July 12th, 2017

The Donald Trump Jr. scandal continues

I guess I have to keep writing about this one, because it seems to be the only thing in the news right now. That’s hyperbole, of course, but as Paul Mirengoff of Powerline wrote today (and remember, Mirengoff has not been any sort of kneejerk Trump supporter in the past):

The mainstream media is in a state of ecstasy over the story of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with that Russian lawyer. It’s easy to understand why. After months with nothing to feed on, the media now has a scrap. In this context, the meal feels like a feast.

So, let’s plunge in and feast on some scraps, shall we?

I will now summarize what we know so far, and the conclusions I draw (knowing that things may change with future revelations, if any come):

(1) During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump Jr. was acting as a private citizen campaigning for his father; he didn’t hold any official position in the Trump campaign hierarchy. However, we can assume he certainly was checking in with his father often. The extent of their coordination is unclear, however, and there is no evidence Jr. ever talked to his father about this particular meeting. Trump Jr. denies that he did, and in this case I happen to believe him, because he got absolutely no useful information from the meeting with the Russian lawyer (which occurred in June of 2016, a very busy time for the campaign).

(2) Trump Jr. is said to have publicly denied ever meeting with any Russians. If he did say that, it would be a lie. However, I’d love to get the exact wording of his denial and see what he actually said about this. I haven’t been able to find a word of it so far, so if anyone can find a link please put it in a comment so I can ascertain what he said (for example, whether he said “Russians” or limited the denial to members of the Russian government). I thought I’d struck pay dirt when I saw a link to this video entitled “Trump Jr.’s emails conflict with denials of contact between campaign, Russia,” but when I listened to the video I didn’t hear any conflict between the emails and the denials on the video. Instead, the video featured denials (mostly by other Trump aides) that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russians who’d been meddling with or hacking the US election. Trump Jr’s planned meeting was with a person who might have had dirt on Hillary Clinton (although Trump Jr. expressed his skepticism by adding “if it’s what you say”). But in fact the meeting demonstrated she had no such knowledge at all. It turns out there was nothing with which to collude; her agenda was something else entirely—an adoption law.

(3) When Trump Jr. met with the Russian lawyer (see this for more details about her), he initially thought she was some sort of Russian official but she was not. At what point did he learn that she wasn’t a Russian official? We don’t know; it may have been before the meeting, but it’s certainly likely that he had discovered it at some time before the meeting was over.

(4) Trump Jr. now says this about the incident: “this is before the Russia mania. This is before they were building it up in the press. For me, this was opposition research… So, I think I wanted to hear it out. But really, it went nowhere and it was apparent that that wasn’t what the meeting was actually about.” That seems to have been the case, at least according to reports so far of what transpired.

(5) Trump Jr. was a political neophyte at the time. He says he’s since learned more (I bet that’s true) and would have done things a bit differently.

(6) To me, the single most potentially damaging thing in the emails is this: Goldstone made a reference to Russians trying to help Trump’s campaign. The wording goes

…offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump…

Nothing we have learned so far, however, indicates that Trump Jr. believed there to have been such support from Russia, just because Goldstone referenced it. Receiving an email that alleges something doesn’t mean you accept the premise or have had any previous contacts with the group mentioned, but it is very plausible that Trump Jr. was very intrigued and wanted to learn more (his claim of “opposition research”).

I don’t think I’ve written a single word about Donald Trump Jr. up until this incident came out; he just wasn’t on my radar screen (except I think that in one post I mentioned his childhood reaction to the Trump divorce). So I have no vested interest in defending him. I don’t know what sort of person he is, abominable or upright or anything in between. I try to look at the whole thing in an objective light, and what I see so far is a tempest in a teapot. That could change if more is revealed, but that’s my conclusion at this point.

