This is the first legitimate indication I’ve seen that there was any sort of funny business going on between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government — and not just “the Russians,” but the Russian GOVERNMENT specifically.
So the million dollar question is, what, exactly, did this “support” entail? What was the quid-pro-quo that constitutes the real wrongdoing on the Trump camp’s behalf? Was there any deal? Nothing, as far as we know, actually came of this meeting with the Russian lawyer.
The NYT headline reads: “Trump Jr. Was Allegedly Told Russian Government Behind Damaging Clinton Info.”
But what was this “damaging Clinton info”? Did it even exist? Was it ever passed along to the Trump inner circle? And, if so, what was it passed along in exchange for? I’m sure this “damaging info,” if it ever existed in the first place, wasn’t going to simply be a gift.
Given that no information was revealed in the 2016 campaign that linked Hillary Clinton to the Russian government, it’s pretty safe to assume this Russian lawyer didn’t pass such information along to the Trump campaign. If the Trump campaign had it, they would’ve released it to the public. But they didn’t release anything, leading me to believe they never got anything.
I wrote yesterday that the Russian attorney likely landed the meeting with Don Jr. using the ol’ bait and switch: she intended to discuss the Magnitsky Act all along, but lured Trump Jr. in with promises of incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. I also assumed that the Russian lawyer was a lobbyist for the Kremlin — otherwise, why would she be seeking a meeting with a Presidential candidate in hopes of changing an American law, the Magnitsky Act? The emails refer to her as a “government lawyer,” which is in line with what I wrote yesterday.
But these emails also refer to “Russian government support for Mr. Trump,” and this is today’s biggest revelation.
So, again, this is the real question: what were the terms of this alleged corrupt deal? Was the Russian government sending a lobbyist over to offer info on Hillary in exchange for a promise that, if elected, a President Donald Trump would repeal the Magnistky Act? This seems pretty trivial.
Also, what laws were broken? It’s true, as many have been saying, that impeachment is a mostly political process that hinges on whether the public perceives the President to have done something deeply pernicious. But, still, filing for impeachment requires the President to be formally charged with some crime in the House of Representatives. The public perception in 1998 was that Bill Clinton was impeached for fooling around with an intern, but the formal charges were perjury and obstruction of justice. What actual crimes are Trump’s enemies seeking to charge him with?
Is Russian “support” an impeachable offense? Again, we have no idea until we know more about the “why.” Why would Russia be supporting Trump? What’s in it for Russia? We need specifics, and this is why I keep bringing up the “quid-pro-quo” angle: that’s what constitutes actual “collusion.” If there was a “this for that” deal between Trump’s people and the Russian government, then that’s a big deal.
It’s not a secret that the Russians favored Donald Trump. We knew this as early as December 2015. We also know that many foreign governments choose sides in US elections — after all, every other country on Earth is affected by the results. There’s nothing unusual about the Russians preferring Trump to Hillary, just as other world leaders preferred Hillary to Trump. But this Donald Trump Jr. email is the first real indication that there was any sort of shady dealings between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Of course, there are still many more questions than answers, but this is the first time in eight months we’ve seen anything even resembling a concrete link.
Ed Morrisey, writing at The Week, refers to the story of Hillary’s campaign’s collusion with the Ukrainians, and compares it to Trump/Russia:
“The real conclusion, then, is not the existence of ham-fisted collusion. It is the considerable risks of amateurs running high-profile political operations. Even if the meeting turns out to be a ‘nothing burger,’ as the White House has said, one has to wonder how Veselnitskaya got access to three members of Trump’s inner circle in the first place. The Washington Post notes that Veselnitskaya’s client list includes several with links to the Kremlin, and she has been active in pursuing Russian interests in the U.S. Among seasoned politicos, that would have immediately raised red flags.”
“Even more to the point, no experienced campaign would allow senior members to meet with a source without ensuring it would be productive first. As an example, recall that the Democrats worked with a foreign government to dig for dirt on Trump, too. Politico‘s Kenneth Vogel and David Stern reported in early January that the DNC contacted officials from the Ukrainian government for their own opposition research efforts. These contacts did not involve cut-outs, as Veselnitskaya may or may not have been, but did directly assist in searching for damaging information that could be used in the election.”
The point Morrissey is making is that this speaks, more than anything, to the amateurish nature of the Trump campaign. It had something like 30 staffers nationwide as late as June of 2016. The more details that leak out about the campaign’s contacts with Russia, the more it becomes clear the Trump people, political novices they were, were in over their heads and had no discretion in who they met with. They were entirely oblivious to not only how their actions and interactions with foreign individuals would be perceived by the general public, but how their enemies would portray those actions and interactions. In other words, there weren’t many lawyers involved with the Trump campaign.
There’s still no evidence of any sort of grand, Machiavellian conspiracy or collusion or deal between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and now one doubts the Trump campaign was even competent enough to pull off something like that in the first place.
That one sentence: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” It could very well have been the Russian government preying on the naïveté of the Trump campaign, flattering them and leading them to believe Putin favored them and respected them and wanted to work with them if and when Donald Trump got elected President.
Back in late 2015, Stuart Stevens a former aide to Mitt Romney and an ardent Never Trumper, had this to say of Donald Trump’s well-documented affinity for Vladimir Putin, and perhaps it explains this whole affair: “Donald Trump is like that stray dog anybody can pet and it will follow you home,” former top Romney adviser Stuart Stevens told POLITICO. “Putin praises him so he loves Putin. It’s embarrassing and sad. He’s a seriously damaged individual who is deeply insecure and needs attention and praise and the source doesn’t matter.”
It’s entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that the Putin regime identified Donald Trump, in 2015, as the US election’s most easily manipulated candidate, and that simply making Trump and his people feel important and serious was all it took to gain access and influence in his inner circle. Trump, the political newcomer he was, likely was not fully aware of the true nature of Vladimir Putin and his intentions, making it easier for Putin to ingratiate himself with Trump than any other candidate.
Its likely Putin never viewed Trump as an equal throughout the whole 2016 campaign, and only sought to boost Trump to wreak havoc upon Hillary Clinton and undercut support for her as she came into office.
To me, this is a more logical explanation than the theory that Putin and Trump have been conspiring for years in an effort to hand-deliver the White House to the Russians.