Forget what you’ve heard up until now. Here’s the entire Donald Trump Jr. story in five words: They knew the whole time.
The Trump campaign knew the whole time that the Russian government was helping them win the election.
First of all, you can’t put it much more succinctly than this.
But that’s still missing the point. DJTJ isn’t the only one who said this. Paul Manafort (the campaign manager) and Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law and campaign data guy) wanted the meeting, too. And they went to it.
It’s driving the right wing nuts. They’ve descended into schizophrenic rage. Last night, Sean Hannity, in the course of maybe 15 minutes, whatabouted the DJTJ story with Hillary Clinton, Ukraine, Loretta Lynch, James Comey, the U.S. intelligence community, Congress, liberal lawyers, the entire mainstream media, the DNC, the Steele dossier, FusionGPS, all Democrats, and Barack Hussein Obama.
This isn’t good.
But you know what? Let ‘em have it all. Who cares if the meeting was legal? That’s not the point. Don’t get distracted by these GOP talking points: they’re going to focus only on defending DJTJ’s role in this meeting and debate the legality of it, and they won’t mention Manafort, Kushner, and most importantly, the president.
Because the most damning part of this story isn’t the sins of the son; it’s the sins of the father.
is now fucked. Not criminally. (Yet.) But he’s fucked. Here’s why, in as complete and thorough a case against him as I hope to make it.
The genius of this story is that it distills the entire Trump-Russia debate to one simple question:
Did Donald Trump’s son, campaign manager, or son-in-law tell him at any point over the course of six months that the Russian government was trying to get him elected?
That is: what did the President know, and when did he know it?
Here’s Trump himself, from a February 2017 press conference: “I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.”
The President of the United States has lied for a year straight to the American people about his campaign’s connections to the Russian government. Worse, he knew they were trying to help him. Worse, he also had everyone working for him lie about this for an entire year straight to the faces of the American people he is sworn to protect and defend. To the faces of people who took him at his word and trusted him with their vote. He lied about it again and again and again and again and again.
For scale, Bill Clinton lied a about a blow job.
Not convinced? Then let’s get into it.
Oh, wait. I have another question to ponder as you read this. A very simple question I’ve heard no one ask yet: if they had DJTJ’s emails, why wouldn’t they have Trump’s?
Well, Trump doesn’t use email. Damn. But his assistant, Rhona, named in the DJTJ emails below, does.
Just a thought. Flag it, though.
I’m splitting this article up, so you can skip to parts that matter to you now, if you’d like. This is a really in-depth piece, because I want to do my best to lock up my case.
1. Was it a crime?
You tell me.
Say you’re an illegal art dealer. You get wind there’s a very important man who wants to buy a lot of stolen art from you. You have someone tell one of these guys’ associates that you’re into it, and that intermediary sets up a meeting. The very rich dude’s associate meets you along with the gang’s two top guys, guys who actually outrank him. Wow, you think, this is serious business. Too bad, though, that the art you have on you is a forgery. You all talk it out, but in the end they decide to pass on the deal.
Now, on a scale from 100% to 100%, how certain are you that these guys were well prepared to break the law? That they’ve done it before? That they’d be wiling to do it again? And, perhaps, even with you? Given what we know about the details (see the email stuff), you’ve done business with them before.
And if you’d actually sold the art, but got caught having the meeting, what are the odds you’d tell the world you committed the crime?
2. The Bullshit
Who knows what DJTJ meant when he said this to Sean Hannity last night?
But hopefully we can all agree that isn’t the best way to put it.
Too bad our country’s greatest threat didn’t have the intelligence they promised us their spies had stolen from our political rival. Waste of time.
Also, if this meeting was truly that forgettable, what kind of crazy shit was this campaign up to?
And if it’s not so bad, why did DJTJ contradict himself at least four times when he was trying to explain it?
And if it really were just a matter of a guy who didn’t know any better, Paul Manafort was also in the meeting. That guy sure as shit knew the score.
But what about Hillary, Ukraine, Comey, Lynch, etc etc etc? Fine. Try to prosecute them all. Who gives a shit? See what happens. Let’s get on with this.
And now I’ve got to say this again: my big point isn’t whether the opposition research was a crime. Let’s say it wasn’t a crime. The point is that the president lied about Russia helping him win the election for a year straight, to your face, and the faces of the country he’s supposedly protecting.