I think what happened is this: a somewhat naive and in-over-his-head Donald Jr. got a tip that someone might be able to give him some damaging info on his father’s opponent. That would have been fabulous opposition research, nothing seemed illegal about it to him at the time, and he said “Fine.” He should have run it by some lawyers who might have warned him off (or who actually might have said “go ahead,” for all I know), but he didn’t. When the meeting actually occurred, however, it was so disappointing, boring, and unrevealing that he probably did fail to mention it afterward to anyone. It’s even possible he forgot about it till the evidence of it came out later, although he certainly might have remembered it and was covering it up because he knew the opposition would make hay of it.

Not a single bit of this was a crime. Was it smart? No. Was it exemplary or admirable? Absolutely not. But I see it as an example of the type of thing that happens in politics every day—some sort of slightly shady and/or slightly nasty operation that fizzles, and then when asked about it, some sort of denial from the parties that may not be the truth, and certainly is not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Obviously, the investigation into possible links between Trump and Russia will continue, as it should. If a smoking gun is found, so be it. This is not that smoking gun, although the media and the liberal/left will do its utmost to convince us it is, and they may even succeed.

[ADDENDUM: Commenter “Cap’n Rusty” linked to this interesting post by Jerry Pournelle that gives some perspective on how this sort of thing works in most campaigns.]

24 Responses to “The Donald Trump Jr. scandal continues”

  1. Cap'n Rusty Says:

    Jerry Pournelle is very experienced and very smart. He provides an excellent analysis of this media fantasy.

    Excuse his one glaring typo of “May 1916.” We’re lucky Jerry is still alive, and still able to write.

  2. arfldgr Says:

    they didnt learn from the nculear option and other things they are going to tear themselves apart and take everyone else down with them

    House Democrat introduces article of impeachment against Trump
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/house-democrat-introduces-article-of-impeachment-against-trump/article/2628428

  3. arfldgr Says:

    Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., on Wednesday introduced an article of impeachment accusing President Trump of obstruction of justice and alleging that he interfered with the ongoing federal investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

    Sherman revealed the article Wednesday afternoon and argued that Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey in an effort to slow the federal investigation into Russian interference, which amounts to obstruction of justice. He said that Trump “has prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice during a federal investigation” by asking Comey to stop looking into potential violations by former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and threatening Comey before eventually terminating him.

    first of all, pres can pardon, so he cant obstruct..
    duhmmmy..
    and he can pardon his son, no issue

    but the bigger thing is this…
    IF they do this, what do you think will happen AFTER

    and remember one thing:
    they WANT depend on and need a Civil War!!!
    cause that’s just another word for “Revolution”

    at some point, trump can pull his OWN nuclear optoin
    ie. have an EO that opens up the doors into the records of these people on file…

    want to bet that there is a ton of stuff, but its not used because the people elect em, and so, thats that.
    however, Truimp can order and start tons of investigations into all manner of stuff..

    one thing the left never learns despite using it
    and tahts the people they wrong, really really go out of their way to remember, pass it on, and work against them..

  4. Kyndyll G Says:

    I think the really chilling thing here is that this is a message from the far left, which controls the media, the internal cogs of the government, and most of our institutions:

    “Even if you win – ESPECIALLY if you win – you won’t win.”

    We may have beaten their horrific candidate Clinton, but it’s becoming clear that the only eventual outcomes are having beaten her with a lifestyle politico, who would have long since rolled over into Democrat-Lite mode to save his/her skin, or the rare show we’re seeing now, in which the only collusion going on is that between the media and other leftist factions to ruin someone who stands in their way and refuses to roll over.

    Nothing that they have presented thus far is even unusual, much less a crime, and most of what they’ve been shouting from the rooftops all this time has been pure fiction, intended to pacify their infantile lefty audience who cannot understand that Clinton lost because she was a terrible candidate and the majority of the nation (which isn’t just California) showed up and voted for someone else. They simply are never going to stop. At some point, someone answered an email from someone who had once been to Russia, or Melania talked to a family acquaintance who knew someone who knew someone, or … ad infinitum, ad nauseam. If, for some reason, the left decides that we’ve always been at war with EastAsia, they’ll turn on a dime and start making up pseudo-incriminating cr@p based on something other than “…but Russians!”

