The email chain between Donald Trump Jr. and Rob Goldstone, the publicist brokering a meeting between the Trump campaign and a Kremlin-linked lawyer, could hardly be more incriminating.
By explicitly linking the source of the information to the Russian government and by describing it as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone made crystal clear that he was offering the campaign a chance to collude — yes, that word is appropriate here — with a foreign government to “incriminate Hillary” Clinton and help win the presidency.
By reacting as he did, eagerly accepting the offer of this foreign aid, Trump Jr. made clear that he was a willing part of this incipient conspiracy — and yes, that word is appropriate here, too. “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” he responded, within minutes of receiving the inquiry.
NO! There is only one correct response to an email of this type — alert your campaign lawyer and have him call the FBI.
That Trump Jr.’s response to the offer of a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” was the precise opposite — moving to set it up with “Paul Manafort (campaign boss)” and “my brother-in-law,” Jared Kushner — is telling.
That Trump Jr.’s response now is to assert that he thought this was an offer of run-of-the-mill “political opposition research” that took place “before the current Russian fever was in vogue” is beyond telling, about his political and legal obtuseness. Maybe vacuuming up dirt from any available source and using it against your opponent is the Trump way, but it isn’t the American way. It isn’t permitted by U.S. law, which explicitly prohibits accepting “anything of value” from a foreign government agent.
Many, many questions remain here. What did the others involved in the meeting — especially Kushner, now a senior White House adviser — know about its provenance? Did they see the email chain? What, exactly, happened at the meeting? What, if anything, happened afterward?
What did President Trump know about this meeting and when? White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said he learned of it only recently. We have had too much experience with this White House to simply accept that assertion at face value. For one thing, Trump Jr. was in constant contact with his father. For another, Goldstone specifically raised the possibility of sharing it with the candidate: “I can also send this info to your father via Rhona [Trump’s longtime assistant, Rhona Graff], but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.”
This is a staggering development in a staggering week.