The New York Times has published another bombshell that is raising the issue of collusion and causing a member of President Donald Trump’s inner circle to issue changing explanations. This time it involves Donald Trump, Jr.
President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.
The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times.
The Times reported the existence of the meeting on Saturday. But in subsequent interviews, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it.
The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.
While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving his inner circle during the campaign — as well as the first one known to have included his eldest son. It came at an inflection point in the campaign, when Donald Trump Jr., who served as an adviser and a surrogate, was ascendant and Mr. Manafort was consolidating power.
It is unclear whether the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, actually produced the promised compromising information about Mrs. Clinton. But the people interviewed by The Times about the meeting said the expectation was that she would do so.
The Times report notes that when asked about this meeting on Saturday, Donald Trump, Jr. said it was mainly about adoptions and he didn’t mention anything about Hillary Clinton.
Now his explanation has since been…refined:
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.
Two people briefed on the meeting said the intermediary was Rob Goldstone, a former British tabloid journalist and the president of a company called Oui 2 Entertainment who has worked with the Miss Universe pageant. He did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
And the President? His lawyer’s spokesman’s response was like Sgt. Schultz’s on the old show Hogan’s Heroes:
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president’s lawyer, said on Sunday that “the president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”
SOME REACTION ON TWITTER:
In the Bush Administration we would have had him in custody for questioning by now https://t.co/MSwr3DsbHs
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) July 9, 2017
Don Jr called it "phony" to say Russia was trying to hurt Clinton 6 wks after he met w/Russians to plot against herhttps://t.co/spb4g1xBif
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) July 9, 2017
Donald Trump Jr. just confessed to the Trump campaign's Russia collusion. Impeachment should begin NOW.
— Kaivan Shroff (@KaivanShroff) July 9, 2017
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) July 9, 2017
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) July 9, 2017
Donald Trump Jr. Just Accidentally Confirmed Trump Was Trying To Collude With Russia, Opening The Impeachment Door. https://t.co/W6Mhj0mfg6
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) July 9, 2017
By this time tomorrow, Donald Trump Jr. will claim he was trying to get the Russians to adopt him.
— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) July 9, 2017
"I can't remember a time when a White House was so incapable of getting their story straight and defend themselves."
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) July 9, 2017
What POTUS' son admits to in this statement is jaw dropping in and of itself. https://t.co/L9QhnQ8s8f
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) July 9, 2017
Old talking point: “There’s no evidence of collusion.”
New talking point: “Collusion’s not a crime."
— David Frum (@davidfrum) July 10, 2017
FLASHBACK: Mike Pence January 2017.
Q: Did any Trump campaign member have contact with the Russians?
Pence: "Of course not." pic.twitter.com/uSgQMkpydv
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 9, 2017
A couple more things re: Don Jr statement. I guess we now have evidence of attempted collusion beyond "find the 30,000 emails" (joke?)
— Liz Mair (@LizMair) July 9, 2017
Notable fact here: 3 days after the meeting, Assange announced he would be publishing Clinton emails. https://t.co/fLgTgA0qCn
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) July 9, 2017
Aaaaand there's the Hannity "rebuttal" https://t.co/jTU1AITrHB
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 9, 2017
The story now shifts from presidential collusion to congressional complicity https://t.co/oVHrjL7CDH
— David Frum (@davidfrum) July 9, 2017
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