The New York Times reported that Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer. In response, Jr. confirmed it by bizarrely releasing the e-mails, so we know that this meeting took place and it was about the Russian government reaching out to help Donald Trump. There is no denying this. It says so right in the freaking e-mails freaking tweeted out by Trump freaking Jr. this morning. This is all so insane. I can’t stop laughing.
It is difficult to tell whether anything came of this meeting (given how quickly this saga is moving, that could change by the end of the day)—but there are some hints, and like always, they come from the moron at the center of all this.
Trump has tweeted about Hillary's e-mails before the above, but this tweet is the first to reference that specific number of e-mails. What makes it stand out is the fact that it came either during or immediately after Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Kremlin-connected lawyer who was promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Trump continued to reference this specific number throughout the summer and into the fall.
Further corroborating this portion of the saga, a report from the Wall Street Journal told the tale of Peter W. Smith—a longtime Republican operative who said that he spoke with Russian government-affiliated entities—and his “focus was [obtaining] some 33,000 emails Mrs. Clinton said were deleted because they were deemed personal.”
So here is what we know:
— Donald Trump Jr. met with a “Russian government attorney” on June 9th, 2016.
— This lawyer “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.”
— Per the e-mail released by Trump Junior: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Reporting on this saga has usually said that Clinton deleted “about 30,000 emails.”
— The day of Trump Jr.’s meeting, Donald Trump made his first reference to 33,000 e-mails.
— The WSJ reported that a GOP operative who said he was working for Michael Flynn was looking for 33,000 emails.
So the question becomes, where did Donald Trump get 33,000 from? Given his disjointed mindset, simple stupidity and confusion is always a good explanation, but the fact that he started tweeting about it at the exact same time that his son met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer promising detrimental information on Hillary Clinton casts doubt on that simple theory. Doubly so when we know that a GOP operative was looking for that specific number as well. Trump Jr.’s e-mails demonstrate that his father’s campaign was clearly interested in working with Russia if it meant taking down Hillary Clinton, and there is a nonzero chance that this Kremlin-connected lawyer vowed to deliver 33,000 Clinton e-mails when speaking to Don Jr. If the lawyer did pledge to hand over that specific amount, then this means that the elder Trump provided the Feds with evidence that he was aware of this meeting by citing the offer the very day that it happened. What a hilarious clusterfuck this is all becoming.
UPDATE: One of our Facebook followers passed along this CNN interview from July 2015 with Hillary Clinton where at the 5:25 mark, Brianna Keilar asks about the “33,000” e-mails. So the figure was out there. But as the Politifact article linked to above demonstrates, most of the media discourse was centered around a general 30,000 number. Trump even used 30,000 in a tweet less than a month before this meeting.
So it’s plausible that Trump could have gotten 33,000 e-mails from CNN (or their source), but the point still stands that he did not start citing this specific figure until the day of the meeting confirmed by his son and between his son, son-in-law, campaign manager and “the Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday.”
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.