    Unless you have lived in a plastic bubble locked in a closet with no access to the outside world since you were in a crib, the left could do the same to you, and the folly is in thinking they couldn’t, or wouldn’t.

  5. Cornhead Says:

    I am making a prediction. The only thing that will come out of Mueller’s investigation will be the indictment of the likes of Rice or Power for leaking classified documents and unmasking.

  6. Dave Says:

    What was the right course of action should Don Jr have taken upon learning that allegedly Putin was preferring his father according to the liberals? make a phone call to Putin personally to tell him not to meddle with our election and stop preferring his father over Hillary?

  7. Dave Says:

    If Putin decided that Trump being the president would benefit Russia and took substantial actions to aid Trump’s campaign, please explain to me how was that Trump’s fault? Do the liberals Seriously think Trump could have called Putin personally to make him stop helping him?

    I am sure Putin didn’t favor Obama over Hawkish Mccain or Mitt Romney and didn’t do nothing to try to help Obama win. In 2008 and 2012 Putin must be thinking to himself “Let me sit tight and let Americans choose whoever they want to be their president and not meddle with their elections”

  8. Bill Says:

    Neo – good, thoughtful and fair post. This is an honest question, though. You wrote:

    “Trump Jr. denies that he did, and in this case I happen to believe him, because he got absolutely no useful information from the meeting with the Russian lawyer (which occurred in June of 2016, a very busy time for the campaign).”

    Why do you believe he got absolutely no useful information?

    I mean, maybe he didn’t. Just wondering why that is stated as a fact. Isn’t that just what he said happened? The meeting was “boring”, etc?

  9. Bill Says:

    Regarding the issue of DJT Jr denying past meetings with Russians, you have a good point in that I’m not sure there’s a link for that. In this case it’s more the evolving story behind this meeting (original story was that it had to do with adoptions, no mention of the oppo research).

    I think the person more under fire for that is Jared Kushner, who, as an employee of the WH with top secret clearance, is reported to have failed to report this meeting (which he is reported to have attended) and others as part of his pre-employment disclosures.

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    Bill:

    I have seen no one, not even the anti-Trump MSM, alleging he got any info on the subject at all from the meeting. That includes all parties to the meeting. The Russian lawyer says she was in no position to even have such information. And think about it—if the Trump team had received such information, wouldn’t the information been disseminated to the public in some way, in order to get Hillary into more hot water? That doesn’t seem to have happened, either.

  11. neo-neocon Says:

    Bill:

    There is a difference between omission of an important fact (failing to state the initial motive for the meeting) and a lying denial of something (“I never met with any Russians”).

  12. Yancey Ward Says:

    The more I read about this, the more convinced I am that Veselnitskiya isn’t lying now and wasn’t lying then. The lawyer for the Agalarovs has already stated that Goldstone misrepresented himself in the e-mails to Trump Jr.

    One of the problems with the theory that Veselnitskiya lied to get a foot in the door to lobby the Trumps is that the lie would be so grand that it would completely undermine the purpose of getting the foot in the door- you basically make yourself persona non grata. I was left with two explanations- she didn’t care about the loss of reputation because the purpose was something else entirely, or she simply didn’t know the meeting was taken by Trump Jr. in order to get dirt on Clinton. Given that Trump never knew who was coming to the meeting, it is entirely reasonable and likely that both parties were mislead by Goldstone. What we really need to see are the e-mails between Goldstone and the Agalarovs to see which of them is lying right now.

  13. J.J. Says:

    Why would Putin prefer Trump to Hillary? Trump was for more fossil fuel production, exporting of oil and gas, a stronger military, providing anti-ballistic missile defenses to allies, and more. Things that will not benefit Russia at all.

    I understand that Putin despised both Obama and Clinton because they insisted on continually chiding him about his anti-gay policies and thuggish behavior. The ultimate offense being the way they dissed him at the Sochi Winter games.

