The New York Times broke the news that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, with ties to the Kremlin who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
He didn’t deny that the meeting took place. He gave the following account:
When he was first asked about the meeting on Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. said that it was primarily about adoptions and mentioned nothing about Mrs. Clinton.
But on Sunday, presented with The Times’s findings, he offered a new account. In a statement, he said he had met with the Russian lawyer at the request of an acquaintance from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which his father took to Moscow. “After pleasantries were exchanged,” he said, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
He said she then turned the conversation to adoption of Russian children and the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The 2012 law so enraged President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that he halted American adoptions of Russian children.
“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting,” Mr. Trump said.
He offered screen shots of emails that were sent in preparation for the meeting showed they knew of the offer of information before the meeting
The primary problem with this news is the optics. It just looks wrong. The fact it wasn’t disclosed makes it look like they are hiding something. It also makes Donald Trump Jr. a person of interest in investigations into potential collusion with Russia. His statement that he did not meet with any Russian on behalf of the campaign rings hollow since he took this meeting along with Paul Manafort (the campaign chair) and his brother-in-law Jared Kushner.
That said, this is nowhere near a smoking gun. It is shady certainly, but it is not illegal nor does it prove collusion. It was an incredibly stupid decision, however, and it does give investigators motivation to do more digging to see if there is more there.
Before Democrats jump all over this news, they shouldn’t forget that the late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) had secret contacts with the Soviet Union to prevent President Ronald Reagan’s reelection that came to light in 1992.
Democrats also did not seem to have a problem with Trump’s political opponents contacting former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele for the dirt he supposedly had on Donald Trump.
So while the investigation continues Democrats can spare the American people the moral outrage unless they are willing to condemn their own in the process.