Trump Jr isn’t hold­ing that smok­ing gun

The Southland Times - - COMMENT&OPINION -

Like the dili­gent jour­nal­ist I am, I went on­line within min­utes of the news that Don­ald Trump Jr had put ‘‘in­crim­i­nat­ing’’ emails about his meet­ing with Rus­sian lawyer and lob­by­ist Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya on Twit­ter. I opened The Wash­ing­ton Post site and there, nes­tled be­tween the para­graphs of their lead story on Trump Jr, was an ad for a box set of The Walk­ing Dead. And I thought . . .

Well, ac­tu­ally, I thought that this stinks to high heaven but it is still not the ‘‘smok­ing gun’’. The dead will con­tinue to walk around for a while yet.

The emails prove that Ju­nior (not a naive youth but a 39-year-old busi­ness­man who has fre­quently done work in Rus­sia) met the Rus­sian lob­by­ist in the Trump Tower to­gether with Ivanka’s hus­band Jared Kush­ner and Paul Manafort, then the elder Trump’s cam­paign man­ager. They had been told that Ve­sel­nit­skaya was a ‘‘Rus­sian gov­ern­ment lawyer’’.

The emails also show that Trump Jr be­lieved Ve­sel­nit­skaya would ‘‘pro­vide the Trump cam­paign with some of­fi­cial doc­u­ments and in­for­ma­tion that would in­crim­i­nate Hil­lary and her deal­ings with Rus­sia and would be very use­ful to your fa­ther’’. That’s what Rob Gold­stone, the slip­pery Bri­tish mu­sic pub­li­cist who acted as a go-be­tween, told him.

Trump Jr (and pre­sum­ably Kush­ner and Manafort too) were al­ready well aware that Vladimir Putin’s regime wanted Don­ald Trump to win the pres­i­dency and was willing to help. ‘‘This is ob­vi­ously very high level and sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion but is part of Rus­sia and its gov­ern­ment’s sup­port for Mr Trump,’’ said Gold­stone’s ini­tial email, which did not elicit any ex­pres­sion of sur­prise or re­quest for fur­ther de­tails from Ju­nior and his friends.

Fi­nally, the emails show that the US pres­i­dent’s el­dest son was very en­thu­si­as­tic about the idea that he could get some dirt on Hil­lary Clin­ton from the Rus­sians.

But the emails do not show what ac­tu­ally hap­pened at the meet­ing. For that we only have Trump Jr’s word and, as long as the other two men back him up, he can say what­ever he likes about it.

Trump Jr’s ac­count of what was said at the meet­ing has changed sev­eral times in the past week but the gen­eral im­pres­sion he is try­ing to cre­ate is that some ran­dom weird lady got a meet­ing with him un­der false pre­tences. Then, when they ac­tu­ally met, she just ram­bled on about Amer­i­cans adopt­ing Rus­sian or­phans.

Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t, but Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya is not some ran­dom weird lady. She is a re­spected Rus­sian lawyer who has been lead­ing a lob­by­ing ef­fort to get Amer­i­can sanc­tions against var­i­ous Rus­sian oli­garchs who are close to the Krem­lin dropped for some years now. And she has close con­nec­tions to the Krem­lin her­self.

The meet­ing in the Trump Tower took place in June, 2016, when Don­ald Trump was still just a can­di­date (although the lead­ing can­di­date) for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion. But later in the sum­mer, by some strange co­in­ci­dence, Ju­nior’s hopes for a ma­jor Rus­sian strike against Hil­lary Clin­ton were mirac­u­lously ful­filled.

A week af­ter his meet­ing with Ve­sel­nit­skaya, the servers of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee were hacked (by the Rus­sians, ac­cord­ing to the unan­i­mous con­clu­sion of all the US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies).

Then, just be­fore the Democrats held their na­tional con­ven­tion in late July, there was a large dump of emails on Wik­iLeaks show­ing that the DNC has sys­tem­at­i­cally loaded the dice in favour of Hil­lary Clin­ton and against Bernie San­ders.

So there it all is, and it wouldn’t be enough to im­peach Don­ald Trump even if the Democrats con­trolled Congress.

In fact, the Repub­li­cans have ma­jori­ties in both the Se­nate and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and Trump wouldn’t be im­peached even if he was caught in bed (as they say in Wash­ing­ton) with a live boy or a dead girl.

It isn’t the smok­ing gun be­cause we will never know what was re­ally said in that meet­ing. It is very hard to be­lieve that Don­ald Trump him­self didn’t know about the meet­ing when his three clos­est po­lit­i­cal ad­vis­ers were all there but his de­nial will stand un­less one of those three men chooses to say oth­er­wise.

Yet he re­ally is a ‘‘dead man walk­ing’’. It will be a very long walk - the slow death of a thou­sand lit­tle cuts - but the steady drip of mi­nor and ma­jor rev­e­la­tions about his Rus­sian links (and other em­bar­rass­ing top­ics) will con­tinue.

And one day his tax re­turns will prob­a­bly be leaked, which could be the fi­nal blow.

He won’t be im­peached but he’s not hav­ing fun any more, and at some point it will all get too much for him. He will sim­ply re­sign (he’s in his 70s, so he can just plead ill health) – and we will get Pres­i­dent Pence in­stead.

Gwynne Dyer is an in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ist whose ar­ti­cles are pub­lished in 45 coun­tries.

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