    What does Putin want? It appears that respect is high on his list of needs. He never got it from Obama/Hillary. He blames the U.S for the downfall of the USSR, in his mind the greatest tragedy in Russian history. It’s clear that he wants to tweak our noses wherever he can and diss us whenever and wherever he can. He is basically playing with a very weak hand. Low oil prices have killed his economy and weakened his military. It is doubtful that Russia could sustain a real war effort for very long. If the U.S becomes a major exporter of natural gas to the Eurozone, a big Russian customer, things are going to get worse for the Russians. They are no doubt going into debt right now to support their ops in Syria.

    Did Putin believe that he could get more respect from Trump? Does he believe Trump is a playboy weakling? Probably. Vlad is a tough cookie. He believes in manliness and being both mentally and physically tough. He believes in being able to face down weaker men (and women). As an old KGB man he is well acquainted with subterfuge, disinformation, double games, and more.

    Is it possible the Russians were trying to seem to be for Trump, believing that it would help Hillary? After all, it looked like Hillary was a shoo in. Or was Putin just trying to stir the pot, not caring who won as long as he could create chaos in U.S. politics? Whatever, the effect has been incredible chaos. Maybe even more than he could have believed. Putin cannot but be pleased that President Trump is tied down and preoccupied by his political foes at home.

    Enough analysis of the Russian motives for now.

    Now, what actual evidence exists of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians? The smoking gun is the dossier collected by a British former spy who was hired by Fusion GPS, a research firm, (which has quite a history of work for the Democrats) to do opposition research on Donald Trump. Many have declared the dossier to be garbage, but as near as I can tell, it was being used as a road map by the FBI in its investigation of Russian collusion and is now being used by Mueller. The most damaging claim is that the Trump organization paid the hackers who hacked into the DNC computer servers. Since the FBI has been investigating this dossier for many months now, you would think they would have some answers. But no. It is all hidden behind a veil of official secrecy that seems aimed at convincing people that there was collusion.

    If what is claimed by this dossier, that over the last five years Trump had been carefully groomed by Russian agents of influence, it is very serious. If true, we have a President who is under control of the Russians. That is a charge that seems to me requires more than the glacial pace of investigation that has occurred so far. That charge also assumes that somehow, five years ago, the Russians were sure Trump would win the presidency in 2016. How could they even be sure he would run?

    My mind is open to new information, but at this point I think this “is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma;…” Winston Churchill

  14. parker Says:

    “Why would Putin prefer Trump to Hillary?”

    J. J.,

    I raised those same points yesterday. Why indeed? No one had a response to those points. They seem to have amnesia about the sale of 20% of our uranium reserves to a Russian company associated with Podesta and other Clinton ties to Russia.

  15. Dave Says:

    It’s as bright as daylight now that putin favored no one, he just meddled with our election to play with our minds, making us suspicious of each other while creating chaos in our political system to his advantage. Democrats understand that all too well, but their major enemy is trump not putin so they continue with this charade to attempt to get rid of trump disregarding the reality that the path they are on will only embolden putin while undermining our own country. This this why I hate the democrats, they only care about themselves and their powers, they don’t give a darn about America and Americans

  16. Bill Says:

    Parker,

    I don’t know for sure if Putin favored Trump. I doubt that at the beginning Putin thought Trump would win (no one did). It might have been like Limbaugh’s idiotic “Operation Chaos” from 2008 – get people voting for HRC to try to mess up Obama and in generally weaken the D party. That didn’t work so well.

    Heck, I think the Democrats favored Trump as well early on, until he became what he now is, their absolute worst nightmare.

    This is just my opinion: Putin would have been good with Hillary – weakened by scandal and leaks and Trump’s own brand of political chaos – in the presidency, having “won” against Trump in a battle far harder than anyone expected. And while originally implausible, he would be good with Trump, a man that he has the ability to manipulate and – have you noticed this? – a man who has moved the Republican party into a far more favorable stance toward Russia than in a long, long time.

    Putin is extremely shrewd. He maneuvered himself into a win-win situation.

