On Sunday, the New York Times released a bombshell report which revealed that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer with Kremlin connections shortly after Trump won the Republican nomination. He intended to receive information to damage the Clinton campaign. The NYT followed up with another report on Monday night, that claimed Trump Jr. knew the information originally came from the Russian government, and that the Russians were trying to help the campaign.
This report is certainly ethically damning to the Trump campaign, especially because they had a whole lot of time to reveal this meeting over the last several months. It makes it seem like they have something to hide, and it definitely suggests that Trump Jr. intended to collude with the Russian government to benefit his father’s campaign.
But with that being said, this still is not the “smoking gun” that Democrats are looking for to prove collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
According to the NYT, a former British tabloid reporter, Rob Goldstone, told Trump Jr. that he, through the father of a pop star who he represents, knew a Russian lawyer that had “compromising information about Hillary Clinton.” Goldstone reportedly claimed that the information came from the Russian government, in an effort to help the Trump campaign.
But this still does not in any way imply actual/successful collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Collusion would imply some sort of successful collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, although this report simply does not indicate that. For this to constitute collusion, it would require Trump Jr. to have requested the Russian government to obtain the information, and actually receive it.
Collusion requires action from both sides.
For there to be collusion, there has to be some sort of request or direction given to the Russians by the Trump campaign or to the Trump campaign by the Russians. But that isn’t what happened here.
It seems that Goldstone informed Trump Jr. that he knew of a well-connected Russian lawyer who had information that could help his father’s campaign. Trump Jr. didn’t care where it came from or why it was being offered to him, so he arranged for a meeting to hear the information. He apparently, in his own words, did not receive any “meaningful information,” and left the meeting disappointed, concluding that it was a waste of time. He then parted ways with the lawyer without any sort of follow-up meeting planned with her or with any other person connected to the Russian government.
There is no evidence of legitimate information being passed on to Trump Jr.. There is no evidence of collusion.
However, this doesn’t mean that the meeting was ethical. Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer from the George Bush White House, suggested this meeting “borders on treason,” because Trump Jr. likely knew, or should have known, that any information he gained from the meeting was probably obtained through spying.
Additionally, Trump Jr. and the rest of the Trump campaign continue to change their stories as more information continues to be revealed, which suggests that there may be more that they are hiding.
Indeed, according to the Monday night NYT report, Trump Jr. initially failed to reveal that this meeting occurred. He then claimed the meeting was focused on American adoptions of Russian children. But now he’s admitting that he went into the meeting expecting to gain damaging information about Hillary.
This may not be the “smoking gun” sought by the left, but this does not shed a positive light on the Trump administration which has been trying to rid itself of this never-ending Trump-Russia narrative.
As I said before, it seems very likely that Trump Jr. intended to collude with the Russians in this one individual case to get information helpful to the campaign. But once again, there is no hard evidence supporting them.
But that fact won’t stop the Democrats from taking this story and saying the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, and continued to collude with the foreign government throughout the rest of the election.
Be ready for the left to start accusing Trump campaign’s of demanding Russian hacking, regardless of if there’s evidence of it or not.
Update 07/11/17: Donald Trump Jr. released his entire email chain regarding his meeting with the Russian lawyer. There is no indication that he was informed of the Russians’ intent to meddle in the U.S. 2016 Presidential election. But, Goldstone did state in an email the meeting with the government attorney was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”