3. The Report Itself
You can reference this comprehensive news article from us to get more of it. But basically the Failing New York Times published a story that a Russian lawyer (identified in the initial email as a “Crown prosecutor” for the Kremlin), contacted DJTJ’s intermediary Rob Goldstone about an offer from the Russian government of information that, according to Goldstone’s email to DJTJ, would “incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” He added, “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.”
Jr. published these emails on Twitter after the NYT told him they had the emails, too. Those emails had some incredible details, many of which are, incredibly, going nearly ignored. These details implicate President Trump.
4. Those email details
The first—and maybe the most important—detail is that this first email says in no uncertain terms that this meeting was “part of Russia and its government’s” support for Mr. Trump. That is, the Trump campaign knew as early as June 2016 that the Russian government was trying to help Mr. Trump win the election. Not just hurt Clinton. And, to this offer, Don Jr. replied “I’d love to” meet.
But look closely at that phrase again: “part of Russia and its government’s support.” For someone to say “part of” necessitates the knowledge of other parts. DJTJ, at minimum, therefore must have known some of the other parts of the Russian government’s support for Mr. Trump. If not, he would have said, “Part of? There’s more?” Then, presumably, “awesome.”
Look at the language, too. This clearly isn’t framed as a bombshell surprise for anyone involved.
Second, the information was passed along by Aras and Emin Agalarov, two Russian friends of the Trump family who at one point teamed up with them to build a hotel in Moscow, which obviously never happened. Emin is something of a pop star in Russia, and President Trump himself had a cameo in this bizarre rap video. The video was filmed during the Miss Universe pageant and shot on-scene at the same hotel where Trump was also allegedly filmed, on the same trip, interacting in some way with hookers peeing on a bed.
Third, there’s an absolutely crazy fucking passage buried in the first email, which has gone underreported: Goldstone offered to run this information up to President Trump. And it’s obviously not a shock to anyone on the chain that Russia was helping them win. There’s nothing anywhere that indicates this is anything strange or new or exciting. And I’d bet it wouldn’t have been a surprise to Mr. Trump either.
Now that we’ve got this base to work from, let’s move on to the damning case against the President himself.
5. The Year Of Magical Thinking
For a year now, Donald Trump and representatives from his campaign and the White House have been saying, screaming, tweeting in all caps, over and over and over again that there are no connections between Trump and Russia. Here are a few instances. Most damning from DJTJ is this one:
He told the NYT this March he had no meetings with Russians where he was “representing the campaign.”
“Did I meet with people that were Russian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did,” he said. “But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form.”
Here’s DJTJ on July 24, 2016, on CNN’s “State of the Union”:
JAKE TAPPER: So, I don’t know if you were hearing earlier, but Robby Mook, the campaign manager for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton… seemed to be suggesting this is part of a plot to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. Your response?
DJTJ.: I mean, I can’t think of bigger lies, but that exactly goes to show you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win.
From February 2017, here’s Sean Spicer’s syntax-free denial.
REPORTER: Back in January, the president said that nobody in his campaign had been in touch with the Russians. Now today, can you still say definitively that nobody on the Trump campaign—not even General Flynn—had any contact with the Russians before the election?
SPICER: I don’t have any—there’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.
Note: Trump Jr. might weasel around and say he wasn’t officially part of the campaign. But Manafort and Kushner sure were. Speaking of which:
On July 24, 2016, Paul Manafort was asked whether there are any connections between the Trump campaign and Russia or its president.
“No, there are not,” he said. “That’s absurd. And you know, there’s no basis to it.”
Here’s Mike Pence on Face the Nation in January 2017.
DICKERSON: Just to button up one question, did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?
MIKE PENCE: Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.
Here’s Hope Hicks, campaign spokesperson, on November 11, 2016, responding to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister’s claim that, “There were contacts. I cannot say that all of them, but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives.”
“It never happened,” Hicks said. “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
How about this, from Reince Priebus, head of the RNC, who was spotted by an AP reporter into Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, the day of DJTJ’s meeting. Priebus told the NYT that he “didn’t know much” about the meeting.
On February 19, 2017, Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff, was asked on Fox News whether the Trump team had any connections with Moscow. He said, quote, “no.”
