Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday tweeted images of an email chain and a statement about his meeting last year with a Russian attorney “in order to be totally transparent.” It is a little too late to claim credit for transparency, however.
President Trump's oldest son told the New York Times in March that he might have attended meetings with Russians while the White House race was in progress — he is a businessman, after all — “but none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form.”
Trump Jr. has changed his story four times since then, most recently in Tuesday's tweet, which was a response to the Times's having obtained emails that show he agreed to meet the Russian lawyer after being offered “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was described to Trump Jr. before their meeting on June 9, 2016, as a “Russian government attorney” who would share information as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Here is a recap of when and how Trump Jr. has altered his explanation of events.
Saturday, after the Times first reported that Trump Jr. met with Veselnitskaya: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”
Sunday, after the Times reported that Trump Jr. was promised damaging info about Clinton: “After pleasantries were exchanged, 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.”
Monday, after the Times reported that Trump Jr. was told that the info he would receive was part of a Russian government effort to influence the U.S. election: Trump Jr. pivoted to a claim that the meeting with Veselnitskaya was merely normal opposition research.
Tuesday, after the Times obtained emails between Trump Jr. and Ron Goldstone, an associate who brokered the meeting: “To put this in context, this occurred before the current Russian fever was in vogue.”
The progression of Trump Jr.'s position can be summarized like this:
- I never represented the campaign in a meeting with a Russian.
- Actually, I did, but the meeting was about adoption.
- Well, the pretext of the meeting was incriminating information about Clinton, but we didn't actually get any.
- This kind of meeting is totally normal.
- The meeting didn't seem like such a bad idea at the time because the media wasn't focused on Russia yet.
Trump Jr.'s inconsistencies make it harder for his father to dismiss the unfolding Russia story as a media creation.