President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to call his son, Don Jr. a “great person who loves his country.”
That may well be true. There should be a baseline assumption that all Americans are, to some extent or another, patriotic.
But it is also equally true that he is shockingly naive, at least, colossally stupid at worst, or merely disgustingly cynical, for actively seeking information in June 2016 from an apparent agent of hostile power intended to undermine his father’s political opponent.
In a tweet that Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post accurately describes as “collusion-y,” Trump Jr. confirmed that he, White House consigliere Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, sat down with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
The meeting was set up by music impressario Rob Goldstone, who told Trump that a Russian contact (Veselnitskaya) had 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.”
Trump Jr. stunningly, responded, “If it’s what you say, I love it especially later in the summer.”
Veselnitskaya has issued the expected denial that she never possessed “damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that.”
Asked by NBC News how the Trumpies could have arrived at such a conclusion, Veselnitskaya said that “it is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted.”
It is also quite possible to imagine Veselnitskaya laughing inwardly to herself, in a very Russian way, at Trump Jr. being caught in such a snare.
In the wake of his son’s appearance on administration PR agent/Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program on Tuesday, Trump tweeted that DTJR was now the subject of the “greatest witch hunt in political history.”
Let’s be clear: Campaigns seek out, and compile, damaging information about their rivals all the time. So, on one level, Trump Jr. was correct that he’s not the first person to take a meeting to learn about such stuff.
But there is a bright-line distinction between run-of-the mill opposition research, such as compiling a dossier on a candidate’s past, conflicting statements, financial dealings, or voting records, and meeting with an apparent agent of a hostile foreign power set on tilting the election to the then-presumptive Republican nominee.
Any campaign operative with a grain of sense would tell you that they would have not taken such a meeting. And they would have gone to authorities – as Al Gore’s campaign did in 2000, when it received a debate briefing book stolen from rival George W. Bush.
“Every other campaign would have called the FBI,” tweeted Norman Eisen, a former Obama official and the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.
But they didn’t. And that matters.
Trump Jr., has very publicly admitted to taking that meeting with Veselnitskaya. And it’s a sure bet that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking at it very closely.
Still, that’s a long way from charges, conviction, or impeachment, or any of the other daydreams Democrats have of toppling a White House that is its own worst enemy on its very best days.
But any claim that the Trump campaign did not have dealings with Russia has now been soundly blown out of the water. It was a lie to begin with.