Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer in hopes of receiving damning information on Hillary Clinton. In a mind-blowing admission, Donald Jr. effectively confirmed the intention behind the meeting, releasing a statement that read in part:
No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting. (Emphasis added)
This last sentence, while perhaps unwitting, amounts to a public disclosure that a Trump affiliate was attempting to conspire with a foreign national to derail Clinton’s campaign.
Donald Jr. stated that the Kremlin-tied lawyer – Natalia Veselnitskaya – promised information that showed links between the Clinton camp and Russian funding sources. But considering the other big recent revelation that an associate of Michael Flynn sought out hacked emails from Russians, and Donald Jr.’s claim seems disingenuous at best.
The meeting with Veselnitskaya was also attended by Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, two individuals at the heart of the ongoing Russia probe led by FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Over the past two months, incriminating details have emerged about both: Kushner tried to set up an unmonitored backchannel with Russian officials and met with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank; Manafort retroactively filed as a foreign agent, while confirming that he received millions of dollars in payment from a staunchly pro-Russia Ukrainian political party.
Donald Jr. – by simply admitting to the meeting – is the strongest evidence yet that both Donald Trump and Mike Pence lied when they insisted that no individual in the campaign met with Russians during.
Even if these efforts never got off the ground and Trump associated never received information on Clinton, it’s looking increasingly likely that they at least tried to collude with foreign nationals. Where there was only smoke, there now appears to be fire.