Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who claimed to have information that could harm Hillary Clinton. The intermediary tells Trump Jr. that the information comes from high-up in the Russian government — the crown prosecutor of Russia, in fact, who is an appointee of Vladimir Putin (but then again, aren’t they all.)
At first Trump Jr. says it’s all a bunch of fake news. Once The New York Times contacts him about emails corroborating their story, he takes the initiative and releases a four-page email chain feigning transparency. Despite Don Jr.’s posting, nothing in the email is exculpatory. In many ways, the full context is worse than Times’ story. While I’m sure many campaigns — including the Clintons’ — have dabbled in this kind of sordid effort, it’s still unethical.It doesn’t matter if Rob Goldstone, the, um, colorful go-between, was lying about the source of the information. Because the fact is that three trusted members of Donald Trump’s campaign — his son, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort — were willing to take a meeting with a foreign agent to see oppo research they assumed was passed on from another government. Which, aside from all other things, is inconceivably stupid.
Other than that, I’m not exactly sure what people want from Republicans at this point. They’re not going to impeach a president because his son spoke to a Russian lawyer. The Senate voted 98-to-2 (and those two votes were from senators who can hardly be categorized as pro-Trump) last month to effectively check Trump on Russia sanctions. (We’ll see if the House follows suit.) This is an unprecedented rebuke of the foreign policy power of a ruling party’s president. Do Democrats want Republicans to call for a second independent counsel? Do they want Republicans to start up a third investigation in Congress?You can condemn Don Jr.’s actions because they’re sleazy. But there is a long way to go before any responsible person starts making incendiary claims about treason.