It’s of­fi­cial: Trump camp wanted help from Putin govern­ment

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ALEXAN­DER PANETTA WASHINGTON —

It’s not an anti-Trump con­spir­acy and it’s not fake news. It’s a ba­sic fact no longer in dis­pute: Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign tried get­ting help from Vladimir Putin’s govern­ment to win an Amer­i­can elec­tion, as re­vealed in emails re­leased Tues­day in a wa­ter­shed mo­ment fol­low­ing a year-long con­tro­versy over sus­pected Rus­sian elec­tion-med­dling.

Emails re­leased by the pres­i­dent’s own son, Don­ald Trump Jr., show that he was in­vited last year to meet a wo­man de­scribed as a Rus­sian govern­ment lawyer, and was told this wo­man had dirt col­lected by the Rus­sian govern­ment, in an at­tempt by them to smear Hil­lary Clin­ton and in­flu­ence the U.S. elec­tion.

The pres­i­dent’s el­dest son re­sponded to the in­vi­ta­tion by set­ting up a meet­ing at Trump Tower, invit­ing his brother-in­law and cur­rent White House staffer Jared Kush­ner and bring­ing along Krem­lin-linked cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort.

“We have some time (to meet),” Trump replied to his friend. “If it’s what you say I love it.” The Trump team has spent a year deny­ing ties with Rus­sia, and deny­ing col­lu­sion. But the pres­i­dent’s son re­leased four pages of emails Tues­day, af­ter the New York Times had re­ported on them.

Trump Jr. has agreed to tes­tify be­fore a con­gres­sional com­mit­tee, pend­ing an in­vi­ta­tion. The sud­den twist in the Rus­sia af­fair came af­ter the news­pa­per re­ported on a meet­ing set up at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, by a globe-trot­ting music im­pre­sario who knows the Trump fam­ily through one of his clients.

A five-star no­mad whose Face­book page fea­tures a string of pic­tures from exotic lo­cales, Rob Gold­stone in­formed the can­di­date’s son that a mu­tual friend had met with a Rus­sian fed­eral prose­cu­tor who had dirt to dish.

“(This) would in­crim­i­nate Hil­lary and her deal­ings with Rus­sia and would be very use­ful to your fa­ther,” Gold­stone wrote. “This is ob­vi­ously very high level and sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion but is part of Rus­sia and its govern­ment’s sup­port for Mr. Trump.”

He of­fered to set up a meet­ing with Trump Jr. and some­one he de­scribed this way: “A Rus­sian govern­ment at­tor­ney.”

The at­tor­ney in ques­tion, Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, has de­nied con­nec­tions to the Rus­sian govern­ment. But she told NBC News in an in­ter­view that the Trump team was very in­ter­ested in what she had to say. The Trump in­ner cir­cle says the meet­ing was a bust; Ve­sel­nit­skaya didn’t de­liver any­thing of value, they say and the en­counter ended af­ter about a half-hour.

In a brief state­ment from the White House, Pres­i­dent Trump said: “My son is a high-qual­ity per­son. And I ap­plaud his trans­parency.”

The White House has re­ferred all other ques­tions to lawyers. Three mem­bers of the Trump fam­ily have re­tained at­tor­neys in the Rus­sia af­fair as le­gal ex­perts weigh in on whether the known facts al­ready fit the def­i­ni­tion of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, elec­tion-law vi­o­la­tions, con­spir­acy, crim­i­nal fail­ure to dis­close for­eign con­tacts on govern­ment se­cu­rity forms and even more se­ri­ous charges like es­pi­onage and trea­son. Repub­li­cans have cir­cled the wag­ons, mostly ridi­cul­ing the story.

“Washington’s ob­sessed right now. It is the Demo­cratic talk­ing point du jour. But when I go back to Texas, no­body asks about Rus­sia,” Sen. Ted Cruz said ear­lier Tues­day, be­fore the emails were re­leased.

Yet there are now mul­ti­ple con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions, as well as a spe­cial coun­sel. In re­cent weeks, Trump fa­ther and son had been tak­ing shots at the spe­cial coun­sel, us­ing their so­cial me­dia ac­counts to sug­gest Robert Mueller is bi­ased and that his in­ves­ti­ga­tion is a waste of time. There was one more devel­op­ment late Tues­day: ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple re­ports, Trump Jr.’s email ex­change and meet­ing is now be­ing probed by the spe­cial coun­sel.

CAROLYN KASTER, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Don­ald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in New York in this photo from Nov. 16, 2016.

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