A big nothing burger.
That characterization of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian attorney is destined for the historical record — if only for its utter inaccuracy. In fairness to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who said those words, he isn’t the only member of the Trump administration to misrepresent the June 9, 2016, sit-down between the president’s eldest son and Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Several days of dogged reporting from The New York Times forced Trump Jr. yesterday to release the email chain that set up the meeting. There is a whole lot of beef in this burger.
The emails show that:
- A publicist for a Russian family with whom the Trump family had done business offered Trump Jr. a meeting with someone described as a Russian government attorney.
- She supposedly had documents that would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton and “be very useful to your father.”
- The info was “very high level” and “ultra sensitive” and “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
- Trump Jr. responded enthusiastically, writing that “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Let’s be clear: This is not fake news. The information is from emails written by, received and released by the president’s son.
It can’t be dismissed as the usual opposition-research gathering. The offer was from a foreign government, just one more meeting with Russians that President Donald Trump, his family and his top aides keep having to own up to after getting caught for misrepresenting the encounters.
That the meeting apparently led to no action does not mean it can be disregarded, as counselor Kellyanne Conway said. The existence of the meeting, which included then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, harshly rebuts the blanket denials from team Trump that there were no contacts between the campaign and Kremlin representatives. Even Rep. Lee Zeldin, one of Trump’s staunchest supporters, termed it a “big no-no.”
It is possible none of the encounters is illegal or even criminal. That’s what special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating. He must be given all the resources needed, and there should be no interference in his probe. Congress should pass the stiffer sanctions bill in part for Russia’s election meddling, despite strong White House opposition.
The relentless drip of news is still disturbing. Every revelation brings another Trumpian excuse, denial or demand to ignore it and move on. But when you stop to consider the totality — the firing of FBI Director James Comey, the unseemly actions of Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, the continued changes to disclosure forms by Kushner and campaign surrogate and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the social media attacks and misstatements by the president himself, and the disparagement of news organizations — it’s hard not to wince that these people are running our country.
The revelations are not likely to end anytime soon. This “nothing” sure looks like something.