Then he said this:
“Let me give you an example. First of all, The New York Times put out an article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies, basically, you know, some treasonous type of accusations. We have now all kinds of people looking into this. I can assure you, and I have been approved to say this, that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it’s grossly overstated and it was wrong. And there’s nothing to it.” (Emphasis mine.)
The next day, from Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
“This is a non-story because to the best of our knowledge, no contacts took place, so it’s hard to make a comment on something that never happened.”
I’ll cool it here. These aren’t from Trump himself. But seems pretty systemic, no? These constant flat denials of contacts between Russia and his campaign. But I promised to deliver Trump himself. First, indirect but damning:
On December 18, 2016, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who was Paul Manafort’s replacement after he resigned (more on that later!) said this:
DICKERSON: Did anyone involved in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Absolutely not. And I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it’s a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it’s dangerous. (Emphasis mine).
Yikes. Now to Mr. Trump himself:
On the same day that Mr. Trump gave his now-infamous July 27, 2016, press conference in which he asked “Russia, if you’re listening” to “find” Ms. Clinton’s missing emails, he was asked this question during an interview on a local CBS station:
REPORTER: “What’s your impression of this notion that the Russians are trying to get you elected?”
TRUMP: “Well, I don’t know anything about it. I can tell you I think if I came up with that they’d say, ‘Oh, it’s a conspiracy theory, it’s ridiculous.’”
On October 24, 2016, Trump told a rally in Florida that he had “nothing to do with Russia, folks. I’ll give you a written statement.”
In a January press conference, Mr. Trump, then President-elect, was asked, “Can you stand here today, once and for all, and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?” He said “no.”
In a February 16, 2017, press conference, Mr. Trump said, “I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.”
Throughout the campaign, and indeed until quite recently (coincidence), Mr. Trump denied again and again and again that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. Perhaps most famously so on Twitter…
I could go on. But also, Trump denied Russian connections in the debates. Here’s one instance:
But he did know about the hacking. From NBC:
And this previous dateline:
Here’s an excerpt:
6. Connecting the Don’s Dots
We can actually infer some further possible conclusions about President Trump’s own involvement from some of the logistical details we know.
First, on June 7 at 5:16 p.m. DJTJ confirmed the meeting with the Russian. Then, on that same day, at 9:13 p.m. Trump promised at a press conference that the next week he’d deliver Clinton dirt.
Next, the meeting was held on the 25th floor of Trump Tower, one floor below the offices of Donald Trump himself. Trump was in Trump Tower that day. As was RNC chairman Reince Priebus. (Dear GOP, Yikes.)
The meeting was scheduled for 4:00 p.m. At 4:40 p.m. Trump issued forth this tweet:
This wasn’t the first time he mentioned the emails. But he changed the number from 30,000, which was in media reports, to the weirdly specific 33,000. We also know that in September, Michael Flynn commissioned someone to try to get these emails specifically from Russian hackers, whom he suspected had them.
One last note: all we really need now is someone to prove @realDonaldTrump knew. He used an unsecured Android device until March. So Russia, if you’re listening…
But, then again, maybe we don’t need that.
Did Donald Trump’s first-born, son-in-law, or campaign manager at any point over the next six months tell him the Russians were trying to help get him elected? Of course, the answer is yes. Which means this story nails Donald Trump for lying about Russian contacts and, more importantly, about knowing whether Russia was trying to help get him elected, for the last year. He lied about it to the American people again and again and again and again and again. Mr. Trump has just been (all but) proven to have lied for the ENTIRE CAMPAIGN.
I mean, if DJTJ withheld this from his dad, shouldn’t the President have flown into a rage today at being blindsided by his own son after a year of making now-embarrassing vociferous, flat-out denials of any contacts with Russia during the campaign?
So: what did the president know, and when did he know it? To get an idea, we can return to one under-reported line that I mentioned at the top of this piece:
Again: “part of” necessitates the knowledge of other parts. DJTJ, at minimum, must have therefore known some of the other parts of the Russian government’s support for Mr. Trump.
Which brings us back to the very simple question no one is asking yet: if they had DJTJ’s emails, why wouldn’t they have Trump’s? Why wouldn’t they have Rhona’s?
Might want to flag this for future reference. To quote the president, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF THE NATION IS AT STAKE!”