Russia collusion? Sure looks like it
For months Americans have been left to wonder whether members of Donald Trump’s surprising election victory team colluded with the Russian government to hurt Hillary Clinton and boost their man. Now we see clear evidence that the top-most members of Trump’s campaign met with a Kremlin-connected attorney to receive what was said to be damaging information on Clinton from Russian government files.
The development, uncovered by The New York Times, looks just awful, and it was confirmed Tuesday by Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. Also damning, Trump Jr. tried for days to lie his way out from under the story, demonstrating his father’s similar willingness to dodge, duck and obfuscate.
How awful is this? We’ll have to see how it plays out, of course, but it’s the most concrete evidence to date that members of the campaign were, in fact, willing to work with the Russians. Consider: Trump’s campaign leadership agreed to accept information from a hostile government meant to damage their opponent in a presidential election. The evidence doesn’t suggest Donald Trump knew of the meeting, but we do know that the president has been aware of the meeting now for at least several days and kept his silence.
The evidence, contained in an email exchange — and strangely tweeted out by Trump Jr. — also directly counters President Trump’s past assertions that federal investigators were wrong to open an investigation into possible Russia-Trump collusion.
Early last June, after President Trump had secured his party’s nomination, Trump Jr., then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kusher, who is now also a top presidential aide, agreed to meet in Trump Tower with the Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, anticipating that she would deliver serious dirt on Clinton.
The request for the meeting came from a Russian pop star publicist well-known to the Trumps, in part because the singer worked with the elder Trump to host the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013. The pop star’s father is Aras Agalarov, a Russian real estate hotshot who is friendly to Donald Trump and who worked with him to try to bring a Trump Tower to Moscow. The publicist, Rob Goldstone, emailed the junior Trump that Russia’s top prosecutor was willing to provide the Trump campaign “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
The pitch continued: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump Jr.’s response? “If it’s what you say, I love it especially later in the summer.”
Meanwhile, Trump Jr., while trying to cover his tracks over the weekend, said nothing came of the meeting, and that Veselnitskaya’s dirt on Clinton didn’t make sense. As the Trumps see it, this is nothing but a nothing-burger.
But turn this story around. What if top Clinton campaign managers agreed to meet with a hostile government to gain dirt on Donald Trump? Imagine the outcry.
We’re glad our nation’s intelligence agents have withstood the president’s withering attacks on their leadership and integrity as they try to get to the bottom of this story. The American people deserve to know what happened. These emails demonstrate an eagerness of the president’s own son to accept dirt dredged up by the Russian government — the concerning thing is we don’t know where that lapse in ethics and judgment begins or ends.