As Donald Trump, Jr. testified before a closed session of the Senate Judiciary Committee today about a June 2016 meeting with Kremlin representatives in Trump Tower, a leaked copy of his prepared remarks revealed only more lame excuses.
“To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of [Hillary Clinton], I believed that I should at least hear them out,” Trump Jr. now says. “Depending on what, if any, information they had, I could then consult with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it further consideration.”
That statement is likely to haunt Trump Jr. Prosecutors will see it as an admission that he understood the proffer of dirt on Clinton was legally problematic at best — and totally illegal at worst.
Go to a Russian lawyer for a “fitness” assessment of an opponent? That’s the best euphemism yet for “collaboration”https://t.co/7MB5qp9NpC
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) September 7, 2017
Nevertheless, Trump Jr. pleads ignorance in his own defense. “I had never worked on a campaign before and it was an exhausting, all-encompassing, life-changing experience,” he says in the statement.
And his enthusiastic email response to family friend Rob Goldstone, who set up the meeting in the first place? “As much as some have made of my using the phrase ‘I love it,’ it was simply a colloquial way of saying that I appreciated Rob’s gesture,” Trump Jr. now claims.
Of course, it would be easier to believe his explanations if they had not changed so many times.
And Trump Jr. says that he considered consulting “counsel” to determine what to do with it — indicating he had questions about its legality
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) September 7, 2017
In March of this year, Trump Jr. told the New York Times that he had never held any meetings with Russians at all during the campaign, much less on behalf of the campaign.
That lie was exposed when the Times revealed in July that Trump Jr. had in fact met with a Kremlin lawyer, a Kremlin lobbyist, and a Kremlin banker along with campaign manager Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner.
I’ve seen (and at times written) some strained explanations for sketchy behavior over the yrs, but that Don Jr. statement is a new classic.
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) September 7, 2017
In a statement crafted by the White House, Trump Jr. first described the meeting as a discussion of international adoptions. This was clearly a euphemism for the Magnitsky Act, a US sanctions regime that Moscow opposes. Vladimir Putin banned American adoptions in Russia to protest the law.
That thin excuse barely lasted one day. The Times obtained the emails in which Trump Jr. set up the meeting and he was forced to admit his true objective had been to see damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
don trump jr: i wasnt stealing cookies, i was checking them to make sure they werent poisoned pic.twitter.com/8KZYC1WsRM
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) September 7, 2017
don jr was just spying on the girls locker room to make sure the smoke detectors were working
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) September 7, 2017
Only the dirt wasn’t dirty enough, Trump J. claimed. The meeting “went nowhere but [I] had to listen,” he said in a tweet two days after his initial lies were exposed.
From the Russian perspective, however, the meeting was a complete success. Even without an explicit quid pro quo, the Trump campaign had made it clear they welcomed Russian help — and the Russian side had made it clear they wanted an end to sanctions in exchange for that help.
Now, in a new twist, Trump Jr. tells the Senate committee that he only wanted to judge Clinton’s “fitness” for the presidency based on whatever the Kremlin had to share with him.
Really! How dare she run for office without proper personal vetting by Don Jr.? https://t.co/ILzfSHLlAO
— Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) September 7, 2017
“Apparently, Trump Jr. hopes to draw a bright line between collusion and attempted collusion,” Steve Benen quips at MSNBC.
ThinkProgress reporter Rebekah Entralgo observes that any proffer of opposition research counts as a campaign contribution, and “While the president’s son may not have accepted the contribution from a foreign national, he admits he solicited the contribution, which is also prohibited.”
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) September 7, 2017
Furthermore, Trump Jr’s new statement conflicts with the email evidence. Contrary to his claims of total ignorance about the information he was to receive, Trump Jr. did try to get a read on who he was meeting and what they would be talking about.
“Without knowing what the material was, Trump Jr. signaled to Goldstone he was eager to use such opposition research ‘later in the summer,’ when the presidential campaign was further along,” writes David Corn at Mother Jones. “There was not a hint that he possessed reservations and would need to consult with attorneys before deploying this oppo.”
It’s hard to believe that’s the best story Don Jr could come up with
— David Lazarus (@Davidlaz) September 7, 2017
Trump Jr’s closed-door testimony concluded just before 3 PM EDT.
Here is Donald Trump Jr’s entire statement, almost 1,800 words. Zoom in to read each page. pic.twitter.com/MqEkoXohGz
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) September 7, 2017
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