And the hits just keep on coming.
Opponents of Donald Trump would be well advised to lower their expectations as far as legal repercussions — Teflon Don seems to operate in a space where the normal rules of politics don’t apply.
However, Donald Trump Jr.’s decision to share an email conversation in which the Russian government’s support for his father’s presidential bid is breezily mentioned, and eagerly accepted, is a fresh setback for the administration. And it’s another win for the press, as the move was apparently prompted by The New York Times’ impending publication of an article detailing the correspondence.
According to the NYT's report, the journalists investigating the email exchange between Donald Trump Jr. and Rob Goldstone, a music publicist, in which the two men set up a meeting with a Russian attorney with ties to the Kremlin, contacted Trump Jr. for comment on the emails on Tuesday morning.
They gave him until 11 a.m. to offer a response.
Trump Jr. ignored the NYT's request for comment. Instead, he shared the emails himself by posting screenshots of the exchange on Twitter.
The move was apparently motivated by a desire to blunt the impact of the NYT story, relying on the tried-and-true PR tactic of preemption. If the person in question shares the supposedly incriminating information, rather than an investigative journalist, then it must not be as damaging as it appears. Otherwise, why would they share it?
This strategy of “optics” may be enough to satisfy Trump’s supporters that there is nothing of substance to the email exchange. On that note, Trump Jr. also claimed the offer of information came to nothing at the meeting on June 9, 2016.
Some skeptics argue it may not even be illegal for campaign officials to accept offers of information from foreign governments. Additionally, there is no evidence in the email chain for the most explosive allegation brought by political opponents, namely that the Trump campaign actively cooperated with Russian officials to hack Clinton campaign or Democratic National Committee email servers.
But Trump Jr. may have miscalculated by focusing on the fact that this specific meeting supposedly saw no passing of incriminating information. The more damaging revelation, as far as “optics” go, is simply the passing mention by Goldstone of the Russian government’s “support for Trump” — and that Trump Jr. makes no effort to deny or correct this assertion.
That suggests it is an accepted fact. Indeed, he is very receptive to the idea, writing “I love it” in response to the offer of Russian help.
In light of these statements, it’s natural to wonder if the Russian government’s support of Trump extended beyond this single, allegedly unproductive meeting. If so, what form did the support take? Did anyone in the Trump campaign help guide the collaboration? No doubt reporters at NYT and The Washington Post — as well as the FBI — are wondering the same things.