    The thing we shouldn’t have tolerated, regardless who won, has happened. The Russians effected our national election. Whether they had enough effect to actually sway it, I don’t think anyone knows. But despite Trump’s denials, and his internationally public slander of his own intelligence agencies, it seems pretty clear (especially to the aforementioned US Intel Community) that Russia meddled. Hence sanctions. We can’t have this.

  17. parker Says:

    Bill,

    A win-win? Really? HRC was Putin’s preferred candidate. Shut down fracking, check. Shut down off shore drilling, check. Reduce the military budget, check. No support for missile defense systems in eastern Europe, check. How can you not realize hrc was a soft target for Putin considering the ties between the Clinton Foundation and the Russian oligarchy?

    Blindness because of ignorance is one thing, but you are not ignorant. So what am I to conclude. You fill in the blank ____.

    How exactly have the Russians effected our election. Because hrc lost at the Elector College? Give me a fucking break. She lost because she ran a campaign based on the returns in CA, OR, WA, MA,? It doesn’t work that way. It is based on the flover states. Piss down our backs and tell us its just rain and once in a while we piss on you, and we don’t tell you its raining, we just tell you we pissed on your back.

  18. Bill Says:

    Parker – in the opinion I gave you I said that I could see reasons Putin liked either candidate.

    I also said I didn’t know for sure. All that being said, there has been a lot of discussion on both the right and the left over the past two years regarding Trump’s strange admiration for and defense of Putin. He seems manipulatable. Maybe Putin has something on him? I don’t know. Regarding affecting the election – the US IC certainly believes the Russians tried. Did it work? I don’t know. Trump won because of a handful of votes in some key swing states. My belief: he won fair and square because he tapped into a disregarded voting bloc that HRC completely ignored.

    Back to Russia – I have friends in Ukraine who have been displaced from their homes because of Putin and I remember Trump’s weird act of not even realizing Russians were in Crimea. I remember Trump’s dance around whether NATO is still needed. His “that’s a nice country you have there, shame if anything happened to it” posturing with our NATO allies regarding article 5, which he later grudgingly agreed to support. There’s more to Putin than oil. I think he’s plenty happy with Trump.

    I think Putin feels like he can control Trump. Case in point – Trump and his guys announcing Russian did nothing to affect out election after having a conversation with Putin a week ago. Convenient.

    This is my thought-thru opinion, based on what I believe is reasonable evidence. That’s all it is. If you want to believe the worst about me I cant stop you, but if you think “Putin wanted Hillary over Trump” is so obvious that only the blind can’t see it, I think you’re wrong on that. .

  19. Barry Meislin Says:

    Related:
    http://donsurber.blogspot.co.il/2017/07/obama-trapped-donald-jr-to-justify.html

  20. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Bush II saw into Putin’s eyes and saw his soul.

  21. huxley Says:

    “Why would Putin prefer Trump to Hillary?”

    I raised those same points yesterday.

    parker: And I answered you at some point.

    I don’t think Putin preferred Trump. I suspect Putin believed, as most analysts did, Hillary would win the presidency.

    Putin’s goal was to damage Hillary as much as possible so she would be a weak president.

  22. huxley Says:

    It’s intriguing to wonder just how weak Hillary would have been vis-a-vis Putin, considering Putin had hacked years of her homebrew bathroom server.

    God only knows what Putin — along with the NSA, Chinese, Norks et al. — would have had to blackmail Hillary with.

  23. huxley Says:

    She was married when we first met
    Soon to be divorced
    I helped her out of a jam I guess
    But I used a little too much force

    –Bob Dylan, “Tangled Up in Blue”

    That’s a stray thought I had of Putin’s effort to undermine Hillary.

  24. Ymar Sakar Says:

    God only knows what Putin — along with the NSA, Chinese, Norks et al. — would have had to blackmail Hillary with.

    Less than what HRC and the US would have killed Snowden for, which I already mentioned before Snowden even appeared on their radar.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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