Did Donald Trump Jr. confess to a crime this afternoon? And if so, does he even know it?
Since Saturday, Trump Jr. has been windmilling wildly, trying to defend himself against a series of New York Times stories about a June 2016 meeting between young Donald, his father’s campaign manager Paul Manafort, brother-in-law Jared Kushner (now a senior Trump adviser), and a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya. At every step, he’s made things worse for himself, and perhaps his father. But on Monday he may have delivered the knockout punch—against himself.
Just as the Times published a shocking new piece detailing e-mail messages sent to him by Rob Goldstone, a music publicist, promising “very high level and sensitive information” about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Donald Jr. released the entire e-mail chain himself, on Twitter. In it, he appears to be committing the crime of accepting campaign help from a foreign government. Gleefully.
“If it’s what you say I love it,” Trump quickly replied to Goldstone, adding, “especially later in the summer,” in what seems to be a reference to when the campaign might deploy such damaging information against its opponent. Goldstone, who represents Russian singer Emin Agalarov, the son of Aras Agalarov, a real-estate tycoon who is a crony of both Trump Sr. and Vladimir Putin, told Trump Jr. that both Agalarovs were urging the meeting with a “Russian government attorney,” and he added, tantalizingly, “I can also send this info to your father via Rhona [Trump’s longtime assistant Rhona Graff] but it is ultrasensitive so wanted to send to you first.”
The subsequent e-mails show Donald Jr. quickly pulling together a meeting with Manafort and Kushner. When the meeting time got changed, Trump e-mailed the thread to both Manafort and Kushner, retaining the subject line: “Russia-Clinton: private and confidential.” So much for earlier Trump claims that the men had no idea what they were talking about. After three days of increasingly worse news about Donald Jr., Donald Sr. finally issued a statement: “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.” Then he coldly referred questions to Donald Jr.’s lawyers.
Both Trump and Goldstone told the Times Tuesday that the meeting withVeselnitskaya was a bust. She had no information about Clinton, they claim, and merely delivered an “inane” statement on the Magnitsky Act and Russia’s reactive adoption restrictions. For her part, Veselnitskaya admitted to NBC on Tuesday that the Trump team indeed sought damning information about Clinton, but she claims she didn’t have it, and merely wanted to talk Russia policy. She also insists she has no ties to the Kremlin, which seems untrue, as she is one of the most prominent Russian lobbyists in attempts to repeal the Putin-loathed Magnitsky Act, named for a Russian accountant who discovered corrupt financial dealings among Putin-connected Russian oligarchs, and died, allegedly of a beating by guards, in prison.