◆ The big story continues to be fallout from Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer.
Amid the firestorm, it is important to remember what matters and why.
Comment and Analysis:
- What matters is less the meeting itself and more the reasons DJT, Jr., himself says he wanted to have it after being told it involved information from the Russian government, which (he was told) wanted to help his father
- That help was not given at the meeting.
- If it had been given, it probably would not have been illegal
- But it is a terrible idea to accept help from a foreign government.
- It is even worse when the government is an adversary. And it is still worse when it is part of a multi-pronged attempt by the foreign government to interfere in the US election.
- It completely obliterates the Trump White House’s denials for months that they had no contacts with Russian government agents during the campaign.
- It is now consuming Washington, damaging the Trump presidency, and making it more difficult for him to move forward on health care, taxes, immigration, and other policy issues
More information will continue to dribble out, such as yesterday’s story about how Loretta Lynch’s DOJ let the lawyer. Natalia Veselnitskaya, into the country and today’s story that one of the lobbyists the lawyer brought to the meeting was an ex-Russian intel officer.
To me, the main questions now about the Trump side are whether
- There were more contacts?
- This was just chaos and confusion at the Trump campaign or part of a coherent plan and, if so, did the plan bear any fruit?
- The Democrats (Hillary, the DNC, their donors) had any hand in this or other dirty tricks?
- Manafort, the experienced guy on the Trump side, knew about the extent of the Russian involvement?
- This sought-after cooperation with the Russians involved the nominee himself?
Now that this line of inquiry has opened up, it is also important to know what contacts the Clinton campaign had with foreign-government agents, especially those of unfriendly governments. Those would show that this game is played by all sides and show her campaign’s intent. BUT the Clinton campaign’s activities are much less important now because she lost.
Trump is in the Oval Office so his campaign’s integrity, or lack of it, matters more.
Everyone seems to think the Russians are loving this mess. I’m sure they do–but they probably have more mixed opinions since their fingerprints are all over the room and, because of that, are blocked from all but minor, tactical cooperation with the US. Who could doubt they are adversaries and malevolent actors?
Question: Was this meeting a criminal offense, as Trump’s sharpest critics have charged.
Answer: Most experienced attorneys have said that the information made public so far is not a prosecutable crime. But that it hardly the end of the matter.
It is still a nasty business politically. It is either a political “crime,” or at least an attempted one, or else extraordinary incompentence. The presence of an experienced operative like Paul Manafort being part of this is inexplicable and disturbing.
It’s not the end for another reason: further information might still come to light and suggest crimes really were commited. You can be certain that the mainstream media, which loathes Trump and now sees blood in the water, will spare no resources to investigate those possibilities. Plus, there’s Mueller’s investigation. Nobody is getting away with anything here.