President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted out a series of emails from the 2016 campaign Tuesday, showing that he agreed to a meeting with a “Russian government lawyer” who was said to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton. The offer was part of “Russia and its government’s support” for the Trump team, according to the emails.
The tweeted emails blew up on Twitter and confirmed previous reporting, particularly from the New York Times, about Trump Jr. being offered potentially compromising information about Clinton from the Russian government. Among Trump’s online base, however, the emails meant basically one thing: that the mainstream media got owned again.
“BOOM! Donald Trump Jr. Beats #FakeNews and Releases Entire Email Chain on Meeting Russian Lawyer,” read a headline on Gateway Pundit shortly after Trump Jr.’s tweets. The pro-Trump site was picking up on an insta-reaction from Charlie Kirk, who founded Turning Point USA and campaigned with Trump.
Others on the pro-Trump Internet followed with their own similar, instant analyses. “NY Times story blown out of the water,” Jack Posobiec tweeted. He then hopped on Periscope, the live-streaming service, to tell his followers that mainstream reports on the significance of those emails was nothing more than “confirmation bias.”
“This is not proof of anything,” Posobiec said. “You’ve got an email from one source who’s this fat nutjob who says Russia supports Trump.” Based on context, Posobiec was probably referring to Rob Goldstone, a music publicist. Goldstone represented Emin Agalarov, whose father, Aras, is an Azerbaijani Russian businessman with connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Father and son were both referenced in the email exchange.
Other insta-analyses around the Trump Internet defended and celebrated Trump Jr.’s emails, which the son of the president published after the New York Times had obtained them and was preparing to publish a story about it. A stickied thread on r/The_Donald, a popular pro-Trump message board on Reddit, cheered Trump Jr.’s decision to tweet the emails. Mike Cernovich tweeted that the emails proved “the lying NY Times fabricated another fake story.” And Scott Adams, the Dilbert creator who has become an active voice on the pro-Trump Internet, launched his own Periscope to discuss the emails with his fans.
Adams seemed certain that the emails contained no evidence that Trump Jr. had done anything wrong or even sketchy. “In what country do we live where listening to somebody talk in America is illegal?” he said.
As BuzzFeed reported this week, Trump’s online base of support was already rallying around Trump Jr. in response to the New York Times’s series of reports on the Trump son’s meeting. An anonymous pro-Trump Internet personality told BuzzFeed on Monday that when “liberal Fake News starts its coordinated attack on Don Jr., the pro-Trump online ecosystem tries to defend him as best we can.”
Trump Jr. — particularly his Twitter feed — has been a reliable presence in the pro-Trump Internet. Last week, for instance, when Trump supporters were accusing CNN of “blackmailing” an Internet troll who created a version of an anti-CNN meme that was later tweeted by the president, Trump Jr. joined in. Trump Jr. later found his own anti-CNN meme to tweet.
The Trump Internet is in constant collision with mainstream media, and the way in which today’s news played out online is no exception. The emergent narrative, as it was now, is almost always one of victory. Remember the Comey hearings, which confirmed several anonymously sourced stories about the Trump administration? The Trump Internet found plenty to celebrate in the hearings, too. And that narrative was crafted almost instantly as the hearings unfolded, particularly by a gleeful live-tweeting session by one of the Trump Internet’s best-known members. He was, of course, Trump Jr. himself: