And There’s Evidence
July 12, 2017
Terry H. Schwadron
Oops. It turns out that there is actual evidence of official meddling by Russia.
At least, release yesterday of the emails from Russia to Donald Trump Jr. to set up that Trump Tower meeting last summer to turn over potentially embarrassing information about Hillary Clinton, says directly that Russia wanted to interfere in the elections. Just as The New York Times was publishing them here, Junior released them too.
As The Times reported, the emails promised documents that “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” adding, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Junior replied in minutes, “If it’s what you say I love it, especially later in the summer.” Four days later, after a flurry of emails, the intermediary wrote back, proposing the meeting with a “Russian government attorney.”
So, despite efforts by Junior’s lawyers and White House spokesmen to make the meeting and any associated emails “a big nothing burger,” it turns out these exchanges probably are a big deal.
It’s a prompt for serious concern, not gloating. As I commented yesterday, Junior could face charges relating to campaign laws resulting from inviting or accepting help “of value” from a foreign power. So too could Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign manager, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who again had failed to include the meeting on various official documents.
What is so remarkable, if unsurprising, is the absoluteness of partisanship in Washington to find an acceptable compartment into which to put these developments. For many (but not all) Republicans, it was seen as just more Democratic carping, amounting to very little. From Democrats, this was a time to start throwing around terms like “perjury” and “possible treason.” The Russian lawyer who met with Junior exclaimed surprise with the whole matter. The idea that all of these statements are going out in tweets is almost beyond understanding.
What is so disappointing is just how difficult it is to know what is true and whether it matters. On the whole, I lean with those who think yesterday’s developments open an important new path in this discussion of “collusion” with Russia, meddling by Russia in our elections, and the weirdness of the Trump administration in settling foreign policies that involve Russia.
What you and I should keep in mind is that what has now been raised are a host of people and issues that will be the stuff of close inspection for Robert S Mueller, the special counsel, and the FBI. We should also dampen all the noise, because in the end, it is only the FBI probe that will prove the only real truth-seeking that will matter.
For sure, the congressional committees talking around the edges of Russian meddling will call Junior, Manafort and Kushner to testify.
For the moment, we have mountains of questions and only the slightest hint of malleable truths as answers. It would be nice to just spell it all out.
Meanwhile, just what the promised damaging information about Hillary remained unclear, and, in any event, never emerged. Instead there apparently was talk of rescinding a U.S. sanction that would result in re-allowing suspended adoptions of infants in Russia. The people involved behind all of this each reflect strange interrelations and variously strong relationships with leaders in the Kremlin, including the organizer of a Trump-owned Miss Universe contest in Russia, a Russian pop star and oligarch with ties to Vladimir Putin and the lawyer active in the adoption law dispute. It could make for a novel.
Among other things, the emails once again contradict various parts of various explanations that Junior has offered since Saturday, when The Times first disclosed the meetings had taken place. At the least, various officials and lawyers on cable noted, the Trump campaign should have just called the FBI and said that they had been contacted by a foreign government.
Of course, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex, insisted that no one outside Washington really cares, that his office is inundated with questions about health care, possible tax cuts, jobs and infrastructure, that the media in Washington is out of sync with the country over the Russia questions. We’d be happy enough to talk about those things if something actually were happening on those issues.
All-things-Russia seem to have kidnapped governing — and truth-telling.