After The New York Times ran a story earlier this week reporting on a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian government-connected lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya, the immediate reaction from the Trump administration was denial. Trump Jr. claimed that none of it was a big deal; his lawyer stated that it was “much ado about nothing.” And indeed, despite the Times’ assertion that Trump Jr. knew that the Russian government was supposedly attempting to pass along information to the Trump campaign, no openly incriminating material had actually surfaced.
So much for that.
Reportedly told that The New York Times would be running a story with the complete emails, Trump Jr. dumped his email exchange with publicist Rob Goldstone, the broker for the meeting, on Twitter.
This is insanely damaging material.
The email exchange begins on June 3, 2016, with Goldstone writing:
Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting
The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would obviously 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 – helped along by Aras and Emin.
What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?
I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.
First off, this email makes it explicit that Trump Jr. knew about the Russian connections of the lawyer involved, contrary to his explanation that he knew nothing about her. Second, the email even states that Goldstone could go with the material directly to then-candidate Trump himself. Third, the document suggests that the Russian government was attempting to help Trump directly – “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump Jr. responded to the email by stating, “if it’s what you say I love it.”
In a further exchange on June 7, Goldstone wrote:
Hope all is well
Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday.
Once again, this reinforces the fact that Trump Jr. knew a Russian government official was reaching out.
Again, none of this means Trump was necessarily violating the law; to interpret campaign finance to include information of value from a foreign source would be a pretty broad understanding of the law. Nonetheless, the accusations of Trump-Russia collusion have now burst into full view; Democrats and the media will no doubt suggest that this was merely the beginning of the Trump-Russia collusion, and will be empowered to dig twice as deep on the issue.