Rus­sia col­lu­sion? Sure looks like it

The Denver Post - - OPINION -

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.

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