The New York Times dropped another bombshell. It is reporting that Donald Trump Jr. received an email in advance of his meeting with a Russian lawyer informing him that the information she would provide about Hillary Clinton was part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign.
The sound you hear is whatever was left of Donald Trump Jr.'s credibility disappearing.
Trump Jr.'s response to the whole Russia matter has been defiant and over-the-top from Day One, as The Washington Post's John Wagner and Rosalind S. Helderman report. In recent days, Trump Jr. initially suggested the meeting was about Russian adoption — which was later contradicted by the revelation that he was promised information on Clinton — and in March he promised that he had not discussed any campaign matters with any Russians. That, too, has now been directly contradicted.
But the most cringe-worthy denial Trump Jr. has given on this may have come in July 2016. Trump Jr. went on CNN and characterized the very idea of the Russians helping his father as crazy — just a month after reportedly receiving an email about precisely that, and then attempting to accept that very same help.
Let's take it piece by piece (with my emphases added):
JAKE TAPPER: So, I don't know if you were hearing earlier, but Robby Mook, the campaign manager for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I asked him about the DNC leak. And he suggested that experts are saying that Russians were behind both the leak — the hacking of the DNC emails and their release. He seemed to be suggesting that this is part of a plot to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. Your response?
TRUMP JR.: Well, it just goes to show you their exact moral compass. I mean, they will say anything to be able to win this. I mean, this is time and time again, lie after lie. You notice he won't say, “Well, I say this.” We hear “experts.”
You know, 'His house cat at home once said that this is what's happening with the Russians.' It's disgusting. It's so phony. I watched him bumble through the interview, I was able to hear it on audio a little bit. I mean, I can't think of bigger lies, but that exactly goes to show you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win.
You hear it with the DNC where they're leaking emails about Bernie Sanders and his Jewish heritage, to be able to try to destroy him in the South. It's a rigged system. It's disgusting and the people who should be fed up because when I heard it I certainly was.
Assuming that this email exists, this interview is now damningly dishonest. Trump Jr. characterizes information that he himself received from Russian-tied sources as lies — innuendo made up by Mook's “house cat.” He even suggests he was taken aback by the ridiculousness of something he was apparently quite familiar with.
Later on in the interview, Trump Jr. even returned to the Russia rumors and continued to beat the drum that this was beyond the pale and that his father's campaign wouldn't engage in this kind of thing.
TAPPER: Lastly, Don, your speech obviously very well received and there are Republicans out there wondering if you might run for office someday yourself. It has even been raised a possible run against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Are these ideas that you're contemplating?
TRUMP JR.: You know, listen, I had a good time up there. It was exciting to be able to have a platform like that to speak my voice because as you can hear from this interview I'm really frustrated with what's going on in this country, Jake. And if I can do that one day I'd love to be able to do it for the people of this country. That's how I can pay back and give something back, I'd love to do it. But right now I'm more concerned about getting my father in there because I know that he will do a wonderful job with that. I know he's going to fight for the people.
You know, it's not going to be about signed (ph) by politics. It's not going to be about divisive politics and emails. You know, accusing people of working with the Russian government. It's not going to be about, you know, going against our opponents calling it a Jewish heritage and try to use that against them in the South.
If Republicans did that it would be disgusting and that's what you're going to see in a Clinton administration. This sort of divisiveness has to stop. They should be ashamed of themselves.
And again, if we did that, if the RNC did that, if my father's campaign did that they'd be calling for people to get the electric chair. So I want my father to win. I know he can fix this country. I know he can take care of the people that needs to be taken care of for a change. And I think we're going to do a great job. So that's my 100 percent focus until November.
That's right: “The electric chair.”
Usually when you know something that would rather not admit, you avoid the subject and offer vague answers that allow you some plausible deniability later on. Trump Jr., though, jumped headlong into denying these Russia rumors with a vocal and passionate denial that now just looks ridiculous.
Given that and his other comments that have fallen apart in recent days, it's difficult to take anything he says seriously at this point.