Thursday, July 13, 2017

Donald Jr lied about every aspect of meeting. No one should believe 'it didn't go anywhere'

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: Donald Trump Jr. (C) gestures to Trump campaign senior advisor Boris Epshteyn (L) in the lobby at Trump Tower, November 16, 2016 in New York City. Trump is in the process of choosing his presidential cabinet as he transitions from a candidate to the president-elect. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Looking back over the last weeks’ worth of news from Trump-friendly sources can be fun. There’s Sunday’s New York Post extravagantly rolling their eyes beneath the headline “The Times ‘exposé’ on Donald Trump Jr. is a big yawn.” And Wednesday’s Post taking a much drier approach on “Why Trump Jr released damning Russia emails.”

It’s not even necessary to walk the timeline back all the way to Sunday. On Tuesday morning, Washington Post conservative writer Ed Rogers went with “The media’s mass hysteria over ‘collusion’ is out of control.” He stuck with that title in a substantially revised noon update. And a 2 PM update. Only … by the time he got there, the disconnect between title, the opening paragraphs on said “media hysteria” and the rest of the piece was pretty severe.
After seeing today’s email exchange dump from Trump Jr., it is easy to see that the meeting should have never happened. Period.  I double down on the idea that this meeting was a rookie, amateur mistake. Even the lackey should not have taken this meeting. It was bad judgment, but not collaboration with the Russians.
The “rookie mistake” excuse is exactly the reason that the lawyer for the guy in the room with decades of hardcore political experience had to rush forward yesterday to say that his client didn’t actually read the invite to the meeting he was attending.

Donald Trump Jr. has moved from he attended no meetings with Russians, to the meeting was just about adoption, to it was just opposition research, and landed on “it was before Russia-mania.”

But the story that everyone involved is settling on now is founded on one idea—the idea that the meeting didn’t lead to anything—and there’s no reason to think that’s any more true than every other abandoned position.
The Washington Post gives a quick run through ...
Trump Jr. has changed his story four times since then, most recently in Tuesday's tweet, which was a response to the Times's having obtained emails that show he agreed to meet the Russian lawyer after being offered “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
While everything else about Trump Jr’s description of the meeting changes from one iteration to the next, the ending remains pretty similar—it was a short meeting, it didn’t produce meaningful information, and “there was no follow up.” 

However, everything else that Donald Trump Jr. has said about the meeting has turned out to be a lie. So … why should any of that be true?

The other point that Trump Jr, along with the cast of lawyers, brings up every time is that the meeting was brief—20 to 30 minutes. That certainly doesn’t seem like enough time to relay a stack of juicy Clinton gossip. And the brevity is presented as equivalent to “not important.”

However, even the shorter of those two times is plenty of time to relay a simple message: This is a big deal, we have the goods, and you need to handle this more carefully.

It seems unlikely that attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya paid another visit to Trump Tower (though if she did, we’ll likely know very soon). But Veselnitskaya had plenty of opportunity to pass along details on how more information would be forthcoming. And she had the man in the room—Paul Manafort—with years of experience in taking secret information from Moscow. 

And the other guy in the room, Jared Kushner, would be the guy who desperately sought a new communication channel with Moscow after the election.

As the Washington Post reiterates …
The progression of Trump Jr.'s position can be summarized like this:
  • I never represented the campaign in a meeting with a Russian.
  • Actually, I did, but the meeting was about adoption.
  • Well, the pretext of the meeting was incriminating information about Clinton, but we didn't actually get any.
  • This kind of meeting is totally normal.
  • The meeting didn't seem like such a bad idea at the time because the media wasn't focused on Russia yet.
The one tiny nail on which Trump Jr is hanging what’s left of his story—and the only thing that’s protecting Kushner and Manafort—is the idea that this meeting was trivial and didn’t lead to anything else.

Don’t believe it.

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